Airfield Envy


Who can see a pic like this and not be envious? I know I can’t! Photo by @41satmanDan

I know it’s not good to be envious of others, but sometimes I can’t help it. It’s not that I don’t love where I work and what I do – because I truly do! It’s just that there are so many other amazing airports and interesting jobs out there… I can’t help wanting to be a part of it all.


Not an RJ.  Not landing at the passenger airport.

The passenger airport where my office is located is officially categorized as “medium sized” in terms of the amount and type of commercial traffic that we have. That translates into lots and lots of ERJs, CRJs, B737s and A319/20s, along with some Mad Dogs. Other than Air Canada, we have no regular service from international carriers. It’s a little hard to look at the variety of planes flying into places like O’Hare or Atlanta or JFK and not be a bit jealous.

And before you all point it out, yes I KNOW we actually get an interesting variety of airplanes at the cargo airport. The problem is, my office isn’t down there so I rarely get to see them. Plus they have an annoying habit of sneaking in and out in the middle of the night. Supposedly that’s just what cargo planes do, but I’m pretty sure they do it on purpose to taunt me!

kbosThen there’s the runways. At the passenger airport we have a very respectable set of parallel runways. Same at the cargo airport. They suit our needs quite adequately. But… well… they’re not very imaginative. Other airports have really upped their runway game. Take O’Hare for example.  It has a variety of runway sizes and orientations. Or what about Boston Logan whose runways all seem to intersect with each other.  I can only imagine how that went down:

Airport Management: “We need to add another runway.”

Planner: “OK. How about… here.” *draws a random line across the diagram*

Airport Management: “But… that cuts across other runways!”

Planner: “No worries – ATC will take care of it.”

Airport Management: “Oh, right!”

It’s not just the other airports I’m a bit jealous of. It’s also the people who get to be out on the airfield every day. I’m sure right now my Ops and Airfield friends are rolling their eyes and thinking, “Right. YOU come out here and work when it’s 100 degrees. Or in the pouring rain. Or during a blizzard. See how jealous you are THEN!” OK, OK – I get it. Every job has aspects that are substantially less than enjoyable. No, I don’t think it would be fun to have to scoop bird pieces off the runway or be on call or work nights. But you have to admit, the perks are pretty damn awesome!

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That whole working during a blizzard thing actually looks really cool! I am so totally jealous! Photo by Francis Colacino

The ops and airfield teams get to see sunrises and sunsets from out on the airfield, which, as everyone knows, is the best place to see them. They get to work in all kinds of really cool equipment, like plows and brooms (and maybe even stairs trucks). They get up-close and personal with all types of airplanes. They get to drive all over the airport property including up and down the runways! (Don’t underestimate how awesome that is.)


Love this tail! Jealous on so many levels here… Photo by Tom Rainey @traineyjr

Plus they have the satisfaction of knowing that all those happy reunions taking place in the terminal are happening because of their hard work. If the ops and airfield teams stop showing up, everything would shut down pretty fast. Whereas if the finance and accounting department was to suddenly get sucked into another dimension, it would probably be a week or two before anyone noticed.

Employee One: “Hey – didn’t we used to have an accounting department?”

Employee Two: “Oh yeah! I wonder what ever happened to those guys?”

Employee One: “Dunno. Good thing the payroll department is still here.”

Lest you think I’m being a total whiner, I’m not. I may be envious, but I haven’t forgotten how lucky I am to be able to work where I do. I have had some amazing experiences that I couldn’t have had anywhere else. Besides, it doesn’t matter that I’ve seen thousands of RJ departures – every time one takes off I still stop to watch. Because flying is magic and aviation is fascinating and I’m so glad to be a part of it.

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Brooms in action with a gorgeous sky. Wow! Photo by Jeremy R (Special thanks to Jason C)

4 thoughts on “Airfield Envy

  1. I think the general public tends to take airfields for granted. Maybe that’s why so many of the smaller ones are closing. Such short sighted thinking — “if I don’t use it then I couldn’t care less if it closes”.

    The larger ones are so impressive in terms of their size and the sheer level of money and manpower required to keep them in shape. I recall seeing some stats about how much runway, taxiway, and ramp space there was to be plowed at a large international airport like ORD or BOS. It was measured in acres and the total number was astronomical. The ex-military airports are often massive. In the midwest many of the former air force facilities have been converted to GA airports and it always amuses me to taxi in there in a Gulfstream and see no other airplanes around for thousands of yards. I had an experience like that recently in Sacramento Mather Airfield. If you removed the fire fighting aircraft there wouldn’t be much left except miles of perfect flat pavement.


    • Thanks (as always) for reading, Ron! You make a good point about the general public taking airfields for granted. I think the general public takes many things about aviation for granted. As for turning former military bases into GA airports – I can imagine you must feel rather insignificant taxiing around all that space! We turned our former airforce base into a cargo airport so there’s lots of 747s to go with all the Cessnas. (It’s apparently popular with flight students because of the nice long runways)


  2. I live near ORD. This place has always amazed me since I was a little kid. I can remember going to the Aviation deck back in the day with my dad. Since this is no longer an option, the next thing I did do, was as soon as I got a drivers license is go to ORD and watch the planes land and take off while listening to ATC and the pilots on a scanner.
    Then around 5 years ago I found out about a group called O’Hare Airport Watch. It is a group of Av geeks who love to take pictures of the planes coming and going. It is run through the Bensenville, IL Police Department. You have to go thru a back ground check before joining.
    As we watch the planes land and take off we also keep our eyes and hears open for anything unusual around the outside perimeter of the airport. One of the great perks of this organization is that we get to go on guided tours through the Chicago Department of Aviation via their buses. We do this when we have our yearly training. We get to take pictures of planes landing and taking off from taxiways that are not being used at the time. We also get invited to act as being injured when Chicago’s Department of Aviation does there drills. It is always interesting to see the many changes going on at ORD. You can see some of the great photos our members have taken on out facebook page. ORD Airport Watch.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for reading, Fred! I have a couple friends who belong to ORD Airport Watch – it sounds like a great group! One of them took me spotting a few years ago on my way home from Osh. It was so much fun! I definitely need to do it again sometime soon.


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