Tuesday, June 14

Miami Spice

On Thursday, June 9th at a very early hour the Flagship launched on her latest mission. Captain Bob Gross was joined by a crew consisting of Riley Gross (age 13), John Thatcher, Gene Christian, Tom Taff and Mark Martin. The mission is opening of a new international terminal in Miami and a station visit to the Miami employees.
First stop was Bay Minette, AL where there was a rumor of cheap gas. The Air Force uses that airport for training folks in the Beechcraft single engine turbo prop AT-6II. There were plenty of them around to gather and admire the Flagship. Soon they were on their merry way, destination Opa-Locka, just to the north of Miami International. Arrival was just at Miller Time- but wait. During the last leg of the journey the right engine was using a lot more fuel than the left and upon arrival they went to check it out. No mystery here, the engine driven fuel pump had failed and was spewing fuel at a lively rate. No Millers for now.
One positive note was that George Dennis met the plane and was able to participate in this mission. Three other things dampened the disaster to a wrinkle 1). there was a spare on board, 2) there was a mechanic on board (Bob Gross) and 3) there were a crew of willing helpers. Yeah, it was hot and uncomfortable, but it got fixed and would not delay tomorrow's mission.
One driving factor for the new terminal was to make room for the giant Airbus 380 which holds 800 passengers. So the next morning the Flagship, representing the birth of the modern airliner, took off, followed by a restored Eastern Airlines DC-7, representing modern international jet flight. They were followed by a Lufthansa Airbus. Also on board the Flagship for this leg were Ground Operations Ramp Service Manager Mitch Segermeister and Scott Winder, American Airlines Chief Pilot in Miami. We are wondering if Scott has stopped grinning yet.
The Airbus arrival had been touted by local media and on final the crew noticed that all the roads bordering the airport were choked with traffic and people were out of their cars hanging on the fence to see the three planes come in. The three planes taxied to the new terminal amidst a water cannon salute and were parked together at the new terminal.
The ramp was swamped for several hours with airport and airline personnel, police and firemen touring the planes. After some time, the Flagship went to the American Airlines area to allow the American people access to the plane. It was also quite popular there.
Tours were closed off and it was back to Opa-Locka. Another long day and a late dinner.
On Saturday morning, George was there to bid the group farewell as he was working in Miami. Then it was a short hop up the beach to North Palm Beach Airport, where Bob and Riley disembarked. The remaining crew headed north to Covington, GA where they were met by Sheryl Christian and a small group of Gene's pilot buddies. Two of his friends, Jim Jones, a Swift pilot, and Wade Corbett, a Delta Captain, joined the foundation and the flight while Gene, Tom and Mark became current with a few take offs and landings. Then it was off to Hartsfield to get the guys back to their respective homes. The Flagship will remain in Covington until it goes to Richmond for annual inspection. Meanwhile Gene fusses over it like an old mother hen.
Side note: Stopping by the airport Monday evening to retrieve something from the plane, we noticed a darling red Pitts special in an odd position just off the runway. We went over to offer assistance and ended up jumping him off. While we waited for the battery to get some juice, the young owner asked about the Flagship and then said he lives about 12 miles from Alliance!

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