The Plane PCS

It's a time-honored military tradition. No, not the dress uniforms, not the drill, not the changing of the guard; no, this tradition is significantly more banal than any of the others: the permanent change of station (PCS).

Moving house is one of the most stressful life events humans encounter, and military families handle this stress quite a bit more often than most. Nothing about the process is especially enjoyable: selling your current home, finding a suitable home at the next base, changing over utilities, internet, a thousand home addresses from Amazon to Zappos. There's the U-Haul, the hotels, the dog kenneling, the uncertainty, and then landing at the next base only to be the new guy despite one's decade and a half of service. Nothing is really fun about it.

Except one thing.

For the airplane owner, there is a separate move that must happen, outside of any of the government's concern, one that is hands down the least stressful and most fun part of the process: flying the plane to its new home.

If there is any stress to it, for me it was finding a hangar. Wait lists are notoriously long for hangars and New Jersey is no different, especially when one of the local airports, Flying W Airport--and by all accounts a fabulous place to fly into--being turned into a neighborhood (shame!) and all of its hangar tenants scrambling for new cover for their planes. Into this turd I stepped as I began my search.

Always one to avoid having to talk to a person, I knew I would have to face my fears and start working the phones. So I did--I called every phone number associated with an airport within an hour and a half drive of McGuire Air Force base. Just about everything turned up empty, except one.

The aviation community is notorious for being full of people willing to help out a fellow pilot who needs it. In my case Phil & Art were my knights in shining armor. Phil said "well, maybe I can squeeze you in with a couple of ultralights in this one hangar I've got." Not quite able to envision how that would work out, beggars nevertheless cannot be choosers. That didn't pan out but Phil's friend Art was moving up and out of one hangar and into another. He thought I could just waltz into his hangar in Ocean County Airport, but alas, it had a wait list (reference Flying W, above). Not to be dissuaded, Art next located a hangar that was intended for him, but his plane wouldn't fit. It was to Red Lion Airport (JY73) that I set my course.

The Report No Later Than Date (RNLTD) is that looming date on everyone's PCS orders that sets the clock for the entire move. Movers get scheduled, trailers get booked, hotels en route confirmed, and the big watch winds to the RNLTD. Hangar secured, however, the RNLTD is but a distant milestone with only poor weather to hold me back.

For the first planned departure date I watched the weather forecast deteriorate right before my eyes for the whole week. Taking leave is no problem, but burning days sitting and waiting out the weather is just not fun. Another good window opened and we departed to clear and smooth skies nearly the entire way.

I'm always down for a good long airplane trip. The last one was by myself, and the 20+ hours from Seattle to south Texas were so, so peaceful yet exciting with my new mount. But taking company along is always more enjoyable, for how much more they notice, the conversation, or the quiet, still fun knowing the other person is soaking it all in as well. Having my son with me for the first component of his first move as a "big kid" was really a treat.

And thus the first part of our latest PCS is complete. Now the significantly-less-fun stuff begins. Sigh.

The best part of all of this--I already I know I'm moving again next year. I would be lying if I said I wasn't already planning the trek for my next Plane PCS.


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