A PPO Rookie in the Big City

Chuck Firth

Originally published May 1996

Project Police Report

Whiteman Airport

Somewhere in the San Fernando Valley

April 7, 1996

Your reporter and erstwhile Project Police officer conducted an impromtu inspection of several hangars at Whiteman Airport April 7, about 1630. The day was hot and the sun was, well, up there. As is usually the ease, bragging and strutting hangar rats provided sufficient cause to issue warrants for search and sneezer (dust-induced reaction). Found in probable violation were two of Whiteman's finest, names withheld to prevent lawsuits, harboring a nearly complete but wingless RV-4 on its gear and another in its fuselage jig. Something was wrong however. When questioned closely about wings, mumbled denials were heard while the miscreants shuffled, heads down. "I started this ten years ago," one said, adding "I don't think they had 'em then." Eventually, after being bribed with BBQ chicken and strawberry cake courtesy of Gretchen Lund and Mark Matonic's hangar party, the perpetrators admited they understood what contraband was sought (no milk got 'em just like the commercial) and led the attending officer to their hiding place. Found were two sets of wings in near perfect condition. "Damm fine work," one of them bragged in a loose moment. "Tell it to the judge," I replied in my best arresting officer baritone.

But that wasn't the end of it. As a rookie on his first solo patrol, I couldn't believe what else I'd found. It was the mother lode of hangar junk and, quite probably, the biggest rat in the nest, standing there waving his paws to show off the trove piled to the ceiling. This was a general aviation Smithsonian basement in disguise. Moving in quickly and holding the restless rat (ex airline left seater) against a dusty, wingless Luscombe with one hand, I realized I needed help and called Inspector Norm Howell, who, through use of his portable C3device (a cell phone equiped with Excel long distance service, providing remarkable monthly savings to you and financial assistance to our chapter), picked up the call for backup. (breathe now) Minutes later, sizing up the situation, Inspector Howell remarked while eyeing one of the calendars on the wall, "nice jugs," then recovered quickly from his near faux paux by pointing to the numerous engine parts shelved in every corner of the hangar while images of an EAA Tailhook crossed his mind. (Not really; we know he's pure of heart.) "Geez, where'd you get all this stuff," Inspector Howell was also heard to say while meticulously questioning the suspect big rodent while carefully fingering a 210 prop with unintended tip deflections. "Found it," the furred low rider professed with little confidence and added desperately, "You want to buy an RV-6 tail for $300?" "I'll handle it from here," Inspector Howell said as I was dismissed summarily. Professional demeaner prevents me from recounting the ensuing negotiations by Inspector Howell, purportedly on behalf of a friend.

Not wanting to let all the credit for what might be the largest hangar junk bust in the history of the chapter but not daring to cross a superior Project Police officer, I wandered to another hangar to look for more. Not finding much but a pristine 1962 v-tail Bonanza, I was left to wonder about my future in Project Policing and I thought back to my oath at the academy. ("On my honor, I will do my best to spend endless hours discussing the most trivial aspects of every airplane ever built and telling wildly exaggerated stories of my flying adventures, while jealously sneering only at those with nicer planes than mine.") I was having a hard time understanding why the guy with the nicest plane on the field, a Beech Baron with all the goodies, drove a pickup that would embarass the Beverly Hillbillies. Well, this one goes to the senior guy I figured. It's all too much for a rookie Project Police officer in the big city. Need some Zen ground instruction I guess. I shrugged and in the best tradition of the chapter, decided the next time I wouldn't call Norm.

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Revised -- 27 April 1997