/ aviation

Push

The day dawned overcast, hazy and ominous. I had hoped to get a short morning flight in before heading out to a family commitment, but Ma Nature seemed to decline. So, I decided to run into the city to pick up a lawnmower instead.

You see, aircraft ownership has forced a new responsibility on me. Lawn care.

Keeping the grass cut near my airplane is my responsibility, presumably for liability reasons—the people who cut the acres upon acres of grass around the general airport grounds don’t want to be responsible for accidentally cutting a tiedown rope, or somehow nicking any part of the planes tied down there, so the immediate area around your plane is your responsibility. Since we live in a condo, I have so-far managed to avoid lawn work. But out at the airport, the grass beckons.

The grass has been beckoning for a while, in fact, and I was rather shocked to discover that lawnmowers ain’t cheap. Even one of those old-fashioned push mowers costs almost $100 new. One day recently, when I was relating this story to my boss, he told me that he had a push mower collecting dust in his garage, and if I wanted it, it was mine. I took him up on it.

So, with the morning’s weather looking unfriendly to aviation, I decided today was the day I’d run into the city with the car and finally pick up the push mower my boss had brought in a couple weeks ago, and then shoot out to the airport and cut down the jungle of weeds that have been growing around my plane.

As I got about five miles from my house, the overcast evaporated, revealing blue sky and puffy clouds, but I was already committed to the lawn care thing, so I soldiered on. Into the city, double-park in front of the office, up the elevator, open the office, grab the mower. Reverse steps. Into the car, left on 34th Street, swoop around the taxi, dodge the tourists, snag the 9th Avenue on-ramp to the Lincoln Tunnel, and I was outta the city, just as fast as I’d arrived.

I arrived at the airport in a bit of a hurry. Traffic in the tunnel was thick, and by the time I got to the airport I was a bit behind schedule. I hauled the mower out of the back and started pushing.

At first, it was rather fun. There was something nostalgic about the old-time push mower, the spiral blades twirling around, playfully snipping off a quarter-inch piece of grass seemingly at random from the swath that I was mowing. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth I went, and with each pass the grass got a little neater. I grew to enjoy this, I was making a nice home for my plane. I was really manicuring the grass around the area in front of the port wing, each successive pass sculpting the grass into a lush carpet. Only had the area in front of the starboard wing, under both wings, the fuselage, and the tail to go.

The sun rose higher in the sky. The temperature rose. I began to sweat.

I pulled the plane out a few feet, so that the really high, thick grass and weeds under the plane’s body would be easier to get at. It was about then that I realized that I was already quite tired, and the worst was yet to come.

Grunting and straining, I pushed the wretched device forward for another pass. As I did so, I suddenly recalled the telephone conversation with the airport manager when I first arranged for my grass tiedown spot for my airplane: “OK, so space 39? OK. Yes, that one’s available. OK. Now, you’re responsible for cutting the grass around your plane, and the rent is due by the fifteenth of each month…” I remember being struck by the fact that she felt it more important to broach the topic of lawn care ahead of payment schedules. I should add that this conversation took place in the fall, when green stuff stops growing.

Thirty minutes into it now, I’m bearing down on weeds and wishing they would die. As I run them down I cry out “die, foul weed!”, only to have them spring up from the other side of the mower, half the time finding their way into the leg of my shorts. What started as an orderly grid pattern has deteriorated into a maniacal criss-crossing of my tiedown spot, frantically searching for high grass and taking pot-shots at weeds, like that guy at the University of Texas who locked himself in the tower with the rifle.

After another ten minutes or so, I had myself a reasonably presentable tiedown spot, a mental map of each and every rut and gopher hole on my spot, and a new appreciation for power mowers.

The plan was to return tomorrow and actually fly the airplane, but now it looks like rain. This is disturbing for two reasons. One, I won’t get to fly, and two, that means the wretched grass is likely to grow.