Thursday, July 14, 2011

Unexpected Visitors at Le Roy

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
14 Jul 2011 N21481 5G0 (LeRoy, NY) - GVQ (Batavia, NY) - 5G0 1.1 961.0

I hate it when a highway stands between me and a deadline.  I was driving westbound on I-490 on my way to the airport.  My Comm 1 radio was repaired and the shop in Batavia was waiting for me to pick it up and return a loaner radio that had ridden in my panel for a week.  My intention was to arrive before 5:00 pm so that no one had to stay late at work on my account.  I reached the Le Roy exit at 4:25 pm.  It was going to be close.

From the airport gate, I recognized the airplane parked next to the fuel pump immediately.  Black, sleek, and decorated with sponsorship decals.  I knew without looking that a placard on the instrument panel would read, "fly it like you STOLE it".  It was the black MX-2 flown by Rob Holland, aerobatic pilot extraordinaire.  I have watched Rob perform every year at the Geneseo Airshow and never tire of his routines.  Rob is often photographed flying inverted in formation with the Blue Angels.  He's the real deal.  I am not someone who is often starstruck by celebrity, but here was someone I had genuine respect for.

As I waited for the gate to open, I was torn.  Arrive at Batavia on time or meet Rob Holland?

Easy decision.  I looked at my watch again and decided that I would do both.

I parked my car at the office and walked down to the fuel pump.  Rob was standing with Ray and Ed, swapping flying stories.  As I approached, Ed exclaimed, "hey Chris, do you want your picture taken with Rob Holland?"


In addition to being an amazing pilot, Rob is a heck of a nice guy.  After all, he graciously indulged all of us at the Le Roy airport that afternoon.  A member of his team explained to me that they had chosen Le Roy to do their flights with the local media in preparation for the Rochester airshow.

As for my radio, I did make it to Batavia on time.  Rob was still at Le Roy when I returned.  I was chagrined that the landing was one my worst of the year.

On departure, Rob skimmed low over the runway and pulled vertical at the departure end.  Coming back around, he made a low pass, the air audibly screaming as the MX-2 sliced through it.  He gave us a precise wing dip in farewell and joined up with an airborne Bonanza for a photo mission.

After Rob left, I had the pleasure of meeting Kim and Laura, who were there visiting Ray.  Kim was an old friend of Ray's and Laura was a college-aged girl from France working for Kim as an au pair.  As a favor to Ray, I took Laura for her first ride in a light aircraft.

"That was so cool!" she enthused in accented English as we pitched away from the runway (which was by no means as dramatic a maneuver as what Rob Holland had just performed).

It was a brief flight, but memorable for me.  After all, it was the first time I'd ever taken someone from France for an airplane ride on Bastille Day.

For the last several years, I have asked first time passengers to sign my logbook to add a personal touch to the record of that day's flight.  "Merci beaucoup pour ce special Bastille Day :-)" she wrote.

I came to the airport anticipating a very routine maintenance hop and, instead, met some terrific, unexpected visitors.


  1. What a great day - I've seen Rob's videos before and yeah, holy @%&*!

    First flights are always a good time. My only int'l first flight was a pilot friend from Australia - I've never taken a new flyer up from overseas.

  2. Steve - I think that 2011 might be my year for taking foreign women on their first light aircraft rides. I have Poland and France covered so far.

  3. Impressive work - guess you should aim for multiple continents at this point! :)