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Take Off Lunch

The pulse of time propels the clock beyond 11:30am. That means lunch. My present routine is to grab a sandwich and walk around the taxiways and ramps that crisscross the complex of Gulfstream Aerospace. At the moment it is mid-August, the peak of Summer. It is hot. SavannahNow's web site states the temperature at 85º with a humidity of 70% obtaining a Heat Index of 95º. It feels like it, though at only mid-day the temperature itself is slated to climb to 96º. As we approach the Summer solstice the sun is about an hour, maybe a little less, away from crossing the meridian, the invisible line connecting a point directly overhead to a point due South on the horizon. And at my location on Earth, Savannah, Georgia, Latitude 32.1272º (and Longitude: -81.2025) the sun still doesn't climb far enough north to get precisely overhead, but it is higher than it gets in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which is where I'm from, and with Summer weather I'm used to. All in all though, conditions are well situated for it being very hot.

But still I walk around outside at lunch. I step out of a very air conditioned office building and the heat doesn't catch up to me for fifteen minutes or so. That helps. I'll walk across the ramp, the concrete road on which the planes taxi, which separates the Service Center from the Completion Center where the "Buffateria" is located. The Buffateria is a tiny dining facility focusing mainly on the busy eater. It doesn't have the space or charm of the sit down, full-sized cafeteria located in the main building. It offers prepackaged items from the grill, hamburgers, fries, and more recently, Chik-Fillets, all of which are just a few steps up from the machine food. You know, where you spend a couple dollars for a processed food-like item and microwave it to complete the edible simulation. I get a fish sandwich, one, because it's the cheapest sandwich on the menu, and two, fish is more healthy than beef, right? Of course, I ignore for the moment that it is deep fried. But a sandwich is a handy item to combine eating and walking, as opposed to a salad which can be messy handling a fork and knife and plate while taking strides out on the tarmac. The key here is efficiency, of health and mobility.

After plopping down my two dollar bills and a penny, and getting back a dime and nickel, I exit the building and locomote East a bit where I detour South between a paint hanger and the Completion Center and head for the before mentioned ramp. The ramp is a wide expanse of concrete probably 60 feet wide. It lies on a line laid due East/West. I walk East and head for the furthest reaches of the grounds, away from people and things. And I unwind under a beautiful blue sky, sometimes brilliantly decorated with a wide assortment of clouds, and consume lunch. I leisurely walk the length of the taxiway for a few hundred feet where it will sweep a graceful arc to the south where after another fifty feet will straighten out on a heading just about due southeast. This is where the engine run pads are located. Planes coming out of production of completion of the Service Center will sit here while technicians put the Rolls Royce Tay engines or BR700 turbofans through their paces under FAA guidelines and supervision. If an aircraft is in test I won't walk all the way down there, the engine noise is too great and I don't walk with ear protection. If no aircraft is under test I can walk to the end of the ramp which does continue southeast a hundred more feet. All in all a pleasant stroll. The ramp does continue on after crossing a fence, Gulfstream's property line, and then one of the entrance roads into the facility, and on into the National Guard facility. This is an airlift wing which houses a number of cargo aircraft of the C-130 variety, prop driven, so that their four engines whine with a very low frequency which sounds very romantic, like our huge house fan my dad would set up in the living room of our house back in the summers of 1950 and 60.

Usually all is at peace and I walk around enjoying the warmth and openness and the clarity of being outside. There are no phones ringing, no vendors calling telling me they can't supply this certification or that test report; no material planners telling me I need to find this obscure part that hasn't been used in thirty years since GII's were built and they have no idea who the manufacturer was then or is now; no clerks from the trim shop asking if I can utilize some pencil etchings on an ancient piece of paper and find out if some who-knows-who flame treating vendor has burn certification from who-knows-when. Its just me, God, incoming or departing aircraft from the Savannah International Airport or our own Gulfstream aircraft, or a variety of combat aircraft that comes to Savannah for training missions, the open sky and a certain amount of peace and quiet. It is a necessary time of unwinding for me. A short break in the storm of daily duties in the Purchasing field, before I go back to another four hours of the storm.

By the time I reach the arc in the ramp that turns to the southeast I finish my sandwich. Usually there are two or three production aircraft sitting in this area waiting for the next stage of manufacturing. I can walk around these G-IV-SP's or GV's, or if I was four feet talk could walk upright underneath them, admiring the sweep of their 78 foot wingspan and 88 foot fuselage length. I read various placards affixed to the outside skin, HOT, NO GRIP, KEEP CLEAR, and I avoid the great variety of fin-like antenna that protrude from the bottom centerline of the aircraft, and I admire the two huge engines that hang from the aft end looking like Mickey Mouse ears if viewed from the nose of the plane. I'll walk to the end of the ramp at the fence and watch approaching aircraft in their attitude for landing. The airport's runways are situated exactly east/west and north/south. The longest runway is the east/west, and the prevailing winds usually come from the west so planes usually land from the east giving me a good vantage of the approach. I don't know if it's a boy thing, do most girls get a charge out of watching large craft in operation? But it is cool watching these birds make their landings, slowly, slowly floating closer to earth at a hundred miles an hour or so, wing tips gently rocking from side to side as if trying in vain to keep level, until the tell tale white puff of smoke betrays the main landing gear touching down. Then a few moments later the nose gear touches without any smoke indication. No matter how many times I witness the scene of any number of aircraft, it doesn't lose its luster, it's an amazing sight.

After reaching the end of this area of taxiway I turn and return along the same path. Heading now due west I am heading directly toward the Savannah International Airport terminal, which resides about a thousand or two yards to the west. This is a relatively small airport and doesn't receive an incredible amount of traffic, at least by my standards which is Detroit's Metropolitan Airport. In Detroit planes would be stacked up for landing every half mile or so, you could stand near the airport and see four ships coming in to land. In Savannah it is much more quiet. But at noon the airport gets a bit busy. And coupled with our Gulfstream jets bringing in customers, or customers taking their 40 or 60 million dollar aircraft away to play with, there is enough movement around here to be enjoyable. Like I say, the mixture can include combat aircraft (like the F-16 Falcon or F-18 Hornet or even huge Galaxy cargo transports. On rare occasion even a B-1 bomber.

But after about 30 or 40 minutes of walking in this coastal Georgia heat it's time to head back inside. The walk has worked, I've gotten some sun and a sandwich and have had time to breathe a bit more slowly and receive some benefit of refreshment ready to meet an afternoon's insanity. So I head back to my third floor desk in the Service Center. I expect that as the summer cooks into it's zenith I may have to find some other lunch hour pastime. So far I can continue my walks. As the heat escalates I may have to resort to naps. That's what getting close to fifty years will do.

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