Life On The Ramp
Updated: Oct 17, 2019
One would think, that working at an airport as small as La Crosse Regional Airport, it wouldn’t be for the number of aircraft or for interesting planes. When I first began working for Colgan Air Services at the La Crosse Regional Airport, I was extremely excited to work up close to a few private jets and see how a FBO functions on a daily basis. I learned on the first day, however, that I was going to be able to experience much more than what I had originally thought I would.
La Crosse is serviced by two airlines: Delta Air Lines and American Airlines. Delta brings in a CRJ-200 from Minneapolis while American varies between bringing a CRJ-200, a CRJ-700, and an ERJ-145 from Chicago. On average, LSE has six arrivals a day and six departures a day. I learned on my first day, that Colgan fuels those airlines. Unfortunately, since I am not quite eighteen years old, I am not allowed to fuel the airlines. On nights that my supervisor would leave early, however, I would go over my one of my coworkers to be up close to those seemingly giant planes and learn how they are fueled. It was always quite interesting, in these cold Wisconsin winters, to try and flip the switches on the fuel panel with your big, bulky gloves on.
Another great perk of working at La Crosse Regional Airport is the military movement. La Crosse is near Fort McCoy and Volk Field. I still am not 100% sure this has anything to do with the military movement we get, but that is just what I think. We frequently get Chinook helicopters, usually two at a time. We will also get Blackhawks from time to time. In the summer, we will also get military charters run by several airlines. Some of the airlines are Sun Country, Allegiant, Delta, United, Southwest, and Miami Air. We’ve had everything from an MD-83 to a 767-300ER to an A330-300. On a Saturday in summer, we can have anywhere from two to twelve charters. As a Colgan Line Technician, one gets to refuel the planes, load the bags onto the plane, and marshal the plane into its parking spot. My favorite military aircraft that came in, however, was he C-17. Being right next to the plane was cool enough, but shortly after the crew opened the boarding door, my coworkers and I were invited in for a tour. I got to sit in the cockpit of this massive bird and walk through its massive cargo hold. My six foot tall coworker was dwarfed inside this giant hold.
Now, I should explain a little to you about what I do for work at Colgan. My technical title is a Detailer. Ashley Furniture, based in Arcadia, Wisconsin, keeps their jets here in La Crosse. They have two Challenger 300s, a Challenger 350, and a Gulfstream 450. It is my job to make sure these planes are always as clean as the day they were made. I clean all the leading edges, the windshield and passenger windows, the gears, the fuselage, the nose, and the tail. In summer, bugs collect on seemingly every inch of these aircraft making for hours of pain staking labor. In winter, there are usually a lot less bugs to deal with but there is often dirty snow to handle. The snow is kicked up the main gears and covers the bottom edge of the wings. My worst experience cleaning one of these jets, however, was with the G450. Gulfstream designed their jets to have an outstanding range for the size of the aircraft. The owners of Ashely had taken this plane to China. When they returned, the plane was covered in smog. An entirely white aircraft was coated with grey, sooty haze. It took three full washes of the plane to completely clean it of smog. That took a total of twelve hours. Then we had to spray it down with a sprayable wax. The whole process took almost eighteen hours.
There are many times when I ask myself whether or not this really is a fun job, usually I think that on the slow days. When the action does pick up, however, I soon realize how much fun this job is and at those times doesn’t actually feel like work. Working on the ramp at a regional airport has been one of the coolest experiences of my life. You never know what you’re going to see when you come in. anything from a Piaggio Avanti to a C-17. Every plane that comes in is interesting no matter what type. To follow what I’m doing at the airport and to see all the interesting movements, follow me on Instagram @aviation_charlie301. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed getting an insight into life on the ramp.
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