Small Fly

Whenever we travel to our favorite little town in South Carolina, we have the option of a connecting flight through Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) or Atlanta (ATL) to get there. DFW is the fourth-busiest airport in the world, with five terminals, seven runways, and 164 gates. The airport property covers twenty-seven square Texas miles, with its own zip code, police, and fire departments. Meanwhile, ATL is merely the busiest airport in the world, hosting 300,000 passengers and 60,000 workers every day. One of ATL’s runways is so long they hold an annual 5k running race on it. DFW and ATL are mega-ports and can be mega-stressful to pass through, which is why landing in little Augusta, Georgia, our final flying destination, is like a breath of small-town fresh air.

Augusta Regional Airport (“…at Bush Field”, or simply “AGS”) is the smallest airport in the world.  Okay, that’s not even close to true (especially if you consider landing strips in cornfields) but it sure feels like it.  AGS sits quietly on the banks of the Savannah River, just west of the Georgia state line.  It’s served by the smallest aircraft of Delta and American.  Its tiny terminal building is shaped like a capital “T”, with two little ticket counters at the top, followed by a quick stroll down the middle to a boarding lounge the size of an oversized living room.  If you average out the flight schedule, AGS has a single plane touching down every two hours.  They should hire the Augusta High School marching band to welcome each landing (“Go Orioles!”)

The first time I realized AGS was big-time-small was after a late landing on a weekday night.  Walking down the brief concourse the airport was noticeably dark.  The rental car counters were already shuttered for the night.  At baggage claim, the single attendant (literally, the only employee in the building) announced bags would be hand-delivered to the curb instead of circulating on the belt.  Yep, they just lined ’em all up by the waiting cars.

Watch the planes from the “front porch”

My other AGS big-time-small moment was the first time I saw the parking lot (free for 30 min, $8/day).  Half the lot was given over to rental cars.  Think about the number of rental car spaces you need for an airport where just a handful of planes land each day.  Now double the number.  That’s the size of Augusta Regional’s parking lot.

The design of AGS, boasting one-story red brick, proud white columns, and suburban landscaping, reminds me of the clubhouse of a golf course.  In fact, Augusta Regional bears the nickname “The Country Club Airport”, entirely fitting since The Masters professional golf tournament is held every April just twelve miles from its runways. 

Lounge outside (past security) before you board…

AGS reminds me of my first small airport experience back when I was a freshman in college.  Flying from Los Angeles (LAX – second-busiest in the U.S.), I deplaned in a modest midwestern town, and for the first time ever descended stairs onto the outside tarmac instead of through a jetway to the terminal.  I happened to be the first passenger off the plane, which meant leading a line of people to the glass doors of the boarding lounge.  Only I couldn’t open the glass doors.  They wouldn’t “push” despite my best efforts.  Several greeters on the other side of the glass (this was pre-9/11) gestured to “pull” instead of “push”.  Took me just a little too long to figure that out.  Believe I heard the words “city boy” as I was on my way to baggage claim.

When we landed in Augusta most recently, we were the last flight of the night.  As we sat on the park-like benches at the curb waiting for our daughter to pick us up, I watched one of the few remaining employees bring in the trash cans and turn out the lights.  She made sure we had a ride, then locked the terminal building doors.  Only one other passenger was waiting to be picked up.  It was a little strange to be among the last couple of people on the property.  I mean, most airports don’t even close.

… or play a little golf.

At Dallas/Fort Worth, you can rent private rooms at the “Minute Suites” for naps or freshening up right there in the airport terminal.  There’s even a full-service spa.  In Atlanta you’ll find a Starbucks in six of the seven airport concourses.  Augusta Regional? How about a soft pretzel at the one concession stand, or an overpriced unofficial souvenir from The Masters?  Doesn’t matter.  You can show up less than an hour before your departure, and you can take in the take-offs from a comfy rocking chair.  Yep, this little small-fly is a pretty sweet landing pad.

Some content sourced from the Augusta Regional Airport website.

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Lego Grand Piano – Update #8

(Read about how this project got started in Let’s Make Music!)

Last week

Our instrument really came together this week, as you’ll see in the second photo. Bag #8 – of 21 bags of pieces – not only connected both large pieces, but also added strings!  We now have enough of the black frame in place to where our little gem is finally starting to look like a piano.

I went with Haydn’s “Surprise Symphony” today because I completed this section in the early morning hours and needed the famous jolt the orchestra gives you at the end of an otherwise piano movement. (Yes, “piano” can be an adjective).  Haydn was famous for these little “jokes”, placed randomly the middle of his compositions.

This week

Running Build Time: 6.75 hours.  Musical accompaniment: Haydn’s Symphony No. 94 in G Major. Leftover pieces: 4 (including a couple of piano strings).

Conductor’s Note: We’re getting very close to boxing in the complex mechanics of the instrument… and I’m nervous.  We have a couple “loose ends” in there which must somehow attach so they’ll do something productive (like make music).  Hoping next week’s Bag #9 addresses this concern.

22 thoughts on “Small Fly

  1. That does look much more like a piano. I’ve been in both those airports and not minded them. However, I hate O’Hare. Flying into L.A. I sometimes used Bob Hope Airport with its one carrousel (not even a carrousel, more of a line) instead of LAX. It was so much calmer and more relaxing but the drive for my daughter was worse. Now she lives in New York, so I deal with JFK. Ugh.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve only flown to NYC a few times. JFK is big but I’d take it over Charles de Gaulle in Paris, where you have to walk forever between the concourses. Also, LaGuardia needs a complete makeover with its tight corridors and small boarding lounges. Wishful thinking – I don’t think they have the real estate to make it happen.

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      1. My older daughter complains a lot about CDG since she’s flown through there a lot on her way to West Africa.

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  2. It’s almost too bad you have to clear security to make it to the rocking chairs. Very relaxing watching all of the activity outside of the glass.

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  3. Augusta airport is a charming throwback to simpler times. I like that idea in theory, but small airports mean small planes and small planes mean crowded + cramped seats. I get claustrophobic. I feel trapped. I do better in large airports with large planes.

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    1. It’s a fair point, Ally. With those little birds the takeoffs and landings aren’t nearly as smooth, and everything seems miniature, from the overhead bins to the aisles to the seats. It’s a little unnerving when you have to duck through the door as you board.

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      1. GOOD ONE, Nancy! I see the possibilities are endless. When the piano is finally finished I’ll have to fill up a blog post with a bunch of these zingers.

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  4. I’ve flown through Atlanta many times–always SO crowded. Don’t think I’ve ever been through such a quaint airport as Augusta’s. AGS may see an uptick in visitors, though, as a result of your post, Dave!

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    1. Augusta and the surrounding Savannah River environs are modest (to put it politely) so maybe this explains the lack of traffic through the airport (and nearby Columbia, Charleston, and Savannah have their own airports). But if golf or horses is your thing, it’s a great place to visit!

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  5. Interesting post. I remember the FIRST time I had to fly through Atlanta, it was so surprising. I could tell I was in the South and LOVED the white rocking chairs, wonderful idea!! Your piano looks GREAT. It looks like you are almost done, but there are 21 bags and you are on 9.

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  6. Small Fly seems to be a breath of fresh air and the way to go to avoid the crazy crowds of people, especially in a pandemic. I like the small-town feel of this airport. Smaller planes mean dealing with less crazed or unruly passengers too. It sounds like a win-win to me Dave.

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    1. As you say, it’s a relatively stress-free travel experience, especially when you consider navigating major airports. I don’t think I’ve ever described an airport as charming but Augusta gets pretty darned close to it.

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  7. What a nice airport. I took flying lessons many years ago and experienced some really tiny operations. Anywhere there is a place to rent a car is a big airport in my book.

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    1. I’d expect any pilot to describe Augusta as a big airport but I only have a traveler’s perspective. The rental car counters close around 10 pm (meaning no options if you’re on American’s late arrival). Some of the counters close even earlier and hand their few customers over to those that stay open.

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