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.
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.
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.
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.
Lego Grand Piano – Update #8
(Read about how this project got started in Let’s Make Music!)
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.
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.