PIA started a Flight School in mid January of 2022 and things were going great! Great until this past Tuesday morning when a routine oil sample test came back containing traces of metal fragments. Everything changed quickly. The plane was immediately grounded, students were notified of the situation and all previously scheduled flight lessons were canceled indefinitely.
Phone calls began to determine not only who could repair the engine but what the down time of Flight School’s plane, N20565 would be. Other calls were focused on locating another plane that PIA could rent temporarily to meet our commitments to our students.
The majority of calls were made by Sam and Pete of the Maintenance Department, as well as Scott, our Chief Pilot. The news was not good, not good all around, 2 to 3 months from start to finish for the engine repair.
The possibilities of finding another aircraft that could be substituted as a plane for the Flight School were slim to none.
While Sam, Pete and Scott were making calls, the maintenance crew quickly shifted gears and begin removing the disabled engine from N20565. The intent was to carefully pack the engine into a wooden crate to be shipped for repair…the problem was we didn’t know where the engine would be repaired. The endless phone calls continued.
On Thursday, 3/3/2022, Sam, our Director of Maintenance, spoke to Aerotec in Halifax Canada. Aerotec thought that they would be able to repair the engine within 2 to 3 weeks of receipt of the engine. This was the best news we had heard in a few days! Carson, one of our PIA pilots, volunteered to take the 8 hour road trip up to Canada to drop off the engine, as shipping the engine would take an additional 3 days. A plan was underway!
Now…the logistics of the road trip began, including the necessary COVID test. Early in the day on 3/3/22, a concern was expressed to Sam that it might be difficult to schedule a COVID test for that day. Sam immediately picked up his phone, contacted his sister who works at the hospital and the test was scheduled and completed the within the next 2 hours! Another box checked off!
The evolving plan was pulling together… Carson, our pilot, would leave Maine early Sunday morning, 3/6/22, with the engine carefully secured in the back of a Suburban van. He would make the 8 hour trip to Nova Scotia, drop the engine off in Halifax on Monday morning, 3/7/22 and head back to Maine. 2 to 3 weeks later, when the engine repairs were complete, PIA would drive back up to Halifax to pick up the repaired engine…the plan was set, or so we thought…
On Friday morning, 3/4/2022, at 10:57 am Sam sent out the following text:
“So, I just spoke to Phil from Aerotec. Aerotec (Phil QB this whole thing) doesn’t feel that Carson should drive back after dropping engine. Because of the relationship with Kevin, they have wanted to show us their appreciation for him and who he was. They have assembled a 6-7 man team to immediately jump on our engine. As I text this to you all, they are assembling what they need.
Phil expressed that he feels Carson should be heading home with the engine on Wednesday. Obviously this causes some logistical issues with work schedule (Scott ) which is why I’m bringing this forward. Thoughts? – Sam”
This was unbelievable news…incredible!
Carson, our pilot, was called and the “new” plan was explained to him. Without hesitation, Carson said “Sure, I’ll be happy to stay in Canada until Wednesday…whenever the engine is fixed, I’m there!”
Several of PIA pilots offered to cover up the shifts that would be vacant while Carson was on his “Canadian vacation”.
The new plan was finalized…what began as a possible 2 or 3 month delay in getting N20565 flying again, decreased to a delay of possibly less than 2 weeks.
What started out as a really discouraging and disappointing situation, has ended up as an incredible story. It is obvious that there are a lot of really great people who are willing to “step up to the plate” to make things happen when the chips are down…all because of the memory of a truly extraordinary person.
From Sam’s sister who coordinated the COVID testing, to the Maintenance crew who “jumped in with both feet”, to Carson and all the other pilots who contributed to making this mission happen, to Sam, Pete and Scott for all of their unwavering efforts and endless phone calls…Thank you!
To all of Penobscot Island Air’s Flight School students whose lessons were cancelled, we sincerely apologize for the inconvenience. Please understand that we are doing everything we can, with the help of many people, to get N20565 back in the air as soon as possible! Thank you for your patience and understand. We’ll see you again real soon!
To Phil and all the Aerotec mechanics, it is difficult to know what to say…except thank you! What you are doing is truly amazing! This is more, much more than getting a small Cessna 172 Flight School plane back in the air…when you really think about it. You are going above and beyond to help Penobscot Island Air out and the example that you have set goes beyond words…Thank you!
(As this text is being finalized, 6:49 am on 3/6/22…Carson is somewhere near the Canadian border at Calais, driving a white Suburban with Penobscot Island Air decals on the side, headed to Aerotec in Halifax…Safe travels Carson)