Usually, campers take only one trip off campus at any given pyc. This year, however, there was a second trip that was labeled only as, “the surprise.” As it turned out, the surprise tied directly to the camp theme: “Live Right—Take Flight.” On that morning, the campers and staff piled into vans and buses and headed toward the airport hangar that houses the pcg’s new Gulfstream G450, followed by headquarters employees in the afternoon.
When we arrived, I joined 6B and 6G inside a building that is basically a pristine and private airport. Large glass windows kept the lobby bright and the welcoming smell of popcorn and baking sugar had me looking for its source. There was, in fact, a very nice nook with coffee, popcorn and snickerdoodles that were still fresh and warm.
The dorms and I headed upstairs to the pilot’s lounge where we spent about half an hour with questionnaires. Each of the campers had been given a list of questions and a bingo board to play after they had seen the plane. Some of the questions involved the plane’s dimensions. I learned that the highest point of the plane is the tail, at a height of 25 feet. What does the registration number on the plane stands for? N127RR translates to American registration, December 7 (the anniversary of the pcg), and raising the ruins, although the pcg’s mechanic has taken to calling it “Righteous Ride.”
When it was time to head downstairs, pcg marketing director Shane Granger directed us to a room with a tv to watch a video. The first video presented was a Worldwide Church of God presentation from the mid-’80s that mainly discussed the update from the Gulfstream ii to the Gulfstream iii. In 1982, a Gulfstream iii was constructed in Savannah, Georgia for Pastor General Herbert W. Armstrong’s use. The call sign on that plane was NIIIAC, which was the answer to another question on the camper bingo game. The video ended with Mr. Armstrong talking about going to meet leaders around the world in their own offices as an ambassador for world peace.
The second short video showed us the sleek design of the G450. The air is refreshed inside the aircraft every two minutes, whereas commercial flights recycle their air.
With the video ended, the dorms headed out into the hangar where the plane gleamed. Small groups toured the inside of the plane for a few minutes at a time. Everyone took off their shoes and wore just their socks to keep the plane clean and reduce possible damage.
While I waited for my turn, I spoke with the pilot, Captain James Gay. We talked about his flight career, our favorite airports and my hometown. Stephanie Szabo, the assistant counselor for 6G, joined us and asked questions about planes and flying. Apparently, flying a plane is not scary at all, and rather like driving a car once you are used to it. He also explained turbulence to us and what ground effect is. Ground effect is when the air is compressed between the wings and the ground, causing the plane to float or bounce before actually landing.
I also met the plane mechanic, Billy. Billy has been doing this kind of work for 30 years. He is a humorous man, and I enjoyed meeting him.
The plane itself was beautiful, inside and out. An illuminated case with wine glasses in it reminded me of a chandelier. The seats made me think of comfortable and plush thrones. The benches in the back of the plane can be pulled out into a sleeping area. The wood inside was so polished that I could see my reflection in it. It is a real blessing to have such an amazing piece of machinery to transport God’s apostle.
Afterwards, Ashlynn of 6G said, “It was so surreal to see what it is like in person.” Her dorm mate Lauren nodded and added, “It was bigger than I thought it was from pictures.” She fit very comfortably in the 6-foot, 2-inch high cabin. Six-foot, 4-inch Gabriel from 1B did not. “I thought it was really short,” he good-naturedly said.
Overall, it was a beautiful day, and the campers and staff all enjoyed. Now we are all looking forward to the next time this plane takes flight.