I've spent many years working in the general aviation industry. Basically, working with private jets, the crews, and the principals. Because of my location, we get a lot of political activity every four years. As the various candidates get out and start traveling around, it's in large part a non-event. They are on standard biz aircraft and not much is required in terms of special handling. That all changes when one of these folks becomes "The" candidate."
Now, they're rolling around on commercial jet aircraft (737/MD80), they have a bunch of staff, and the requisite protection to go along with it. OK, no problem. Our crew was very experienced, did a lot of large aircraft sports charter, and serious VIP work. We had all the appropriate equipment to service these airplanes (ie: stair trucks, baggage carts, belt loaders, etc.). We also knew how big these airplanes are, and how to maneuver and park them on the ramp. Believe it or not, at this level, aircraft handling is an art. There's no straight line or jet way to pull up to. You basically get one chance to get it right.
In this last election cycle, we were getting the challenger to the throne in very regularly. Like one to three times a week. OK, a little bit of a hassle, but from an airplane standpoint, no big deal. By and large, everyone involved was reasonable and friendly. The issues came about due to the fact that the members of the protection detail were always changing. This was especially true of the agents in charge.
My understanding from talking to them, is that they were on a set rotation schedule to keep everyone fresh and on their toes. As far as we were concerned, a simple confab with the SAIC about the details for the day was sufficient. We would be clear on what they needed and we would handle the aircraft accordingly. This usually revolved around how many cars, busses, equipment trucks, etc., that they had and where we were going to put them. Remember, along with this, we're also trying to handle a constant flow of regular biz jets coming and going. So, coming up with a mutually beneficial plan was pretty key.
All is well and good, until one day, "SAIC Richard Cranium" is on the case. He wasn't particularly old, but he reminded me a lot of Sheriff JW Pepper, Louisiana State Poe-leese from the Bond movies.
You know the type: "Alright, alright, everybody stand back. I'm in charge here!!"
The other ramp lead and myself just looked at each other in an "Oh, great..." kind of way. It was either this guy's way or the highway. He didn't want to hear or discuss anything about anything. OK, fine, whatever.
So the plane comes in empty to pick up the candidate. We get the plane fueled and serviced, two sets of truck mounted airstairs, two baggage belts for loading luggage into both holds, the whole deal. Plane is ready and waiting. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.
So, the press busses and the luggage/equipment truck arrive. No problems, everything going well. Get them on the plane, bags loaded, cool. Now, I don't know what this guy's last assignment was, but this wasn't AF1 where all the principal has to do is get out of the car and get on the plane and go. This candidate was always coming with several cars, staff members, additional luggage, promo stuff, etc. Nothing unusual or unexpected.
Well, once we had the plane serviced, this SAIC went took it up about a thousand notches with the "I'm in charge" bit. When he got the call that the motorcade was 15 minutes out he decided that he was going to quarantine the entire ramp and make it a sterile area. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. The ramp was now off limits to anybody who wasn't approved, and none of us were approved.
As we were very familiar with this particular operation, I calmly tried to inform him that the principal always had additional items for the plane, etc.
Richard Cranium: "Nope! Nope! Everything's on the plane, they just need the candidate!"
Me: "Ummmm, OK, I think it may be wise..."
Richard Cranium: "Nope, sterile area, not authorized = stay out. I'm in charge here!!" [puff up chest, strut like a peacock, wave badge around etc.]
"OK, buddy. You've got it!" (with a big ass smile). I had really had it with this guy at this point, I could see the hole he was digging for himself, and felt our team had done all we could to avoid the coming problems.
So, sure enough. The motorcade arrives, 10 cars/suv's, luggage, boxes of promo stuff, and other crap. This is where we would usually be standing by to unload the cars and get everything on the belt loaders and into the cargo holds. As we weren't there, the folks in the cars just dumped it all on the ramp. Realizing that nothing was happening, the protective detail now starts grabbing the stuff and trying to figure out how to get it on the plane.
Right about then, SAIC Richard Cranium starts losing his mind. Not only did his guys have to try and load the plane, he was now realizing that the plane still had equipment all over it. He rushes into the building and starts getting on one of our CSR's about how we're messing him up, and he can see us all "standing around with our thumbs up our butts."
Finally, I walk out to the desk, and calmly yet somewhat patronizingly, ask him what the problem is, and ask if I can help him.
Guy is foaming at the mouth, and starts going off about the bags, and the trucks, and the equipment, and why are we all standing around?!?!?!
At that point, I smile politely, and remind him that he had personally restricted the ramp and ordered my staff out of the area, on threat of being arrested if we put one toe in the area. Of course, I am here to help him, and if he wants to reconsider his prior position, I was confident that I could find some staff to finish loading the aircraft and remove the equipment so that they could depart.
He just glared at me, and said, "Do it!"
Two minutes later, the plane is secure, the equipment is gone, and plane is spooling up.
Have a nice day! Buh bye!