When is a line shack really a line shack? When the roof is rusting tin, the sides are weathered-gray barn board, the front porch looks like home to a half-dozen lazy hounds and the emergency equipment consists of an old metal-wheeled cart and fire extinguisher sitting on the front lawn.
Welcome to The Line Shack, an FBO at Ardmore Municipal Airport, located about halfway between Oklahoma City and Dallas, and a long dry walk from everywhere.
Despite the weathered appearance, the FBO is just two years old, owned and operated by Jarid King and his Small Business Aviation company. But much of The Line Shack really is authentic; the board siding came from a supply of old barn board, the roof really is recycled tin and much of the memorabilia contained in the one-room building comes from a collection of artifacts from the time when the airport was Ardmore Army Air Field (later Ardmore Air Force Base). It would not be inaccurate to describe The Line Shack as an aviation museum, and a tribute to the thousands of military who once populated the base.
The look owes much to Jarid’s father, Jerry Allen King-Echevarria, also known as Jake. Jerry King’s aviation career at Ardmore began in 1993 when he leased an abandoned, former military hangar at Ardmore Airpark, where he lived in a trailer adjacent to the hangar and remembers that most of his meals coming out of a small microwave. Twenty years later, he heads King Aerospace Holdings, and he passed his love of aviation history along to Jarid.
Not unlike his father, Jarid, now 22, has a driven work ethic and need to excel. In addition to running The Line Shack, he is a full-time business student at Oklahoma State, where he also plays defensive tackle on one of the nation’s top football teams. He has his private license, flies a Cessna 172 and is working on his instrument rating. Much of his involvement in the FBO is by e-mail and phone and on weekends and school breaks. This will change, he avows, with graduation in 2012.
Jarid emphasizes that he came by his leadership role honestly, working for his father from a young age, doing everything from pumping gas to sweeping hangar floors. Along the way, he said, “Aviation became my dream too.”
That dream, at least in the short term, includes Jake’s Restaurant, also owned by Jarid and named for his father. It’s just a few steps from The Line Shack and housed in the main terminal building. It is no less rustic than the Shack. “Rustic elegance,” said Jerry King, who saw to it that a large pair of steer horns from the famous Texas Y.O. Ranch were hung over the entrance.
While the cuisine leans for the most part to the expected rib-sticking Midwest fare, the chef is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and his touch is obvious. More important to visitors is the fact that crews of turbine aircraft that buy fuel at The Line Shack dine free at Jake’s. Visiting business aviation aircraft crews and passengers are also discovering that Jake’s provides in-flight catering. “Our chef is a genius and he can do anything,” said Jarid.
Yes, Jake’s does have a liquor license, but hard stuff is often as not Texas Treaty Oak Rum with two limes and a splash of Diet Coke (not for those flying, of course). As for the entertainment, it’s mostly recorded Texas Swing from bands like Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys and songs by Gene Autry.
Modern FBO Meets Rustic Facility
While The Line Shack is the most visible aspect of the facilities, sitting as it does immediately next to the parking apron, there is also an adjacent and far more modern FBO building with the typical amenities: Wi-Fi with high-speed Internet connectivity, crew cars, flight planning and weather, and of course, fuel.
The Line Shack began pumping fuel in August 2011 and is part of the AvFuel network. And while fuel is not yet a major source of revenue, Jarid expects to win a DLA contract that would officially make it an approved fuel source for government aircraft and increase revenue considerably. According to Jarid, procedures and equipment are already in place to service and fuel military aircraft.
In truth, the FBO is already becoming a popular, though unofficial, stop for military aircraft on cross-country training missions, located as it is in the near-geographic center of the county.
It is not unusual to find U.S. Army Chinook helicopters or U.S. Air Force F-16s parked on the apron. The recent arrival of a flight of Chinooks was welcome, but the staff at Jake’s was bit shocked when more than 40 crewmembers walked in for a free meal.
Pilots headed to Ardmore will find a well-equipped airport with an FAA control tower and a 9,000-foot runway with an ILS.
Those fascinated by an “original line shack,” may also want to visit the nearby town of Gene Autry, home of a museum dedicated to the famous singing cowboy from the golden age of film. It’s much like The Line Shack: a taste of history but with all the contemporary fixins.