“Really? What kind of airplane was it?”
“Why did you sell it?”
“The neighbors complained, said it was making too much damn noise. I kept it in my back yard.”
“Why did you have the 747?”
“The 707 wasn’t big enough for the
About this time, Ahles decided that perhaps the gentleman was not only unqualified to buy an airplane, but also insane. As the conversation continued, the man explained that his wife used to train exotic animals and that he also used to own a Piper Cheyenne 400 turboprop. Ahles remained skeptical, but promised that he would call the man right back. He hung up and called Piper to see if they knew anything about him.
“Fred, he’s loaded,” a Piper manager said. “Get your butt up there.”
So Ahles flew the Saratoga from Fort Lauderdale to the man’s private, 7,500-foot runway in Ocala, where he was greeted and invited to lunch at the prospect’s house, a 1920s mansion once owned by the Vanderbilts. To get there, the two walked through a tunnel in the 30-foot-tall blast wall constructed at the end of the runway for the 747. Plexiglas windows lined the tunnel, and behind one of them was the biggest gorilla Ahles had ever seen. And it did not like him.
“It sees me and goes nuts,” remembers Ahles. “It comes charging at me from the other side of the Plexiglas.”