The Griffing Flying Service in Sandusky, Ohio is a small business that took off and became a crucial part of commerce along Ohio’s north coast. Since the 1930s, Griffing has operated a combination flying school, airport, and charter service that caters to the Lake Erie islands and provides a key travel option for island visitors and residents alike.
If you walk in the front door of the Griffing terminal building, you will immediately see colorful scraps of cloth tacked to a bulletin board, with handwritten information reporting on milestones — like “first solo” — achieved by flight students. The rest of the operation has a similarly down-home, relaxed feel to it. The pilots are friendly and will load your baggage for you. If you are a regular traveler, the receptionist will keep your name and passport information on file from year-to-year to make the reservation process easier. When you fly with Griffing, you really do fly the friendly skies.
The flying experience at Griffing also a lot of fun. You fly in propeller planes that offer a totally different sensation than flying in a jet. You aren’t shielded from the experience by a huge, soundproofed plane and plush seats. Instead, you are close to the ground, feeling the plane picking up speed as it bounces down the runway and lifts steadily into the air. The pilot isn’t locked away in a closed cockpit, he’s just a few feet away, doing his pilot thing. (On some flights, I’ve even sat in the co-pilot seat for an especially close-up view.) On our trips to Pelee Island and Rattlesnake Island, the planes have never gotten more than 1000 feet off the ground (or over the lake, as the case may be), and when the plane banks and comes in for a landing, you feel the pull and the drop to the runway in your gut.
Anyone who has never flown in a smaller plane should give it a try sometime. Griffing Flying Service is a good place to start.