CLT Makes Lawn Mowing Dreams Come True

Not many people can say they’ve gotten their dream job before starting middle school. That’s exactly what happened to Quentin Hines, Jr. At least for one spectacularly sunny day.

When Quentin was 4 years old, he told his parents he wanted to mow the grass at Charlotte Douglas International Airport someday. He would take his little toy mower to the old Airport Overlook, watch the planes and fantasize about maintaining the fields at such a glorious place.


Quentin now at 11 years old has a high-tech mower and his own lawn care company. He teaches his friends how to cut grass and mows his elderly neighbors’ lawns for free.

Network Reporter Gets the Scoop

CBS News National Correspondent David Begnaud learned about Quentin and decided to try and make the rising sixth-grader’s dream a reality.

Begnaud’s producer reached out to CLT to see if Quentin could mow a little grass at the Airport.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Planning the Surprise

Begnaud and his crew traveled to Charlotte to interview Quentin and his parents about his lawn mowing dreams.

Meanwhile at CLT, employees from all different departments jumped into action to prepare for Quentin’s big surprise.

Finding grass that needed trimming was not a problem. With more than 1,000 grass-covered acres in the Airport’s secure area alone, CLT has crews mowing in three shifts, 24/7 for eight months a year. During cooler months, the Airport cuts back mowing to 10 hours a day.

Staff scouted out a great location that was close to the action. They put together an all-star field maintenance crew and picked out the biggest and coolest mowers. They got security clearance for Quentin and his parents and set up a radio message from FAA ground control to give him clearance to mow.

It all came together one morning in May as the Airport crew lined up and waited for Quentin and CBS News to arrive.

Welcome to CLT, Quentin!

Quentin was stunned when an Airport official drove him and his parents onto the tarmac toward a lighted sign that read “Welcome to CLT, Quentin!”

CLT Chief Maintenance Mechanic Larry Johnson was the first to introduce himself. Johnson shook the young man’s hand and gave him a bright yellow safety vest.

After Quentin met the rest of the crew, Johnson showed him the different types of mowers in the CLT fleet. There are zero-turn riding mowers, flail mowers for thick brush and a robotic mower for hard-to- reach areas, just to name a few.

Quentin and Johnson spent about an hour behind a big push mower, meticulously going up and back as planes took off and landed behind them.

Then, the pair headed off to the granddaddy of all Airport mowers, a John Deere tractor that pulls a 15’ batwing mowing deck. Quentin could not believe his eyes. It was the same one he used to admire from the old Airport Overlook.

“I thought I was dreaming,” Quentin said. “It didn’t feel real because it had always been my dream. It was by far one of the best experiences of my life.”

Watching her son ride on that tractor, Shirley Hines was speechless. Her eyes welled up with tears.

“It was surreal,” Shirley said. “We are so proud of him. He handled the interview and the cameras with such grace and humility.”

A Lasting Impression

Resting in an air-conditioned Airport conference room with cold water and some lunch, Quentin reflected on the experience.

He said mowing with Johnson was his favorite part of the day. On a scale of one to 10, he gave it a 15.

“I am still stoked about that day,” Johnson said after the CBS story aired. “I am so proud of that young man.”

“Quentin has intelligent parents, and they are guiding him to success,” said Field Maintenance Manager Maxwell Courtney. “It’s nice to see a kid like Quentin thinking about what he wants to do in life and working hard to achieve that goal.”

Shirley said since the story aired, she and her husband have received a lot of praise for their parenting, but she gives Quentin the credit.

“People say he has a bright future, and we agree, but he has been the driver in this journey; we are doing what we can to support him,” Shirley said.

What’s Next?

Quentin is spending the summer (how else?) mowing lawns and posting about it on social media. He addresses his followers as “Grasshoppers.”  He is also teaching his friends how to take care of lawns, emphasizing safety when using push mowers and weed eaters.

In the fall, Quentin looks forward to taking business classes in the International Baccalaureate program at his new middle school.

More to the Story

Spending the morning at CLT was only half of the surprise CBS News had for Quentin.

After leaving the Airport, they went to Carolina Panthers’ stadium, where groundskeepers taught him how to take care of the field. Quentin even got to paint yard lines on the practice field.

“I was pretty nervous,” Quentin said. “Once I got the hang of it I did really well for it being my first time.”

Quentin said the Panthers gave him an open invitation to come help groundskeepers again this summer and he says he’ll take them up on that offer.

“This has been a life-changing experience for us as a family,” Shirley said. “It has opened up the discussion for talking about college for him and what he would like to study. Some of the guys at Panthers’ stadium gave him tips about turf grass and how to get into the field.”

You can watch the CBS Mornings story on Quentin’s day at CLT and the Panthers on the CBS News website.