Around the Airport

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Lee Bottom Flood Update

Here you can see the flooding around the field.
Photo - Mark Powers

Many of you know Lee Bottom lies beside the Ohio River and a few of you knew the Ohio recently flooded. For those who've been asking and those who didn't know to ask, this is an update on how it affected us.

Most important to this conversation is the knowledge no flood on record has ever flooded the airport. Although the "37 flood" would have put water in some of the land near the hill the runway would have still been ok. Those of you familiar with the field know there is a small county road that runs down one side of the runway.  This bit of chip seal human intervention happens to divide the part of the bottom that floods from that which does not. Therefore, the primary question has been answered - the airport did not flood, the runway is fine, and it is open.

Those of you who know more of our story know we also have a few pieces of property between the road and the river where it does flood. Although we came close to a very bad week (6-8" close), in the end we had one building with a foot and a half of water in it. This was the shop where most of stuff was moved after the tornado.

This is the driveway into "the Nut Farm" across the road.
I waded in after the water was already going down
to take photos.

Our friend Mike Grecco saved the day by helping us get everything up on tables, or move elsewhere, before the water rose. We spent a day and a half getting ready and in the end it worked out pretty well, all things considered.

The water had already gone down a foot to a
foot and a half when I took this.

Although we have one building we are still trying to get dry, we have been able to get the mud out and start the cleaning process. This also jump started our organization efforts to get everything sorted so that we can have an auction to sell off everything that isn't bolted down or absolutely necessary to the operation. We had been wanting to reduce the amount of "stuff" and this forced us into it. Hopefully some of you will come to whatever kind of sale we have and buy it all and leave us with a much more manageable life.

As for that gigantic bonfire we were planning to have, it washed away.  There were a few years worth of trees in that pile and it moved on in the peak hour of the flood.  One less inch and it would likely have stayed.  Oh well...

NOTE: If any of you remember the tram that was the old Cincinnati Zoo tram, it needs a new home. Know any non-profit that would like it or someone interested in buying it to restore?

Friday, February 9, 2018

Ace Turns 15

A truly wonderful dog.
February 14th is Ace's birthday. Ginger calls him her Ace of Hearts (born on Valentine's Day). He's 15 this year.

If you've spent any time at Lee Bottom, you know Ace. He's one of the best dogs I've ever known; a favorite of vets, laid back, and loyal. Anyone who doesn't like him can be written off as "strange" and pretty much ignored from that point on.

Years ago this amazing dog was the best man at our wedding, for years he kept deer off the runway, and now he holds down territory in the house. If you haven't seen him in a while he's friendly as ever, and older, and still never leaves our side.

Dang birthdays!

The Latest from the Lee Bottom Aviation Refuge (and Random Bits of Interest)

Somehow, this relates. I haven't quite sorted it out but
I'm sure it does.
As difficult as it is to believe, the airport has never had an “honest” land survey. Years ago when most of the river bottom and hill-side were sold at auction there was some confirmed shadiness involved in the sale. The case is well-known around here. Because of this, property boundaries in the bottom fall into the “in this general area” category. Now, thanks to a shady real estate agent who misrepresented a nearby property, with the help of some shady “lawyering,” to some shady people, which was missed by local officials, we find ourselves needing to pin down all boundaries to sort it out. Total = $7600.
Remember, that’s only the survey.  It doesn’t include any of the additional expenses already incurred or expected to accrue in order to resolve this issue.
I mention this because it is only one of the things we are aggressively pursuing to reduce the problems for the airport, and its future owners, going forward. All of this comes out of our pockets and it is a great example of why we are so thankful for those of you who support the field by contributing to the airport’s operation fund.
Anything better than this
costs money.
The airport house needs a redefined purpose. The interior updates have not been completed because we are unsure what it will become. We’ve talked to restorers and mechanics about calling it home. You’d think it would be appealing but so far nobody has taken us up on the opportunity. It would also be great for a specialized flight school/instructor.  It could also become a home for someone who likes to mow grass and perform general airport maintenance. If you know an adult Boy Scout we’d be interested in talking to them. You know, all that honest, thrifty stuff…
Question: Is there a demand for hangars at Lee Bottom? This is tough to answer. We’ve long had a place set aside for five 50Wx40L hangars.  However, while we lived on the airport we were reluctant to move forward with them. Now we wonder if anyone would be interested? What would make them appealing to you?
I'm partial to this hangar facade.
We have a huge pile of wood to burn and sometime soon we’re going to light it off.  If you’d like to come hang out and roast some hot dogs then watch the Lee Bottom facebook page for the announcement. It will probably be fairly short notice. If you’d be willing to bring your chainsaw, or willingness to lift, and help us add another few trees to the pile, send us an email at – infoatleebottomdotcom.
SINFUL SUNDAYS – We are looking for groups to run the last two Sinful Sundays of 2018.  The Women in Aviation chapter that ran last year’s July event has committed to run the one in June. If your group would be interested in one of these fundraiser dates please let us know. The group does not have to be aviation oriented. Note: The events are only held if outside groups offer to hold them. It worked great last year.
We are looking to redo, remodel, or rearrange many things this year.  Some will be obvious – most will not. Much of this effort involves selling items we no longer need. Actually, I have decided I want rid of EVERYTHING we don’t need. Therefore, look for a possible silent auction at an upcoming Sinful Sunday to sell every little item I am sure I no longer need. This would include aviation art prints, die cast toys, aircraft parts, books, and more.  When it is over I want what’s left to fit on a wall in the house or two bookshelves.  Oh, if we are to rebuild the hangar and possibly the house, we will no longer need the cabin.  Are you interested? It’s for sale if so. It’s wired for power and is a true, although modern build, log cabin. $8000 (must be removed from the river bottom).
One of our longest held dreams has been to have the Indiana Aviation Hall of Fame at Lee Bottom. Our state is one of the few without such an (established) organization, yet is has some of the richest aviation history. The field is the perfect location, and were non-profits to combine their efforts it would be the only Hall of Fame I know of with its own airport. The time is right. Could it be done? If so, it better start happening. The depletion of my ambition is accelerating.
Ultimately, we are putting all options on the board. Do you have any suggestions?

Another Calendar Old

Did you get a calendar?  Probably not. They only go to a fraction of the people on this list. Why is that?
Despite the calendar’s meager debut 30 years ago, the annual mailing eventually grew to an unwieldy 1500 prints. Attempting to keep a handle on things we capped the production there and sent them only to people who contributed to the airport’s operating fund.  It’s done the same way today.
If you typically get a calendar, don’t worry. The US Postal Service treats bulk mail as a necessary evil. Even though they went out some time ago only a few have arrived at their destinations. However, all of them soon will.
When they do we hope you’ll contribute once again. Each year these funds go directly to keeping the airport running and indirectly they do the same for us.
Anyone who has followed the airport through the years knows we’ve been at it a while. This is my (rich) 20th year at the field and Ginger’s 17th. Along the way we’ve done many positive things and also butted heads with politicians, utilities, the FAA, and inconsiderate pilots. Everything we ever did was to improve the chances Lee Bottom survived the long haul. There’s just one problem. Ginger and I will not last the long haul.
Obviously, I am a fallible biped. My eventual demise has never been in doubt. However, Ginger has been accused of being a machine. Well, I’m here to dispel the myth.  She is not. Borg maybe, but not machine.
What does this mean? Each year the effort required to keep the airport running gets more difficult for us to muster as retirement increases its offer of less involved days. Somewhere in there the lines cross, “S over R Max.”  That’s spending over reward to those who still believe they’ll live forever.  Beyond that point it doesn’t makes sense for us to use all our spare pennies to keep the airport open if pilots don’t feel the need for it. No matter how much we love the place, if we can’t eat or go to the doctor in old age it would be insane to keep at it. For this reason, we’ve been planning our lives so that doesn’t happen. We’ve also been planning a future for the field. That’s where the Lee Bottom Aviation Refuge (a 501C-3) comes into play.
Years ago we told everyone we’d base the airport’s future on how much the community wanted to keep it alive. Therefore, when folks like you contribute to the operation fund it’s a massive shot in the arm. Every time you show your support, it makes it that much easier for us to do the hard work.  THANK YOU!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Christmas Cards, Friends, and Phones

It’s CHRISTMAS CARD season again. Each time I open the mailbox I wonder who will be next. Which couple, man, woman, or long lost compatriot will have put out the effort to address one to us?
They've changed through the years, these cards of greeting and cheer. Once upon a time they were mostly classical – straight up fairy tale. A real tree stood in a corner next to the fire. Above the stone fireplace a re-purposed barn beam offered space for candles and carefully hung stockings. Outside, horse drawn carriages delivered distant relatives home. Children left cookies for Santa.
Next came the whimsical, often lighthearted, non-traditional cards. In them you could feel the move from others to self – from holiday to another day. Colors matched the personalities. Christmas scenes became the sender’s personal hobbies imagined in a snow-covered set. X-mas was a thing.
Along the journey away from the Christmas season and others came another interesting version - the family photo card. Sometimes glossy, yet commonly bordered with festive lace sprinkling glitter, these are the “one year in our life” cards that bring you up to speed on what the senders are doing and how they all look in the current year.
These “yearbook” Christmas cards also served to further my growing disappointment with the season, myself, and society as a whole. Please do not misconstrue my words. It is wonderful to know our friends are well and care enough to send these keepsakes. It is great to receive record of everything going on in their lives. Even better, the mugshots help us recognize them at crosswalks. That’s always nice.
Yet, my disappointment is that we’ve gone from exchanging heartfelt telegrams rich in the season to mass produced family yearbooks displaying mistletoe in a corner to make certain everyone understands it is a Christmas card.
Deeper than that is my curiosity as to what it’s all about. Obviously, if you collected Christmas Cards from the last thirty years you could glean better understanding of the changes in our country than academics using extensive biographical surveys.
Perhaps everyone is so vastly distant we instinctively understand the need for recent family bios. Alternatively, maybe we’ve moved from thinking of others to thinking of ourselves and wrapped it in an envelope to make it deliverable. I suppose there is also a chance people are so long removed from the real Christmas many struggle for a way to celebrate it – unsure of what to do we go to what we know.
There’s also the changing ideas of “friends and family.” That could be to blame. Certainly, the word “friend” isn’t at all what it was a mere decade ago. Where once the word announced “if you mess with them you mess with me.” Today it casually infers the notion, “I may or may not know this person but they put a cool photo online and they hate ____ so we’re friends.”
Years ago a friend was someone who could be trusted to hide the body. Now it is someone who most assuredly will like your social media posts. That leads me to wonder if many feel the vapid nature of this holiday mess and all they’re really trying to do is hold on to friends, real friends, that are too far away for dinner. If so, sharing notes on our lives may be the modern day version of “Hey. Sorry we haven't talked in a while. I've been so busy.”
Ultimately, I believe it is a little bit of everything. Nobody means any harm or arrogance. Our friends certainly don’t. Our lives are busy though, and distant. Society preaches “more is more” while posting “less is more” online. We know what we need and refuse to practice it; somehow believing the most luminous colors, blended, place a magical tint on our lives, when in reality ten of the prettiest colors from across the spectrum, mixed, will give you brown or gray.
A week or ten days ago a friend’s Facebook account was suspended. Being too manly for the masculine police (he likes girls) earned him a one-way ticket to online jail. How do I know this? He called.
Hearing from him was a better gift than countless cards. Although I knew most everything that was going on with our friend from his social media account, hearing the words made them real. Talking to a person made it count and reminded me of all the good memories he is part of. The same would go for the others.
Am I really the only one who feels this way?
Fifteen years ago I quit calling friends at Christmas. One hectic day the calls interfered with the things that fill each square on the calendar and I thought to myself, “Why am I calling these people? They never call me,” and I never did it again. I had always assumed that if they went to the trouble to send cards at Christmas they would be someone who would like to catch up “live.” That wasn’t the case.
Many still send cards but never call. Why?
Understandably, not every card is from a heartfelt friend. I myself have sent Christmas Cards to people who don’t fit the “hide the bodies” definition of friendship, yet having done me a great favor, or written something demanding of recognition, I used the occasion to express thanks and Merry Christmas. Some cards are family to family. These keep everyone in the loop, generally. These best fit the definition of “Hello” cards. Additionally, we all get the friendly card from an acquaintance in sales.
Put to a point, not every card comes from someone who laughed at you from the other side of the bars, shared the hobby of explosives built for fun, not terrorism, and who could still describe how incapacitated you were when your best friend died. Many, though, do. Each time those arrive I think of how nice it would be to talk to them and share a laugh. Heck, being on their list is nice. Real words would be memorable.
Again, please don't get me wrong. I am not angry or upset with these people, senders of cards. To the contrary, I am glad for the season as it delivers their words. Ultimately though, I’d love to have a Christmas filled with their voices instead of the symbols.

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Lee Bottom Aviation Refuge - Update

As was mentioned in another recent post, outwardly visible progress for the Lee Bottom Aviation Refuge has been thin this year. Despite having brought back Sinful Sundays and all of them being a success, people often look here for notes on advancement. Those notes have been few and far between.

2017 has been an interesting year for the organization. Much has been done but little that can be seen. Obvious physical improvements or large group photos did not happen because the primary focus has been on securing the land and land around it. This isn't what we hoped for. Instead, it was forced upon us.

Due to unscrupulous real estate agents, people with no regard for the law, and officials who have not been doing their jobs we have spent most of the year working on time consuming issues that don't produce obvious results. Putting an end to the flaunting of state and federal regulations pertaining to public use airports and zoning is difficult enough. When it is just you attempting to correct widespread disregard for property and the law it's not easy at all. If you are an outsider in a town where everyone is related, grew up with, went school with, or goes to church with everyone else it's maddening. Yet, if we are to secure the future of the field it must be done.

Thankfully, the gracious Lee Bottom Aviation Refuge supporters stepped up this year to cover nearly all the direct operating expenses of the field.  This is exactly what we were hoping for as we transitioned the field management responsibilities to the non-profit, thus taking part of the load off us as we attended to land issues. That, along with an increase in traffic, the return of Sinful Sundays, and potential opportunities for the airport leads us to believe 2018 will be another great year.

*NOTE: The annual fundraiser calendars are currently at the printers. We plan for them to go out early January. If I remember correctly, this is the 30th year of the tradition. Each year they go out to 1500 aviation enthusiasts around the world and account for the majority of the non-profit donations/funding.

*IMPORTANT: The dates for 2018 Sinful Sundays are June 10th, July 8th, and August 12th.  If you recall, we are only able to have these events if other groups volunteer to host them. If your group would be interested in hosting one, two, or all of them, please contact us here.

August 2017 Sinful Sunday

Sunday, December 3, 2017

YL-15 Article Featured in Sport Aviation

Thanks to those of you who emailed, texted, or messaged me about my YL-15 article in Sport Aviation. It's rare to get even the smallest response from anything written. Unless you are a world class author, today most people view you as a server bringing fast food to the table. There is so much content in existence it's often not considered a skill.  And in my case, that could be correct. Nonetheless, I have managed to fool some people so there could be hope.
The YL-15 itself was the most difficult aircraft I have ever written about. Imagine being tasked with documenting the internal workings of a Packard Merlin using only one paragraph. Doing the little Boeing justice with anything short of a book is the same. I suppose you could describe Marilyn Monroe by discussing her dress but the beauty of the mind would have to be ignored - the whos, whats, and whys left undocumented, different with each imagination. How do you chose what to leave out?
Here's Keith on the day we took the YL-15 to Talkeetna.
Making it more difficult was the personal history of the owner and restorer, Keith Brunquist. Everyone always says "aviation is about the people" and in this case the owner was critical to the piece. Therefore, I absolutely had to tell his story then as much about the plane as I could. I hope you enjoyed it.
Finally, here's a special thanks to the folks at Sport Aviation who found temporary room for my work. And thanks again to Keith some great flights around Alaska and allowing me to be one of three pilots qualified in the YL-15.
This plane is laugh-out-loud fun to fly.