Monday, February 18, 2019

The Ongoing, Ever-present, Repetitive Rebuild of all Things Digital.

If you get our emails and find them to look a cluttered, you aren't the only one. With the ever changing digital field of marketing, new formats and protocols are coming online daily. Unfortunately, if you are tasked with keeping up with them all it often gets tiring and you let them go. That's on me, Rich.

On the upside, slowly we are making progress. Slowly we are updating. Hopefully, we'll be fully done before the next round of major changes.

Question: When is the last time you were at  

Donations Via Website

There have been some problems with the donation page at Currently WIX is working on the issue, as are we.  We apologize for the inconvenience. Thanks to all of you for pointing out the issue.

Meanwhile, there is an easy solution. For some reason the button needs to either be close to center on your screen or you have to double click the "donate" button.  These temporary workaround methods should help.

A Beast, Thought Extinct, Spotted at Lee Bottom

A "survivor" visits Lee Bottom.

Have you seen the image above? If so, you most likely received a 2019 Lee Bottom calendar. Although it may not be the flashiest photo (purposely aged), it is easily the most historically correct ever used.
Lee Bottom’s timeline is dotted with nearly every kind of aviation that exists, or has existed. From Barnstorming to maintenance, flight training to salvage, the place has seen it all, including a long stint as a duster field. Along the south side of the runway you can even find parts of junk Ag-cats, used as landfill, sticking out of the ground.
The plane featured here is one of the last “survivor” Stearman dusters. Still in its duster configuration (unrestored), and powered by a P&W 1340, it’s most likely the only one of its kind remaining – a true time capsule of aviation history.
Every time I see this plane I wear the grass in a continuous path around it. There are endless details to find and ponder. Some things are almost comical; others are mechanical exclamation points. In short, I love it.
Thanks to Mike Rutledge for bringing it by on a rare cross-country. “The Beast,” as it is affectionately known, isn’t something usually chosen for flights more than an hour or 100 miles long.

***Thanks to all of you who participate in our annual calendar fundraiser. Each year you help us a do a little more to the field to improve it, and keep it open for future generations.

Would you like to contribute?  Click here.

The End

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Nature's Reveille

Photo - All About Birds

Earlier, as a not so permafrost melted Hanover into mush, I laid in bed contemplating the day. A week long deep freeze, and a night of sleepless "Reserve A," had robbed me of the energy to stand upright. Within my head, dreams and reality wrestled for the win.
Times like these are common. Sleep is my friend. Coming through for reality was a list of things to do. Dreams’ strong rebuttal was a final scene I wished to experience. It was the perfect balance of ambition and sloth. Then, there was a sound.
Outside the window, low in the maple, was something unheard in a week. Until then it had not occurred to me, the world had been silent. Everything was hiding; trying to survive; fighting its own reality, or dreams.
A single robin was the first to announce results.
Singing louder than before, the redbreast derided my laziness. Was it avian attitude, personal guilt, or nothing but perception of volume after an extended and unrecognized silence? It is impossible to know. Whatever the case, nature’s reveille telegraphed sharply through the glass.
The first report of winter’s death, received. The battle for spring, nearly won.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

What's In A Name?

There is a list of things to do, the annual calendar letter needs finalized, a rating exists that must be completed, clothes need folding, and a bulb has gone dark, yet for some reason, tonight, I can only think of my Dad’s Dad, Orlando Davidson. A man who did what was right, not what was popular – my grandfather.
Other than the many grand stories passed down by family, to me he exists in two places, my single but unwavering memory of him, and my name. I’m proud of that more than ever. Although, it wasn’t always that way.
Nothing about my name was ever easy. First, it breaks many of the unspoken but subconsciously recognizable rules of flow, consonants vs vowels, and easy speech patterns. In short, it doesn’t flow off the tongue.
When you’re young, the name Richie is an invitation to a dozen childish jabs. It’s also greatly misunderstood. Everyone believes it’s either Ricky, short for Richard, or spelled wrong. Yes, people have told me I spell my name wrong. After all, who would name their kid, Richie?
Of course, there’s also the obvious point that Richie sounds like an eight year old. Several weeks ago, when checking into a hotel, the guy behind the desk, seeing the full spelling of my name, said, “Hey, you know, I know a Richie. He’s a buddy-o-mine, and you know, he’s actually pretty cool,” as if it was an anomaly. My response to him was, “Yeah, it’s kinda like a boy name Sue. You kinda have to be.” He thought about it, then with a loud laugh, he said, “HA. I guess that’s true, hu?” Thus, completely affirming what I had always believed.
For all these reasons and more, years ago I started going by, “Rich.” Right out of school it seemed more capable of hiding the reality of my age than my behavior, so I went with it. Unfortunately, Rich is also difficult off the lips – the sound, reminiscent of a German teaching behavior to a dog, is impossible to express with the smoothness of butta (sigh). Still, it seemed better than Richie, which actually is descended from the German name Ritchie. Hence, the accusations of incorrect spelling. Again, one reason why I continued to go with Rich.
However, there is one thing about my first name that I have always cherished. It is my mother’s maiden name. Despite all the pitfalls of Richie, not only did my parents bring me into the world, they managed to keep both families alive with me. For that, I am ever grateful, and regretful for shunning it.
Names really do have an effect on who you are. In my case, a strong sense of person comes from the Germans and my total distaste for bullshit from the Scots-Irish – Davidson. The latter being a tough brand of human who worked their way into the country, moved down the east coast, then inland, through the Cumberland Gap, to become some of the poorest yet most proudly self-sufficient people on the planet. These are my people. Well, wait. There is the Creek Indian part that I can’t talk about since my membership is not up to date, but I have always wondered if that’s why I’m so good at smelling the white man’s bull. However, I’ll save that for another page and paragraph.
Orlando and Nettie Davidson, my father’s parents, lived in the bottom of a deep valley acquired through trade. Elder family members exchanged a Kentucky Long Rifle, a hunting dog, and a fifth of whiskey for the acreage upon which their shack rested. There they had six children.
Orlando, known to family and friends as “Lando,” was, for the most part, your typical hard working dirt farmer/all around capable Appalachian man. Three things were important to him, his family, his land, and his people. Asking for nothing, except to be left to his resources and property, he planted row crops on the sunny side of a steep hill, terracing the land with a plow pulled by cows and mules. Below, in the shadows, was a typical Eastern Kentucky homestead by a creak. Everything you needed to survive was the land offered. Then came the strip mines via broad form deed.
Crony Capitalism has always been a Kentucky specialty. The timber and coal industries perfected it. Buying politicians to cast aside those without power, these industries extorted, from the simple people of Appalachia, the minerals below their feet and the timber that gave them shelter. For some it was an annoyance; for many it was a nightmare; to others it was deadly.
Acting without malice, and with the permission of government, corporations who claimed ownership to the sediment below ripped landowners from their land. Adding insult to injury, this left shell-shocked families with no logical choice but to sell all the timber. After all, were it not sold it would be bulldozed and left to rot. Unsurprisingly, mine owned timber companies offered pennies on the dollar.
With the permission of government all the streams went dead, mountains were clear-cut of trees, and the mountain tops sheared off – the rubble pushed over the hills. More than once, boulders rolled onto homes below. More than once it was intentional.
Today most people know only the populist slogans pushed by politicians to stir up their base. Many believe coal has helped Appalachia. Kentucky has an “I support coal” license plate. However, the area has, on numerous occasions, qualified as the poorest area in the nation. It ranks high among the areas of drug use, low in the rankings of health and education, and no longer has the land that once rivaled any park in the nation. Put bluntly, it is “the hood” for white people - where folks were used up and spit out by government and corporations, taught no other options, and left with no ability to fight back.
Yes, you will find people made slave to the industry – people who always go back to the jobs. However, it is difficult to argue they are better off than their grandparents who had the same quality of life but they also had freedom. Today, those that still depend on the mines are little more than subjects of the Kentucky king, coal. They live and die on the decisions of others. Moreover, as you would expect, like users they support their dealers.
My single memory of my grandfather, Lando, is of him and me sitting on a bench at the base of a shade tree, on a warm summer afternoon. Within a few seconds run, on a child’s legs, a creek once full of life gurgled over rocks. By my side my Grandfather whittled.
I remember this moment because I felt, for the first time, the greatness in someone. He was a good man who loved his family, who knew wrong from right, and stood for it even when he was alone. His appearance was old but inside was something beyond time – a presence. I’d give anything to have what he was carving that day. In some ways I guess I do. I certainly got his name, Lando.
Yes, my name has been problematic from the start. People have problems with my first name, although it’s simple. Some have even accused me of spelling it wrong. My last name gave me a spirit that doesn’t fit in the modern world and its spelling gets me confused with some old coot (and friend) who flies Pitts and spells his name wrong. However, it is my middle name, Lando, which earns my biggest chuckle.
Many years ago, when I was trying to fly shrunken heads from the Amazon into the USA, I had to produce a birth certificate. When it arrived, I was shaken to my core. On the document was, LANDAU. Fortunately, since my core is little more than a tiny burned out ember it really wasn’t much more than a curiosity until I learned the why behind the spelling - someone at the hospital spelled it wrong when I was born. HA!
When I was young everyone assumed my middle name to be, Lee. I never mentioned it, only printing “L,” so they guessed the most likely country middle name and that’s what I got. The day after I finally told some friends who were ribbing me about it, Stars Wars debuted. That didn’t help. The name was as alien to small town Kentucky as cars without giant bird decals on their hoods. And yet, today, every time I look at my work ID it pisses me off it’s spelled wrong.
I wish there was more about Lando remaining. I wish I had known him better. After decades of watching his beloved land and people struggle against the evils of government and corporate tyranny, he had a stroke. That day, a coal train blocked the only road to the hospital.
To know that, you know his son, my dad, Eldon. To know my dad, you know me.

Note: I have my father’s gun somewhere. If he missed he meant to. To understand that, you have to read this.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

POOF! There's a Stuka. (Updated)

Twenty years ago Ju 87 R-2 (Correction R-4, see next photo) WkNr. 0875709 was
pulled from Russia. Later Paul Allen would purchase it, plus parts from other projects,
and begin restoration of an example of the single, most,
iconic aircraft of WWII. Here it is.

Since I was a kid there was one plane from WWII I wanted to see fly – a Stuka. Dismay is the best way to describe my feelings when I first discovered there were none to be had. There was no way that could be true, I thought, but historians told me otherwise. Still, I knew in my heart they were wrong.
I asked everyone, pondered aloud where one might be found, studied them, insisted there had to be one, complained each time one was discovered and considered unrestorable, and later even did such things as start a facebook page called “Save a Stuka.”
Here is the wreckage that has apparently been rebuilt by FHC.
Ju 87R-4 Werknr 6234, L1+FW I./StG5 - I am going back through all
I have and it appears I recorded incorrect data from when it was
rescued out of Russia or the FHC decided this was
the best of the pieces they had and went with the R-4. 
People chuckled when I said it was the single most iconic aircraft of WWII. I still challenge anyone to prove me wrong. Of course, what is restored depends on the cool to dollars ratio.
Years ago, as the world grew more insane with political correctness, museums actually removed authentic paint schemes from WWII German aircraft. This insanity made aircraft of the Luftwaffe even riskier when it came to high dollar rebuilds. Therefore, only someone who was among the wealthiest of people, who was a visionary, and really didn’t care what snowflakes thought about WWII history would dare rebuild a Stuka. The dollars to cool ratio would be a disaster for anyone except one man, Paul Allen.
I first learned about his secret project well over ten years ago. Numerous times I wrote about it. Then I asked, no, I begged everyone I knew associated with Allen’s museum to throw me a bone, posed open questions for anonymous information, and even sent a few letters, numerous emails, and more, and got nothing.

Along the way I told those who would listen that it would someday arrive as if magic. A few friends paid attention and notified me when Allen’s team was going to be in Chicago to “clean” the one hanging in a museum there. Graciously, the team moved many displays, brought the plane down from the ceiling, disassembled much of the Stuka to “clean” inside and out, then put everything back very rapidly and with as much secrecy as possible, and paid for it all. How kind of them.
Later another friend sent me one of Kermit’s videos where he accidentally recorded its engine, post overhaul, at Vintage V-12s then kindly bleeped it out understanding the secrecy Paul Allen demanded.

This project has been there all along and ever since I found out about it I’ve discussed it. However, just as I said, today the plane appeared out of nowhere, and people are in total dismay. Folks who spend their days and nights following warbirds seem stunned as if they had no idea. Truth be told, they didn’t. Until it existed in photos they could not deny, it wasn’t as cool as aviation’s version of cat videos. Therefore. while watching the one millionth Mustang video, skimming T-6 formation images, or oohing and ahhing over another “wall of fire” photo, Paul Allen delivered, even in death, a Stuka as if by magic.
I regret never knowing Paul Allen. I tried numerous times to catch him to very quickly and quietly tell him thanks for doing this project even though I knew he couldn’t and wouldn’t admit it. However, I could never pull it off. I only hope those who knew him well, who are in charge of the dollars now, will make it fly. To not do so would stamp out a dream I know for sure the two of us shared – to return an example of the single most iconic aircraft of WWII to the air.

Note: Everyone seems to ask about the siren. Paul Allen insisted on perfect restorations. If the tradition continues with the Stuka, and they chose to rebuild #0875709 instead of one of the other projects purchased, you will never hear the siren as that model did not have one. Yes, as with everything WWII, there were field modifications, random parts built onto earlier and later models, but strictly speaking, if restored correctly it will not have one. The R version was essentially a long range model and the siren significantly reduced speed with its increased drag.

Update: I have always believed this to be an R-2 but as you can see in the following link they say it is an R-4. R-4s were Stuka rarities so that makes it even more unique. Going back through all I have collected I am even more interested to learn the true story of the restoration. Much of the data I have was either reported incorrectly when it was first pulled from Russia, the Deutsches Technik Museum is good at keeping secrets, or maybe another projects exists as leftovers, or maybe I transposed incorrectly? Click here to see a release from the Flying Heritage Collection.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Off Road in a Boeing

Some folks will do anything for a cool escort.
It's always good to test the strength of a "Seven-Four" so you know how much it will take when you really need it. I'm thinking you can pretty much count on the design for just about anything - tough old bird. Can even survive a captain's landing.
Turf management at large airports is more important than you thought.
The Lesson: Never let your guard down and never blow off the reason
you had to go around. If you went around something wasn't right
and you should put some thought into what it was and why
before attempting the second one. Too many people treat it as a fluke
and expect the next one to go perfectly. When one thing goes wrong
and you catch it, the next thing is likely the thing that will get you.
Don't ever forget that.