Sunday, December 18, 2011

Motion Induced Blindness

A friend sent us this link the other day and I just couldn’t help but pass it along.
Remember as a student pilot how it was stressed that you must keep your head on a swivel, your eyes always scanning? There’s a reason for that; motion induced blindness. Not seeing another aircraft approaching can end your day in a really bad way. Yet, until demonstrations such as this were created, all we could do is trust that our instructor knew what they were talking about and always keep looking.
When you click on the link, read the instructions at the top and notice the buttons on the right. The buttons are there to show you that even as things get pretty large you can’t see them and there are also speed and background color buttons. It seems this phenomenon happens in all conditions. Focus on the middle dot and be amazed.
I bet the next time you fly you'll be more attentive to scanning for traffic.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Controlled Flight Into Terrain

If you’ve noticed a change in the magazines Sport Aviation and AOPA Pilot, then you are not alone. Do you remember Bill Murray’s character in the movie Ghost Busters? If so, then you likely remember the scene where he is trying to explain to the mayor just how bad things are about to get when he finally hits on something everyone can understand “…dogs and cats sleeping together”. Well, it seems the ghosts are loose and the streams are crossed.
Two years ago, if you and I had been hanging out and I had said, “Within two years, AOPA Pilot will be covering real aviation and Sport Aviation will be filled with articles about pressurized turbines, you would likely have laughed your ass off. Now though, a few of you are thinking “how did he know”.
Few organizations today do any long term planning. Having fallen into the trap of the instant gratification mentality of the internet generation, many non-profits have forgotten that although they have to be agile and open to change, there still has to be a goal, a destination at the end of a chart.  Without that, all you get are answers to yesterday’s problems. Welcome to AOPA Pilot and Sport Aviation.
Only a few years back, a writer at AOPA Pilot would have needed to work every angle to get a story about flying a biplane cross country green-lighted. Today, Dave Hirschman has free reign to write about flying anything. Two years ago, the pages were filled with turboprops, and cold unspoken advertorials. Today, Dave Hirschman routinely argues passionately with some other guy about whatever gets people worked up. So what gives? I suspect several things.
Not that long ago, AOPA was in the hot seat and this is what I imagine went down. Complaints about the wine club and the advertorial disguised as a magazine were reaching record levels; levels that could not be ignored. Then, just as AOPA was about to do some impeaching, somehow, an adviser got a call through to Craig to offer a solution. “Mr. Fuller, I think I have an idea to rescue your Presidency. What if we covered aviation in our magazine?” And, for whatever reason, Craig thought “You know, this crazy idea just might work”. A poll was taken, the results came back favorable, and Dave was given the go ahead to place real airplanes in AOPA Pilot. There’s just one problem; other magazines already do that.
Memberships; just as every drunk needs a moped, AOPA needs memberships. When General Aviation manufacturers had money to burn, they could buy as many articles in AOPA pilot as they wanted.  Faced with a choice, back then AOPA chose to drink the money and ignore the members.  This was an easy call because members, like voters, would swallow whatever they were fed. Now though, AOPA has a problem; GA Manufacturers are broke.
Trying desperately to make up with the members it ignored for those with bigger bank accounts, AOPA now finds itself doing some serious sucking up. I tell ya, it’s like an after school special; AOPA is the fair weather friend and we’re the not so attractive but reliable types that are easy to take advantage of. Unfortunately, there’s an issue with this too. We lowly membership types can no longer afford multiple magazine subscriptions.  Therefore, with AOPA Pilot starting to look like other magazines that cover real aviation, more substance will have to be added to the lobbying side of the operation if they are to retain subscribers, err, members.  Why? Because they have a new competitor; EAA.
Have you heard? Sport Aviation is moving away from grass roots. You haven't? Well yeah, there is new leadership at EAA and although Sport Aviation technically has an Executive Editor, other people in the building insist on playing that role too. Therefore, like a pinball, Sport Aviation is along for the ride in a game of executive bumpers. But maybe I am ahead of myself.
Some time ago, a new Executive Director was brought in to Sport Aviation in an effort to rebuild the heart of a dying magazine. That person, for all practical purposes, did just that. Then a new President came along. He, and perhaps along with a few others, had something different in mind.
Being a business person, and therefore someone who needs benchmarks to keep score and earn bonuses, he began making many changes to the organization behind the scenes. Expenses were cut and potential profits were identified. The magazine would play a large role in the later. But again, I am ahead of myself.
Do you know how a President of a non-profit like EAA is judged by its members? Historically, although you may not wish to admit it, it has been memberships. One of AOPA’s past Presidents, John Baker, is well known for reminding his employees of this fact. “We’re not in the aviation business.  We’re in the membership business”, he would say. And quite honestly, there is some truth to that. The question arises though, for what purpose are you in the membership business?
Now, understanding how a President is judged, put yourself in Rod Hightower’s shoes and find yourself a new batch of members with which to make your mark. Where would you look? What areas would you pursue? Do you have suggestions?
Well, this is how I think they now see it at HQ. They’ve had the homebuilders for years and they’re cheap. The vintage folks are the old timers who only want to talk about EAA’s past. And the warbird folks have run free for too long thus getting the best of everything while giving the least return. What does that leave EAA? The answer may frighten you but Sport Aviation has a new directive; focus on “The North-Forty”.
If you don't know what “The North-Forty” is, to regulars of Oshkosh, that’s Airventure to three or four of you, The North-Forty is the northernmost East to West parking area where modern flying machines, built on assembly lines, park. Fuel injection, turbo-chargers, aluminum, composites, glass panels, twin-engines, large N-numbers, and even jet fuel are likewise common to the area.
Now, if you know EAA, and you have a good feeling for what EAA is, then you likely see a problem. If Ferrari said it was going to focus on mass producing mid size, low performance, four door sedans for the broader American market, would you recognize that for the colossal mistake it was? Porsche tried something similar with the 924, and 914 before that, and it nearly killed the company. Why? Because that simply is not the business of Porsche. Likewise, the North-Forty is not what EAA does.
If you think I’m looking down on The North-Forty, think again. Those machines and their older brothers make up the majority of aviation. What they aren’t though is fitting material for Sport Aviation. If you don’t believe me, turn to page 25 of the November 2011 Sport Aviation. Look at that article and ask yourself if that piece belongs in that magazine. Does it feel right? No, of course not, its presence is a joke, and the fact the manufacturer has been around a hundred years does not make it appropriate. Furthermore, putting this nose-wart twenty pages from a full page add for the same manufacturer does not disguise what is going on here. Pay to print publishing has arrived, Sport Aviation is being rebuilt, and soon your beloved EAA magazine will be a mainstream aviation publication. What? You don’t believe me?
When I received this issue of Sport Aviation, I put it in my flight bag and took it to work. Over the next week, I showed the article to fellow pilots and asked them to guess what magazine I was holding. Amazingly, every single one of them, EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM, twelve total, made the same three guesses: AOPA Pilot, Flying, and Plane and Pilot.
If you pay close attention to the aviation publication industry, those results are not a good sign for Sport Aviation. But maybe you’re thinking that little experiment proves nothing. And you know what, it alone does not. But mark my words, that is what’s going on. Just look at their recent acquisition.
J. Mac McClellan has been a staple of the mainstream aviation publication industry (read boring) for a very long time. But, where was he before Sport Aviation? That’s right, Flying Magazine was his home and that is what he was hired to bring to EAA; Flying Magazine content. And why was he hired to bring Flying Magazine content to EAA? Because the North-Forty is the new largely unspoken vector for Sport Aviation. And why is the North-Forty the new direction? Because EAA is no longer in the aviation business, it is in the membership business.
Now folks, I’m going to say it again, this is a bad idea. Not only does this put EAA on a direct course with AOPA, a supposed new ally, it also has EAA trolling a segment of the industry in which it simply has no experience. It is not what EAA does. It is not what keeps EAA alive. And, if executives continue this pursuit, I believe it will be the ultimate downfall of the intent of EAA. I don’t care in how many issues of Sport Aviation, Vintage, IAC, or Warbirds, articles about PT-17’s appear. They will not disguise the fact that EAA is moving away from grass roots aviation and they will certainly not hide the fact who took us there.
As members of the Grass Roots segment of Aviation, we find ourselves in perilous times. Over-regulation, agencies such as the TSA, and a weak economy continue to swing at us with all they have. Yet that I can handle. It’s the thought of EAA and AOPA taking us down with the misuse of our money and trust that I cannot.

What other surprises are in store members?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Dreams of My Feathers

Ever so often, a dream is so vivid I am compelled to write it down. My latest was, are you ready for this, about flying. Having recently reviewed my resume and all the experiences that go with it, apparently my mind has been working hard to put it all together as I sleep.
Take charter and 121 airline ops, airport management, tourism, and marketing experience, plus thousands of hours of general aviation flying, combine them into one position and you have only one option; a consultant for the expansion of aviation in China.
The dream started with Ginger and myself being approached by officials who were looking for someone with a broad background in aviation. Over dinner, we were told of aggressive plans to expand Chinese general aviation in five stages over five years; long term strategy, expansion of ATC and weather reporting infrastructure, airport location scouting and construction, aviation tourism development, and flight training were the stages. Then we were asked, “Are you interested?”
After of week of discussing what it would take for us to accept their offer, we met again with officials to negotiate details.
Our list was simple: we each make $300,000 per year tax free, free health care in any country, two homes (it’s a large country), full expense account, a budget for a world class museum and airshow (tourism development), and a fleet of aircraft for our exclusive use. We would need a CL-215T, C-46, OV-10, one Helio Courier on floats, matching T-38s, and a fully restored P-61. Additionally, a museum would be built at Lee Bottom and given a $500,000 million dollar starter budget for our team to work with while we are gone. With these items agreed to, we would rent out our house immediately and move to China for five years in an effort to expand GA in that country.
Staring at the list for at least a full five minutes, some whispering was exchanged by the ambassadors, and then one question was asked, “If we agreed to this, would you be open to flying the machines in the museum?”

I'm going back to sleep.

Confined to the Clouds

Sitting alone at the table, spread before me was a life; two years of mine to be precise. Summoned to answer questions, logbooks, tattered charts, and scraps of paper were my witnesses, my alibi. Thankfully, the large pile of evidence meant the inquiries, where was I, and, what exactly had I been doing, were questions I could answer. Unfortunately, they would take a while.
Six blocks across and six down filled the page I was tasked with completing. Seven long lines ran horizontally below. Across the top, instructions read “Fill in the time grid below. Then, list all aircraft flown in the last two years”.
If you hate being a number, time grids are the worst. Take numbers, assign them numbers, and you have the essence of a grid. Write just one and suddenly, without concern for its self-worth, hour number 11,253 becomes applicant number 2198. Hour number 3187 and what you did to survive is now merely one hour of Part 121, point six of instrument, and one hour of FMS time. How you handled fifty passengers, another pilot, and an airframe that was along for a ride in level six weather and managed to come out alive is insignificant. Yes, even your numbers are numbers. Desperate for a way to stand out, I stared out the window in thought. A bright yellow Mustang drove by.
“List all aircraft flown in the last two years”. Were the streets outside filled with Model A Fords, I would own this moment. Upon completion, nearly thirty planes served as reference for two years of my life. Friends far and wide, machines rare and exotic, and once in a lifetime experiences were marked by each type. And yet, in this world, mine is not an amazing life, nor is it even a useful one. It is what it is; a telegram applying for the position of email, a man of yesterday in search of tomorrow. A life that was over before it came to be.
To all of you who have trusted me with your planes, I want to thank you again for the experience. Like a raindrop to a fish out of water, each flight was an avgas boost to my spirit. I am not a wealthy man, someone of importance, nor am I even the son or relation of someone important to the community. And yet, you have allowed me to fly machines in which most pilots are excited to sit. I am what I am; a pilot. Confined to the clouds, my soul exists, while my body goes to work, and you were kind enough to notice.

Rent a Home Near Lee Bottom

Looking for a home near an airport?  We may have what you want.

Before it is released to the local market, Ginger and I would like to let everyone know we have a nice home for rent just down the road from the airport.  It has around 2000 sq.ft, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, eat in kitchen, fireplace, deck that over looks the river bottom, and possibly hangar space that could be rented.  If there is anyone out there who is interested let us know.  It would make a great place for a retiree, someone who wishes to get away occasionally, or a local pilot who doesn’t mind the drive to Louisville or Cincinnati.

Louisville is a one hour drive, Cincinatti is a 1 1/2 hour drive, and Indy is two hours.  At Lee Bottom, the cost of living is good, the stars can be seen at night, and it is quiet.  $600 per month plus utilities with a minimum year’s lease.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Terror Threat - What Do You Think?

Ever so often, some occurrence in your life leaves you with questions; questions that breed questions. This summer such a thing came my way.

Back in February, I made a decision to hit as many aviation events as I possibly could during the year. Doing my best to coordinate with scheduling for time off, and by making every effort to drop trips (sacrifice work to someone who wanted it), I was able to attend many large and small airshows. It was during one of these, on an otherwise typical day of aviation, when I received a call from a friend.

Sitting in the grass answering a question about flying wires, I excused myself and picked up the phone. Having not even finished the word “Hello”, I was caught off guard when the voice on the other end jumped right in to let me know I really needed to come see what he was up to over in a remote corner of the airport. Doing my best to remember his directions, I then sat out to find him.

Looking forward to seeing whatever crazy project my friend was involved with, you can imagine my surprise when I found him sitting on a picnic table doing nothing but engaging in small talk.

Sensing my curiosity, he then told me, casually, his phone call was intended to lure me away from the more crowded area of the event. The reason for this? There had been a credible terrorist threat against the airshow and, according to him, if I didn’t believe him all I had to do was look at the small control tower. What I saw, with the use of my long camera lens, were soldiers better known as snipers.

Not one of the actual snipers
 Now, quite honestly, while I was straining to see the large caliber rifles placed on high, two things went through my mind; “This is crazy” and “I have great friends.” Later though, I would have questions.

The next day, like every other good American, I had almost forgotten the previous day’s terrorist threat. Then I learned it had been considered serious enough to be escalated to the Governors office along with several other government agencies, and that the “soldiers” were back. That’s when the questions that breed questions entered my mind.

Should the crowd have been told? Were event officials right to keep the secret? And how did I feel about knowing of this threat, when others did not?

The pluses and minuses of informing attendees about a credible terrorist threat vs. not informing them are numerous. And although I’m sure the airshow officials went through them all, ultimately they chose not to inform. What would you do?

If you blurted out an answer, I would caution you rethink it. Making such a decision might initially seem easy but I believe arriving at the best answer to be much harder. Some may say the airshow should be obligated to notify the crowd and that to not do so is negligent. Yet, when you enter such an event, are you not accepting the risk of being part of such a large target and, could you not be considered a bigger target if you were crammed together at an exit trying to leave after having been told of such a threat? The possibilities are endless for both arguments. It is a very tough call.

Every potential plus to notifying attendees comes with a negative. For example, how exactly do you notify a complete airshow crowd? If you blurt it out over the PA system, you risk it sounding like a “take cover” message that causes panic. If you designate people to spread the word you risk taking too long or not getting the message to everyone. And if you post a sign at every vendor’s booth, then you simply risk missing the people on the flight line. So what do you do?

What if you manage to notify everyone? What happens? Do they panic? What if media outlets exploit it to the point people are scared to go to any airshows? Would TSA use it as an excuse to get involved with security? And worse yet, would someone or some insignificant group demand that all attendees of such events be screened by TSA? These are all valid questions.

How about the vendors? Things have been tough in aviation and losing out on the income from a false alarm could be a major blow to them. In some towns, the airshow is significant enough to affect the entire local and regional economy. What if an event is essentially cancelled due to a “threat” and the loss of revenue trickles down to job losses? This is a valid concern.

Then of course there is all the money that was spent on the event. It may seem callous to think of dollars during such a situation but what if those dollars belonged to a non-profit that used the airshow to raise money for homeless children, battered wives, or even an aviation lobbying group. The first two are obvious heart string pullers but the last one might be hard to understand. Yet, what if a favorite aviation lobbying group had a major loss on this event due to a false alarm and in the end did not have enough funds to defeat a new user fees bill? This could trickle down to all of aviation. It is a valid concern.

Worst case, let’s say you notified everyone, people left, vendors lost money, the event lost money, airshows nationwide took it on the chin, politicians insisted that all airshows have TSA screening, and crowds were thinner next year because airshows were now considered terror targets, all for a false alarm that didn’t even scrape someone’s knee? Is that the worst case?

What if you notified everyone, people panicked, attendees were trampled, a bomb went off at the gate through which everyone was attempting to leave, the airshow was cancelled, vendors lost money, the event lost money, airshows nationwide took it on the chin, politicians insisted that all airshows have TSA screening, and crowds were thinner next year because airshows were now considered terror targets, and twenty people were killed? Would the lawyers and politicians look at the event and say “You know what, they notified everyone, they did their part, so let’s just all leave them alone”? No way in hell would that happen.

Ultimately, there are situations that leave you damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Yet I believe there is an answer to this problem that may not be that obvious. It requires guts, principles, and a desire to do what is best for everyone even though it may cause a little grief up front. Here it is: If the event in question was yours, admit it was, and then take the lead in common sense airshow security. I believe it would be much easier than you think.

For starters, you could tell everyone the measures that were taken to secure the event. Next, you could express how difficult the decision was and then lay it on the line with a letter.

“Dear Airshow Attendees;
Life has risks. It is time we all admit it. Large gatherings of people, such as the one at our event, make desirable targets for anyone, or any group, wishing to cause mayhem. That is clearly and well understood by us and, as always, we will continue to provide a security presence for the event. But just so we’re clear, no amount of security can keep a crowd safe. Ultimately, your safety in such a group is a risk you are willing to take when you step onto these grounds and into such a group. You should educate yourself on these risks, learn to spot potential threats, and consider yourself in charge of your safety. With a people educated and self-responsible, together we can provide the common sense security that will keep us as safe as possible without the down side of giving in to or self-imploding events like these in the name terror (Post at every entrance and exit).” With that produced, follow it up with an open discussion.

Yes, that’s right; I believe the solution to this problem is an adult conversation on the subject. The ups and downs of both sides are debatable but preparing people for the possibility is not. Do it now and, should another threat happen, the answers will come much easier for everyone.

What do you think?

Rumor Has It

It’s no secret that I’m a big proponent of private companies taking the lead in the space race. All one has to do is study history to see that when private companies take charge, the race accelerates. Yes, those who are incapable of studying history, always point to the disasters and accidents that befell private entities competing in any challenge. But what those people fail to understand is that setbacks are the signposts of growth.
Do something big and you can expect something big to go wrong. Aviation has a long and dubious record of such things. Historically though, one thing, above all else, has continually plagued aviation; powerplants. Early on it was the mere existence, or lack thereof, of powerplants that bound man to short glides. When that problem was solved, the issue of reliability reigned supreme. Finally, with dependability nurtured to acceptable levels, only one issue was left, engines with enough fortitude to power the machines our minds could dream up. Unfortunately, this final frontier refuses to go away.
Airframes that never went airborne due to the lack of appropriate powerplants would make a multi-volume novel. For whatever reason, human capabilities have no limits when it comes to creating the next jump in airframe technology. Yet, those same capabilities turn into limits when it comes to squeezing more power from the laws of physics. Or maybe the mind is simply more capable of dreaming up the dream than the how to. Whatever the case, one thing holds true with any flying machine; no matter how amazing the airframe, it is the powerplant that makes it all work.
Could Spaceship Two be next?
With great hopes for their success, I have watched Virgin Galactic’s operation. Organizations like this are the future of space transportation. They also serve as the only hope I’ll ever have of ever making it into space. So, as you can imagine, when I recently got wind from two different sources that Spaceship Two is falling prey to the final frontier of powerplants, I felt bad for all those involved.
What exactly did I hear? The rumor is, and I stress rumor, that the powerplant is not producing the thrust required and that a new powerplant may have to be designed and the spaceship redesigned to hold it. If true, that would be a huge setback. Wanting to know the truth, I contacted Virgin Galactic. What I got in return was a promise to discuss my question that never happened.
If like me you’ve been watching Virgin Galactic, you may have noticed the press releases about all aspects of the operation minus one, Spaceship Two. Although I cannot imagine how they would keep it quiet were such a problem to exist, several things appear to support something is up with the craft. I hope the rumors are wrong. I really want that flight into space.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Airport Closing Temporarily for Maintenance

As you read in a previous post, we are currently doing some extensive work on the runway and parking areas in an effort to bring them back to our high standards. Up to this point, we have been able to do most of this work between operations but now we find ourselves running out of time. Therefore, we have decided to close the airport for a day or two in order to help us finish quickly.

By closing the airport, we will be able to work non-stop on our projects without the interruptions that are caused by landing aircraft. Although it doesn’t seem like much, having to leave the runway area for just one aircraft operation can really put you off course when attempting to sew a specific rate of seed over a specific area of turf. And since we often get fairly busy during the day, the operations can easily turn a three hour job into six.

It's That Time of the Year - Again

After working year round to provide a green getaway for all of our aviation family, the grass has earned its annual fall days at the spa.
Over the past couple years, the grass has taken a beating.  It went something like this: a record amount of airplane landings followed by flooding rains, then more record amounts of landings followed by a drought, then more flooding rains followed with a banner year of aircraft mixed with a drought.    For humans this would be equivalent to being on a starvation diet, then running a marathon and a daytime dessert hike back to back without any water to drink.
Needless to say, the grass became very stressed over the past 30 months.   Because of this, we have a bumper crop of warm season weed grasses we are trying to get under control.  If we do not do something about it, we run the risk of this invasive weed taking over the entire airport.  Those who don't deal with this on a daily or annual basis may look at the green grass and think it looks good.  But that is not the case.  This weed resembles the blades of grass that you land on during the warm summer season and then it goes into hibernation and turns brown as the temperatures drops below 55 degrees.   The brown patches are hideous. Therefore, we've contracted with a company to apply a new herbicide this fall and hopefully again next spring that should help us eliminate this nasty little pest.
We are also aerating, overseeding at 3 times our normal annual rate, and applying a new form of fertilizer to feed the grass much needed nutrients.  
With all this work, you might also notice a few areas where there is straw on the ground.  These were the areas most torn up during the damp days of the annual fly-in.  We ask that you use due diligence around these areas to not blow the straw.  In these areas there are delicate blades of young grass trying to make it.  Prop blast can cause the straw to go blowing and these younglings will lose their warm blankets which are there to help them get through the upcoming cooler months.
Thanks again to everyone who contributed to the Airport Operation Fund.  As you can see, we put every penny right back into the grounds.

Friday, October 7, 2011

One Giant Leap for Aviation

Last month I was lucky enough to spend a great deal of my time flying around in old airplanes. Because of that, some great little news stories came my way that I was too busy to put to words.  One of those came in the form of photos.
While polishing, to the best of my ability, a large shiny spinner, a faint tone emanated from my phone sitting on the wing. Wiping the remaining black residue from the mirror like finish, I dropped the rag, grabbed my phone, sat down, and opened the digital package. It was from Addison Pemberton and anything from him gets my full attention. Why? He loves old planes?
Once opened, I found two files attached to the email plus a statement, “See 2 pictures taken by Liz Matzelle at the Historic Flight museum during the wonderful “vintage airplane weekend” hosted by the very kind and generous John Sessions at Paine Field north of Seattle. As you can see, I had the good fortune to fly formation with Clay Lacy in his DC-2 with the Boeing 40 which shows these two historic aircraft in their true element.”
 Obviously, the two pictures are quite stunning. Yet, after seeing them, I had a question for Addison that I hoped would add to the photo’s story. In what years were these flying machines manufactured?
When he responded, the answer was as interesting as I suspected. His Model 40 Boeing was built in 1928 and the DC-2 was built in 1934, only six years apart! But that’s not all; the last Model 40’s were built in 1931 and the DC-1 that became the DC-2 first flew in 1933. Therefore, the leap from single engine, commercial, ragwing, biplane, passenger hauler all the way to the twin engine, aluminum, monoplane DC-1(DC-2) was only two short years apart! Just look at the photos and try to imagine what a leap of that caliber would be today.
Thanks again to Addison for sharing the photos and this unique look into aviation history.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Driving To The Fly-In?

If you are planning to attend the 15th Annual Wood, Fabric, & Tailwheels Fly-In by car or camper, please remember the number of tickets available are limited.

If you want to drive in and camp these slots are limited to 30 with many already taken.  And, although not as limited, the number of drive in tickets for the fly-in is restricted to 750.  So again, if you want to attend by car or camper and you want to make sure you have a spot, your best bet is to purchase your tickets in advance online by clicking here.  Camper slots are getting thing.

Thank You Army for Listening

When you host a large aviation event, you never like to see mass NOTAMS warning of large military training exercises in your area. That’s what recently happened to us.
Arriving in the mail, a few months back we received an envelope with printed NOTAM information. Basically, all the MOA’s to our north were going to be active for training UN pilots in American airspace during the time of the fly-in. You see, not that long ago, the military made a massive unnecessary airspace grab in our area that places MOA’s well over a hundred miles wide to our north.
When we wrote to describe our objections to this NOTAM and planned military exercise due to traffic that would be enroute to the fly-in, we didn’t hold out much hope for a response. Amazingly though and to our surprise, very soon after that letter left the mailbox we received a call from the Army’s Matt Sweeney. He had a question; what can I do to help? Yes, you read that right, his question was “What can I do to help?”
I must admit, at first I was doubtful.  But sensing this, Mr. Sweeney stopped the conversation and explained. Apparently, the military has been taking heat from people like us for their airspace grabs and exercises. If you weren’t aware of it, the government took a lot of airspace a few years back with little to no fight from our aviation groups. Some even said our military needed this space but they seem to have forgotten we won the Cold War with much less.  Unfortunately, being politically connected in the way our aviation groups are is not always a good thing. Often it means they give in to easy to their friends in D.C. and leave the real fight to the little people who are paying their salaries. Anyway, it was clear to me that for some reason, in this fight, we had a new friend.
Mr. Sweeney then went on to explain the Army had realized if they didn’t start working with people like us, then we as citizens would beat on our Congressional Representatives doors enough to where they could start losing more than just airspace. Therefore, they found people like Mr. Sweeney and put him in charge of solving this problem.
Now, before I to on to tell you how helpful Mr. Sweeney was, I would like to take this moment to say "you're welcome" to all those people who get upset when folks like me kick and scream about such things as airspace grabs. Personally, I’ve just had it with people who see the government like an alcoholic wife beating husband we shouldn’t question because he might get upset and start beating us. Sitting in a corner hoping you never get beat again while thinking about how nice they are when they aren’t high on booze (power) is the first paragraph in the novel titled “How to Lose”.
Opposing the book “How to Lose” is one titled “How to Win”. The first paragraph in that hard back is titled “Never Give Up”. If you don’t want aviation to die, don’t give up, raise the pressure, and as much as you may not like it, you have to realize politics will either be the end or saviour of aviation. Turning a back to it solves nothing. Take this case for example. Mr. Sweeney did everything he could to make sure our event was not effected. That didn’t happen because the Army looked around and said, “What could we do to make an individual’s day brighter?” Instead, they simply realized the power of citizens and did what they could so resolve those problems. But don't get me wrong; the military isn't the enemy.
I personally do not believe the military looks for ways to anger citizens. Instead, I think the most likely reason for mistakes made in the past by the military is the sign of an organization with no citizen participants. To be represented, people must give their input. Therefore, when people assume anyone, anything, or any organization is going to take care of them and that they do not need to stay up to date on the subject matter or give their input, then it is quite easy for a person or organization, such as the Army, to become out of touch. That’s how you end up with bad policy.
Yet, when citizens take an active role you get what you have here.  The Army is being proactive and being a friend to us.  This is great.  I love it.  And I hope it continues.

OH WAIT!  I left out the best part.  Mr. Sweeney said that because of the fly-in, they were going to limit, during daylight hours, the hot airspace to 5000' and above and would not be using the A and B MOAs they had planned to make "hot" during the fly-in and the week leading up to it so that all our traffic would be able to traverse the area with no issues.  Don't forget, there are one or two RESTRICTED areas to the north that you cannot pass through.  But those have been there a long time and are not very big. 

IMPORTANT Fly-In Notes That Don't Fit Elsewhere.

The following items are important things to know and or things we hope you will enjoy or use:
There will be a charging station for cell phones and electronics during the fly-in.  It is being organized and run by instructors and students at the Shawnee Aviation Program.  It will be open on Friday from 5-7pm, Saturday 8-8, and Sunday 8-Noon.  We hope this is a useful service.  Be sure to let us know how it goes.
In recent years everyone has been getting rental cars and therefore nobody has been using the shuttle to local hotels.  Therefore, this year we are not having a shuttle this.  If you need one, let us know as soon as possible by email.
This year is the 100th Anniversary of the first air mail flight and we will be fortunate enough to have a 1928 mail plane on hand for it.  Look for the vintage Stearman by the Lee Bottom Family Member tent.  If you contributed to the airport operation fund this year (2011), be sure to stop by the tent to pick up some items that will recognize you as someone who made a special effort to see there is a future for this fine little airport.  Thanks again for your support.
We will once again have an ice chest on hand with bags of ice for sale. 
There are several new Lee Bottom Apparel items in the store we're sure you'll like.  All apparel sales revenue goes toward paying fly-in bills.  Therefore, any time the fly-in is over and we are out of shirts, caps, and sweatshirts it is a good thing.  Please take time to look through the store near registration to pick out something special for yourself or that special someone you left at home to feed the dog. 
Please be sure to Register.  Yes, when you register you also pay for your fly-in ticket.  But registering is also how you get on the list for the limited edition calendars and for airport updates.  Please do not attend without registering and paying.  The funds go directly to paying fly-in bills so that we can have another fly-in for you to enjoy.  No bucks, no Buck Rogers
Once again, there will be no fuel on hand at the fly-in.  Self-serve fuel is available seven miles north at Madison (IMS). 
If you want to see all the minute details on everything fly-in associated, please see the website.  There you will also find the suggested arrival procedures.
Some local guys will have a collection of old one lung engines and other assorted items on display down by the red brick house.  Please be sure to go down there and ask them to fire one up for you.  They love to show these things off and share them with others.

Will You Be Here?

The 15th Annual Wood, Fabric, & Tailwheels Fly-In is only a few short days away (September 23-25).  Will you be here?
As of today, the weather looks great and we've been hearing from friends everywhere they plan to be here.  Will you be?
Some very nice flying machines and some great people are planning to attend.  Will you be here?
We hope you will.

Volunteers Already Hard at Work

Since early last week, volunteers have been coming and going from the airport to help prepare for your visit.  One group of long time supporters were here last week to put up the showers, some folks from another EAA chapter dropped by to help with odd jobs, other friends helped us mark off the aircraft parking, and still others pulled tables and chairs out of storage to set up the outdoor cafe.
One friend, Charlie Laird, was even on his way to California in his Champ but stopped along the way to help out for a day.  I'm sure emptying trash cans wasn't among the items he planned to do but, like so many others, he didn't complain.  He even asked for more.
Thanks to everyone who has helped so far and to the rest of you, in advance, for your assistance during the upcoming days.

Aircraft Parking Volunteers Needed

It is unusual for us to be short of aircraft parking volunteers but this year we are.  Fortunately though, other areas of the event which are usually understaffed have plenty of help this year.  So, if you have experience parking airplanes, or you are willing to learn on your feet, and you are in pretty good shape, then we could use your help.
Our needs are pretty specific.  Friday evening and Saturday morning is where we are short.  Therefore, you would also need to be available to volunteer during one or both of these times.  If you feel you could be of help, please let us know by clicking here to email.
Volunteers get in free, get a free Lee Bottom shirt sponsored by Barfing Bee Honey, and if you volunteer on Saturday morning you get lunch. 

First Ever Fly-In Wedding

Through the years, many couples have come to Lee Bottom for romantic get-a-ways.  Some have brought picnics, many have come on first dates, and quite a few have actually popped the question.  Yet nobody has ever been married here.  Well, that's about to change.
Jeff Moum and Jamie Litchfield recently visited the airport with our friend Rev. Jackie Litchfield Apted to discuss their wedding.  Wanting something very simple and also memorable, they were curious if they could get married during the fly-in.  Our answer of course was yes, and now Lee Bottom, and the fly-in, is set to have its very first wedding.
If you are here at 6PM on the Saturday of the fly-in, stop what you are doing and come see this couple say I do. 

Fly-In Food

It's no secret that getting a good food vendor for our fly-in has always been a headache.  For as many reasons as you can imagine, the task has always required far too much time and effort on our part.  Therefore, this year we set out to find a vendor that would handle all the food and everything to do with it.  Not only does this free up our time, but it also offers some benefits to you, the fly-in attendees.
This year you no longer have to pre-purchase food tickets.  Although you will be able to buy them in advance from the vendor while here on the field, you do not have to RSVP or pre-purchase any food.  This frees you up to eat on your schedule.  Then, in order to handle the changing consumption patterns, food concessions will be open from Friday noon to the end of breakfast on Sunday (closed only at night).  So, look for continuous food availability during regular hours and hopefully less hassle.
If you want more information on the menu or hours, click here for a detailed page of food information.  And free feel to tell us how you feel the new food setup is working.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

An Awesome Machine

On the way home from Oshkosh, my brother John and I stopped at Poplar Grove.  While there we were treated very well as I was offered the chance to fly this amazing Waco SRE.  Thanks to Steve and Tina for the opportunity.
If you want to read more about our trip from Oshkosh to Poplar Grove, check out the Lee Bottom Flying Field facebook page or check out the blog online.

Arrival Procedures Are Now Online

Although having received only a slight change, the newly revised arrival procedure suggestions for the 15th Annual Wood, Fabric, & Tailwheels Fly-In have been posted on our website.

If you've never been to this event please take time to print these off and review them.  You'll be glad you did.  They make operating in and out of the event much easier.  If you are a veteran of the event, please take time to review them as there are a few small changes such as the initial arrival fix.

See you soon.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Fly-In - If You've Ever Wanted to Attend, Make Plans Now

September 23rd - 25th

You just had a long holiday weekend; now what? The best flying weather has arrived, temperatures have cooled, and humidity is waning. What’s a pilot to do fresh off a Labor Day Weekend? Our suggestion, plan your trip to the 15th Annual Wood, Fabric, & Tailwheels Fly-In. It’s less than three weeks away. Whadayasay? Will you be here?
For many people east of the Rockies, the Wood, Fabric, & Tailwheels Fly-In is the last big hurrah of the season. We hope you can make it. If you’re planning to attend, there are a few things to keep in mind.
The Wood, Fabric, & Tailwheels Fly-In has grown from a first year attendance of 28 planes to sometimes topping out at well over 400 aircraft. Hosting an event of such size takes a great deal of effort and a considerable outlay of cash. Due to these two things, the number of volunteers we need to run smoothly is over 100. And, as far as expenditures go, the year we were rained out we spent tens of thousands of dollars to prepare.
As you can imagine, this can all become a real handful to deal with. Therefore, many years ago, we started charging a small amount for every person to attend. This was and still is for covering the costs of the event. But to help ease the pain, for many years we also threw in a free T-shirt. Additionally, some time ago we began to take on sponsors for the event. As the event grew, so did the number of sponsors. In our efforts to promote them without turning the food tent into the Ford Pavilion, we put their names on the back of the shirts. Today though, with the flagging economy and current political landscape, aviation has taken it on the chin, sponsorships are down, and expenses are up. What to do?
This year we have made several changes that will make things easier on our end (please God let it be so) and we are changing the free t-shirt policy. When it comes to making things easier on us, there will be a single food vendor all weekend who will be handling everything from purchase to serving. This frees up a great deal of our time.
When it comes to the t-shirts, since in years past we occasionally had several handfuls of shirts left over, we are going to cut down the run in an effort to cut expenses. This means that the free t-shirts will be limited to the first 200 pilots purchasing tickets online or at the event. An early purchase or arrival is your friend.
I would also like to take this moment to point out two of our long time sponsors, Poly-Fiber/Randolph, and Signature Engines. Both of these companies continue to fully support our efforts and their ability to do so speaks well of their customer loyalty and business practices. They are both outstanding companies that we are very proud to have on board.
Oh yeah, there is this one other little thing that has changed. The primary arrival point that has been used in years past to guide you into the pattern has changed. It is still the same location but it will appear different. The two core structures along with the large building that connected them have been demolished. Today the old powerplant is gone and the area is mostly open space with large single floor steel buildings scattered around. Don’t make the mistake of flying to the powerplant on the Kentucky side of the river because it is the only one you see. Be sure to check out our arrival procedures which are online and you will not have any problems.
And about those 100 plus people required to put this thing on, we are in big need of aircraft parking and meet and greet volunteers. If you have participated in parking tailwheel aicraft in the past or have knowledge of the airport, please let us know if you are up for it again this year.
We hope to see all of you soon.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Tribute to My Little Friend

Winding down the hill along a loose gravel road with a kitten in my lap is not what I initially planned for the night. Ahead of me had been my own bed bearing a supply of desperately needed sleep. Oddly though, in anticipation of Ginger’s reaction, I was wide awake. Only days earlier, to my surprise, she had mentioned that maybe we needed a cat for the hangar. Having never had one and possessing a great indifference toward the species in general, I could not believe she had suggested it. Her timing was perfect.

Almost home from a few days at work, I stopped briefly by the road to chat with a friend when out of the darkness appeared a lost kitten. Surrounded by yelping coyotes, and bearing a reference from the farmer who thought he was special, I decided the little guy was the self loading mousetrap Ginger had mentioned. So, I picked him up, rubbed his cheeks, and away we went.

Arriving at home, I introduced Ginger to the new judge, jury, and executioner of Mouseville. Her reaction was positive but not one of great joy. Within minutes though, she was tossing out names. Finding a big black spot on his white belly, we finally settled on “Meatball.” It’s what our guys in WWII called the round insignias on Japanese aircraft. Ginger held him up; we looked at his belly, looked at each other, and said the name in a question “Meatball?” It fit.

Like a new parent with their first child, Ginger asked “What now”. I went to the hangar, put some sand in a shoebox and brought it to the house. Instead of diapers, we would be changing litter. Fortunately Meatball, looking less than eight weeks old, had a mind that was ahead of his body. Ginger gently sat him in the sand and to my amazement he immediately did was a cat is supposed to do. Inside I thought, “Good job little guy, you just sealed the deal.” Yet in reality, he was ours from the moment he was plucked from the field.

The next day Ginger was already concerned about our new family member. She had wanted a hangar cat and yet in ten short hours she was concerned if we let him out he might wander away. My suggestion was that we’d let him out, open the door in one hour, and if he was still around he’d be staying so. Finally agreeing to my plan, Ginger sat him outside and closed the door. Half an hour later Ginger opened the door and called “MEATBAAAALL.” Unbelievably, he came charging around the corner having recognized his name or a voice that was already attached. Whatever the case, he had found a place in our hearts and, in large part, in the house.

On our way to his first vet visit, Ginger and I both remember him howling like mad. Having never had cats, Ginger’s motherly reaction was to take him out and hold him. As she turned to get him, I insisted that if she did he would immediately find his way under the pedals or worse and that she was in not to let him out. Midstream of my dissertation on why she shouldn’t open that carrier, Meatball walked out and curled up in her arms.

Introducing him to Ace was almost as easy. Ace snarled twice, we said “NO”, and from that point on they were best of friends. We called them “The Originals”. They liked being near each other, they were colored alike, expressed similar personalities, and when one didn’t feel well you would often find the other keeping him company. Introductions complete, life went on.

Soon, everyone knew Meatball. It is hard to describe but some animals, just like people, have “it”. Whatever “it” is, it is something more that most others have and Meatball definitely came so equipped. He loved people and most loved him. Given a choice, Meatball would always be where the people were. When Ginger and I would go on a walk, Ace in trail, we’d turn around to see Meatball doing the same. Occasionally though, we’d be half a mile from the house and hear a faint meow. Having somehow left without his permission, he could be heard requesting we hold our position. We’d stop, he’d catch up, and we’d all continue on our walk together. If you ever camped in a tent or spent the night here in the cabin, you know what I am talking about. He insisted on saying hello to everyone.

Early on, we couldn’t help but notice Meatball’s passion for airplanes. If there ever were an argument for reincarnation, Meatball was it; he was a barnstormer. He loved planes and pilots. Anytime we had visitors, he would find his way to them to practice turns on pylons between their legs. If those people were in a plane, he always found his way onto it. Deep in the digital caverns of our hard drives are many photos that serve as evidence. His two favorite places were the wingtip and the cockpit; we never really were sure which one. More than once he tried to stow away for a flight and often he slept on the rear shelf of the Cub. His love of planes and pilots was so acute in fact that we once considered selling shirts that said “I got a cat scan at Lee Bottom.” If you’ve been here, you’ve had one.

“The Meat”, one of his best nicknames, had another side that few ever saw. He was a master hunter and vicious fighter. So good in fact was The Meat, we never stepped outside without checking the door mat for critter guts. More than once he faced down nasty dogs and came out the winner. And on one occasion he even drug home a live Red Tailed Hawk. Our best guess was that the raptor mistook Meatball for lunch and got a surprise when he tried to claim it.

Unfortunately, some fights can’t be won. Earlier in the year, Meatball came down with a cold. Every spring and fall, he had always sneezed for a few weeks and then got better. This time he didn’t. The sneezing got worse and vet visits became routine. Early on the diagnosed was asthma and the treatments seemed to help. But, as time went on, his sneezing got worse and back to the vet we went; once by plane; Meatballs only flight. Numerous things were tried, and multiple referrals later, the diagnosis was narrowed down; Cancer.

I’ll never forget how I found out. Ginger was on the phone, I was lost on my computer, and at some point I looked up to see Ginger standing there trembling, tears pouring down her face. That’s when I knew my little Meatball was done for. My mind though wouldn’t accept it. Neither would Ginger’s.

After a day on the computer looking for something, anything that might work, she located experimental trials for chemotherapy on cats; biopsies were considered, and anything else that might do the trick. Then, sensing our desperation when I asked for his honest opinion, the vet confirmed my inner thoughts. Every option remaining could be closer to torture and Meatball would be better off if he were asleep. Then he asked if I would like him to go ahead with it.

The only reason I didn’t cry at that moment was due to disbelief. Apparently, some people actually make a call to have the vet put their pet down and never bother to go say goodbye. For us that was not an option and we drove silently to the place where our little Meat had received care for the last three days.

Escorted over creaky wood floors into a room at the end of the vintage home, we waited in silence to see our little guy. My mind raced wondering how I would handle seeing him and how Ginger would react. When one of the assistants carried him in wrapped in a blanket and set him on the table I was ok. Seeing his thinning body and hearing his cry, still didn’t get me. But when Ginger picked him up and turned him upside down in her arms like a baby, the memories came through.

Ginger had never been a cat person but Meatball had made her one. He loved to lay with her to watch TV and always found time to help with her computer work. When she would get too focused he would knock the trash over by her desk, and when she needed to laugh he would dance with her around the house. At night he slept on her shoulder. Every day he brought a smile to her face. He was her baby and now she was saying goodbye. Nose to nose they swayed bringing one last smile to each other’s face. She then offered him to me.

Not wanting to reveal how much I was hurting I suggested she hold him longer, instead she put him on the table near me. She’s a smart that Ginger because I couldn’t leave him there on the table and hesitantly reached to pick him up. That’s when all my memories let loose.

Feeling his weak body in my arms, I had to let him know everything was going to be ok. Over and over I whispered through tears “it’s going to be ok, it’s ok little Meat, you’re going to be ok”. With each word passed a memory and a question.

What would I do with a furless overnight bag; one of his favorite beds. Who was going to greet me when I came home? What would I do with the chair where he laid in my lap, sleeping for hours as I typed? And who would weed out the good people from the bad? Watching him rub against those that didn’t like cats was a special treat to me and I’m sure he knew it. All of these questions had answers but one; how could anyone replace that little kitten I found in the farmers field?

Just then the vet walked in to give him a sedative.

Five minutes later, after another shot and one painful minute, he was gone.

God bless the vet who has to see this every day. I don’t know how one does it. Fortunately, with all the sympathetic discomfort he must have felt, just before we walked out the door, this guy thought to bring me Meatball’s collar because he was sure we’d want it. He was right.

The drive home was over an hour long and very little was said. Lying in my lap the whole way was the special order, break-away, reflective collar with a bell Ginger insisted he wear. As a mother, she had spared no expense to make sure he would survive. Driving past the place I found him seven years earlier, I could not believe he was gone and I looked for him in the field. But then, just around the corner was the hill where all those years ago I drove with him in my lap anticipating Ginger’s reaction. As the asphalt turned to gravel and the tires rumbled over rock, a faint jingle came from his bell. There in my lap on that winding road, once again I was taking him home; only this time to live forever in my heart.