Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Rare Biplane Takes to Air - Updated with Link to First Flight

If you have been reading NORDO News for a few years, you might remember my story of a visit to the Posey Brothers restoration shop. Inside were some of the most incredible flying machines you could imagine. Yet, one in particular grabbed my imagination.
Walking through a door into a dimly lit hangar, before me sitting tall and strong, was a shape I simply could not believe. Having long been a fan of Stearmans, I had often dreamed of finding one particular model thought by most to be extinct, an M-2 Speedmail. And to my surprise, on that day, I had just done so. Completely filling my field of vision was the latest treasure restored by the Posey Brothers, for owner Alan Lopez.
"Bull Stearman" M-2
As you can imagine, my mind raced with questions while my camera clicked off shots. Where did it come from, how long had it been here and how could I have not known about this were a few that come to mind. I’m not sure if I asked them though. My eyes and heart were too enamored with what I was seeing to let my lips ruin the moment. Walking around, over, and under it I just could not get enough. When you see it you’ll see why. This thing is big and it’s different, and I love it.
So what’s the good news? It just flew!
You heard it here. On July 20, 2011, for the first time since 1939, an M-2 Speedmail, also known as a Bull Stearman, took to the air and the report from Alan is that all went well.  If you want to see it, here's the link.  Want to see it in person?  My guess is that you'll see it at Galesburg.

In Alan’s email about the flight, he made a point to dedicate the first flight “to the many people whose talent and toil over many years made it possible”. I think he’s right. Anyone who played a part in bringing this beauty back to life deserves a big thanks.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Once in a Lifetime Opportunity Missed - Naval Aviation 100th Anniversary

The 100th Anniversary of Naval Aviation: A Unique Opportunity Missed.
“Its gonna be a big year at Oshkosh” That’s the slogan for this year’s Airventure. Unfortunately, as the old saying goes, “it’s not the size it’s how you use it” and EAA has once again under-performed. Every month of every year, we hear how Airventure is the biggest most influential aviation event on the planet. But why is “big” important if it is never used for anything other than lip service. Amazingly, this year is no different and Airventure hasn’t even happened. In all honesty though, aviation itself is no better.
If you are a keen observer, you know that every potential action in the universe has one possible moment in time that would make it most effective or most powerful. In today’s language that’s known as “timing”. Perfect timing is rarely necessary for anything unless you are faced with a critical task that needs everything in its favor. Interplanetary satellites are a great example. You could fire them off any time of the day but the window for launching one to a successful rendezvous with a comet is finely defined. Ultimately, the harder the task the more time critical the most effective campaigns are. This brings me to the subject at hand; Naval Aviation.
I wonder, how many of you general aviation people have been reading about the 100th Anniversary of Naval Aviation since last year? My guess is that many have. Therefore, you were also likely filled with the anticipation of what the Navy would do to celebrate. Today, some of you may even be on boards of airshows that will be hosting the Navy as a premier act. If so, you’ve likely been promoting your celebration of the 100th anniversary of naval aviation for six months minimum. The rest of you meanwhile have been buying every magazine featuring a Navy plane in “heritage” colors and passing around every link about the anniversary that comes your way. There’s only one problem. Outside of Naval Aviation, The Navy hasn’t been a friend to aviation for some time, if ever. Saying that pains me. It really does. But it’s true.
How can it be that the great American Navy, with such an amazing history as a defender of freedom, could end up on the side of anyone other that the citizens it is supposed to defend? Were it Congress I wouldn’t be surprised, nor if it were the President; but the Navy? I apologize, I am ahead of myself.
You see, my father served on the carrier Randolph in WWII. When he passed away fifty-five years later, he still beamed of his time in the Navy. It was one of the great achievements of his life. His story of an Avenger capturing a wire still haunts me. Returning to the carrier after a mission against Japanese ships, it staggered onto the deck, jerked to a stop, and expelled a steady stream of blood through its destroyed belly glass. Stories like these speak volumes about the Navy’s history and what Naval Aviation has meant to our country. It also speaks of the courage and tenacity of the guys who flew these planes until they were so tired or damaged, the Navy pushed them overboard as trash. Courage, sacrifice, and a willingness to do what is right is how I was raised to see the Navy. And for the most part, that is the Navy. Yet, it’s not the Navy’s war record that concerns me.
Early this year, I began calling around and emailing various aviation historians to see what they knew of the final outcome of the world’s only known Douglas TBD Devastator, discovered off the coast of Florida in the 1990s. When the plane was found, it was a huge aviation story. At the time, none of these aircraft were known to have survived, primarily due to their ironically devastating losses in the Battle of Midway. The confirmed sighting thus brought cheers of surprise and joy to aviation nuts around the world.
The Douglas, found resting upright in relevantly good shape, was not of particular interest to the salvage company which found it. The treasure they were after was a Spanish Galleon. The rights to it therefore were soon sold to someone who greatly valued historic naval aircraft, Doug Champlin. One of aviation great collectors, Mr. Champlin wasted no time pursuing the submerged bird and began in earnest to retrieve it. Soon though, despite all of his efforts to save the plane, it became clear the Navy didn’t want him to have it. That did not stop him either.
Finally, after a long trail of paperwork and communications with the Navy, Doug Champlin came to believe they had purposely misled him about their intentions in the matter. That was the final straw and soon a battle royale to save the TBD, almost befitting of the battle in which most of them were lost, transpired. The official record from this is one of aviation legend and Naval Aviation disgrace.
Champlin, a guy with a deep desire to save threatened historic aircraft, did everything in his power to save this plane. And when he saw the situation going south, in order to save the plane, he even offered to give the prize to the Naval Museum in exchange for one of the many spare Wildcats they had in inventory. If the Navy had accepted, he would have used his own money to rescue the legend, recouped the expense through the acquisition of another valuable airframe, and a Devastator would be sitting in the museum today; basically a gift to the Navy with future generations as primary benefactors. Instead, at every step the Navy treated Mr. Champlin to malice and attitude.
Unwilling to back down, Champlin pursued and was able to get John McCain onboard his efforts. The Senator immediately recognized the lack of logic in the Navy’s policy toward abandonment of aircraft and did all he could to help. Yet in the end, the Navy won and the Devastator was left to rot. Yes, it was left to rot. But not before the battle turned into scandal.
The Naval Aviation Museum, it seems, was seen by its leaders as a personal toy box. This meant that nothing was to get in the way of any toys they wanted. When the battle for the Devastator began to include which salvage company would be allowed to raise it, the Navy found one it liked. So enamored were they with this company, they “sold” to it $11,000,000 (million) worth of C-130’s for $200,000. Again, things moved quickly except this time the Navy found itself under investigation. Amazingly though, the entire mess quickly disappeared into sealed depositions and quietly went away.
The complete story of the battle to save this one airplane would justify a book. Were it to exist, it would chronicle much that is wrong with government and how Navy bureaucracy has led it astray of its heritage. Clearly the Navy’s policy of claiming ownership of items scratched from inventory decades ago would be shown to be an outright insult to many. Among them would be the men who flew them, the people who built them, the taxpayers that paid for them, and modern citizens with a clear and present desire to save these treasures. Unfortunately, this policy is a sad chapter in Naval Aviation that goes on to this day.
This brings me back to beginning of the year when I began to contact historians in an effort to learn the final outcome of the Champlin Devastator story. Amazingly, all the hard-core, “nobody knows more” types, had no idea what ever became of it and most really didn’t seem to care. Are you starting to see why I said aviation is no better? Here were many of aviation’s finest, they didn’t care, and most seemed resolved to defeat.
That attitude kind of ticked me off and so I set out to contact people in the Navy to see if they might have an interest in changing their policy on salvaged aircraft. Being that they suddenly had a newfound love of their Naval Aviation History, I thought no time was better. Hey, there’s the timing.
My very first email was to the head of the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Vice Admiral Hoewing. This is exactly what I asked, “Vice Admiral Gerald Hoewing, can you tell me the ultimate fate of the TBD Devastator off the coast of Florida?” His only response was to have a subordinate answer my questions because as his carbon copied email said, “I don’t know who this is or what the agenda is, so I think you are better equipped to respond. Besides, I don’t know the answers.” Yep, that’s pretty much what I expected but the Captain who corresponded with me was nice enough to me, in so many words, the Navy intended to let the Miami Devastator rot as they didn’t want to open up any more lawsuits. And besides that, they had found others. “WHAT?” was my reaction. Sensing my excitement, he even had the guts to ask if I would be interested in contributing to the restoration. And although I kindly refused, due to their salvage policy, I have to admit I felt privileged to have been told this news at the time when very few people knew about. But ultimately, my mind could not escape from what I had heard. The Navy’s official attitude on the issue was we got ours so we no longer care.
Moving on, I then asked the Captain about Navy aircraft in the Great Lakes. To my astonishment, he told me that those would also never be salvaged since the Zebra Muscles had invaded and sped up the corrosion process. The only ones worth saving, according to him, were now in deep water. Stunned, I sat there again as the Navy admitted to me their efforts to keep others from rescuing these planes had led to their demise. It also did not seem to bother them at all. At least that’s the impression the Captain gave me. Unable to take it any longer, I politely asked him if he could see the lack of logic in all this, to which he responded, ‘most of the people at the museum feel although they should not be allowed to fly they should be allowed to be rescued’. That sounds good but there’s a problem with that. It cost money to raise these planes and a plane you can’t sell nor fly is worthless. I was then very politely pointed up the chain of command, almost sensing the Captain hoped I would succeed.
Back during Champlin’s efforts, one of the Navy’s key players expressed something that pretty much sums up the Navy’s attitude. “"The argument is made that the Navy is ignoring the planes and they're rusting, when private salvers and collectors could preserve them and show them off," acknowledges Captain Robert Rasmussen, director of the National Museum of Naval Aviation.”My counter to them is: 'You give me a sound plan to pull them up and maybe I'll let you do it and then loan it to you.' But that's not so attractive because they can't make any money out of it." Now, isn’t that one of the most condescending things you have ever heard? This guy is essentially saying,”How dare they make money saving history that I want in my toy box” while slathering his statement with strong undertones of elitism and class warfare. But do you suppose Mr. Rasmussen hated that his paycheck was paid for with tax revenue from people like Mr. Champlin? I seriously doubt it. Certainly, this statement makes it clear that the Navy had a major attitude problem and I believe they still do.

I'm the Government.  Do as you're told.

In the minds of the Navy, sailors are up here, and the rest of you are down there. Remember that “Maybe I’ll let you do it and then loan it to you” statement. “You,” could be the person whose parents participated in scrap drives so the planes could be built and gas rations so the Navy would have power, having already lost a relative in the battle for the Pacific. But that never crosses their minds. Yet you know what? Despite all their bureaucratic arrogance, I don’t care about the people in the Navy that think this way. My problem is with aviation and its so called leaders.
The 100th Anniversary of Naval Aviation was the perfect opportunity for aviation to stand its grounds and say “no more.” Yet it didn’t. Instead, everyone associated with flying chose to suck from the government tit, beg for the Navy to come to their events, and then promote them by any and all means available (Note: The Navy does these events to recruit new sailors and encourage tax expenditures). Across the nation, airshow boards giggled like children upon receiving confirmation the Blue Angles would attend their event. Advertising dollars flowed abundantly to promote the Navy’s “Heritage” paint schemes which were paid for with tax dollars our country doesn’t have. And immediately thereafter, warbird enthusiasts began forwarding Navy public relations photos with the subject line “Can’t wait to see them in person”. Yet none of those same people, none that I have met, ever stopped to consider all the brave citizens who took on the Navy to save a true piece of Navy Heritage and lost. Nobody in aviation seems to care.
Why? I’ll tell you why.
Airshows make money off the Navy as they pay their own way and they drive attendance numbers (read money). Therefore, they couldn’t care less. Pilots who surely have read the stories of the Navy’s malice toward civilian salvers conveniently forget because they want to get a “cool” photo to put on their smart phone home screen. Historians are so excited to have something new to write about, they all have selective amnesia. EAA’s sub-group Warbirds, perhaps the most blatant offender, doesn’t care because many of its leaders will get to fly with the modern Navy planes in airshows and get their names in print for doing so. And the rest of our groups, EAA, AOPA, and all the others, are running so scared they’ll even promote groups who have no interest in General Aviation, other than taking advantage of it, because they believe things are so bad they can’t afford to have principles.
Folks, I’m here to tell you, this is wrong. Today, rarely a moment is had where citizens aren’t complaining about the arrogance and out of touch leaders in Washington. Yet, when it comes to each citizen’s pet hobby or project, aviation in this case, they somehow manage to put those feelings aside. And as with our country, whatever path we may chose to pursue, we must do it with principle if we are to succeed. Kissing abusive fanny in exchange for photo ops is not acting with principle.
How many times have you said “If I were President of EAA, I would do ____”? Well if I were the President of EAA, I would have started last year encouraging airshows to not host naval planes and in exchange offered to do everything possible to promote those that agreed to it. I would then have used the power of “the biggest airshow” to tell the Navy we thought that the 100th Anniversary of Naval Aviation would be a great time for the them to change their ridiculous salvage policy (perfect timing for saving face) to allow private salvers to rescue and own these historic birds. To sweeten the pot, I would also have suggested that in order for people to rescue these machines, they would have to agree to paint, somewhere on the plane, a gracious recognition of the Navy along with the machines naval history record. The new owners would also be required to sign an agreement giving the Navy first rights of refusal on any sale. At that point, if the Navy didn’t agree, I would have refused their attendance at Oshkosh and set out to make sure every segment of aviation was reminded, to the fullest extent possible, of the Navy’s hypocrisy and irresponsibility toward that which we all as aviators strive to preserve, Aviation Heritage. But hey, money trumps logic. Therefore, you can expect to see the Navy in full force at Oshkosh.
Rod, if you’re listening, I was able to find out that the person you need to speak with is Admiral DeLoach at the Navy History and Heritage Command (NHHC) in the Washington Navy Yard. Maybe his response would be positive. Have you tried?
Here are two brief pieces about Champlin’s efforts. Neither of these comes close to telling the full story:

If you would like information about the TBD Devastator or Torpedo 8, click here.  And here's a free video about Torpedo 8.

And finally, as a tribute to my father and the other great folks who served with him, click here for information on the Randolph, CV-15.

Hellcat on the Randolph wearing Randolph tail markings.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Fly-In Sponsors

As the annual Wood, Fabric, & Tailwheels Fly-In approaches, we always find ourselves looking for potential new sponsors. I say potential new sponsors because we don't accept sponsorships from everyone who has a desire to do so. Instead, we are always looking for quality upstanding companies we feel comfortable doing business with.

It's important to us that our Lee Bottom Family be represented by the best in aviation. Therefore, if you have an interest in supporting our event, and you feel the same way about providing an honest high quality service or product to aviation, then we'd love to have you on board. Every penny supports grass roots aviation.

Examples of such companies that have been sponsors in the past and are sponsoring the event this year include Poly-Fiber, Randolph, and Signature engines.

The First Annual Aviation Photography Seminar

We've been talking about this for some time and we finally managed to get most of the pieces together to make it happen.  Next month, on the Saturday before Sinful Sunday, August 13th, 2011, we will host an aviation photography seminar on site at Lee Bottom.
The seminar will be run and taught by our good friend Bob Burns.  It will be held from 9-4 on Saturday and then break for the night.  Those who wish to stay or return for Sinful Sunday, weather permitting, will get to put their newly learned skills to use while having Bob on hand to make suggestions and critiques of their work.
If you've ever had an interest in aviation photography, this is your chance to get some great instruction and have a little fun at the same time.

This seminar is limited to twenty people.  To get your slot, email us at
Cost of the seminar is $100.  If you're into photography, you know that's cheap.

Below is more info on the following:
Bob Burns Bio
Basic Equipment to Bring
Seminar Synopsis

Bob's Bio:
Bob’s interest in Aviation began when he was introduced to flight in a Ford Tri-motor at Hulman Field, Terre Haute, Indiana at the age of 4. He continued this love affair with flying when he joined the Air Force during the Korean War, and began photographing aircraft for his personal enjoyment.

During this time, he acquired his first professional camera in order to capture his love of flying and the beauty of flight through photographs. After his service in the Air Force, he joined the Martin Company, in Baltimore, Maryland working in Flight Test as an Instrumentation Tech. There he continued to enjoy photographing aircraft at various air shows on the East Coast, and gradually began developing his craft. In 1962 he joined NASA and remained in the Space Program until he retired in 1996 as a Senior Systems Engineer.

During the early 70’s, his photographs began to be noticed by some magazine editors, and they requested his photos for various articles, and this lead to more request for photos. Some of the early publications using his photos include Air Classics, Air Combat, International Air Power Review, World Air Power, and Naval Proceedings. The Naval Proceedings assignments included trips to 7 different aircraft carriers, providing the excitement of carrier traps, and catapult shots, and membership in the Tailhook Association.

While with NASA, Bob was never without his camera, even during his world travels. Eventually his journeys totaled close to 2 million miles of travel on various NASA and military aircraft. Some of his more memorable flights were with the Astronauts practicing Space Shuttle landing approaches in the NASA Gulfstream Shuttle Training Aircraft, and in the NASA KC-135 Zero-G aircraft, notoriously nicknamed “The Vomit Comet”, with good reason. In his position as a Space Shuttle Simulations Director, he was in a position to photograph unique events, and many of his photographs went on to become official NASA photographs.

Over the years he has provided photo work for many aviation writers, including Robert Dorr, Richard Hallion, John Tegler, and the late Jeff Ethel to name a few. He also has sold his photographs to publishers like McGraw-Hill for text books.

Bob currently performs as the official photographer for the Beechcraft Heritage Museum in Tullahoma, Tennessee, and as a staff photographer for the annual Indianapolis Air Show, along with occasional assignments for Air-In-Review, Pemberton, New Jersey, and Wings Productions, Severna Park, Maryland. He also has had assignments for the Smithsonian’s Air & Space Magazine, and is currently shooting for Skyways, a vintage aircraft journal. Many of his photographs have graced the cover of the American Aviation Historical Society Journals, United Airlines Retired Pilots Association publications, American Bonanza Society’s (ABS) publication, and the Quiet Birdmen’s BEAM.

Having captured so much history on film, Bob’s conversion to digital, in 2000, did not come easy. Now though, the transition is complete and Bob is ready to teach you what you need to know about aviation photography.

Basic Equipment to Bring:
Attendees should bring their DSLR with several memory cards. Consider a range of lenses to cover 28mm to at least 300mm. A Monopod or tripod for static shooting is optional, but helps in some situations. A flash unit for fill and any interior shots is also useful. In the event of inclement weather, a plastic bag, or water resistant case will protect your equipment.

Those wishing to take full advantage of the Photoshop portion of the seminar should bring a laptop computer. The seminar speaker will be using Photoshop CS5. It is suggested that you have the latest version of Photoshop you are comfortable with, either Elements or CS. Most versions of Photoshop have the main features that will be dealt with for Aviation Photography.

Seminar Synopsis:
The first Lee Bottom Aviation Photo Seminar will provide photographers interested in shooting aircraft the opportunity to observe and learn the techniques used by professional aviation photographers. Bob Burns will share the knowledge he has gained in 50 years of aviation photography.

Topics covered will include; equipment, settings, composition, and the use of Photoshop to bring your photographs to their full potential. Many examples of Bob’s work will be used to highlight, and graphically demonstrate the various types of aviation photography, from static to air-to-air shooting.

Participants will have the opportunity to put into use the techniques covered during the seminar on aircraft visiting Lee Bottom Flying Field. The first Lee Bottom Seminar will be limited to 20 participants, allowing one-on-one time to cover areas of interest in more detail.

The day after the seminar, is Sinful Sunday, and this provides a unique opportunity for the participants to shoot a large variety of Vintage aircraft, in all types of static and action situations. Lee Bottom Flying Field provides a very unusual setting with a large tree covered hill that runs parallel to the 4,000-ft grass runway. This hill often provides the illusion that the photo was taken as an air-to-air picture, with the trees appearing below the aircraft. Aviation photographers will find this feature to be very rewarding.
Note:  This synopsis is subject to slight change for better meeting the needs of photographers in the class

If you know anyone with a passion for photography, please let them know about this unique opportunity.  There are very few places with such great access to aircraft and with Bob's instruction, some great new skills can be learned and put to use immediately.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Work Kampers Have Arrived

Our new “work kampers” (correct spelling) have arrived and are already making a difference by helping us with the many small tasks that add up to a large list. Ken and Patti Marsh will be staying on the field through the September fly-in. If you visit Lee Bottom and you need some assistance and we’re not here, they’ll do their best to take care of you. Please thank them for volunteering.

Oshkosh Bound

Are you going to Oshkosh? If so, Ginger and I hope to see you there.
Every year, as we walk the grounds, we’re amazed and tickled to see everyone wearing their Lee Bottom caps and shirts. Running into these people has been so much fun in past years that this year we hope to do something special for those we see. Keep an eye out for us. Their might be something in it for you.
As for our ride, this year we’ll be going open cockpit. For many years we flew antiques to the show but then a while back we started hitching rides to the event with Ron Alexander in his DC-3. And let me tell you, if there is a way to go to Oshkosh in class, it is in a DC-3. So why then would we go back to flying open cockpit with limited space, multiple stops, and oil stained goggles? Really, you have to ask? I know, it’s an easy decision but there’s more to it than that.
EAA is having a special display at Oshkosh about Air Mail and Ron asked me to fly one of his Stearman’s up for display from Peach State Aerodrome. A rare C3B, it is also painted in a stunning Western Air Express (correct?) paint scheme that draws bigger crowds at the gas pumps than any plane I have ever seen. As usual, a big thanks goes out to Ron for trusting me with his baby. If you’re near the vintage area, look for us around the plane. If you see Ron, thank him for flying and allowing his Stearman to be flown to events like Oshkosh. There are no hangar queens in his stable.

Sinful Sunday - July 10th

Wow! Last month, once again, a Sinful Sunday drew over 100 aircraft. These events have really been a hit and we’ve really had a lot of fun with them. We hope you have also.
As usual for the June event, it had been nine months since the last one and so we struggled to get the line moving. Fortunately, soon a groove was found, everyone was patient with us, and in the end a great time was had by all.
If you’ve never been to one of these, you really are missing out. Look for our legendary Srawberry Twinkie Sundaes this Sunday along with the usual other items such as milkshakes and root beer floats.
Important Note: These events have become so popular and the attendance has grown so large that in order to handle it all, we have been putting cones out to mark the aircraft parking rows. Then, after the first ten to twenty planes are parked we allow people park themselves. Although this is no different than parking your plane in marked rows at your local county airport, lines in the grass would be hard to mark every month so we use cones. When you arrive, and if you end up parking yourself, please try to keep the line going with the cones as they are set up to handle the 100 plus aircraft that have become common. Thanks.

New Friends

Meeting aviation’s finest is one of the great pleasures that comes with owning your own airport. Without fail, just when everything is going wrong, you find your two days off filled with three days of chores, or you’ve just about had it in general, along comes someone that makes you smile. This time it was three people.
Jerry Cornwell and his friends Bill and Kathy Stratton stopped by the other day to spend the night. Having both started from Florida in RV’s each had built, they met at Lee Bottom. Prior to their arrival here, Bill and Kathy had been all the way to Maine but Jerry had left later and thus flown pretty much straight here.
The spirit of all three made us dream of being that happy and healthy when we get to be their age. Although not old, they were definitely younger in mind and body than calendar and we hope to see them again.
If you are in Washington State, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, or any others in between, look for them. When they left here they were headed to Johnson’s Creek and then planned to tour Washington and Oregon before rounding out their trip by visiting Monument Valley on the way home.

Rich's Oshkosh Forum

This year, Rich will be giving his first ever forum at Oshkosh. Titled, Flying Vintage Aircraft, it is scheduled to be held at the GAMA Pavillion 2, on Friday the 29th, at 10 AM. If you like vintage aircraft, please attend.
During the past few weeks, he has been looking through his notes, gathering input about what people would like to see or hear, and struggling with what to cover as it is such a broad subject. Currently, his is planning to tell a few stories about flying the old ones, offer some input on best techniques, and discuss what flying old planes means to aviation.

What Is Your Aviation Bucket List?

Do you have an aviation bucket-list?
Well, do you? There are so many things one could hope to do with aviation that it should be impossible to choose. Yet, nearly everyone I ask has something specific in mind. What is yours?  Each groups seems to trend differently so we're curious how this group stacks up?
Often just putting a dream in writing is enough to get it rolling so why not post it here in the blog comment section or on our Lee Bottom Flying Field facebook page? It’s possible someone reading it could hold the key to making it a reality.

First Ticket To The 2011 Fly In Has Been Sold

Last week, we sold our first admission and camping tickets for the 2011 Wood, Fabric, and Tailwheels Fly-In (September 23, 24, 25 2011) from our website.  Please share with your friends and hangar mates that these are now available online. . . CLICK HERE
Although pre-purchased tickets are not required for those flying to the event or camping under the wing of their own plane, it does help us with planning purposes and limits the amount of cash you need to bring. 

If you plan on driving to the event and/or camping in the auto camping section (tents, motor homes, campers, etc.), we highly encourage you to pre-purchase admission tickets as we limit the number sold to the first 750 and we only have 30 auto camping spots available.  Local media attention has been more than usual this year and we anticipate having a record crowd.  Therefore you should buy early to avoid disappointment later.  
Next, you've been asking for this and we've been trying to make it happen.  This year we are finally able to take a huge step as far as our event goes.  What is it?  We have a single food vendor that will be selling food from Friday lunch until Sunday breakfast.  What does this mean to you?  There are no pre-purchased food tickets and we will not require RSVP's for any meals.  Please note that we do not receive ANY compensation from the food vendor and instead have asked them to keep their prices reasonable for all of you.  So, please support this vendor because without them, the event would cease to exist.

"A 5 Mile Final" - Tip of the Day

Living on an airport, we see a lot of interesting things that pilots do.   Although there are a couple that continue to baffle me, let me share one that is on my mind today.  We'll call it the airport tip of the day.
When I transitioned into a tailwheel airplane, the first place I was taken was to a grass runway and I was taught to 'drag the field' - flying slower over the runway at about 25 - 50 feet to make sure that all it was 'clear and suitable'.  Does anyone teach this anymore?  Well, we are today!
If it really was Lee Bottom International, hearing this radio call on the Unicom might seem normal and acceptable:  "I'm on a 5 mile straight in approach for 18".  But, Lee Bottom is a small grass runway in the middle of nowhere USA where it is common to see deer, turkey, coyotes, and even an occasional mountain lion in the area. 
I am amazed at the pilots who will announce they are doing a 5 mile straight in final (or any straight in final for that matter). While this might not seem unusual at an airport with an instrument approach, I wonder how these 'straight inners' know the runway is clear and suitable for landing from 5 miles or even 1/2 mile out without looking first? 
Remember, an airplane encountering wildlife at an airport can cause considerable damage to your plane and maybe even you.  Either way, it can ruin your day!
That said, another thing you might encounter is one of us or a volunteer mowing the runway with hearing protection.  Although we always try to be vigilant on keeping tabs on traffic, the common etiquette is to do a low pass (not scalp them) so they know you are there and wanting to land.  Never should we find you rolling out beside the mower (unless it is an emergency).
We strongly encourage those landing at Lee Bottom to fly the entire traffic pattern so that you can get a good view of the airport environment prior to landing.  We also highly encourage you to drag the field before landing during non-event time frames to see what is really going on.  Wildlife isn't always there, but there's always a chance.
One other thing; dragging the field doesn't mean flying 25 feet off the ground until you reach the trees and then yanking the stick (yoke) back and giving full throttle causing you to go straight up.  Let's use some common sense here and make it all safe!  Furthermore, the majority of our neighbors live off the end of the runway, their friendly, and we want to keep them that way.
We work long and hard to provide a safe environment for you, the pilot.  However, we can only do so much  with the rest being up to you.  We've had a few 'close calls' with wild life but continue to have a good safety record in this regard.  With your help, we can keep it that way.  But there's something else. If we hear you dragging the field prior to landing, we have time to get on our shoes and come out to visit when you do land.