Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Aviation Migration - How Was It?

Photos by Karen Davidson.
If you're wondering how the fly-in at Lee Bottom went this year, here's the answer.  It's success was relative.  Let me explain.

Thanks to some amazing volunteers, two incredible workampers, and input from previous attendees, the field was ready for this event like never before.  It was awesome to see.  Almost a week in advance, everything was set up and prepped in an exceptional manner.  I don't think it could have been done any better.  Everyone did their part to make that piece great.  Then the planes began to arrive. 
When Friday started there were already planes on hand.  By the end of the day it was a near record crowd of camping aircraft.  As I've said many times, the campers always have the most spirit and their presence made for a nice last half of Friday.  Everyone had a great time, ate well, watched a movie, and sat around the fire.  All of them, all of us, were thinking positive thoughts.  All in all, everything was great.
We had all seen the weather forecast and we all knew it could go one of two ways.  Choosing to believe it would turn in a positive direction is what we all went with.  Peeling off for bed, everyone expected blue sky and sun the next day.  Great thoughts abounded. 
Saturday morning, we awoke to a brilliant blue sky.  Being the truest of suckers, for the briefest moment ever, it felt as though it would last.  Then from over the hill drifted a cloud.  By 8:30am it was overcast.  At 9am we started to get calls about weather.  Driving to the house to get a better look at the radar revealed positive thoughts had not helped. 
The weather covered everything north of us and I knew it would be a wash.  That was not a great realization.   But, the people on hand were having a great time.  Like I said, success is relative.
Unfortunately, much of what was shown on the radar that day didn't even exist.  Radar is so good today, even wind shows up as a return.  Sadly though, most of aviation does not appear to have figured this out.  They look at the radar, see light green, and run for the couch.  Yet, if they would peel back the curtains for a look outside they'd have a good chance of seeing sun.  It really is that bad and I have no idea how to get this through the heads of aviators.  You can't tell people to fly in weather but if you don't encourage them to get out and learn to interpret it in a few years nobody will be flying.  That's not good by any stretch.  But, the people at the fly-in were obviously great because they figured out how to make it. 
No matter how I looked at the radar it appeared horrible.  But it wasn't until early afternoon that we received the worst weather of the day.  A light drizzle pounded softly upon the airport for a few minutes.  After that, conditions improved until a clear blue sky returned around 5pm.  By then though, it was too late for all but a few steadfast aviators.  Therefore, despite a handful of new arrivals, Saturday was little more than a repeat of Friday with an added overcast.  For us it didn't feel wonderful.  But, everyone on hand kept telling us they were having a great time.
The people who made it in on Friday had a good time on Saturday and we had another night of movies and sitting by the fire.  And I have to admit, we all had a great time adding fuel to the flames, both figuratively and literally.  The best was made of everything.
Ultimately, for those who worked tirelessly to host the event it certainly felt disappointing.  I simply cannot express how much effort everyone put into this fly-in.   Watching helplessly as one tiny window of gray, in the middle of 14 days of perfect weather, stopped arrivals generated many emotions.  One minute everyone was so beaten we didn't care and the next we were pretty much done with it all.  You can only give so much and put so much into something so many times before you're through with it.  The good years re-energize you.  But when you go a handful of years with no good years, the energy runs low.  But again, our attendees continued to thank us for the great time. 
Additionally, I've never had so many people actually speak so positively of the sponsors.  People would walk up and start talking about how great it was to see these companies supporting the event.  If you were one of those people we hope you'll send them a note telling them the same.  There's something about having quality companies involved that makes everyone feel the importance of working together and being part of something bigger than yourselves.   A HUGE THANKS goes out to our sponsors for supporting this event.  People really do notice when you show up at places other than the biggest of big keystone shows and we all really hope you'll come back.  In short, it was great to have you here.
Of course, one of the reasons crummy weather years hit us so hard is that we hate for our airport family member who provides food to experience wasted effort and our sponsors to not get a return out of it.  It's bad enough when we take a hit.  But, to also see them do food prep work for a much bigger crowd or expected attendance numbers for sponsorships take it on the chin hurts.  Sponsors sponsor events for a reason.  It isn't for charity and we never want that to happen.  That's the simple reality and we always want them to come out ahead.  On the upside, several of our sponsors have already said they had a great time and would like to come back.  That's great news and I really hope they do.  For whatever reason, our sponsors always feel more like part of the fun than someone only buying a spot to display a plane.  To me, that says we are finding the right companies.
So, how was the fly-in?  It was great.  I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed.  It was set to be such a great year.  But again, mother nature had different plans.  Yet, like I mentioned earlier, when the people on hand keep reminding you they are having a great time, that makes a lot of sandpaper feel like silk.  To all of you who put out the effort to be here, thanks.
You guys are great and you reminded us that success is relative.   If you were to count total airplanes on hand, it may not seem that great compared to the years behind us.  But, when you look at the quality of the folks who were here, you can't help but see it as having been anything but great.

1 comment:

Kay said...

We had an annual fly-in event in central Indiana on the same weekend, and had a similar experience. Saturday's weather, which also came with high winds in our neck of the woods, took out most of the transients, but many locals came out and supported us. Even for our smaller event, the prep work is very time consuming. Our event doubles as a fundraiser for a charity event, so there is a desire for a good showing for that as well. Sunday dawned lovely, and we recuperated a lot on that day, but sitting on the ground watching the clouds scud over and the winds whip around and the empty skies of transients is a little disheartening. Particularly since we'd just come from weeks straight of perfect weather prior to that. However, we greatly appreciated the locals who made it out and supported us, and a good time was had by all regardless. She's a fickle beast, aviation.