Monday, August 15, 2016

NTSB Report - The Final Lee Bottom Fly-In

The 2016 Challenge

Casualties – One five gallon gas can(fatal), a PT-Cruiser, one rudder(and one leading edge), two bungees, one set of landing gear, eight 10x10 tents, two 20x10 tents, one 30x40 tent, two trash cans, two scarecrows, three acquaintances (none missed), one S2A, five tables, Ginger’s fifth metatarsal(left), one swarm of bees, one catalytic converter, one transmission, five bushels of corn, and three cones.

Conditions – Mostly sunny with occasional winds and one downpour.
Time – (1997 – 2016) Originally started in a dearth of activity and finished in time of plenty.

Location – Lee Bottom Flying Field (64I). Find Louisville on your iPad then drag the screen down and to the left.

It’s true. September 16th-18th, 2016 is the date of the last Aviation Migration Fly-In. Originally known as Wood, Fabric, & Tailwheels, the name was changed to reflect what the event had become – a collection of all types of aircraft and enthusiasts. Yet, no matter what the name, most referred to it as The Lee Bottom Fly-In.

Although we’ve witnessed many friends react to this news with disbelief, it should not be a surprise to anyone. We’ve hinted at it for years. During the 2015 event, Rich came within five minutes of telling everyone it was the last. However, it didn’t feel right to do it without warning. With that in mind, we figured it would be best to have a “last one” and give everyone some insight to the decision.

We are bringing this era to a close for many reasons. The most important of these being that the event has continued to consume time and monetary resources while doing nothing for the long-term viability of the airport. Unknown to many, the fly-in came into being because another airport followed the same path, never insuring a future for itself. When that field closed, we started the event to give local pilots something to do.  Nobody considered it might take off.

When an event is successful it, is difficult to keep it from consuming everything. We knew of this possibility and it still happened. Years ago the focus was on the airport. Today it is all about the fly-in. That is potentially fatal.
Aviators once understood the importance of protecting the airport and keeping it available to them. Today, most only know the difficulties of hosting the fly-in. We aren’t the only ones this has happened to. Think of other events you enjoy, ask yourself what would happen if the members of the family running it were to die, and if you don’t have an obvious answer you’ve found another disaster in the making. Or, to put it into perspective, what do you think would happen to EAA if there was a horrible crash, emotional parents reacted, politicians listened, and Oshkosh (AirVenture) were cancelled due to new regulations? How difficult would it be for the organization to survive at its current scale without the show?

While we’re on the subject, what if an event like Oshkosh went away and you had never gone? Each year people tell us “I’ve got to get there at least once.” If you believe that, really feel it, then this is your chance.   It should also be a wakeup call for all those other things people say they want to do.

If you hate to see airports closing, then start using them. If there is an event you’ve always wanted to attend, quit making excuses and do it.  Life is short and most things you care about are fleeting.  “I did” will always be more rewarding than “I wish I had.”

WORKING AGAINST EACH OTHER - When we started this event there was very little going on nearby with aviation. Today, there are so many events it is difficult to choose which to attend. There is a positive and negative to this.

The positive is obvious; more to do. On the other hand, we always worked hard to get everyone to coordinate their events so crowding wouldn’t happen. Nevertheless, just like the aircraft types with multiple clubs, there’s always someone who wants to have their own, they start another club doing the same thing, filter off a few, and neither club is as good as the first.

For us, it actually worked out well at first. Our event was well known for what it was and those who didn’t fit the laid back, aviation of yesterday, true enthusiast mold went somewhere else. Recently though, there started to be so many events, so many groups wanting to stack things on or around our date, and so little coordination, it became a contributing factor to our decision. Annoying at first, but after stepping back, we realized we had fulfilled our mission.

VOLUNTEERS. The gears of the machine. Although we have used the title “volunteers” for clarity’s sake, we have never liked the term. Instead, most often we use “family members” because that better describes those who have become part of the fly-in. Our event has grown up with many of them, seen each other through good and bad, and even started to grow old together.  They truly are family to us.

But, as with every family, eventually everyone becomes too old or too busy to make the reunion and one year they all decide, that was the last one. That’s really how it feels to us. It has run its course, and to continue on would be merely for the sake of continuing on. The time has come to take the family in a new direction.  We hope they’ll go with us.

AGE – We’re not getting any younger and yet each year we give up our much of our free time to host the event. Unfortunately, despite the time invested, it hasn’t done anything for the long-term viability of the airport. Therefore, we’re going to work on enjoying ourselves and making a future for the field.

OTHER EVENTS – With all this doing going on there’s been no living. Ironically, our fly-in has given us friends around the world but has likewise kept us from visiting them. Heck, we’ve never even been to a Third Thursday or hung out with Chmiel at Wausau. Galesburg is nearly impossible, visiting Jimmy and the West Coast gang is off limits, splashing at Tanglefoot is still on the list, and we have yet to watch the feral hogs tear up Jed’s runway. From Southern Florida, to the high desert of California, and the Hudson Valley, there are people to see. Did we mention the people who have gotten mad at us for not attending their events? There’s simply not enough time to do the event and do anything else.

SINFUL SUNDAYS – Remember Sinful Sundays? We get more requests and questions about those events than anything. They were fun for families and easier to operate. Held for a couple hours on a Sunday during each summer month, they were a regular activity. Therefore, we’re bringing them back in 2017.

Here’s the deal, though. Sinful Sundays will be an important part of going forward. And to make going forward possible there will be a few changes. First, the goal is to have these set up so they can almost run themselves. In fact, our objective is to have them set up so that they could run without us. We’d also love to have different aviation groups “host” each of them and be on hand to handle the light work required.

Food and dessert trucks will handle the food. This means business owners will be driving in for the event and we may have to pay them to be here for the first year or two to get the event re-established. Some of these businesses will operate during the last fly-in and we really would appreciate everyone giving them your business and giving us feedback.

If you’d like Sinful Sundays to stick around after next year, be sure to tell your aviation, car club, and motorcycle friends about them. And again, please make sure you do business with them during the fly-in. We would like for these businesses to have a good experience and the word to get out to other possible vendors.

THE FUTURE – We’ve had a plan for the future for some time. Unfortunately, the fly-in got in the way of it also. If you’re wondering, the airport is not going away. Ideally it will continue to grow. Yet, that depends on the level of interest. As we work toward our long term plans we hope you’ll play a part.

The Lee Bottom Fly-In is coming to an end for many reasons. Although traced to a primary cause, there were many contributing factors, all of which are not included. Should you require a fully detailed report, send a self-addressed, paid shipping envelope to Gilmore Fulfillment Services at Rainmaker 1, Star-Kist Drive, Pago Pago, American Samoa, with the reason for your request. All requests to be filled within 30 days of January 1st, 2049. 

****Make your plans now for the last fly-in.  Click here for details.



Rich Dugger said...

Something I wish I had made before I left Indiana.

I have only crossed paths with you and Ginger for a couple of brief moments at Osh or S n F. I forget which, where I got to say hi in person.

Just wanted to say thanks for opening your property and lives to other like minded pilots and other lovers of all things aviation.
Best wishes for the future!

Maybe this year?

Thanks for a great run.

Ed Burke said...

At home in Queensland, Australia I have followed the news of happenings at Lee Bottom and fervently wished that I could somehow get there for a Flyin. Oh well, without an early lottery win it's not going to happen this year or at all.
Thanks for the good happenings of the past and all the best of good fortune for the future, Cheers, Ed Burke

Gary Lampman said...

Maybe this next chapter will be the flying museum you have described on the website. Over 40 years ago I first visited Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome and sparked my interest in aviation history. On the ORA website is one of the last videos of Cole Palen and he envisioned a home for other vintage aircraft to call ORA home. Lee Bottom has the makings of a return to yesterday without the flyins and shows, just a home to fun flyers.
Gary Lampman
Portersville, PA

Doug Rounds said...

Flyins like Lee Bottoms are becoming ancient and history like the no radio antique/classic airplane and grass strips. We terminated our antique flyins years ago at our private strip when it became all work and expense for us and only play for most of those attending--as if we were there to serve their egos. It is unfortunate, but then history tells us Nothing is Forever and you can not replicate Lindbergh no matter how hard you try.. Doug Rounds

Tom Roe said...

I had the very distinct pleasure of attending four Lee Bottom Fly Ins in my years in Indiana. I will be forever greatful to you for such an event. I am sitting here writing this as I am wearing my t shirt from the last event. Sad that it will be no more.

Thank you.