Thursday, September 29, 2016

Once in a Lifetime Light Show

Photo - Panoramic Images. Not quite like what we saw but still good.
I have experienced the northern lights. Although seeing them is fairly common, what our crew witnessed last night, over Canada, is not; a natural light show of atmospheric proportion.

Climbing away from Rockford, they were immediately visible. Alive in ways neither of us had ever heard described, the view left us attempting to do it ourselves. To the north, overhead, and even to our south, they whipped excess energy from the atmosphere the way flames transport the coals’ hottest fire to their tips.

From takeoff to landing, they were visible. It was impossible to look away for six hours. Closing in on Anchorage, the entire burning sky became sheets blowing in cosmic wind. Curving away into the distance, areas of color turned brilliant white. Their hems changing sharply to green and then red. If there were any Italians in the air in our area, today they are telling friends of a message from God.

With me was a captain who once lived and flew in Alaska. His reaction revealed what I felt was no overreaction. It was something I would never see again.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

How Did We End Up With Such Good Sponsors?

See a list of this year's sponsors here.
How a field in the middle of nowhere ended up being sponsored by some of the best companies in aviation never ceases to amaze me.  Sure, Lee Bottom is a public use field.  But, other than that, it isn't part of a large aviation group, there aren't any major businesses bases here, and there's not even some wealthy guy building up a private collection of rare aircraft. No, it's a large grass runway with view and that's pretty much it.

Why then did it end up, associated through the years, with such names as Sporty's, Cub Crafters, Oregon Aero, Garmin, Poly-Fiber, Univair, and more.  Maybe it's the same reason Lee Bottom earned the support of many first class smaller businesses that are owned or operated by aviators.  Everyone is looking for something honest and genuine; a glimmer of hope the aviation we all love still exists, somewhere, out there.

Ironically though, the things that make the field so appealing are also its greatest weaknesses.  Located in the middle of nowhere it has survived where others while gobbled up. It's too far for many convenience seeking pilots to frequent, yet without their support it is guaranteed to disappear. Were it closer to a city, it would have been gone long ago. Still, we all want places like Lee Bottom to survive, and that's why I believe we have such great sponsors.  I also speaks volumes about the sponsors themselves.

Thanks again to our sponsors. They believe in what Lee Bottom represents and are willing to stand up to support it.  Please thank them by giving them your business whenever possible.

Click here to see the items our sponsors have contributed for auction.

The "We're Over It" Review of the Fly-In.

A view from Sunday
The 2016 Fly-In at Lee Bottom was what it always is, fun. Those on hand had a great time. Unfortunately, the weather was not kind.

Proof God thinks we should do something else.
Counting back from today, the last three weeks contained repeated days of sunshine with only two lost to rain. Those were the two primary calendar dates of the event. On the surface, that sounds horrible. Fortunately, we have great friends.
As usual, Ginger insisted everything was just right.
Our only option, faced with such a forecast, was to let everyone know Saturday would be a stripped down version of the day. Sunday would then be our rain date and primary event day. Of course, as luck would have it, Sunday morning brought fog to the entire region. Every plan we had for the entire weekend had to be scrapped, modified, or downsized. Yet, those on hand had great fun.
Early in the week Bill Harvey arrived to help.  Later, Melinda Harvey joined in the fun. They are always great to have around.
Horrible photo documenting a great dinner.
Thursday night brought some early arrivals and a bunch of us piled into the car to go eat.  The restaurant had live music and those who made the journey had a great time. Some truly fine people were at that table and it turned out to be a great evening.
When Friday rolled around, we already had a pretty good group of fly-in campers on hand. They ate lunch delivered by Betty.  Several more people flew in for dinner cooked by our friends Mike and Julie Grecco.  They were assisted by some outstanding volunteers from As we ate, the Rascals of Ragtyme shared some wonderful music with us and we gave away some items provided by our sponsors. Afterwards everyone watched The Blue Max before making s’mores by the fire.
Saturday started with RAF-Jeff bringing in breakfast and Jacob delivering coffee.  The day would  thendeliver one or two new arrivals and everyone pretty much hung out talking to each other and watching The Rocketeer. Meanwhile, Mike and Julie grilled up some great hamburgers and hot dogs for lunch. Meanwhile, Cathy Babis spent some time hooking the ladies up with some fancy hair berets. After that, Mark Thornberry, from Garmin, gave us a great presentation about ADS-B that I personally found quite useful. Others said the same. Next, we ordered pizza and finished the night by watching another movie and sitting and polishing off the s’mores supplies by the fire.
Setup day.
Then there was Sunday. Iceman-Jeff brought in coffee and breakfast. This day was the rain date but when we woke up the entire region was blanketed with fog. Not until mid-day did it begin to clear. That’s when new arrivals started to show. When the day was over a good number of planes had arrived, many making it for the first time ever.  Mike and Julie, once again, came through for food. Lunch came to an end and people trickled out until only one, Matt Erwin, was left.
This photo tells a story.  You decide what it is.
IF you made it this far, trudged through the prior paragraphs that read like minutes of a meeting, congratulations. I had the desire to let you know what happened during the weekend but no interest in the details. That’s obvious, right? It's not that I don't care. I’m merely so done with it I don’t have the energy or will to detail it properly. Please accept my apology. Instead, maybe it would best if I gave you my overall impression of the weekend.
Here’s what I took away from the last fly-in. No matter the size of the turnout, our people always have fun.  With less than 100 or over 400 planes on hand, those that come and invest some time in the event are always likeable folks; those that push through the weather to be here equally so. Because of this, even when things go south, the fly-in has never failed to leave you with good memories.
Two great planes divided by a hundred miles an hour or so.
Thanks to all who have supported the event through the years. This includes our wonderful sponsors. I hope each of you are able to work together in the future, aviation businesses and customers alike. We’re in this together and it is obvious we have the same goals. If we cooperate we may actually reach a few of them.
Matt Erwin - the last departure.
If you're left thinking, "There has to be more," stayed tuned to NORDO News.
Burning everything that wasn't bolted down.
Firsts at this fly-in:
Took someone to emergency care.
Two words - hair berets.
Had a microphone and speaking.
Sponsor give-a-ways.
First time we ever had an official rain date.
The first time the event was over and we weren't energized to do it again.

And then, a new day.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Help the Refuge - Place Your Bids by September 30th

It could be you.

Here’s your chance to get in on some good deals. The fly-in may be over but the online auction fundraiser is not.  You have until September 30th to bid on the items our generous supporters have contributed.

Go to to see what’s available. Items such as the amazing (my description) Garmin D2 Bravo Watch, an Oregon Aero SoftSeat (championed by all who use it), a Univair gift certificate, aerobatic dual, biplane rides, and more. It really is a great selection of items.
Again, Lee Bottom family members have until September 30th to get in on a deal and support the future of Lee Bottom. Click here toparticipate.

NC vs NX Results

Team NC is the winner.
The winner of the NC vs NX Championship is Team NC.  Despite crappy weather and the relative low turnout, Team NC pushed through to trounce Team NX. Congratulations!
Team NC, your love of government bureaucracy delivered a clear win. The pleasures of continuously asking the FAA for permission and forgiveness clearly outweighed those of increased performance, speed, and freedom. Here’s to you.
Wear your shirt with pride. The next time some NX person tells you how fast their plane is, how fast it climbs, or how short a strip their machine can use, remind them how complete your logs are and that you are ok with it because you know some crazy-eyed recluse name Fred didn’t build yours.
All joking aside, thanks to everyone who competed by buying the shirt, and to all who made it to the event. It was great fun.

If there is anyone who would still like to purchase a NC vs NX shirt, you can still get them online through October 7th.  Click here to buy.
Below is a photo of the board after it was all over. Not all N#s are there but most are. That’s Kirk Wood removing it from the previous year’s Cubs vs Champs board. We’re going to save them for wall decorations.

Despite bad weather, fun was had by those on hand.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Lee Bottom Fly-In Update for Sunday

It appears Sunday is going to be a great day.  We'll be grilling chicken around lunch.  So, if you want to drop in please do.
The field is in great condition.  Additionally, pilots on hand have been taking joy rides around the area, now that the weather has passed.  Come join the fun.
We will have a limited amount of chicken so get here early if you want to eat.
***There is no good prediction of how many people or planes will be here.

Thursday, September 15, 2016


***Revision at bottom.

Currently it appears Friday is going to be a good day. Therefore, all the speaking, give-a-ways, bonfire, the cookout, and random fun stuff will happen that evening.  And yes, the Rascals of Ragtime band will be here too!

Saturday is cancelled due to weather. We will not have food on hand on Saturday, but, if anyone shows up Friday and plans to camp through to Sunday, we’ll make runs to town for food.  Sunday is not cancelled.

Sunday we will be here.  Currently we are trying to arrange for BBQ on that day in case a hundred or so folks show up.  If nothing else, some might want to fly in on Sunday to hang out for an hour or so.  I guess you could call this our rain date. Fly-in or drive in, and hang out.

As for the people who have asked if we could postpone the event until another weekend, we’ve already committed to $5000 worth of vendor support.  This is spent, event or not. That’s not counting the dollars it takes to get the place ready. OR, put a different way, when you’re half way through building a new home, you can’t expect the builder to put it on a different lot.

If there is no way to make it due weather, feel free to help out by clicking here to bid on some of the great products our sponsors have contributed.

That’s all we have for now. Thanks for your ongoing support.  Watch for other possible updates.
Please remember our sponsors.  When events are affected by weather, so are they.  We will never forget all the companies and individuals who have supported us through the years.

Revision:  It appears some are going to show up and camp anyway.  Four planes have arrived today (Thursday), with more daylight left.  Therefore, although technically cancelled, it looks like we'll be doing a very stripped down version of the fly-in on Saturday.  Stripped down means we'll all be figuring out how to make it work, running to town for food if there are enough people to warrant it, watching movies, and or telling BS stories.  As one friend said, "The best memories are made when things go to sh_t."   Additionally, if you want to car camp, we'll do our best to find places for you - most likely up on the field. But, you should bring food as we've cancelled nearly all the Saturday food.  If you want to come spend the weekend roughing it, feel free to do so. Please remember though, it will not be much more than camping at an airport.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

It's the Last - Fly-In or Drive - Don't Miss It

Don't miss the fly-in.  It's this weekend - September 16th and 17th.
Need information?  Find it by clicking here.

Team NC is Up by One

Same pilot, different plane.
The first fly-in attendee has arrived. Once again, it is Glenn Frith from Ft. Meyers.  His bird has air conditioning and a glass panel.  NC is up by one.

What Will be Missing from the Fly-In?

Bob Dalzell - a good spirit.
If you've attended any Lee Bottom event, you've most likely met or seen Dr. Robert Dalzell Jr.  Or, as we knew him, Bob. Back at the end of May, he was flying one of his treasures when his body decided to retire without written notice.  It was a totally unexpected and heavy loss for aviation in our area.

Ginger and I both really liked Bob.  He was one of those Lee Bottom family members you couldn't help but look forward to seeing.  Although short on words, he left a tall impression wherever he went.

Bob was also one of those pilots you expected to see wherever you went, because wherever you went there he was. If something aviation was happening, chances were good he'd be on hand.  Right there with him would also be Chris May.  The two of them were great friends.  Together, they often made an event qualify as such.  Heck, half the time they were the event.

Bob with his Sea Ray
When word began circling Bob was missing, I was out of town. What I remember was wishing I could go search for him.  He was the kind of guy you expected to find sitting unharmed, with a dead engine, in a hundred foot square patch of land.  When the truth was discovered, something much more important had quit.

Looking back through our Lee Bottom photo collection it was surprising to see how many photos contained an image of Bob.  He even made the calendar, possibly more than once. Like I said, he was always there.

Ultimately though, what keeps coming to mind is how much he'll be missed at this fly-in. Airplanes aren't the same without propellers. The sky isn't the same without flying machines.  And the fly-in will not be the same without him.

Here's to you Bob. Thanks for being part of our lives.  Our family feels much smaller without you.
These two guys were great friends.  Chris May (left) Bob Dalzell (right)

Garmin Sponsors Lee Bottom Fly-In - Surprises Us With Amazing Products

If you host an event of any size, sponsors are going to come into play. For most, finding them is much of the work. Sometimes though, when you’re lucky, you create an event sponsors wish to be part of. When those companies are world leaders in their field, their interest is a true compliment.

A few weeks back I sat down to read my emails and noticed one from Garmin. Opening it purely out of curiosity, the message caught me off guard.  Garmin wanted to be part of our event. Honestly, I was a little surprised.

Garmin is no lightweight. Why would they want to be part of our fly-in? The company commonly stands up large displays, in large facilities, at large events, to promote their larger than life products.  They also do it without blinking. Why Lee Bottom? I had to ask.

Scott McCurley had the answers I wanted. Here’s what he said. “The reason we want to do more personal events is because it’s a really good way for us to directly connect with aviation community. Many of our recent product announcements were products that resulted from feedback we received at events like these. Most members of the aviation team at Garmin are pilots, so we enjoy events like the Aviation Migration for the same reasons other pilots do, and if we can support them then we are happy to do so.”

The aera 660

I wanted to quote Scott because I know, to some, Garmin often feels like the 800lb gorilla. Yet, what he said shows a side not always seen. Inside the company are pilots who, like the rest of us, love flying. They value input from others and, if there is any way they can, they wish to support the kind of flying we love. That was great to hear.

If you know me, you understand I am someone who values pure and simple. Heck, our blog is NORDO News. NORDO = no radio. Some of you may even wonder how that levels with support from Garmin. Yet, there is nothing I love more in a plane than simple AND USEFUL. Here is where the big admission comes in.

I have been flying without any modern electronics. I’ve never needed them, or even wanted them. When someone first showed me ForeFlight on an iPad, although I thought it was cool, I didn’t need it. However, I do remember flying with someone’s Garmin 496 and thinking it would be nice to own. Unfortunately, it didn’t fit with my super practical ways.

Then came the day Scott, from Garmin, told me they’d like to contribute some items for our online auction; an aera 660 portable GPS and a GarminD2 Bravo Watch - Titanium Edition. Again, out of curiosity, I searched for them online. When I found the links - Holy wow!

I must have one of each! No kidding, I was stunned by the products. Wondering if I was alone, I sent a link to a few other flying friends and they too were surprised.

Both products are obviously the culmination of years of improvements. Finally, Garmin has worked everything I’d like to have, into single packages, at prices that mesh with my practical side. I must have one of each.

If you’d like to bid on one of these items, click here. If you want to know more, or see what else Garmin has in store for the fly-in, keep reading.

Some folks from Garmin will be here Friday and Saturday (September 16th and 17th), ready to discuss any questions or comments you have about their products. Additionally, they will be holding a forum on ADS-B at 12:30 on Saturday. This would be a great time for you ask questions about any ADS-B requirements you don’t understand, to get a better understanding of what ADS-B may or may not mean to your type of flying, and to see if Garmin has a product that surprises you.

Whatever the case, please stop to see the Garmin folks and thank them for supporting grass roots aviation.


Monday, September 12, 2016

Oregon Aero Contributes Pain Relieving Items for Auction

Oregon Aero. What do you think of when you hear that name? For me, the answer is easy; quality and ethics, morals and good business.

I cannot remember the year, but I do remember the seminar.  It was an Oshkosh forum about aircraft interiors. During that presentation, the name Oregon Aero was mentioned. Ten minutes later, everyone had shared a story of their positive experience with the company.

Here at Lee Bottom we’ve always attempted to have the best sponsors. Not just any sponsor, but the best.  Therefore, when Oregon Aero said they’d like to contribute to our online auction fundraiser (running in conjunction with the fly-in) we were very pleased.

The company says they are “The Ultimate in Flying Comfort.” I would say they make flying painless. It’s the same thing, I guess. But, when it comes down to it, often there is a pain created by an underperforming seat cushion, stock headset, or even shoe insert, that prompts a person to seek refuge with an Oregon Aero product. I even know a few airline pilots who carry the company’s products in their overnight bags. ***

One of the items up for auction - a headset upgrade kit.

Flying should be fun, not uncomfortable. It should also be ethical. Good business makes for good aviation. This is another area in which Oregon Aero excels.

When you do business with the company, you are doing business with the owners and its employees. They stand behind what they produce and they love their customers. For fun, I googled “ethics and morals Oregon Aero.” Although I couldn’t find anything bad, there was no shortage of good things. Anecdotal stories of how they took care of soldiers’ needs for better products, how they helped pilots struggling with poor ergonomics, and how the folks at the company were generally good people were abundant.

I could go on but I think you get the point. Thanks to the folks at Oregon Aero for believing in us. We’re excited to have you on board.

Click here to bid on some quality products from Oregon Aero and support the Lee Bottom Aviation Refuge.

 ***Airlines are notorious for purchasing the cheapest seat options for the pilots. You think you have it bad in the back, the seats up front are hell.

Spartan Executives at Oshkosh - The Lee Bottom Connection

Photo: Kevin Horton RV Blog
When Ginger and I began growing the Lee Bottom Fly-In, and NORDO News, things took on a life of their own. Back then we had energy and ambition. Things were innovative.

Our plans for the future delivered varied but exciting reactions. Often we caused a stir. The website was ahead, instead of behind.  NORDO News kicked up anger, praise, and confusion. And the fly-in? It breathed life into grass roots events friendly to all pilots. One attendee had so much fun he went home with a burning desire. The note he sent us was unique.

The original email read something like this, “I came to your fly-in in my Mooney and had so much fun I went home and bought a Spartan.” That person was Jim Savage. If that name sounds familiar, he’s the guy who led the charge to get all those Spartan Executives together at Oshkosh.

Photo: Found at Jim's page.
Looking back through the years made me think of Jim and his note. I had to ask him about it. One short message later and we had the full story. This following is part of that conversation. “In 2006, I visited Lee Bottom for the first time for your Wood, Fabric and Tailwheels event. I arrived with my friend in his 1958 Bellanca Cruisemaster. While there, I was so impressed with what I saw, that I decided I needed to shift gears and turn my attention from late model airplanes to vintage tailwheel airplanes. I decided to focus my attention on getting a Spartan Executive and spent the next year casually looking for one. I returned to Lee Bottom again in 2007, and with a fresh dose of inspiration, decided to pick up the pace in looking for the right Spartan.” The rest is history.
If you loved the collection of Spartans at Oshkosh, remember, it was a grass roots event, friendly and open to everyone, that inspired Jim Savage to purchase such a plane. Today, he is one of aviation’s most energetic and enthusiastic members.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Half Price Fly-In Tickets Available Through September 5th

If you want a deal on fly-in tickets, here is your chance.  Through September 5th, 2016, you can get them for half off the regular rate.  Of course, if you'd rather pay full price you can wait and get them from the same location.
What else does buying early accomplish?  It helps us plan for the level of attendance.  Imagine trying to plan for how much food you need at an event like this.  Anything that gives us a better idea at an earlier time makes that easier.
Buying early also means you are willing to make a small investment in the future of field.  There are no refunds on the tickets.  Therefore, by making the purchase you are saying I'm willing to risk a small amount of money in exchange for an honest effort to host a great aviation event.  If horrible weather strikes, everyone takes a small hit instead of a few taking it on the chin.