Monday, December 18, 2017

Christmas Cards, Friends, and Phones

It’s CHRISTMAS CARD season again. Each time I open the mailbox I wonder who will be next. Which couple, man, woman, or long lost compatriot will have put out the effort to address one to us?
They've changed through the years, these cards of greeting and cheer. Once upon a time they were mostly classical – straight up fairy tale. A real tree stood in a corner next to the fire. Above the stone fireplace a re-purposed barn beam offered space for candles and carefully hung stockings. Outside, horse drawn carriages delivered distant relatives home. Children left cookies for Santa.
Next came the whimsical, often lighthearted, non-traditional cards. In them you could feel the move from others to self – from holiday to another day. Colors matched the personalities. Christmas scenes became the sender’s personal hobbies imagined in a snow-covered set. X-mas was a thing.
Along the journey away from the Christmas season and others came another interesting version - the family photo card. Sometimes glossy, yet commonly bordered with festive lace sprinkling glitter, these are the “one year in our life” cards that bring you up to speed on what the senders are doing and how they all look in the current year.
These “yearbook” Christmas cards also served to further my growing disappointment with the season, myself, and society as a whole. Please do not misconstrue my words. It is wonderful to know our friends are well and care enough to send these keepsakes. It is great to receive record of everything going on in their lives. Even better, the mugshots help us recognize them at crosswalks. That’s always nice.
Yet, my disappointment is that we’ve gone from exchanging heartfelt telegrams rich in the season to mass produced family yearbooks displaying mistletoe in a corner to make certain everyone understands it is a Christmas card.
Deeper than that is my curiosity as to what it’s all about. Obviously, if you collected Christmas Cards from the last thirty years you could glean better understanding of the changes in our country than academics using extensive biographical surveys.
Perhaps everyone is so vastly distant we instinctively understand the need for recent family bios. Alternatively, maybe we’ve moved from thinking of others to thinking of ourselves and wrapped it in an envelope to make it deliverable. I suppose there is also a chance people are so long removed from the real Christmas many struggle for a way to celebrate it – unsure of what to do we go to what we know.
There’s also the changing ideas of “friends and family.” That could be to blame. Certainly, the word “friend” isn’t at all what it was a mere decade ago. Where once the word announced “if you mess with them you mess with me.” Today it casually infers the notion, “I may or may not know this person but they put a cool photo online and they hate ____ so we’re friends.”
Years ago a friend was someone who could be trusted to hide the body. Now it is someone who most assuredly will like your social media posts. That leads me to wonder if many feel the vapid nature of this holiday mess and all they’re really trying to do is hold on to friends, real friends, that are too far away for dinner. If so, sharing notes on our lives may be the modern day version of “Hey. Sorry we haven't talked in a while. I've been so busy.”
Ultimately, I believe it is a little bit of everything. Nobody means any harm or arrogance. Our friends certainly don’t. Our lives are busy though, and distant. Society preaches “more is more” while posting “less is more” online. We know what we need and refuse to practice it; somehow believing the most luminous colors, blended, place a magical tint on our lives, when in reality ten of the prettiest colors from across the spectrum, mixed, will give you brown or gray.
A week or ten days ago a friend’s Facebook account was suspended. Being too manly for the masculine police (he likes girls) earned him a one-way ticket to online jail. How do I know this? He called.
Hearing from him was a better gift than countless cards. Although I knew most everything that was going on with our friend from his social media account, hearing the words made them real. Talking to a person made it count and reminded me of all the good memories he is part of. The same would go for the others.
Am I really the only one who feels this way?
Fifteen years ago I quit calling friends at Christmas. One hectic day the calls interfered with the things that fill each square on the calendar and I thought to myself, “Why am I calling these people? They never call me,” and I never did it again. I had always assumed that if they went to the trouble to send cards at Christmas they would be someone who would like to catch up “live.” That wasn’t the case.
Many still send cards but never call. Why?
Understandably, not every card is from a heartfelt friend. I myself have sent Christmas Cards to people who don’t fit the “hide the bodies” definition of friendship, yet having done me a great favor, or written something demanding of recognition, I used the occasion to express thanks and Merry Christmas. Some cards are family to family. These keep everyone in the loop, generally. These best fit the definition of “Hello” cards. Additionally, we all get the friendly card from an acquaintance in sales.
Put to a point, not every card comes from someone who laughed at you from the other side of the bars, shared the hobby of explosives built for fun, not terrorism, and who could still describe how incapacitated you were when your best friend died. Many, though, do. Each time those arrive I think of how nice it would be to talk to them and share a laugh. Heck, being on their list is nice. Real words would be memorable.
Again, please don't get me wrong. I am not angry or upset with these people, senders of cards. To the contrary, I am glad for the season as it delivers their words. Ultimately though, I’d love to have a Christmas filled with their voices instead of the symbols.

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Lee Bottom Aviation Refuge - Update

As was mentioned in another recent post, outwardly visible progress for the Lee Bottom Aviation Refuge has been thin this year. Despite having brought back Sinful Sundays and all of them being a success, people often look here for notes on advancement. Those notes have been few and far between.

2017 has been an interesting year for the organization. Much has been done but little that can be seen. Obvious physical improvements or large group photos did not happen because the primary focus has been on securing the land and land around it. This isn't what we hoped for. Instead, it was forced upon us.

Due to unscrupulous real estate agents, people with no regard for the law, and officials who have not been doing their jobs we have spent most of the year working on time consuming issues that don't produce obvious results. Putting an end to the flaunting of state and federal regulations pertaining to public use airports and zoning is difficult enough. When it is just you attempting to correct widespread disregard for property and the law it's not easy at all. If you are an outsider in a town where everyone is related, grew up with, went school with, or goes to church with everyone else it's maddening. Yet, if we are to secure the future of the field it must be done.

Thankfully, the gracious Lee Bottom Aviation Refuge supporters stepped up this year to cover nearly all the direct operating expenses of the field.  This is exactly what we were hoping for as we transitioned the field management responsibilities to the non-profit, thus taking part of the load off us as we attended to land issues. That, along with an increase in traffic, the return of Sinful Sundays, and potential opportunities for the airport leads us to believe 2018 will be another great year.

*NOTE: The annual fundraiser calendars are currently at the printers. We plan for them to go out early January. If I remember correctly, this is the 30th year of the tradition. Each year they go out to 1500 aviation enthusiasts around the world and account for the majority of the non-profit donations/funding.

*IMPORTANT: The dates for 2018 Sinful Sundays are June 10th, July 8th, and August 12th.  If you recall, we are only able to have these events if other groups volunteer to host them. If your group would be interested in hosting one, two, or all of them, please contact us here.

August 2017 Sinful Sunday

Sunday, December 3, 2017

YL-15 Article Featured in Sport Aviation

Thanks to those of you who emailed, texted, or messaged me about my YL-15 article in Sport Aviation. It's rare to get even the smallest response from anything written. Unless you are a world class author, today most people view you as a server bringing fast food to the table. There is so much content in existence it's often not considered a skill.  And in my case, that could be correct. Nonetheless, I have managed to fool some people so there could be hope.
The YL-15 itself was the most difficult aircraft I have ever written about. Imagine being tasked with documenting the internal workings of a Packard Merlin using only one paragraph. Doing the little Boeing justice with anything short of a book is the same. I suppose you could describe Marilyn Monroe by discussing her dress but the beauty of the mind would have to be ignored - the whos, whats, and whys left undocumented, different with each imagination. How do you chose what to leave out?
Here's Keith on the day we took the YL-15 to Talkeetna.
Making it more difficult was the personal history of the owner and restorer, Keith Brunquist. Everyone always says "aviation is about the people" and in this case the owner was critical to the piece. Therefore, I absolutely had to tell his story then as much about the plane as I could. I hope you enjoyed it.
Finally, here's a special thanks to the folks at Sport Aviation who found temporary room for my work. And thanks again to Keith some great flights around Alaska and allowing me to be one of three pilots qualified in the YL-15.
This plane is laugh-out-loud fun to fly.

Sanity Forces Diminished Blogging

-written late September

Fall is painting the landscape here at Lee Bottom and the usual things are happening. Cool air has made the grass green again, the last brave flowers are blooming against the will of the seasons, and the wildlife is going about the process of preparing for winter. But, what about us?
Recently we got a message from someone who said they had not seen or heard much from us in a while. Despite having three successful events on the field this year, I suppose it is possible for some to feel we haven’t been active. Weekly updates on the blog have been rare and if this is your Lee Bottom source, I (rich davidson) apologize.
The original Lee Bottom website has been allowed to go semi-idle as we figure out how to merge it with the site while also retaining a separation between the two organizations. One is the airport itself and the other is the non-profit. If you’ve been looking for dates of events and haven’t found them be sure to look under the .org site.
As for the blog updates, they’ve been thin because, well, because they just been thin. What was intended to be a casual summer turned out to be something otherwise and when I have free time I spend it working on the field.
Today I spent the daylight hours mowing, trimming, trimming trees, and pulling grass away from each runway marker (by hand) so the boundaries of each could be located and the grass fully removed for better visibility. In future weeks, we will have to find another day to weed eating all 48 of them, one at a time, removing the dirt from them so the yellow shows through again, and then cleaning the cones. Once that is done the entire field needs to be aerated which will be about the same time it needs mowed the final time of the year.  That doesn’t count winterization of all the water lines and equipment, or the bush hogging that has to be done. And this doesn’t count all the our personal stuff and time at work. My guess is that some of you can relate.
Whatever the case, some of you are probably thinking, "Yeah, and it's work you asked for." And, you are correct. However, as time goes on, and the work you do gets tougher, some things have to give. This year it was the blogging. Next might be something else.  But, we're still going.

20 to 40 - That's Where It Happens

You know those moments in life when you realize how right somebody was? I still get them, but at a much slower pace. The tide has turned. Although, there is one which repeats. The class was “Sales Psychology.” The professor was Dr. Cangemi.
Easily the most desired course on campus, to earn a seat you had to work hard. I’m talking all the overtime and long hours your grades could withstand. It was the only legal way to earn enough money to bribe registration. Everyone wanted in.
Why was there such demand? Dr. Cangemi was one of the last educators who spoke, open and honest, about the real world and business. There were no hyperboles or over the top Tony Robins moments. The BS remained in the hall with those sharing an affinity for warm breezes of sunshine up the rear. He couldn’t help it. He had experience.
Looking back, I still marvel at the success of the class. Rational at heart, yet dominating the psychology department, its existence triggered cognitive dissonance in students who heard about “Sales Psychology” then learned where to find it. Despite its title, that specific department was the last place anyone looked for lectures on winning.
Claiming my seat in what rumor said to be the largest class on campus, I wondered how disappointing it would be. Awaiting the professor’s arrival, I scanned the room hoping otherwise. My favorite philosopher once said, “A person is smart. People are stupid.” My version is more rule of thumb, “Whenever the group is sure of something, the safe bet is they are wrong.” Having learned this early in life, the crowd leaned into my mind. Then the door swung open and in walked “Cangemi.” Everything before was forgotten.
My crapshoot had come through. Instantly obvious was the value of the class. More importantly, there was that single Cangemi nugget I still remember today, “Life is arranged for success in your 40s. What you have there is your peak.”
Alarmingly finite for infinite minds, few accepted the depth of the wisdom. Students who believed anything was possible, and life never ends, laughed it off. Some, sensing more, sat still for impending clarity. “What you do in your twenties and thirties will determine your success. Work hard. These critical decades of your life will determine who you become.” He was right.

Thursday, September 28, 2017


September has come and gone. Across the way wildflowers bloom where planes once parked. There is a dead end on the fly-in family tree.

Above it a new limb grows. It is tedium; every perceived gap filled with appointments or projects. Numbered holes on the page overflow with minutia. Necessary evils protect the ground where pilots camped under wing. Blocks of time that once stood up pennant rope now stand for wellness. Someone must be there to set the cones.

Planes come and go, rotors flail grass, and people ask, "When is the fly-in?" The mind thinks, "Why is the fly-in."  The mouth says, "Maybe, someday."

Among it all, blue air has returned green to the runway and I must mow. The only spectators, deer, have learned it's lawless here. Ignoring the rumble, they continue a daylight raid of low hanging fruit. Unaware of the approaching threats, they carelessly chew.

Someday they too will see what I see. By then it will be too late. Please let it be after I am gone.

Monday, August 28, 2017

TeeSix Eclipse and a Bright Day.

A few months ago I bid off for two dates, the eclipse, and some friends' wedding. Fortunately, we were able to see our friends tie the knot. Unfortunately, we missed the eclipse.

Why we missed the giant shadow is something we'll discuss in the future. As for the wedding, if you've been coming to Lee Bottom for any amount of time you likely know Cory (Thomas). He's been helping out around the field since he was a kid and he's family. A few days ago he married a lovely girl, Shelby, that made his half a whole. I can't remember seeing two people who seemed better together, who worked better together, who I was so happy to see marry.

Congratulations to them both. Looking back, their wedding was a bright day which capped a week that started with a giant shadow. A good trade.

If you're wondering what gives with the "TeeSix Eclipse," my brother, and Matt Erwin, went for a ride to video the event.  Here's the link, or you can watch it below.

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Final Sinful Sunday of 2017 - One We Will Not Forget

The final Sinful Sunday of 2017 was a success. The weather was perfect, attendance was great, the food was fun, and the selection of aircraft spread across the spectrum. You should have been here.
Ginger’s idea to have the White Castle Crave Mobile on hand was a big hit. Sliders and Cheesecake on a Stick; what more could you ask for? Additionally, from our standpoint, a fully contained food source made everything much easier. It was how they all should be, with one exception.
When we decided to restart Sinful Sundays a decision was made to have other groups run them. That was exactly what the events needed. Although much simpler than the fly-ins, there is still some grunt-work required and having others help with the drudgery makes a huge difference. Therefore, the first two were easy.  Unfortunately, the final one had no outside sponsoring group.
Because of this, when a few things went south at home, we struggled to get everything in place for the event. Were it not for one hardcore volunteer, it would have been ugly. Yet, it did prove the formula; outside sponsoring groups are critical to the future of these events.
If you know of a group, or are part of a group, who may want to “sponsor” a Sinful Sunday in 2018, let us know. They do not have to be aviation groups.
Sponsoring one of these events involves getting the port-o-lets, arranging for food and desserts, setting up, and taking donations. Non-profit groups, volunteering in conjunction with our non-profit, shoot to cover their costs and receive enough donations to contribute to both groups. The first two events of the year did exactly that.
The dates for next year’s Sinful Sundays are June 10th, July 8th, and August 12th. The sooner groups sign up to sponsor them, the quicker we can commit the field and begin the marketing process. Without sponsors for the events, despite their success, it is doubtful they will continue. A group effort is the only way forward.
Thanks again, to everyone who made the effort to attend the August Sinful Sunday. We hope to see you next year. They truly are a lot of fun and it’s great to see all of you in one spot.
Oh wait. Did I forget to mention that Tom McCord brought a Bearcat to Sinful Sundays? It was a beautiful thing to see – easily one of the most memorable moments in Lee Bottom history.
Although most people were flipping out over the airplane, the real treat for us was seeing “Tommy” (as we’ve always known him) at the helm of the ship. That made it special. He may not be a kid, but he is certainly part of the next generation of pilots.

Sadly, warbirds have long been absent from grass roots events such as ours. No matter how skilled the pilot, those of previous generations always had a reason for not attending. Tom, on the other hand, brought a Bearcat for sliders and all he asked was, “How firm is the runway.” This is what the warbird community needs. This is what aviation needs - new blood, a little less class structure, and a lot more grass-stained fun.

PS: A huge thanks goes out to White Castle for bringing the Crave Mobile to the event. Everyone loved it.

Can't See the Sky for the Clouds - Dunkirk

Have you seen the movie “Dunkirk?” If so, I’d wager you’ve trashed it.
Let me guess; nothing about the flying scenes was right; a Spitfire could never glide that long; the burning Spit was fake; some placard was in the wrong place; the tires were underinflated; How many did I get? One, two, maybe more?
This is a problem.
Movies are not to be nitpicked for accuracy or impossibility. They exist to offer suspension of disbelief, entertainment, and a method for rapidly sharing complex stories. Furthermore, nitpicking has its hazards.
You say, “A Spitfire cannot glide that long?” If that’s your problem, ask yourself the following question. Did the British soldiers form lines on the beach, word go out to the “civilian fleet,” and well over 300,000 British troops make it across the channel back to country, ride trains to their hometowns, and share the story with their families in less than two hours (the running time of the movie)? No, of course not. How then could you be critical of the aviation scenes?
To be clear, my goal is not to make you feel bad for such comments. Instead, all I want is to ask you to think. Think about Dunkirk. There was a moment when the world held its breath, unsure of what the outcome would be. Would the British flag stand? How would the situation come down? Sound familiar?
Dunkirk is a film about a critical point in Western Civilization, and those at the helm of the production chose to use aviation as a metaphor for the moment. I’m sitting there, my pilot friends are hissing, and all I can see is aviation as the unremittent defender of freedom. Fighting back, running on fumes, through hours and days of pensive uncertainty, the Brits managed to land on their feet and stand defiantly against the Germans. What’s not to like?

Still not sold? If so, consider this. Non-pilots attendees of the movie Dunkirk will come away viewing aviation as a hero of the day - a gallant defender of freedom. Why would you want to change that?
Never miss an opportunity to include Stukas.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Oshkosh and Back - The Flight

Note:  If you want a review of the show itself, skip over this and wait for one titled, OSH Review.
Our trip to Oshkosh 2017 would be difficult to accurately recount. However, it needs to be done for my own record. Therefore, to make it moderately readable to others, I’ll occasionally throw accuracy out the window and replace it with bravado or BS.
Oshkosh 2017 started, for us, a month early. Mid-June, the T-6’s radio gave up the smoke. That may seem like a problem but it really wasn’t. The real issue was government.
Getting a modern smokeless radio approved would require the repair shop to either put the aircraft type on their operating certificate, or get a 337 from the Louisville FSDO. We waited, and waited, and waited. Then it happened.
A 337 arrived in record time, from said FSDO. Unfortunately, it was then too close to chance taking the plane apart. Instead, we found an identical loaner radio, of the original full vapor type, and had a mechanic slide it home.  Hurrah! It worked.
The radio test flight went off without a hitch. The gear on the other hand, it decided to take vacation. Hours later our dog Ace became deathly ill. That was eight days from Oshkosh, and counting.
With no other reasonable options, we decided the put the plane on jacks, swing the gear, and sacrifice a chicken. That, and some hydraulic fluid, did the trick. Unfortunately, googling, “religious practices involving fowl,” put us another day behind, and we still had no idea what was wrong with the pup.
Thankfully, one visit to the doggie ER, and another the next day, left Ace in better shape; better, but not cured.  If anyone knows any methods for healing a dog that always gets sick, run over, or struck with an attitude before or during Oshkosh, please let us know.  We still need a solution. If you’re thinking a large stone, rumbling drums, and a chicken, don’t say it. I can tell you, from experience, twice in one week doesn’t work?
Yes, it was a messy week that ate up time. The remaining compressed schedule forced us to scratch a visit to the world famous “Third Thursday,” cancel a meeting, and have Glenn Frith do the mowing. Thanks to Glenn, we were finally able to leave, only four days late.
Watching the weather closely, Saturday the 22nd, we determined Sunday morning would work. That night weather would move through and the next day would be clear sailing. Naturally, Sunday morning brought thunder and rain. Despair set in, I laid back down, and slept an extra half hour I would initially regret.
Squinting at the radar through sleep filled eyes, we discovered our field had been on the northeast edge of some cells. Half an hour ago would have been much better. But, if we hurried we’d be able to beat it (safety Nazis are reading this as link number three or four). Grabbing all our things, including my phone with its new high tech nano coating, we put plan E into place. You know “Plan E,” right?
Plan E comes after A, B, C, & D and is the plan a very few Oshkosh attendees have used to get there. Personally, now that I think about it, we are only two of three people I know who ever got out on E – most using M through S.
New tie down ropes trailing behind, we rushed to the plane, loaded our bags, and fired up. It was extremely humid and gray outside, with engine temps in the green, when the prop went to fine pitch. A vivid corkscrew of condensation appeared and never quite went away.
Run-up complete, the throttle went forward and the plane went up. In the tanks was an hour thirty of fuel.
Seven miles away would be our first stop. Had I gotten gas the night before, as originally planned, we would not need it. That had been plan D.
Making some quick calculations, as we the wheels clunked into the wells, the navigator (Ginger) excitedly suggested we fly thirty minutes to Columbus.  There, we could also eat breakfast. Great idea. Also, an optimistic one.
We made it three miles past our original planned fuel stop, did a 180, and broke the chain. Sorry Mr. Ground School instructor; you won’t be showing a film about us.
Attempting a quick turn at the fuel pumps, our tanks were ten gallons short when lightning forced a halt. Beaten, we put on the cover and tied it down. At that point, all we could do was make the most of a frustrating situation.
Borrowing the courtesy car, we offered breakfast to the airport crew, and drove to town.  While ordering, Ginger noted, “You realize we’re close enough we could take them home and cook them breakfast?” Both of us laughed aloud.
Meanwhile, waiting out the weather, our plans to meet Nathan Hammond along the way would be modified. TEXT “Hey Nathan, it ain’t gonna happen.” RETURN TEXT “We’re going to OSH via Birmingham, Little Rock, and Kankakee – might still work.” TEXT “Weather looking better. May see you near Fisk.” That’s when I decided to serenade the lobby with an hour of nasal resonance.
When I woke, Ginger said the weather was definitely getting better and Plan G was in effect. If you’re keeping up, plan F was breakfast and fuel in Columbus.
Moving even faster, tie down ropes plunked the wing’s bottom as they slid through the loops. Once again, to the pumps we taxied. Another ten gallons and we were off. Note: Each successive plan letter gets faster and involves either fewer steps or items on the “must take” list. Do it enough and you end up sitting in an idling plane, empty of bags, at the end of the runway, waiting for a reason to push the throttle forward. That’s Z.
By this point, we were hoping to get new reports from Nathan that weather was still improving and that maybe he had turned the corner short of Birmingham.  It was a bright thought under dark skies.
Having a pilot/navigator, in any airplane, is a wonderful thing. It frees you up to focus on safely flying around towers, between homes, and under clotheslines. Like so many other trips before, it could not have been done without one.
Ginger and I were discussing options, and the IU towel wrapped around the leading edge, when we heard a garbled message over the radio. Were it not for him obviously being in control of his airplane, having a quality navigator, and an idea of where he was, the first transmission received from Nathan would have sounded eerily similar to Amelia’s last. “We’re on course to go by Kankakee and the weather is improving.” This was great news as we too were occasionally pointed that direction.
Unfortunately, the loaner radio sensed the growing optimism and began to fail. Yes, the radio was going out again. Ginger could talk to me but couldn’t transmit. Me, on the other hand, I had the only ability to transmit but couldn’t talk to anyone. Meanwhile, we were converging on our target, rapidly. What to do? Then, as if the bright light spoke to our radio on its deathbed, “It’s not your time,” it came back to life and worked perfectly.
Aggravatingly, this turned out to be a cycle that would happen many times.  In response, the three of us, Nathan, me, and some unexpected party on our line, whose voice I recognized but could not place, attempted to use the short bursts of our radio, and all our navigation equipment, to vector us to a meeting point. It came to be quite comical. When one of you suggests using smoke signals, you know options are getting thin.
That’s when I had an epiphany.  Running the logic of it all gave me an idea. “Pilot to Navigator, please report to the cockpit.” Ginger walked her headset, from the navigator’s desk, to the cockpit, and shoved it at me with the usual disgusted look. Plugging them in everything worked.
That was it. My trusty headset, the one I had worn for every rating I ever earned, the one with the cloth cap I wore when hopping rides in Old Bess, the one that had seen me through everything from an S1C to a 747, had finally given out. Offering them to Ginger for hearing protection, she rolled them over, saw the W120 stains, set them down, smartly pivoted around, and returned to her desk to plot our course. Did I mention my chart was in the belly and the GPS wasn’t working?
Thankfully, with full communication restored, we were finally able to coordinate an aerial crossroad, directly over 3KK, where the sky turned blue. There, Nathan would bid adieu to Greg (Koontz), whom he had stumbled across along the way, and the two of us would turn our machines toward Poplar Grove. I guess that extra half-hour of sleep wasn’t a waste after all.
Landing at the Grove in the middle of the day is always interesting. Add a hashed together plan, and grass closed to heavy rain, and it becomes more so. Traffic was everywhere.  Yet, our two planes managed to fit into the pattern and land without pissing off more than a handful of people. Not us, the planes.  Remember that.
The FBO building at Poplar Grove is something I’ve visited many times. I simply cannot cross over C77 without stopping. Steve and Tina are always extremely accommodating. Actually, allow me to rephrase that. They have saved my ass, figuratively, and possibly literally, more than a few times. That day they would do it again in three, two, one, “Can I borrow a headset?” Before I was done asking, and without asking why, Steve was handing me a set and Tina was giving me a hug. I love these people.
Crap. “Did I hear Nathan say something about weather,” I thought. Turning around, I saw everyone looking at a line of cells that had popped up north of the field. Really? More weather from nowhere?
Right then, an image filled my mind. A sultry woman, bathing in a tub of 100LL, saying, “Avgas, take me away.” It’s a reference youngsters won’t get. If that’s you, let’s just say I was ready for the day to be over.
Discussing it at length, we decided on a plan H and I. Furthermore, given the day’s performance, we’d follow Nathan through whatever hole he felt comfortable with. We also decided it was best to get another quick hug from Tina and blast off.
At this point it looked much worse than it would turn
 out to be.  Photo Credit - Ghost Writer Productions.  
It’s always great to fly with folks such as Nathan. When you can silently drive to the runway, take off in loose formation, and know what he is going to do, without asking, it makes everything much easier. Forming up, we aimed for a large hole and nudged the throttles. This would be the one somewhat relaxed moment of the day.
“Hey Nathan.  Doing anything special at the show?”  His response, “I’d like to find a second plane and play tic tac toe.”
Aviation is a wonderful thing, isn’t it?  Here we were skirting weather, in two old aircraft, discussing an atmospheric game of tic tac toe, as if it was no big deal.  It continued for several minutes.
Two rain showers later, and clear on the other side, I had a great laugh. “Hey Nathan, do you want to go in the regular way, or with me on the Warbird Arrival?” Nathan, “No, I think I’ll go straight in on the Airshow Arrival.” Remember that old joke about each successively higher and faster plane asking ATC for a speed check? Yeah, that also exists for Oshkosh arrivals. Moreover, on that day, Nathan had me beat.
Approaching the jump off point for the arrivals, I said “Seeya later.” Nathan said, “Good luck.” You know, thinking back, I’m not quite sure what he meant by that. Whatever the case, it had been great fun, we were almost to OSH, and therefore, with a great level of benevolence, I decided not to shoot him down.
Arriving over Fond u lac, the first point on the Warbird Arrival, we were about to call tower when we heard a controller say, “T-6 flight of 26…” Yes, he said 26.
Not wanting to be an egg at a scramble, we climbed higher than we knew any warbird folks would, and held. From there, we eventually made our way to Warbird Island, then to the field for an uneventful landing. Taxi in is where it gets eventful. 
No matter how many years they have done it, there are always volunteers who ride their escort scooters in such a way you cannot see them. Eventually I had to unbuckle my seat belt, stand up on my heels, and work the rudders with my toes. Alternatively, I could have trusted them explicitly. Not going to happen.
We parked, jumped out, and there were our friends Glenn and Piper. Before anything else I sent a text.
Having originally planned to park in Vintage, I had to get a message to our friend who convinced us to park in Warbirds. What I got in return made me chuckle. “I’m next to my Super Cub and you’re in Warbirds with a T-6. The world has ended.”
The day of departure flowed like a teenager’s text – highly abbreviated and to the point. We stopped briefly to say bye to some friends, and hiked to plane. There, a couple guys from Argentina asked if they could look around. One guy’s father had flown them in the AAF. Like so many others, as evidence, he had photos of his dad in the seat. Instead of looking around, I offered them a chance to climb in. They were both ecstatic.
Pay attention. This is important. Admittedly, I wasn’t in a hurry but I didn’t want delays either. It would have been much easier for us to let them look around while we got ready, as that alone would have made them happy. Instead, I asked myself if I thought those guys would ever have the chance again, if five minutes of my time was really that valuable, and if I really wanted to be the guy who could have let these guys in the plane and did not.  Any time this happens I always ask myself those questions and it always give me an opportunity to slow down and make new friends.
I’m writing this because I almost didn’t invite them in and therefore I hope you see that I fully understand how people become focused on something unimportant, or overwhelmed with people who want to see the plane, and end up not allowing others to experience it. Take these questions, ask them to yourself when it happens, and let people in the plane. If your time really is that valuable, then you should not be flying the plane.
Back to the departure.
Around this time our friends Roy Fox and his son Kyle showed up. Roy and his wife own our sister flying field, the Missions, in Australia. The similarities among our fields are striking. Of course, one interesting difference is that we have deer, and there they have “roos.” If you ever get a chance, please go visit. They are great people.
Saying our goodbyes, and absorbing their well wishes, I wondered why they too were wishing us good luck as we made an effort to fly away. Pondering the possibilities, I buckled in as Ginger made a point to tell me her headsets were working fine.
Finally, when the engine was running, I sent a text to a friend in Palwaukee, and headed to the runway. Another airborne rendezvous was in the making.
Taxiing in the Warbirds area can be tight. Keep that in mind if you are ever there. Taxiing around the west end of runway 09 is worse. Zig, zag, dodge the mud hole, and cringe as the three-foot lights and cones go under your three-foot one inch high wings. I’ve never been so happy to see a concrete and asphalt threshold. Like a carrier in the night, they offered safety in an unforgiving environment.
Ready for takeoff, the controllers put us in que. Man, they are good. I love working with such people. At big fields they call it pushing tin.  After watching them deal with some folks, they must call it pushing poo. Either way, they always keep good spirits and do a wonderful job. Because of this, when it’s my turn, I do my best to return the favor.
Remember that threshold?  When you launch off of runway 09, during Oshkosh, you end up over water – right back to the sea.  It is not a great feeling to be climbing to the middle of a big lake, but it’s the only option.  If you do it, you must keep an emergency water landing plan in the back of your head.
Remember “the A-team” TV show? I love it when a good plan comes together? Our effort to meet up with friends in Chicago worked wonderfully. The reward was a proper escort through hostile territory. Flying abeam another trusted pilot, it was impossible to ignore the absolute smoothness of the air; each plane seeming to twitch to the pulses of blood in our hands.
Clear of the killing fields of South Chicago, our friends dove away, and we headed for the corn. Soon thereafter, we were home. That's honestly how different it was.
More often than not, each flight to Oshkosh feels like an initiation. God and everyone wishes to know how bad you want to get there. Once you make it, the lights come on and you find out it really wasn't a goat.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Last Sinful Sunday of 2017 - "Slider Sunday"

The final Sinful Sunday of 2017, August 13th, will be unlike any we've ever hosted. Looking for something unique, Ginger hit on the idea last year. It involves a big, white, self-contained fortress of food.

Appreciated by everyone with a passion for life, and a craving for adventure, it is sure to please.  But, it does come with a warning.  If you eat salads everywhere, prefer dry celery as a snack, and are generally no fun at food parties, you'll have to munch on some freshly cut grass, or bring your own head of lettuce.

What is it?  It's the White Castle Crave Mobile.

Here's the menu.  You'll notice that, in addition to the tasty sliders and fries, the only dessert is "cheesecake on a stick." Currently that's the only dessert planned, but hey, it's CHEESECAKE ON A STICK.

We hope you can make it to Slider Sunday.  Remember, the next one will be nine months away.

NOTE: If any of you are members of car clubs or riding groups, please let them know this would be a unique drive day for their club and that they are welcome.  Maybe one of them would want to host a Sinful Sunday next year.

Friday, July 14, 2017

What You May Have Missed About the New Sinful Sundays

When we decided to restart Sinful Sundays, it was agreed other groups would volunteer to run them or they would not happen.  Ginger and I need to be able to do some other things, and possibly not even be here, yet have them go off without a hitch.  Furthermore, having decided to save Lee Bottom for future generations, it only made sense that everyone play a part.  So far, it's working out nice.

But, there are a few things you may have missed, or maybe we forgot to tell.  First of all, as I just mentioned, different groups will be hosting the events.  Yet, the big change is what's served at the events.  Years ago Ginger and I, plus a select few volunteers, offered the same thing every Sinful Sunday.  Sundaes, Milkshakes, and BBQ.  That is no longer the menu.  Actually, it will change each time depending on what each group wishes to offer.

The menu may vary, but will always be similar.  The first Sinful Sunday was Ehrler's Ice Cream from a truck, the second one was Bernoulli Small Batch served by volunteers, and the food, grilled by another volunteer, has been hamburgers and hot dogs.  Something entirely unique will be on hand for the third, on August 13th.

Other things you may have forgotten, or never known, are that 1) the events run from 12-3PM or until we are out of ice cream and food.  2) There are generally accepted arrival procedures for events at Lee Bottom and they can be found under fly-in arrivals at our old Lee Bottom page. 3) These events, due to most of them using food trucks or vendors to deliver the ice cream, will go on even if the weather isn't perfect. Unless you see it has been called off (on our facebook page or blog), we really hope you'll drive when you cannot fly. This will help keep groups from losing money on the setup.  Remember, it costs money to host these things, even if nobody shows.

Please show your support as these events are here as a way to support the Lee Bottom Aviation Refuge, and the future of the field.

Another Successful Sinful Sunday

July’s Sinful Sunday was another great success. Thanks to the Bluegrass Chapter of Women in Aviation, the 99s, Mike Grecco and Mike Korff, the event was a hit. Behind it all, doing the brunt of the organizing, was Crystal Korff.  A sincere thanks to all of them.

When Sinful Sundays restarted, we decided other groups would run them or the fly-ins would not happen. The Women in Aviation and the 99s were among the groups who stepped up to volunteer. When they did, I had no idea how it would go. My interaction with either group is so insignificant, their commitment to such events was an unknown. Then they showed up in full force and did a wonderful job.

That recognition is normally where I would end. This time there’s more to tell.
July’s Sinful Sunday was fun to me in many ways. As usual, it was great to see all the planes and the people on the field. Yet, among this crowd was a unique group of attendees I was surprised and happy to see. 

There was the lady I flew with at Atlas who, during cruise, wanted to talk taildraggers instead of the next Irish bar. Several other women in aviation were past co-workers of mine. They included ladies who had gone on to great jobs at the airlines, one who was about to give it all up when she got the call, and another who is chasing the dream. Other women brought their taildraggers. Among them was one special lady, the daughter of Bob Dalzell. He was a long time attendee of Lee Bottom events, and to have her here carrying on the aviation tradition was a real treat. Others had worked as schedulers, dispatchers, corporate pilots, and more. The list goes on.

Ultimately though, their attendance made me realize something. I’ve always been a big supporter of the ladies who were into aviation. However, I never considered how many there really were. Seeing so many of them on the field, and hearing their aviation stories, made the day a little more special. Thanks again to all of them.

A special note about the ice cream served at July's Sinful Sunday.  Bernoulli Small Batch Ice Cream is local to Louisville an has an obvious tie to aviation.  Their unique flavors are available at select locations around town.  I'm still waiting to try the Maple Bacon.  It's always sold out. Maybe they'll be back next year with a pint for me. Click here for more information.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Later, Man.

Years ago, on a particularly rough approach, turbulence tossed the plane. Inside the cockpit, I fought back. Working the ram’s horns through their range of motion, staying somewhere near the flight director was my goal. Any worse and we were going around. That’s when it happened – the one thing that makes me remember the moment.
“Ride it, man, Ride it!  Don’t fall off!” Those were the words of an unforgettable man.
Recently new to the job, Will Pevahouse was sitting right seat. Although a highly skilled pilot, his greatest strength was the ability to make everything feel ok. That’s what he was doing that day. Under no circumstances would he allow me to get tense enough to prohibit me flying the approach. I chuckled, it smoothed out, and we landed without excitement.
Of course, it went the other way also. If someone in “the system” did something stupid or caused a problem, Will would not stand for it. He wouldn’t yell, or call names. The sound of his stern booming voice was like that of a Grizzly. If you heard it, you were done playing games. A few choice words, and a “We cool?” is all it took to solve anything.
I’ll never forget learning that Will had quit the company where we worked together. When everyone we knew was sacrificing everything to climb the 121 ladder, he walked away to spend time with his family. I admired him greatly for that. Yet, there was a downside. Our different directions meant we didn’t run into each other as much. On the other hand, that’s when you learn who your friends are.
No matter how much time passed, when we talked it was as if we had hung up the phone yesterday. Often we’d laugh for the better part of an hour. Bumping up against to-do lists, we’d express the typical “Later man,” and hang up.  More than half the time, one of us would call back within the next five minutes to tell another story we forgot. Laughing again, we’d get off the phone knowing it would keep going if we didn’t.
Tonight, only an hour ago, sitting far away in a hotel room, I learned Will had died of a heart attack.
During the past year and a half, with each of us beginning to glimpse the backside of our lives, we talked more often. Only three days ago, before I left on this trip, I went to call him, received another call, became distracted, and left without dialing. It had been longer than usual and I wanted to see how life was treating him. As so many others feel, tonight, I regret that distraction.
When the news reached me, I had no idea what to do; I looked at my schedule to see if I could get there for the funeral; I considered flowers for the family; then I thought about our conversations. Scanning back through our texts made me remember the calls. The calls made me remember the laughs. And, the laughs made me realize I had to tell you about Will.

He was a good-hearted man who loved his family above all. If you asked me to write down the twenty best guys I’ve ever known, he would be in it. In fact, he’d be in the top ten. Some people are amazing in one area, a walking disaster in others. Will, on the other hand, he was good across the board.

Oddly, if someone had walked up to either of us, during the daily grind of our lives, and asked who our friends were, we may not have named the other. Proximity does that to friendships. However, if the same person had tasked each of us with going through our contacts and naming the people we could call in the absolute worst of times, we would have made it on each other’s list. I'm proud of that. If Will Pevahouse considered you a reliable friend, it was an honor.
Ultimately though, for me, knowing he is no longer there to answer the phone makes the world a little less enjoyable.