Sunday, December 30, 2018

What's In A Name?

There is a list of things to do, the annual calendar letter needs finalized, a rating exists that must be completed, clothes need folding, and a bulb has gone dark, yet for some reason, tonight, I can only think of my Dad’s Dad, Orlando Davidson. A man who did what was right, not what was popular – my grandfather.
Other than the many grand stories passed down by family, to me he exists in two places, my single but unwavering memory of him, and my name. I’m proud of that more than ever. Although, it wasn’t always that way.
Nothing about my name was ever easy. First, it breaks many of the unspoken but subconsciously recognizable rules of flow, consonants vs vowels, and easy speech patterns. In short, it doesn’t flow off the tongue.
When you’re young, the name Richie is an invitation to a dozen childish jabs. It’s also greatly misunderstood. Everyone believes it’s either Ricky, short for Richard, or spelled wrong. Yes, people have told me I spell my name wrong. After all, who would name their kid, Richie?
Of course, there’s also the obvious point that Richie sounds like an eight year old. Several weeks ago, when checking into a hotel, the guy behind the desk, seeing the full spelling of my name, said, “Hey, you know, I know a Richie. He’s a buddy-o-mine, and you know, he’s actually pretty cool,” as if it was an anomaly. My response to him was, “Yeah, it’s kinda like a boy name Sue. You kinda have to be.” He thought about it, then with a loud laugh, he said, “HA. I guess that’s true, hu?” Thus, completely affirming what I had always believed.
For all these reasons and more, years ago I started going by, “Rich.” Right out of school it seemed more capable of hiding the reality of my age than my behavior, so I went with it. Unfortunately, Rich is also difficult off the lips – the sound, reminiscent of a German teaching behavior to a dog, is impossible to express with the smoothness of butta (sigh). Still, it seemed better than Richie, which actually is descended from the German name Ritchie. Hence, the accusations of incorrect spelling. Again, one reason why I continued to go with Rich.
However, there is one thing about my first name that I have always cherished. It is my mother’s maiden name. Despite all the pitfalls of Richie, not only did my parents bring me into the world, they managed to keep both families alive with me. For that, I am ever grateful, and regretful for shunning it.
Names really do have an effect on who you are. In my case, a strong sense of person comes from the Germans and my total distaste for bullshit from the Scots-Irish – Davidson. The latter being a tough brand of human who worked their way into the country, moved down the east coast, then inland, through the Cumberland Gap, to become some of the poorest yet most proudly self-sufficient people on the planet. These are my people. Well, wait. There is the Creek Indian part that I can’t talk about since my membership is not up to date, but I have always wondered if that’s why I’m so good at smelling the white man’s bull. However, I’ll save that for another page and paragraph.
Orlando and Nettie Davidson, my father’s parents, lived in the bottom of a deep valley acquired through trade. Elder family members exchanged a Kentucky Long Rifle, a hunting dog, and a fifth of whiskey for the acreage upon which their shack rested. There they had six children.
Orlando, known to family and friends as “Lando,” was, for the most part, your typical hard working dirt farmer and all around capable Appalachian man. Three things were important to him, his family, his land, and his people. Asking for nothing, except to be left to his resources and property, he planted row crops on the sunny side of a steep hill, terracing the land with a plow pulled by cows and mules. Below, in the shadows, was a typical Eastern Kentucky homestead by a creak. Everything you needed to survive the land offered. Then came the strip mines via broad form deed.
Crony Capitalism has always been a Kentucky specialty. The timber and coal industries perfected it. Buying politicians to cast aside those without power, these industries extorted, from the simple people of Appalachia, the minerals below their feet and the timber that gave them shelter. For some it was an annoyance; for many it was a nightmare; to others it was deadly.
Acting without malice, and with the permission of government, corporations who claimed ownership to the sediment below ripped landowners from their land. Adding insult to injury, this left shell-shocked families with no logical choice but to sell all the timber. After all, were it not sold it would be bulldozed and left to rot. Unsurprisingly, mine owned timber companies offered pennies on the dollar.
With the permission of government all the streams went dead, mountains were clear-cut of trees, and the mountain tops sheared off – the rubble pushed over the hills. More than once, boulders rolled onto homes below. More than once it was intentional.
Today most people know only the populist slogans pushed by politicians to stir up their base. Many believe coal has helped Appalachia. Kentucky has an “I support coal” license plate. However, the area has, on numerous occasions, qualified as the poorest area in the nation. It ranks high among the areas of drug use, low in the rankings of health and education, and no longer has the land that once rivaled any park in the nation. Put bluntly, it is “the hood” for white people - where folks were used up and spit out by government and corporations, taught no other options, and left with no ability to fight back.
Yes, you will find people made slave to the industry – people who always go back to the jobs. However, it is difficult to argue they are better off than their grandparents who had the same quality of life but they also had freedom. Today, those that depend on the mines sound more like proud subjects of the Kentucky king, coal. They live and die on the decisions of others. Moreover, as any good subject would do, they support their dealers (anagram for leaders).
My single memory of my grandfather, Lando, is of him and me sitting on a bench at the base of a shade tree, on a warm summer afternoon. Within a few seconds run, on a child’s legs, of a creek once full of life gurgled over rocks. By my side my Grandfather whittled.
I remember this moment because I felt, for the first time, the greatness in someone. He was a good man who loved his family, who knew wrong from right, and stood for it even when he was alone. His appearance was old but inside was something beyond time – a presence. I’d give anything to have what he was carving that day. In some ways I guess I do. I certainly got his name, "Lando."
Yes, my name has been problematic from the start. People have problems with my first name, although it’s simple. Some have even accused me of spelling it wrong. My last name gave me a spirit that doesn’t fit in the modern world and its spelling gets me confused with some old coot (and friend) who flies a Pitts and spells his name wrong. However, it is my middle name, Lando, which earns the biggest chuckle.
Many years ago, when I was trying to fly shrunken heads from the Amazon into the USA, I had to produce a birth certificate. When it arrived, I was shaken to my core. On the document was, LANDAU. Fortunately, since my core is little more than a tiny burned out ember, it really wasn’t much more than a curiosity until I learned the why behind the spelling - at my birth someone at the hospital spelled it wrong. HA!
When I was young people who didn't know me always assumed my middle name to be, Lee. I never mentioned it, only printing “L,” so they guessed the most likely country middle name and that’s what I got. The day after I finally told some friends who had been calling me, "Richie Lee," Stars Wars debuted. That didn’t help. The name was as alien to small town Kentucky as cars without giant bird decals on their hoods. And yet, today, every time I look at my work ID it pisses me off it’s spelled wrong.
I wish there was more about Lando remaining. I wish I had known him better. After decades of watching his beloved land and people struggle against the evils of government and corporate tyranny, he had a stroke. That day, a coal train blocked the only road to the hospital.

Knowing that ending you know Lando's son; my dad, Eldon. To know my dad, you know me.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

POOF! There's a Stuka. (Updated)

Twenty years ago Ju 87 R-2 (Correction R-4, see next photo) WkNr. 0875709 was
pulled from Russia. Later Paul Allen would purchase it, plus parts from other projects,
and begin restoration of an example of the single, most,
iconic aircraft of WWII. Here it is.

Since I was a kid there was one plane from WWII I wanted to see fly – a Stuka. Dismay is the best way to describe my feelings when I first discovered there were none to be had. There was no way that could be true, I thought, but historians told me otherwise. Still, I knew in my heart they were wrong.
I asked everyone, pondered aloud where one might be found, studied them, insisted there had to be one, complained each time one was discovered and considered unrestorable, and later even did such things as start a facebook page called “Save a Stuka.”
Here is the wreckage that has apparently been rebuilt by FHC.
Ju 87R-4 Werknr 6234, L1+FW I./StG5 - I am going back through all
I have and it appears I recorded incorrect data from when it was
rescued out of Russia or the FHC decided this was
the best of the pieces they had and went with the R-4. 
People chuckled when I said it was the single most iconic aircraft of WWII. I still challenge anyone to prove me wrong. Of course, what is restored depends on the cool to dollars ratio.
Years ago, as the world grew more insane with political correctness, museums actually removed authentic paint schemes from WWII German aircraft. This insanity made aircraft of the Luftwaffe even riskier when it came to high dollar rebuilds. Therefore, only someone who was among the wealthiest of people, who was a visionary, and really didn’t care what snowflakes thought about WWII history would dare rebuild a Stuka. The dollars to cool ratio would be a disaster for anyone except one man, Paul Allen.
I first learned about his secret project well over ten years ago. Numerous times I wrote about it. Then I asked, no, I begged everyone I knew associated with Allen’s museum to throw me a bone, posed open questions for anonymous information, and even sent a few letters, numerous emails, and more, and got nothing.

Along the way I told those who would listen that it would someday arrive as if magic. A few friends paid attention and notified me when Allen’s team was going to be in Chicago to “clean” the one hanging in a museum there. Graciously, the team moved many displays, brought the plane down from the ceiling, disassembled much of the Stuka to “clean” inside and out, then put everything back very rapidly and with as much secrecy as possible, and paid for it all. How kind of them.
Later another friend sent me one of Kermit’s videos where he accidentally recorded its engine, post overhaul, at Vintage V-12s then kindly bleeped it out understanding the secrecy Paul Allen demanded.

This project has been there all along and ever since I found out about it I’ve discussed it. However, just as I said, today the plane appeared out of nowhere, and people are in total dismay. Folks who spend their days and nights following warbirds seem stunned as if they had no idea. Truth be told, they didn’t. Until it existed in photos they could not deny, it wasn’t as cool as aviation’s version of cat videos. Therefore. while watching the one millionth Mustang video, skimming T-6 formation images, or oohing and ahhing over another “wall of fire” photo, Paul Allen delivered, even in death, a Stuka as if by magic.
I regret never knowing Paul Allen. I tried numerous times to catch him to very quickly and quietly tell him thanks for doing this project even though I knew he couldn’t and wouldn’t admit it. However, I could never pull it off. I only hope those who knew him well, who are in charge of the dollars now, will make it fly. To not do so would stamp out a dream I know for sure the two of us shared – to return an example of the single most iconic aircraft of WWII to the air.

Note: Everyone seems to ask about the siren. Paul Allen insisted on perfect restorations. If the tradition continues with the Stuka, and they chose to rebuild #0875709 instead of one of the other projects purchased, you will never hear the siren as that model did not have one. Yes, as with everything WWII, there were field modifications, random parts built onto earlier and later models, but strictly speaking, if restored correctly it will not have one. The R version was essentially a long range model and the siren significantly reduced speed with its increased drag.

Update: I have always believed this to be an R-2 but as you can see in the following link they say it is an R-4. R-4s were Stuka rarities so that makes it even more unique. Going back through all I have collected I am even more interested to learn the true story of the restoration. Much of the data I have was either reported incorrectly when it was first pulled from Russia, the Deutsches Technik Museum is good at keeping secrets, or maybe another projects exists as leftovers, or maybe I transposed incorrectly? Click here to see a release from the Flying Heritage Collection.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Off Road in a Boeing

Some folks will do anything for a cool escort.
It's always good to test the strength of a "Seven-Four" so you know how much it will take when you really need it. I'm thinking you can pretty much count on the design for just about anything - tough old bird. Can even survive a captain's landing.
Turf management at large airports is more important than you thought.
The Lesson: Never let your guard down and never blow off the reason
you had to go around. If you went around something wasn't right
and you should put some thought into what it was and why
before attempting the second one. Too many people treat it as a fluke
and expect the next one to go perfectly. When one thing goes wrong
and you catch it, the next thing is likely the thing that will get you.
Don't ever forget that.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Someone is Baiting Dreamers

That's me and one of the DC-3s I flew. The number below the cockpit is important. While I'm here I'll point out that this was the first freight operator I worked
for that laughably believed what we wore mattered to those who shipped packages. Some
things never change. 

Sliding off an oily wet wing onto Canadian soil was not my intent. Had it been my goal the ensuing flash of ignited fuel vapor would have signaled my arrival with the fanfare of fireworks. Doing whatever it took was always part of flying “the Three.” Celebrating it as glorious was one of the perks.
A decade ago, the fully story behind the paragraph above became a favorite of readers. Unfortunately, I didn’t have it backed up and when the service I was using went kaput it was lost to time (If any of you have a copy, I would love to have it). However, among the long lost details is one that stayed with me. The N# was N141JR.
If you were hauling cargo in the grand old Douglas at the turn of the millennium, count yourself among the last. The bust brought the on demand freight market to a crawl, 9/11 took its breath, and the government took the heart.
During the summer of 99, I logged 130 plus Douglas hours a month for three months straight. At the time, Rhoades was among a dozen or so companies still using the DC-3. Half of them were large operations. These had anywhere from two planes to more than a dozen. The other half, the small operators, had two or less. The number two is present in both because some were single aircraft businesses with another flying parts plane, while the others had two good aircraft and parts. There is a world of difference in the two.
By 2003, the DC-3 freight business was a thing of the past.
Some will point out there are still operators in Canada, Alaska, and other parts of the world. Others will think of “those guys down south who had one in the mid-2000s.” Yet, the reality for those who do not wish to debate minutia is that in 1999, in the middle of the night, airliners routinely used us as weather bird dogs, you routinely crossed paths with other DC-3 operators, and being the #8 plane in a line of jets flying approaches into Newark was quite common. By 2004, many of the “regional pilots” where I worked didn’t know what a DC-3 was.
I remember when I heard the last two Rhoades DC-3s sold. Word on the street was that they were going to Missouri to be roof top attractions for marketing purposes. The story was almost as ludicrous as the guy, or group of people, trying to kickstart(er) another old airplane back in the air by making it about kids or righting some wrong. I could never do that. All my ideas involve the unpolished truth and that never works on those sites. But, if I were to lose my mind and try, here’s how I would do it.
I would let folks know the only reason I was putting this DC-3 back in the air would be to take it to as many events as we could and have fun with it. We’d string lights from the tail to the wingtips, put out speakers for music, open some giant coolers, hand out bee… - six packs of soda, maybe hang a disco ball from the nose, stand up the big screen that would play really bad B-movies and run instant messages across the bottom, pass out T-rex suits, stick some Tiki torches in the ground, point a searchlight to the sky, fire up the Honda generator, and invite everyone to have fun with it. For the national anthem openers we’d tow the largest American flag on the airshow circuit and illuminate it with lights on the wing tips. Elsewhere, for the hell of it, we’d tow the world’s largest inflatable sex doll; a giant rubber chicken in Baptist country. Nothing more, nothing less.
As a bonus, on occasion we’d use the big screen to show videos I made while hauling freight in the plane, how we hung hammocks in the back (enroute), loaded it so full we had to get in the through the hamburger hatch, pulled up to go over boats on Lake Erie, did full performance take-offs and stalls for kicks and…      [Wait a minute - you in the back - what was your question?  Yes, I said while hauling freight in the plane. Yes, I meant this plane. No, not a DC-3 – THIS DC-3. Yeah, seriously.]           Ok folks. I guess I should clarify something. Start with this paragraph and count back three. The last three sentences of that paragraph, ending with “All my ideas involve the unpolished truth.” Are you there? Good.
Late last night, for thirty minutes, I was that guy with the ludicrous idea to put a “three” back in the air. Why was I thinking of how it could be done? An old friend, Darin Kerber sent me a photo of an ad in Trade-a-Plane. He and I used to fly together at Rhoades and he knew I would want to see what he found. That’s the photo below. As you can see, it brings all of these ramblings full circle.

You have no idea how bad I'd love to have this plane on
the field at Lee Bottom. But...

#Douglas #Rhoades #DC-3 #Pilotshortage #aviationrefuge #LeeBottom #N141JR

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

The Feudal Moon

Image - Wallpaper Studio 10

Note for context: This was written September, 2018, when the movie "First Man" was in theaters and its deleted scenes were hotly debated.

Apollo XI delivered man to the moon and cast opportunity aside - a massive leap forward erased with one small step. Soon thereafter America planted a flag. Why?

Today debate rages about a scene deleted. Pundits point fingers, signaling virtue with words. Should the flag be there or should it not? The question is silly. It also masks the true tragedy.

Every generation believes its time is unique and each new chapter in history proves otherwise. Different actors and props do not change the play but merely the era to which it plays. Apollo XI is one such example. Mankind’s greatest accomplishment belies our greatest opportunity lost – an interplanetary existence.

The moment America claimed the moon for all of mankind it was over; our path forward dead. It was a progressive coup. The Moon belonged to government(s).

No property rights, no realization of gains, and no freedom offered; “the New World” replayed in vain. Daring to cross an ocean of darkness, throwing caution to the wind, man reached out to discover a new horizon then smothered it in failed ideology. As the original European settlers of North America found, communal law carries with it disaster.

Within the New World the fortunes spent conveying brave individuals from possible to impossible, to supply and secure them, vanished in the fog of incidents uncertain; so did most of the people. Without incentives the colony went feral; the few remaining souls guaranteed to perish. Then a new leader arrived, Sir Thomas Dale.

Dale changed everything. Observing the situation, he identified a solution to correct the course of the colony – private property. Issuing three-acre plots to settlers set the wheels of private industry in motion. For the first time in the New World real opportunity existed. Production rates flourished, trade developed, and the population grew.

With the promise of possibility came those willing to risk it all. Some sought glory, others were after profit, and a percentage merely wanted a new start. Private property was key. It made the new land livable and spurred the societal base camps necessary for expansion.

The ensuing discovery and development of resources meant more of everything made the crossing. Initially, though, the real profit was in the journey. Technology improved to make it more so. Yet, one thing was missing; a reliable method for finding longitude at sea.

So important was the needed discovery, every major force on the planet offered a prize for the solution. Again, opportunity and profit changed history. The answer was a reliable clock; technology still critical today. From cellular communication to space travel, the ability to precisely mark time drives it all.

In 1969, another fortune delivered men from possible to impossible. Benefiting from accurate chronometers, the men of Apollo XI crossed an ocean of darkness, turned their eyes from risk, threw caution to the wind, and reached out to discover a new world. Then, by their orders, they smothered it in failed ideology.

Had our country’s leaders led with the knowledge of history and conviction of American greatness they would not have sent our men to the moon to win some back-room geopolitical game of chicken. Instead, upon touchdown, having never signed the Outer Space Treaty*, our men would have claimed the Moon as sovereign American land, not to keep others away, but to entice everyone who believed in freedom to develop it for the future of mankind.

Lunar sections of latitude and longitude offered to any “homesteader” improving the land would’ve created opportunity and made profits possible, risks reward-able. Celestial wagons constructed for pioneers would have beaten a path to Earth’s pale companion. Looking back, we’d see the Moon Rush as a repeat of history. Some would even ponder it from a base on its surface or a ship en-route to Mars. Driven by opportunity and freedom, mankind would exist beyond this planet.

Unfortunately, the small minds of our government, perceived to be huge, set us back fifty years. Believing in new world orders and global law, not only did they deny opportunity they squashed it.

Believing only government(s) could handle such endeavors, only government(s) could accomplish such feats, leaders abandoned the hard New World for tasks within easy reach. That decision brought us here; seven years into a space program crippled by the feudal kings of bureaucracy.


Today, NASA relies on the Russians to deliver Americans to space. Soon, private American industry will assume that role. And although I find great pleasure in seeing business rescue government from itself, I am saddened by the thought of where we could be had our leaders embraced the New World lessons of property, opportunity, freedom and profit half a century ago.

Monday, August 6, 2018

The Final Sinful Sunday of 2018 is August 12

You heard it right folks. The final Sinful Sunday of 2018 is this Sunday, August 12th.  Hope to see you here. Thanks again to the RAF for hosting it.

Our sponsor.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Will Your Plane Die With You?

The photo above was taken at Silo Field, Lexington, Kentucky. Of note in the image is
a yellow Piper Cub (left), polished Spartan Executive (landing), convertible
Mustang (right side, green and behind tree), and an XKE Jaguar (foreground).
Below is something I posted on LinkedIn four years ago. It was forgotten to me until a friend recently referenced it. When a family member ended up being asked a very similar question from a homebuilder I decided I would place it here for you to read. Like it or not, there is a large segment of aviation rapidly approaching a turning point - a point where people do the tough things to help it survive or the easy things and let it go.

Will Your Plane Die With You?

What do you see when you look at this photo? Most eyes land on the obvious; the blue sky, Piper Cub, Mustang convertible, Spartan Executive, and beautiful E-type Jag. Yet, what lies hidden in this image is a valuable lesson.
The Cub tells us some things don’t lose their value as much as others, the Mustang reminds us that pure and simple are typically the best things in life, and the Spartan is a great example of how the prettiest things need constant polishing. But again, those things are obvious?
What isn’t so easy to see is the lesson contained within that beautiful red Jag. Bought new by a gentlemen while overseas in the service, only recently did it change hands. When I saw it I stood at stared at its beauty. Imagine buying that at the dealership and still having it. So what’s the lesson?
Well, look at it. It’s a dream on wheels. Would you want that car? If the owner offered it to you would you take it? I mean, if the guy who bought it originally were to call you up and say, “You know Fred, we’re like family and if you want the car you can have it”, would you say, “No”? Can you imagine anyone saying no to that? Well, here’s the thing, as it was told to me, that’s what his kids said. They didn’t want it; had no interest. But, up to that point he thought they would. That’s why he asked.
Are you starting to see the lesson?
That big plan of yours to give your vintage plane to one of your kids, well, it may be nothing but a fantasy. The fact they fly with you and have a pilot’s license is no different than kids who have a driver’s license and talk to you about your old car. Chances are really quite good that when the time comes they’ll not want it or to take care of it, and most likely would rather sell it. If it doesn’t make sense to them, it doesn’t matter how much it makes sense to you.
But there’s more to this than your kids. This demographic shift will play heavily on the values and the future disposition of our vintage fleet(note: four years later it already has). For those of us who want the planes to be preserved and flown, this is something we must face head on and be willing to discuss.
Do we want these planes to take on the role of rare cars that are trailered from one event to the next; only started for show? Is our number one priority to make a killing on the sale of them to a trophy room collector whose biggest thrill is overpaying at auction? Or, do we really believe the talk and are willing to walk the walk to keep them alive?
If the later is you, the time is fast approaching where you’ll need to find someone you trust with the plane; an individual who would love the plane and keep flying it; a person who may not be able to pay you the full fortune you once imagined. I realize that’s a tough idea for many people, especially those from the parenting generation of “give your kids everything”. But, if you love that plane and want it to go to a home where it will be taken care of and flown on a regular basis, your kids may not be getting that truckload of money they fantasize about. Are you OK with that? Good, then there's one additional thing we need to discuss.
What happens if you die without a thorough will? Do you trust your family to do the right thing with your plane once you've passed? If you don’t find it a home before you are gone it’s only going to cause problems for everyone. Even worse, your actions will have likely set the scene for disaster.
Allowing your family to believe a vintage plane is worth a fortune, when it is not, is irresponsible. Yet, either by the owner's desire to believe it himself, or to convince family the money spent on the plane wasn't a bad investment, this belief is what most owners leave behind. Therefore, if this is your situation (don't fool yourself, this is likely you), once you’re gone the wife and kids will be looking to sell it as soon as possible to anyone offering top dollar. Unfortunately though, after you pass, what they believe they know about plane will be largely incorrect. That in turn means they’ll be left believing everyone is out to take advantage of them because every offer will seem like a low-ball.
Next, brokers will show up and reinforce the notion of a high value in hopes of getting a big commission. The family will cling to these dreams, sign a contract, and hold out for that big payoff that never comes. Meanwhile they’ll be getting angrier and angrier as the low but realistic offers continue to trickle in. Then when they are at their wits’ end, they’ll do one of three things.
One, they’ll let it go to some dreamer friend of yours who’ll truck it home and there it will sit. Two, and as hard as it is to believe, they’ll chose another resolution; they’ll scrap it or let it rot. Or finally, they’ll give it to a museum. This they’ll do because they can justify it in their minds as something you would like and also because they can get a highly inflated appraisal to help them with potential tax issues. And yet, none of these are good options if you’d rather that plane go to someone who’ll treat it like family and keep it flying the way you did.
I know the subject of dying is a tough discussion. But, if you’re one of those people who have ever stated proudly, “I’m not the plane’s owner, but merely its caretaker”, then it’s time to think about who its next shepherd will be. Of course, there’s always the chance you merely latched onto this popular gratuitous statement as a way make yourself sound really deep and complex when asked about the airplane at fly-ins. If that’s you, people will remember your BS the same way people remember sports players who claim to do it all for their fans then take the highest salary they can find and move elsewhere. But, whichever of these people you are, and without passing judgment, I hope you’ll at least try to find a new owner that will keep the old bird flying. Leaving the decision up to your family, or looking only to get top dollar, will betray who you said you were and the airplane you claimed to love.
So there you have it; the upbeat subject of the day. Nobody likes thinking about death. But, if you really are its shepherd I encourage you to think it through. Others may look at it and see nothing more than an object, but let’s face it - most of us know at least one airplane that feels alive to us. The decisions you make will determine if it lives.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Stop to See the Shadows

The shadow created by clouds on the horizon at sunrise.

"Do you see that?" Outside of "Where the eph are we going", "Why is it doing that", and "Shouldn't we be higher", this is probably the most common question I have on the flight deck. Cruising along at three-four-zero, I'm amazed at the number of other pilots who fail to see what can only be seen "up there." I don't know why that is but I suspect it has to do with the never ending effort to remove everything that is beautiful or moral from all that is good. Never let that happen to you.

The Beast Visits Lee Bottom

Our good friend Mike Rutledge recently stopped by for the night in what could best be described as an aviation time capsule. Known to most as "the Beast," it is the last flying unrestored Stearman cropduster in its cropduster configuration. Get that?

Essentially a critical piece of aviation history, it is the Stearman cropduster of aviation lore. Drug around by a "1340," lifted by extended wings, and full of hopper tank, it displays the pinnacle of Stearman duster mods in a way that has to be seen to believed.

If you happen to run across it somewhere, stop and take it all in. I believe it is one of the most underrated pieces of aviation history flying today.

I always wanted one of these to be saved. Now, thanks to the Schiffer brothers, I can rest knowing one has. Flying it was pure bonus.  Thanks Mike. 

Sunday, July 1, 2018

No Sinful Sunday in July

There will be NO SINFUL SUNDAY IN JULY of 2018. Please pass the word around. The August Sinful Sunday will be hosted by the RAF and will be August 12th.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Sinful Sunday is One Week Away

The first Sinful Sunday of 2018 is June 10th.  We hope to see you here.

2017 was a successful year for Sinful Sundays and our effort to get more groups involved. Two of those groups will be hosting this first event of 2018. The organizations are the Bluegrass Chapter of Women in Aviation and the 99's. Together these "volunteers" will be offering Bernoulli Small Batch Ice Cream and a classic summer picnic lunch.

We hope to see you here.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Thoughts on Life; Lived or Wasted?

Twenty years ago, this April 5th, I made a decision. It was time to get on with it. I was thirty. Soon, I'll be fifty.

Somewhere, I can't remember where, I recently wrote about forty and a lesson taught to me in college by a favorite professor. When you hit your forties, that's it. That is what you've accomplished and that's pretty much where you will spend the rest of your life. Wherever you are on the ladder, that's your rung. Your climbing days are over.

No doubt many of you are poo-pooing this notion at this very moment. It goes against every flowery, bullshit, rehashed and repackaged, self-empowerment book you ever bought to convince yourself there was hope - that you could be more. It was a lie. That optimistic mysticism bought for 20% off was little more than a repackaged politician offering hope. All you had to do was donate, lean forward. You bought it, literally and figuratively.

Don't lie. I know you read, "What Color is Your Parachute." Well, I'm sorry, but if you're over forty your skydiving days are over too. And what the hell were you thinking using it as a guide for raising kids? Sorry. There I go again, digressing. (Mental Note - is this a sign of dementia? Make Dr. appointment).

I get it. It's not a great feeling to be shown the door to reality. It sucks. For those of you planning to see "After 40" in theaters anytime soon, here's a spoiler alert - it doesn't stop there. Each successive year reality grows a new head that's ugly, and wrinkled, and filled with conversations of doctor visits, death, and "kids these days." Holy $*&# kids these days(Mental Note - tell Dr. it's increasing).

Then, one day, one very scary crap yourself after a night of beer and tacos day, you wake up smelling of old age instead of sex and wonder what the fuck happened. Well, no fucks happened - that's what happened. But life certainly did, and to add insult to soiled flannel pajamas it did so with no push-back from you. That's the scary part.

Imagine sitting at some crappy desk in your typical on-air police station.  There's a German-American chick who is a serious cop, an Asian lady you're pretty sure is a statistician, a wise African-American cop, some Latino bad-ass who everyone obviously likes, a stiff lipped officer who must be from Internal Affairs, and the racist, homophobic, sexist pig, Irish-American, male cop who gets your case because nobody likes him and you're the dumb-ass "victim" who put a sign on his door stating, "Please come into my home and take everything I care about. There's cake in the fridge." This is what it feels like to wake up with the realization you're almost fifty and you've wasted three decades reading self-help books in search of that amazing (and profitable) inner you that never was actually there. (Ask Dr. if an MRI might reveal a hidden amazing inner me)

Yep, you're a human Oak Island with nothing to show for it but the scattered tailings of failed mining expeditions and a cancelled reality show. Of course, you probably hated mining, didn't like the location, and really hated asking investors for money, but you did it anyway because you were responsible. Does this sound remotely familiar?

If you're answering yes, I have news for you. You're fucked. You need help.

If you've spent any time on the internet I'm sure you've seen someone post a meme with the words, "From the day you're born you begin dying." It's a load of crap. If you are skilled in self-preservation you'll recognize this fraud as the one who is always attempting to sound deep.  She's the same person continually posting about "the right guy" and how she'll know when he arrives because he'll be sensitive, intelligent, and able to see how incredibly great she is. Holy crap! If any of you fall for that I'm coming over to take your stuff and eat your cake. (Note for Dr. - if I write "cake" too much will I get diabetes?)

You don't begin dying when you're born. Your soul starts cutting spars for a flight out of hell the day you quit living - real living. That's when death taps you on the shoulder, looks around to make sure you're alone, then leans gently into your ear as if to say, "I'm not wearing any underwear," but what you get instead is a disgusted, "Where's your fucking toys?" It's the most miserable day of any guy's life. Death thought she was getting a man but instead got you. 

There you were thinking you were about to get laid by some random Goth chick in a robe when BAAMM, Low-T arrives in the form of a question. Panic sets in. You've been mining while everyone else was living! Those days spent mowing a runway for others could have been spent flying. Remember the time you fought some airport board for pilots who didn't care enough to show up for their own meeting? You could have put that effort and money toward a Mangusta, driven it to some hinky festival, parked at a cafe, then sat outside to look at it while the wine snobs at the next table confirmed everything you ever thought about hipsters. (Question for Dr, are all wine snobs really born through the butthole?)

The day you realize what you've missed, how little time there is to set foot, poke your nose, or stick your finger in new places, that's the day the clock starts. How you react sets the pace. It's a limited time offer, you better act fast.

Somewhere out there is a life with your name on it, multiple switchbacks for your bike, a track for the car, an airworthiness certificate for your soul.

In an era of man-bashing this is often used to infer men are on
some lower level of maturity - that they are somehow inferior - when
it is actually an astute observation into the constitution of men,
who they really are, and what they need to be happy.

"Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night." - dylan thomas

April, 3 2018

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Lee Bottom Flood Update

Here you can see the flooding around the field.
Photo - Mark Powers

Many of you know Lee Bottom lies beside the Ohio River and a few of you knew the Ohio recently flooded. For those who've been asking and those who didn't know to ask, this is an update on how it affected us.

Most important to this conversation is the knowledge no flood on record has ever flooded the airport. Although the "37 flood" would have put water in some of the land near the hill the runway would have still been ok. Those of you familiar with the field know there is a small county road that runs down one side of the runway.  This bit of chip seal human intervention happens to divide the part of the bottom that floods from that which does not. Therefore, the primary question has been answered - the airport did not flood, the runway is fine, and it is open.

Those of you who know more of our story know we also have a few pieces of property between the road and the river where it does flood. Although we came close to a very bad week (6-8" close), in the end we had one building with a foot and a half of water in it. This was the shop where most of stuff was moved after the tornado.

This is the driveway into "the Nut Farm" across the road.
I waded in after the water was already going down
to take photos.

Our friend Mike Grecco saved the day by helping us get everything up on tables, or move elsewhere, before the water rose. We spent a day and a half getting ready and in the end it worked out pretty well, all things considered.

The water had already gone down a foot to a
foot and a half when I took this.

Although we have one building we are still trying to get dry, we have been able to get the mud out and start the cleaning process. This also jump started our organization efforts to get everything sorted so that we can have an auction to sell off everything that isn't bolted down or absolutely necessary to the operation. We had been wanting to reduce the amount of "stuff" and this forced us into it. Hopefully some of you will come to whatever kind of sale we have and buy it all and leave us with a much more manageable life.

As for that gigantic bonfire we were planning to have, it washed away.  There were a few years worth of trees in that pile and it moved on in the peak hour of the flood.  One less inch and it would likely have stayed.  Oh well...

NOTE: If any of you remember the tram that was the old Cincinnati Zoo tram, it needs a new home. Know any non-profit that would like it or someone interested in buying it to restore?

Friday, February 9, 2018

Ace Turns 15

A truly wonderful dog.
February 14th is Ace's birthday. Ginger calls him her Ace of Hearts (born on Valentine's Day). He's 15 this year.

If you've spent any time at Lee Bottom, you know Ace. He's one of the best dogs I've ever known; a favorite of vets, laid back, and loyal. Anyone who doesn't like him can be written off as "strange" and pretty much ignored from that point on.

Years ago this amazing dog was the best man at our wedding, for years he kept deer off the runway, and now he holds down territory in the house. If you haven't seen him in a while he's friendly as ever, and older, and still never leaves our side.

Dang birthdays!

The Latest from the Lee Bottom Aviation Refuge (and Random Bits of Interest)

Somehow, this relates. I haven't quite sorted it out but
I'm sure it does.
As difficult as it is to believe, the airport has never had an “honest” land survey. Years ago when most of the river bottom and hill-side were sold at auction there was some confirmed shadiness involved in the sale. The case is well-known around here. Because of this, property boundaries in the bottom fall into the “in this general area” category. Now, thanks to a shady real estate agent who misrepresented a nearby property, with the help of some shady “lawyering,” to some shady people, which was missed by local officials, we find ourselves needing to pin down all boundaries to sort it out. Total = $7600.
Remember, that’s only the survey.  It doesn’t include any of the additional expenses already incurred or expected to accrue in order to resolve this issue.
I mention this because it is only one of the things we are aggressively pursuing to reduce the problems for the airport, and its future owners, going forward. All of this comes out of our pockets and it is a great example of why we are so thankful for those of you who support the field by contributing to the airport’s operation fund.
Anything better than this
costs money.
The airport house needs a redefined purpose. The interior updates have not been completed because we are unsure what it will become. We’ve talked to restorers and mechanics about calling it home. You’d think it would be appealing but so far nobody has taken us up on the opportunity. It would also be great for a specialized flight school/instructor.  It could also become a home for someone who likes to mow grass and perform general airport maintenance. If you know an adult Boy Scout we’d be interested in talking to them. You know, all that honest, thrifty stuff…
Question: Is there a demand for hangars at Lee Bottom? This is tough to answer. We’ve long had a place set aside for five 50Wx40L hangars.  However, while we lived on the airport we were reluctant to move forward with them. Now we wonder if anyone would be interested? What would make them appealing to you?
I'm partial to this hangar facade.
We have a huge pile of wood to burn and sometime soon we’re going to light it off.  If you’d like to come hang out and roast some hot dogs then watch the Lee Bottom facebook page for the announcement. It will probably be fairly short notice. If you’d be willing to bring your chainsaw, or willingness to lift, and help us add another few trees to the pile, send us an email at – infoatleebottomdotcom.
SINFUL SUNDAYS – We are looking for groups to run the last two Sinful Sundays of 2018.  The Women in Aviation chapter that ran last year’s July event has committed to run the one in June. If your group would be interested in one of these fundraiser dates please let us know. The group does not have to be aviation oriented. Note: The events are only held if outside groups offer to hold them. It worked great last year.
We are looking to redo, remodel, or rearrange many things this year.  Some will be obvious – most will not. Much of this effort involves selling items we no longer need. Actually, I have decided I want rid of EVERYTHING we don’t need. Therefore, look for a possible silent auction at an upcoming Sinful Sunday to sell every little item I am sure I no longer need. This would include aviation art prints, die cast toys, aircraft parts, books, and more.  When it is over I want what’s left to fit on a wall in the house or two bookshelves.  Oh, if we are to rebuild the hangar and possibly the house, we will no longer need the cabin.  Are you interested? It’s for sale if so. It’s wired for power and is a true, although modern build, log cabin. $8000 (must be removed from the river bottom).
One of our longest held dreams has been to have the Indiana Aviation Hall of Fame at Lee Bottom. Our state is one of the few without such an (established) organization, yet is has some of the richest aviation history. The field is the perfect location, and were non-profits to combine their efforts it would be the only Hall of Fame I know of with its own airport. The time is right. Could it be done? If so, it better start happening. The depletion of my ambition is accelerating.
Ultimately, we are putting all options on the board. Do you have any suggestions?

Another Calendar Old

Did you get a calendar?  Probably not. They only go to a fraction of the people on this list. Why is that?
Despite the calendar’s meager debut 30 years ago, the annual mailing eventually grew to an unwieldy 1500 prints. Attempting to keep a handle on things we capped the production there and sent them only to people who contributed to the airport’s operating fund.  It’s done the same way today.
If you typically get a calendar, don’t worry. The US Postal Service treats bulk mail as a necessary evil. Even though they went out some time ago only a few have arrived at their destinations. However, all of them soon will.
When they do we hope you’ll contribute once again. Each year these funds go directly to keeping the airport running and indirectly they do the same for us.
Anyone who has followed the airport through the years knows we’ve been at it a while. This is my (rich) 20th year at the field and Ginger’s 17th. Along the way we’ve done many positive things and also butted heads with politicians, utilities, the FAA, and inconsiderate pilots. Everything we ever did was to improve the chances Lee Bottom survived the long haul. There’s just one problem. Ginger and I will not last the long haul.
Obviously, I am a fallible biped. My eventual demise has never been in doubt. However, Ginger has been accused of being a machine. Well, I’m here to dispel the myth.  She is not. Borg maybe, but not machine.
What does this mean? Each year the effort required to keep the airport running gets more difficult for us to muster as retirement increases its offer of less involved days. Somewhere in there the lines cross, “S over R Max.”  That’s spending over reward to those who still believe they’ll live forever.  Beyond that point it doesn’t makes sense for us to use all our spare pennies to keep the airport open if pilots don’t feel the need for it. No matter how much we love the place, if we can’t eat or go to the doctor in old age it would be insane to keep at it. For this reason, we’ve been planning our lives so that doesn’t happen. We’ve also been planning a future for the field. That’s where the Lee Bottom Aviation Refuge (a 501C-3) comes into play.
Years ago we told everyone we’d base the airport’s future on how much the community wanted to keep it alive. Therefore, when folks like you contribute to the operation fund it’s a massive shot in the arm. Every time you show your support, it makes it that much easier for us to do the hard work.  THANK YOU!