Tuesday, September 17, 2019

BOWMANFEST - An Aviation and Military Heritage Festival


Bowman Field's conversation piece.

October 5-6, 2019 is the date for this year's BOWMANFEST. Held at historic Bowman Field, in Louisville, Kentucky, the event has grown in size for many years. Thanks to enthusiastic supporters who step up to offer funds that in turn bring in amazing aircraft, this gathering has finally given Bowman Field what it's been missing - something to look forward to.

Still one of the oldest continually operating airports in the world, in the 70s Bowman field was the busiest GA airport in the world, and home to the most enthusiastic aviators in America. However, a few years back, after post 9/11 security mandates, decades of some of the highest relative hangar rates in the nation, removal of grass runways that were attractive to antique aircraft, and general neglect, the field appears to be turning a corner, getting the attention it needs. Life is returning to the field and BOWMANFEST is leading the charge.


Produced by a group of people who believe in the airport, understand its importance to the City of Louisville, and most importantly, love aviation, BOWMANFEST is doing a great job of reminding the neighbors how fun it can be to have a great airport nearby. I hope you'll support their effort.

All that said, I have an admission to make. That's not the entire story behind why I hope you'll attend. The truth is, Bowman is very important to me.


The airport is where I earned my pilot's license (certificate) and first soloed, rode in and flew my first 220 and 450 Stearman, first took off and landed a T-6, first flew a twin, turbine, experimental, and a seaplane out to a water landing.  I also had my first flight in a business jet there. At Bowman I started an air tour business, drove my first Ferrari, Lamborghini, Viper, etc (thanks Jay),  bought a low mileage TR-3B I still kick myself for selling, saw what was probably the first GPS in the state, made a million mistakes, made what would be (so far) some lifelong friends, burned thousands of gallons of gas and more than one bridge, lost a rare gas cap in the grass on takeoff and actually found it after landing, and helped market the oldest aviation business in Louisville. I also departed from Bowman in search of Lee Bottom.

At the historic field, KLOU, I first saw the B-24 "All American" I would, decades later, get to fly. Bowman field is where I found the world's greatest AME, went six months with a flight every single day, and figured out how to use a 300' triangular piece of grass to land and take off in a Champ(with a passenger) without ever allowing the wheels to touch unholy pavement.

It was there that I would talk to a transient pilot in a BT-13 who would later hook me up with a place to hop rides in the Keys.  A few years after that I wound up flying that BT and still have the friends made from the experience. I met Marvin Rowe at Bowman. He deserved a book and I wish I'd have written it when I could.

From Central American's self-serve pumps I air-mailed a parcel, via Curtiss Helldiver, to my brother flying a show in Geneseo. Today I still find new details on the 1920s Curtiss Hangar still in use, wonder if the remnants of 1-19 are actually the oldest piece of hard surface runway in the world, think about the filming of Goldfinger, marvel at the fact Connies once used the field with tighter patterns than modern pilots in 172s, and wish the place still had a reason to land three abreast - hard surface with grass on each side.


So much happened here, for me, the local aviation community, and aviation as a whole. Heck, I haven't even touched on the real history of Bowman - once a must stop location for the world's who's who of aviation when aviation was at its greatest. However, you can see some of that history if you stop by the "old terminal" when attending the event.

Airports like Bowman need real public support to stay alive and well.  BOWMANFEST.com is certainly doing its part.

For more information, visit the website.  BOWMANFEST.com


"Butt Buster"