Saturday, July 11, 2009

NORDO News: Oshkosh, Aviation Security, and Fly-Ins


The fly-in is right around the corner and now is the time to make your plans for the event.  In recent years, Friday night attendance for the BBQ and movie has grown tremendously, Saturday has seen aircraft numbers of over 400, and Sunday has witnessed nearly a hundred planes that stayed Saturday evening for the pizza and final night of the event.  Among those in attendance at this event you will find friendly people from all corners of the country and planet.  Therefore, if you love old fashioned relaxed flying, you'll love this event.
Those of you who've been here before know we do our best to make everything run smoothly.  This is very important to us and although it never is perfect, we do our best.  But please remember, in order for everything to flow nicely, those attending need to pre-register for dinners, camping, motel shuttles, and volunteering.  We also have an online system to pre-puchase tickets so that you don't need to bring alot of cash with you to the event.  This system helps everyone and everything work better.  

 RSVP and/or Pre-Purchase Tickets 

 RENTAL CARS  for more information [CLICK HERE]

 VOLUNTEER      to sign-up  [CLICK HERE]

If you are interested in staying in a motel in town, we have reserved a block of rooms at the Comfort Inn at 10% off the regular rate.  This is the closest motel to the airport.

Rooms are for 2 nights:  ($137.50/night) 
Friday 9/25 & Saturday 9/24
Our price includes the 12% tax.

HURRY:  Only 10 rooms left . . .
In order to keep our block of rooms available for our event, these must be purchased and reserved through our online store only.  [CLICK HERE]

CAMPING . . .If you plan to pitch a tent with your car, bring a motorhome or camper, you can now reserve one of the 30 spots available for this by prepurchasing a spot. [CLICK HERE]
If you plan to camp out with your airplane. . . you can pre-purchase a camping spot [CLICK HERE] but it is not required. 


During our recent trip to Alaska, we took time to check out the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum.  While there we viewed many great items from the states exciting aviation history but one thing in particular caught our eyes.  This was the 1931 American Pilgrim that is currently under restoration in their shop.  Despite what appeared to be cramped quarters, the crew in charge of the rebuild appeared to be doing excellent work and we can't wait to see it fly.
Based in Alaska for ages and flown into relatively recent years, this incredibly interesting aircraft has a fairly strong following of pilots who flew the machine as a work-horse throughout the back country.  These people now look forward to seeing it carry on as a restored piece of history.  
Among the interesting history on the make is the fact that it was originally a Fairchild product known as the 100.  One has only to look to the Fairchild 41 Foursome and Fairchild 71 to see the lineage that led to this oddly beautiful aircraft.  16 of the Pilgrims went to American airlines.  When restoration is complete, the airplane promises to be impressive with its  57' wings attached at the shoulder to a fuselage roughly 39' in length. 
Thanks to the folks at the museum for the first class tour.


The next Sinful Sunday is this coming Sunday, July 12th.   

Come see us if you would like to try Rich's new recipe for a special Mocha shake. 

And don't forget to bring some spare cash for our farmer's market.  Our neighbor plans on bringing fresh eggs and there is rumor of a smooth landing contest to see who can get them home with out breaking them. 

If the weather is questionable, you can look at our website on Saturday to find out if it is still on.  We will post something by 10PM.

Last month, despite crummy weather, we had a great turnout with around 80 flying machines in attendance.  Hope to see you here.  Lunch runs from noon until 2PM and ice cream from 1PM - 3PM (or until we run out).


Recently the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of Homeland Security released a statement that included the following description for general aviation as a terrorist threat; GA is a "limited and mostly hypothetical" tool for terrorists. 

Everyone in aviation cheered when this happened but as usual I saw something different.

What I couldn't help but notice was that after all these years, the group that came out and literally stated that GA was a small and hypothetical tool for terrorist was Homeland Security, not AOPA or EAA.  Seriously now, how many of you can remember EAA and AOPA saying this?  What I remember are the endless articles, emails, and "letter from the president" pieces that said things along the lines of the following: this is a long term fight, everyone secure your aircraft, we are trying to work with the Feds to come up with more programs that appear to make aviation safe, we are working to find middle ground, a compromise is being sought…….  Do you get the picture? 

These same groups, using this Homeland Security report as evidence, now stand on stumps telling us how much they've done for us.  We are, in likewise manner, also repeatedly told that their tireless efforts behind the scenes are the reason for the headway made in this matter but I really just don't think that's true.   What I believe is that these people have never met a compromise they didn't like and the free dinners used to discuss them with politicians and bureaucrats are merely icing on the cake. 

The people really responsible for headway with groups like Homeland Security and TSA are the people like you who wrote to, called, or visited with your Representatives to let them know they better back off this BS or start watching their backs, literally.  Ultimately therefore, AOPA and EAA have served mostly to record the accomplishments and take the credit.   Do not fall for this and in turn back off to let these groups decide your future.  Your participation in this fight is critical. 
Remember though, AOPA and EAA are important; they bring the paper and you tell them what to write; not the other way around.


Our "Grass Runways – The Green Alternative" T-shirts have been very popular.  

Because of this, hours after the last newsletter, we ran out of them.  So, if you missed them then,  you have another chance.  We recently ordered and received another run of them and still have a few dozen large and x-large shirts for folks that might want to make last minute purchases before Oshkosh. 

If you want something unique to wear to Wisconsin or any other aviation event, go to our store by clicking on the link below and get yours before our supply is gone. 

Oh, and while you're at it, maybe you'll want a cap too.  We have a new shipment of these as well.



Every year as Oshkosh approaches, I get a strange feeling of sympathy for the hosts of the event. 

This emotion comes from the experience of hosting our own event and from discussions with other aviation event organizers.   People who dare take on such tasks have a common bond that is earned through this self chosen torture and just like students of all other subjects, they naturally migrate to 'organizer safe environments'.  

The first and most important place on this list is behind a door labeled "employees only" which is funny in itself as nobody can afford to pay employees.   Other areas include behind or under bleachers, remote corners of food tents, and upon a moving golf cart to give the appearance of event business in the making.  These are considered safe as they allow the extensive use of four letter words without offending anyone, offer hosts the chance to see what's going on without the endless stream of questions they wish they had time to answer, and a chance to strengthen bonds with other organizers who have sought you out. 

Why do other organizers seek you out during events?  They/we, all do this to offer their/our emotional support and to make fun of those who are working their butts off while the rest of us enjoy the fruits of their efforts.  It's a known guilty pleasure for those of us in the group.
Now if you are one of the people wondering why I would have any sympathy for the EAA folks who put on this event, let me offer the following insight. 

Here at Lee Bottom our event, The Wood, Fabric, & Tailwheels Fly-In, is organized to be easy, laid back, and old fashioned.  Thus we try to make everything very simple.  If we find out something isn't we change it, and if something starts to feel uptight we figure out a way to relax it.  As for old fashioned, things again are kept very simple with very little in the way of schedules and rules.  Yet no matter how simple, laid back, and minimally structured we make it, a few people each year refuse to follow the few rules we have.  Yeah it's true that those who love the event far outweigh the number of those that have no respect for anyone or anything but when all is said and done, it is really hard to forget the people like the one last year who screamed at your wife.  Why did he do this; because she was merely trying to point out to him that he was walking in front of a plane that was taking off and oh yeah, he was crossing the runway which by the way is one of the few things we don't allow.  The rule is there for a reason.

But again, why do I feel sorry for EAA during Oshkosh? 
Oshkosh is the biggest; nothing more needs to be said but I will.  If you want the biggest, you have the biggest of everything: crowds, number of aircraft, idiots, CAP Youth, prices, rules, FED presence, number of volunteers, sellouts, and BS awards given to those who give the most.  If you don't like any of these, then you probably don't go and if you go then you probably want to complain about at least one of them.  Don't get me wrong, if you don't like something, they should know about it.  But remember, all of these things are here to stay as long as it is the biggest, and in reality, that's why everyone goes isn't it? 

So then, why go?  That's what you have to ask yourself. 

But, if you do choose to go, please remember it is your choice and by doing so you are choosing to live by their rules.  If you see someone who is involved with putting it on be sure to thank them.  And if you run across a volunteer thank them even more.  I can assure you that everyone there is doing their best to give you the experience they think you want and from my own experience I can tell you that a few simple thank you's make it all worthwhile for us and anyone who hosts an aviation event.  


By now, you probably know that a movie about Amelia Earhart is set to be released this fall.   And since it is sure to feature old planes, everyone seems positive that everyone in aviation is thrilled about it.  But are they?  My guess is that most pilots will like it even if it is a historical disaster.  This has happened so often that I'm not going to mention names but suffice it to say that most pilots love anything with an airplane in it.  The rest of us will either hate it because it honestly sucks, is all wrong, or our services weren't used in the flying scenes.  Of course there is also the slight chance we'll be pleasantly surprised but will hate to say so at the risk of looking like one of those people who like anything with an airplane in it.  

Whatever the case, the real reason for the mention of the movie is that several friends or acquaintances are in the movie; one even had his plane used in the filming.   Any person who was at the fly-in last year will remember Joe Shepard's Lockheed 12A.  When he arrived here the plane was fresh off the set and the mere mention of the movie got people excited.    Not long after that, we received an email from some friends in Canada, L.J. & T.J, who had also played parts in the movie and had even managed to scurry away (with permission) some of the set after filming.  It seems they had a load of fun and by their accounts and the movie trailer, it looks like it might very well be a real treat for those of us who love vintage aviation.



Ask any military strategist which soldiers have the best training and they'll tell you, "the ones with combat experience".   Find yourself in need of surgery and one of the first things you'll ask is "how many of these surgeries have you completed successfully?"  But what about flight?

Against all logic, when someone in the world of aviation finds themselves in need of pilots, the first thing they ask is "how cheap will you fly?"  In response to this strategy, the only people that bother to interview are 300-500 hour pilots fresh out of a 141 robot pilot school.  This is how you end up with doomed cockpit recordings that include the open and sad admission of the pilot's fear of and inexperience with weather of any type.   Yet even this wouldn't be so tragic if it wasn't for the fact these pilots are usually flying with at least fifty people behind them.  But it's hard to blame the pilots.  They are merely following the industry and being knowingly placed in bad positions by management and flight schools that are all too willing to take advantage of these them until someone dies. So how then does a pilot get real, blood chilling, palm sweating, and "I can't believe I lived through that" flight experience?  I have a suggestion, cargo. 

One block of ten years ago, on any given thunderous summer night or snow chilled morning, you could find me flying along in some refitted 1930's people mover hauling car parts to various strange airports in far away countries; Newark and Detroit City come to mind.  There, hidden in the darkness of some rusty remote of the field, amid the humid smell of oil mixed with dirt, could be found the real professors of aviation.  Their names, mostly forgotten now, included everything but Boeing and Airbus.  Sadly, and in unbelievable swiftness, models known to all at the turn of this century have been relegated to museums or smelters.  Thus in similar fashion, dust gathers on the wings of experience and fire burns away the evidence that pilotage, as much as design, carried these frames through the years.  Where once these machines lived easily to sixty, today thirty is a stretch.  And with the short life cycle comes a quickening; the speed at which quality is lost to quantity and skill is forsaken in the name of market share. 

Back then controllers had skill too.  I remember one in particular who was sitting comfortably in his chair, staring at monochrome monitors, and sipping coffee, or so it was imagined.  There on that that night over East Texas, a crew of two, myself included, confronted a common problem; where to punch through.   Like so many other infinitive nights, in the tanks was eight hours of fuel for a planned seven hours of flight.  Ahead two firmly defined lines of squalls moved eastward as the glowing prop tips screwed us toward our northeast destination.  Confronting the controller was a growing back log of diverted and red eye airline flights that simply could not find a good way through.  It was a bad night.  Tornados were reported everywhere, everything was claimed level five, and with each internal illumination of a cell,  transformers could be see exploding out from under the shadow of one ugly line of crap.   With each blue arc, the question gained weight.  How do we get through? 

Sitting comfortably in his chair, but asking questions, it was clear to us the controller needed the same answer.
Behind us, attached to the cockpit door of "140" was a sign.  Around its border, silver tape that once held it fast now had the look of bark.  Brittle, wrinkled, and flaking off, the tape itself had become one with the door and in that time, the sign it held had grown into the structure like fencing into a tree.  There, its bright red letters with black background spoke volumes; "Beware of Dog" it said, and any pilot worth his salt took pride in it.  

Every field, study, or organization occasionally finds itself in need of people who are willing to get the job done.  When these times exist, the first people everyone looks to are those who are expendable, willing to work in the rain, take some punches, and push the rules to the extreme limits of their viscosity.  Why?  When the temperature gets hot, the pressure rises, and tolerances must be held, the ability to keep your wits and hold together is a necessity or you'll fail with a bang.  In aviation, these people are known as "Freight Dogs" and on this night, a controller sitting comfortably in his chair spotted the one green dot he needed and asked an all too familiar question, "Nobody's going through, would you be willing to test it out and tell me how it is?" 

In response, both of us instantly laughed so hardily that the trash bags draped across our legs fell to the floor.  Heck, this was like asking Fido if he wants to chase cars and his question, a mere formality, had been cleverly crafted to acquire the response he needed.  In return, we asked for permission to turn in any direction in a certain block altitude and headed for the weakest spot in the line.   Using the ADF needle as a strike finder and observing what we could with our eyes, an agreed upon point of no return was found and into it we went. 

Almost immediately, static discharges erupted from our machine and the smell of ozone pervaded the cockpit.  The radios went next.  Nothing but static could be heard and the increasing radiance of St. Elmo's fire on the prop tips urged us to brace for a coming strike never did.  Looking back, it would have been nice to have merely been popped by a bolt from above because not long after the static receded, BAAM, BAAM,  BUUUAAAAM we hit turbulence.  Now I'm not talking about Delta's definition of turbulence that is classified as a pea under the mattress.  I'm talking about the "I can't believe I lived through that" type that thankfully disappeared as quickly as it came.  Yet despite its severe brevity, it served a clear purpose; to trumpet the arrival of another level of hell.  

And sure enough the hell, no that's hail, came and from inside the metal skin that had survived war, passenger service, and decades of cargo before us, what seemed like a thousand hammer blows per second, on the cockpit alone, made me question which parts would make it home intact.  Then in an instant, it too was over.  Breaking out the other side of this line left us alone in a valley of fire smack dab between two mountainous ridges of squall lines defined by constant overlapping lightening.  From outside of these lines, no one dare enter.  And from inside the empty theatre, we didn't dare exit.  Above were the stars and below the street lights and there we flew, our speed and direction matching perfectly to the forward motion of the lines.  When asked how it was, we responded that "it was fun but we don't think it would be a good idea for anyone else to try it."

Sometimes in aviation you need a few expendable strays to get the job done and on that night that's what happened.   Then as soon as one of us realized we'd probably be in the clear for the entire flight, we decided to flip a coin.  If the looser was still awake enough, he would keep flying us toward home.  The winner?  Well he got to go to the back, string up the hammock, and sleep (I'll leave it up to you to decide if this is true or not). 

That's how it worked; you were a pack.  You looked out for each other, taught each other, fought the good fight together, and when all was said and done you were better pilots for it.  Admittedly in cargo you never start out with the nerves or knowledge to handle this kind of stuff, but in the end, if you survive, you've gained it and with only you or your partner's life on the line, not fifty or more paying passengers.  That's why when I'm asked about learning to fly, I am unable to suggest a 141 school.  I'm just not sure how a 172 in Florida can replace this experience.


David, Beth, and John Murray Phelps are pictured here receiving their "Lee Bottom Bird" numbered print by Sam Lyons.  Their names were drawn out of the hat of all people who donated to the airport fund last year and although it took us a while, we finally managed to capture a photo of them with it. 


I was talking to Rich the other day about the fly-in.  2010 will be my 10th year to work on the fly-in.  But, why is this important as it is only 2009?  Listed below are some of the changes I've seen and helped to manage since my original involvement in the event:

Expected 2009
Number of aircraft
Less than 100
Number of days
½ day
3 full days
Number of toilets
10 port a pots and 6 showers
Meals served
1 meal
6 meals
Number airplanes with someone sleeping under the wing of the plane
Number of motel rooms used in town
0 rooms
35 rooms with most staying 2 nights
Who prepares meals
Number of tables
2 picnic tables
4 picnic tables +
40 tables & hundreds of chairs
Number of tents
1 shelter building and the porch on our house
Big Top Tent +
Shelter building +
10 other smaller tents +
Number of drive –in attendees
2 cars belonging to family members
Number of signs
1 sign scribbled on poster board that said:
"Register Here"
Hundreds of signs professionally made
Number of sponsors
10 – 12
Number of vendors
5 – 10
Number of volunteers
80 - 100
Bands playing at event
Trams taking people around
Golf carts /ATV's used for staffing
8 - 10
Suggestions on arrival available?
Aircraft parking lines layed out in advance?
Amount of grass mowed for event
20 acres
50 – 60 acres

Anyway, the astute person will see that we have grown tremendously since 2001.  The problem is that it is still just "GINGER" doing all the work in preparation.  Yes, we have volunteers that help a few days prior and during the event.  And, I must say that these people make the event happen.  But, the planning occurs ALL YEAR LONG and has transpired into a full time job. 
When I semi-retired from the computer industry a few years ago, my hope was to spend time with someone I loved doing something that I loved.   At this point, the fly-in has consumed so much of my time that I barely see the one that I love and I can tell you wholeheartedly that I'm not doing what I love either. 
You see, I would rather be out flying like the rest of you than sitting inside typing away at a computer creating newsletters.  Yes . . . I LOVE MOWING THE GRASS.  And, I'd much rather be working on a tractor than working on the website or trying to find and organize volunteers for an event.  So, please don't ask me if you can help out by mowing the grass or doing the other things that I really enjoy doing.  I need help with the administration and planning of the events. 
Therefore, I recently made a deal with Rich. . . I would continue to plan the 2010 event if there were a minimum of 2 people that would step up to be responsible for a few specific areas of the event and be part of my fly-in planning and administration team.  The planning for 2010 needs to start today.
The only thing that I get from the event today is sleepless nights, crowds of people wandering around my home and yard, as well as a few more gray hairs that I have to color over.  YOUR EVENT has grown and can grow even more but I am no longer willing to do it by myself.  I figure that if thousands of people really want to see it continue, then among them should be at least 2 people willing to step up, commit, and help out.  If you are on the fence and you need a little push, we can offer you a fancy title like Chairman or Chief or Executive Board member or....

Please understand that this is not meant as a threat.  Even Rich, who has great visions for the event, admits that we have done all we can to get it off the pad and that if it is to make it to the moon, we're going to need our own version of Houston Control.  If you want to take a serious role in the event, one that is not taken lightly and requires a little work to be done every month of the year, then please let us know.

By letting 20 acres of grass grow and be cut as hay, we estimated saving $750 - 1000 in fuel and tractor expenses this year - not to mention the 350 hours we would have spent mowing the grass.  And as a bonus the hay is helping out a local farmer.  Therefore it's a win for everyone.  Those that visit will notice that we are in the process of getting that area back into shape for parking at the fly-in.

Lee Bottom Flying Field • 7296 S River Bottom Rd • Hanover, IN 47243

1 comment:

martha said...

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