Monday, September 22, 2014


I'm due for lots of updating, but allow me to skip through a year or so of posts to bring you this one.

I was pondering what aviation is "about" the other day.  I had plenty of time, since I was waiting for some weather to clear up on what ended up being a cancelled trip.  It struck me that it pretty much all comes down to sharing.  I don't mean the "sharing economy" that's received so much press as of late (Uber, Lyft, AirBnB, etc).  I mean actually sharing, as in receiving no benefit other than the joy of the act.  

Take Rich and Ginger Davidson, for example.  I've unabashedly stolen this photo from Ginger's profile so I hope she'll forgive me.  Rich flies for an international cargo carrier for a day job, and Ginger, as far as I can tell, is the master and commander of Lee Bottom Flying Field.  When she's not acting as a beekeeper, she's fixing equipment and maintaining the airport.  While many of us believe that owning a private airport would be a dream come true, you need only talk to these two to realize that it's a massive undertaking.  

For many years, Rich and Ginger hosted a fly-in at their airport.  The annual Wood, Fabric, and Tailwheels fly-in was a well-known, well-attended, and well-respected event that was welcome to everyone, but always boasted a healthy contingent of unique aircraft.  I had wanted to go for quite some time when, in 2012, a tornado struck the airport and caused substantial damage.  The process of claiming insurance was frustrating at best, and Rich and Ginger elected to cancel the fly-in for 2012 and 2013.  They held a few smaller events in-between, but the workload of managing the airport and recovering from the tornado damage was more than enough to keep them overworked, so the fly-in remained offline.  Then, in late June, they announced that they had signed up for the punishment of once again hosting an event.  This worked well for me, since I was unable to attend Sentimental Journey for the first time in five years, and I figured I needed someplace to go.  As such, I put the Lee Bottom fly-in on my calendar (blindly, I might add, since I didn't do any research in advance--just figured I should be there).  

Hosting an event like the Wood, Fabric, and Tailwheels fly-in (switched to Wood, Tailwheels, and Fabric fly-in for 2014, so it could be shortened to "WTF" for multiple reasons) is no small feat.  There are costs to be fronted before anyone is at your door ready to hand over money.  There are myriad tasks and details to consider and coordinate in addition to the full-time-job(s) of managing an operating airport.  And moreover, there are only two people and Rich is on the other side of the world half the time.  So, why do they do it?  Well, it's certainly not for the money.  The price of admission to WTF 2014 was, frankly, one of the best deals in aviation.  If you attended Oshkosh in the last five years and later admitted to having a good time, do not complain about the cost of attending Lee Bottom's event.  

Yet, complaints were received.  One such complainer was outraged that he should pay for someone to look at his airplane.  The audacity!  Whatever he flies, I'm sure it is so amazing that people routinely line up at his hangar to fork over some cash to lay eyes upon the mythical machine.  Having coordinated a smaller event (Cub Convoy in 2011) that received little to no complaints, yet was still a load of work, I could understand if Rich and Ginger threw up their hands and said "Forget it" and elected to become aviation hermits.  

You see, the event isn't about making money.  It's about sharing.  Rich and Ginger open their incredible airport up to play host to a wide variety of airplanes and their people.  In turn, the pilots share their airplanes with each other and the community, and the community shares its people.  

To cut a long story short, I was unable to make it to WTF 2014.  I sulked for a while as I sat pondering my options.  I could turn around and head straight home, or I could mosey over to Hartford, Wisconsin, and show off the Oklahoma Kid to my parents and longtime friends.  I chose Door 2.  Things weren't working out quite as I had wanted, but I was determined to do something with the time, so I turned towards home (and picked up the one tailwind of the entire trip).  

Even the bugs were fighting headwinds.

The neat thing about returning to your roots is that it's like putting a comfortable old sweatshirt on.  It feels like you never left, just that you were on a trip for a while.  You're soon joking around and catching up, while sharing stories and trading jabs.  In my case, I got to show off my recently-purchased airplane to the people responsible for my involvement in aviation.  There is something very, very cool about being able to come full circle and share your airplane with the people who first shared theirs.  

Sharing the Cub with my little brother!

Then, someone is offering you a hangar, a ride into town, help holding the airplane at the gas pumps in the wind.  You get to be the pilot you once helped when you were on the other side of the equation.  You get to see the up-and-coming youngsters at the airport with the same gleam in their eyes as you once had--and you realize that the money is secondary.  Sharing your passion with your family (biological and airport) is worth it.
She fits!  It wasn't without some finagling, but the Kid had a roof over her head while in Hartford.

It was hard to grouse forever with this view.

So go on--go out and share your passion.  Share your airplane with the community.  Share your time with organizations that could use the help.  And for goodness' sake, fly your airplane to an aviation event--don't drive.  


Waiting for the next adventure!