A Grass Runway with a lot of Heart

An aerial photo taken September 20th, 2014 during the "Wood, Tailwheels, and Fabric Fly-in" at Lee Bottom Flying Field.

Natural disasters can be absolutely devastating to the environment, architecture, and in the unfortunate case of Lee Bottom, grass airfields. Back in March of 2012, a massive tornado swept its way through Indiana, hitting Madison, Hanover, and other towns in the southern state with perilous force.

Lee Bottom Airport is a beautiful grass strip that has been opened for public use by gracious owners Rich and Ginger Davidson. Their 3000' by 100' runway regularly brings in all types of visiting airplanes to the strip on the edge of Indiana. I remember flying to Lee Bottom during my first few hours of lessons. My instructor wanted to show me what a soft field landing was like, and I'll never forget looking down and seeing such a huge expanse of dark green grass - that we were about to land on!

The tornado of 2012 did massive damage to the buildings on Lee Bottom property. Their house, hangar, garage, and many other buildings were hit and needed complete repair. Through the generosity of aviators who knew and loved Lee Bottom for many years, they were able to raise money with an "$100 Hamburger" fundraising event in September of 2012 to begin rebuilding.

However, construction caused their annual "Wood, Tailwheels, and Fabric Fly-in" event to be unable to happen the following September. In past years, aviators from all around would fly in, camp out, eat great food, enjoy the grass strip, and make unforgettable memories with friends. It has been a favorite flying destination for years, and brings in many guests from the non-aviation community as well.

This year the grass strip was back to business, and hosted their first official fly-in since the tornado. I had the awesome opportunity to fly over with my boyfriend, Daniel, in his Stinson 10A and take part in some of the festivities.

Before we had even taken off, we had a taste of what was to come. As we readied the Stinson at KLEX, a bright yellow Stearman was taxing its way towards the runway. Sure enough, this was one of his hangar neighbors making his way towards Lee Bottom. We headed out a few minutes later, a bit behind the vibrant plane.

A quick 30 minute cruise was all it took to reach our destination, which is situated right beside the Ohio River. Daniel made a perfectly smooth landing (grass runways have always been his favorite) and we were guided to the east side of the airport.

The Stinson 10A to the left of a Waco ASO.

The view was incredible from anywhere on the field. The sun was shining, the facilities were clean and ready for campers and day visitors alike, and the delicious smell of meat on the grill filled the air. I spotted one of my favorite sweets, honey sticks, at the souvenirs booth and made my way there first. I bought a handful of the sticks containing sweet honey (Which happens to be cultivated from bees owned and taken care of by Ginger Davidson herself - adorably named "Geez Beez") and enjoyed a couple as we began making our way around to see the other aircraft.

The beauty of the fly-in at Lee Bottom is that all types of aircraft are welcome, but many vintage and classic plane owners make it a point to visit any chance they get. There is an ongoing race between attendance of Stearmans verses attendance of Wacos. As the day went on, the count of which type was winning was updated live from their Facebook page. Stearmans ended up winning by one, but Wacos sure did try!

There was a Spartan Executive, T-6 Texan, 2 DH Tiger Moths, an RC-3 Seabee, and a Howard. I saw biplanes, high wings, low wings, seaplanes, tail wheels, twin engines, experimentals, vintage, modern, aerobatic, a couple helicopters... You name it, there was probably at least one of them there.

Many of these awesome planes did low passes before heading back to their point of origin, which was always such a thrill to see. Everyone enjoyed the beautiful weather and a slice of the wonderful world of aviation that had gathered here. The splendor of Lee Bottom is in how intimate it is. Everyone feels welcome and the Davidsons do a wonderful job of providing the perfect space to cultivate such a fun environment.

I want to personally thank everyone who helped in any way to put on this fly-in. It was as unforgettable as the Geez Beez honey.