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Storm Aftermath

Lee Bottom Field
recovering from tornado damage

Air field owners hope loyal friends
will contribute to renovation costs

By Tess Worrell
Contributing Writer

HANOVER, Ind. (June 2012) – Lee Bottom Field in Hanover, Ind., is a little known gem to many. But to pilots who love visiting there, it’s one of a kind.
“You could do a movie like Field of Dreams for Lee Bottom Flying Field. Old barnstormer pilots would come walking out of the corn and ask, ‘Is this heaven?’ ‘No, it’s Indiana.’ ”
That’s how Glenn Frith, owner and president of Aeronautical Charters Inc. of Fort Meyers, Fla., describes it. “It’s the closest thing for me as a pilot to heaven.”
Rich and Ginger Davidson operate Lee Bottom Field, which opened in the 1930s.
“Go to any airport in the world, and you will find a pilot who knows Lee Bottom,” Rich Davidson said.

Rich & Ginger Davidson

Photos courtesy of Rich Davidson

Rich and Ginger Davidson (left)
are cleaning up from the
tornado damage (below).

Tornado Damage

Lee Bottom Field offers service to military, commercial and smaller planes, but the authentic grass runway proves perfect for antique and vintage aircraft. Local pilots, as well as those flying coast to coast, frequently stop at Lee Bottom Field to chat and rest before going on the next leg of their flight. Flying instructors from Louisville, Cincinnati and Indianapolis routinely bring students to practice at the field.
Frith says Lee Bottom provides the best airport in the world for old-fashioned flying. “The next closest is in Australia.”
He continues, “Rich and Ginger are gifts to the aviation community. They never had kids, so the pilots became their children. What they give to the community cannot be measured in dollars. They make flying what it’s supposed to be.” Now the Davidsons need pilots to measure that gratitude in dollars and give a little back. The March 2 tornadoes devastated the airfield and facilities. Winds tore away roofs, scattered tools and wrecked tractors leaving behind nearly $200,000 in damages.
The Davidsons’ insurance wasn’t enough to cover the damage, so they opted to transform the 2012 Fly-In into a fund raising event. “We’re taking a step back toward a longer goal,” notes Rich.
Every private pilot knows the phrase, “the $100 Hamburger.” Private pilots frequently enjoy the privilege of hopping into their plane and heading to a nearby city for dinner noting, “I’m going out for a $100 hamburger.”
This year, the Davidsons hope the hundreds of pilots who have relished Lee Bottom will do just that. The 2012 “$100 Hamburger” Tornado Relief Fly-In will take place Saturday, Sept. 29, all day. For this one year only, the usual $10 entrance fee will increase to $100. Pilots have the chance to literally go out for a “$100 Hamburger.” The entrance fee gets each person a hamburger, chips, soda and a stake in the preservation of Lee Bottom Field. The Davidsons hope to raise more than $50,000.
The annual Fly-In offers pilots the chance to show off their aircraft, share information and catch up with each others’ lives. Rich notes that these events bring more than $500,000 to the Madison economy each year. Because of Lee Bottom Field’s international reputation, the airport draws people from all over the world who then discover the other attractions of Madison.
The annual Fly-In is so popular it has been covered in every aviation magazine in the United States plus 12 international publications.
“It’s pretty much a family reunion for pilots,” Rich says.
But it’s a large family reunion. Typically more than 400 aircraft and 2,000 “family members” get together for the weekend event. Pilots fly in from as far as Alaska while others come from around the world, as far as Australia, to take part.
Rich realizes the increase in entry fee will shock many locals who have always supported the airfield. He wants to ensure everyone that this is a one-year-only increase simply to get the airport back on its feet. He hopes that people see the value Lee Bottom Field is, not only to the aviation community, but to the Madison community at large, and give their support to keep the airport going. He also notes that children age 16 and under will still enter for free. Hamburgers will be $5. Only those age 17 and up will pay the entry fee.
Frith urges pilots and locals to turn out. He says, “Rich and Ginger make aviation what it’s supposed to be. I get pretty jaded from dealing with unscrupulous people. My job becomes just getting from point A to point B. But, when I get in my old plane and fly to Lee Bottom, I reconnect to flying. They bring the soul of aviation to life. I will do anything to bring awareness of that little gem on the Ohio River. I hope others will, too.”

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