Our first annual member fly–in was September 6-8, 2019, at Clermont County Airport (I69) in Batavia, Ohio. It was 80 degrees and humid and totally pleasant. We had great weather except low ceilings and rain if you were flying north on the way home. We had about 20 attendees and the first place we met up was at Sporty’s Pilot Shop! Their president and CEO, Michael Wolf, was so gracious — much more than he needed to be. He loaned us two 10-person vans for transportation to and from the hotel and other venues.
Every day that I was there I bought something from Sporty’s, but I wasn’t alone. Everyone was doing the same thing. After all, shipping was free and we bought cleaning supplies, T-shirts, custom N-number key rings, and more!
On Friday night Dennis Wolter, president of Air Mod and his wife, Cynthia, stayed late, fed us pizza from Grammas, and Dennis gave us a 3-hour presentation on aircraft restoration, upholstery manufacturing including a tutorial on the importance of the ergonomics of excellent seating, and a very detailed course on aging aircraft and corrosion. It was a real eye–opener and I wish all our members could have been there to see it.
Saturday morning we visited the Tri-State Warbird Museum, which is located on–field at I69. One of the staff members there, Collections Manager and Museum Attendant Noah Rechtin, gave us a 3-hour tour of the facility and all the aircraft on display and currently under restoration. He knew the history of each aircraft and gladly shared it with us. I took about a hundred photos and I made a newfound connection with and a ton of pride in my father who served in World War II. It was a poignant and fascinating tour. As my dad once said to me, his was the greatest generation and mine is the luckiest generation.
Lunch on Saturday was courtesy of Sporty’s weekly hot dog cookout. After lunch Michael took us on an airport–wide tour of Clermont County. We walked for what seemed like miles in the Sporty’s warehouse on the tour. The building is around 100,000 square feet and contains the merchandise picking area, store, flight school with more than 20 instructors, The Sporty’s Foundation, and corporate office space. During our tour we came across Sporty’s founder Hal Shevers talking with retired AOPA President Phil Boyer sitting at a table with a plaque labelled “Liars Club” on it. We were weary at the end of walking through the warehouse and then Michael told us to pile into the vans because there was a lot more to see! We drove to the other side of the airport to the building where Sporty’s began almost 60 years ago. The building is now essentially a museum of Sporty’s memorabilia that looked like the perfect man cave for my house. Even Elvis and the Blues Brothers, life size, were there! We visited the hangar that houses the company’s Citation and its avionics shop, too. Wow! Thank you to Michael and Sporty’s for everything!
For dinner on Saturday we had great food at O’Charley’s. A quiet table, great food, and great service, too. We liked it so much we were there on two different nights. In Wisconsin, there are no O’Charley’s so it was an unknown when I picked out the restaurant. I went to Batavia a day early on Thursday and went to O’Charley’s for dinner to make sure that the restaurant was of high quality for our members. It definitely was and I’d recommend it with two thumbs up along with the Holiday Inn Eastgate where we stayed.
In the end we all had an amazing time. We bonded and connected with our fellow members and their families and we were all pretty close by the end of the weekend. We loved looking at each other’s aircraft and showing them off. Since I had gotten there on Thursday, I spent the entire afternoon waxing my plane so it would look great for the other members. On Friday morning as our members started to arrive, I found other members polishing their planes, too.
All in all, it was a wonderful time and I’m looking forward to planning next year’s event very soon. I had a great time and for all of you who were there — thanks so much for coming!