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to the story's beginning            back to Burlington

In Iowa, many things seem to rise from corn fields. So it was with our convention hotel.

For me, the convention started early on Monday, the arrival day. I agreed to attend the Board of Directors' meeting as a substitute for our regional director, who had to be overseas for his son's wedding.

Much of the Board's business is done electronically these days, so the meeting was much shorter than it has been in the past.

Our Safety Director, Ron Levy, always has words of caution about dealing with the heat. At the opening gathering, Ashley Porter made sure that he was well prepared to practice what he preaches: SPF 70, lots of water, sunglasses, umbrella and sombrero.

Tuesday's lunch was a barbecue at the airport. Convention co-chair Don Cochran had a few announcements, and Roscoe and Luann handed out door prizes.

To nobody's surprise, Bruce and Carolyn Skaggs won the air race, held that morning.

We volunteered as judges for two events. One was the Spot Landing contest. Unlike the Flour Bombing competition, this target actually saw some action. One contestant landed exactly on the line. The local airline pilot also landed exactly on the line.

N74349, Bart Prieve
N28KW, Heidi Warner and Don Metz

C-GVJG, Steve Peach
N7374L, Steve Jones

Wednesday evening we had an ice cream social - with some announcements, of course. You may notice that several people, like our incoming President in the center photo, are wearing identical T-shirts.

Our outgoing (very outgoing) President, Ni Thomas, is also known to the Grumpy Gang as "Grumpy One." Here, he's sporting his signature caricature at the Cody convention in 2002.

Stew Wilson pulled off one of the best pranks out there. He had 100 T-shirts made with that cartoon on them, and arranged for that many people to wear them to the ice cream social. Until then, we had all managed to keep it quiet, and Ni was truly surprised to see a room full of his likeness. What he didn't know at the time, was that his wife would be waiting for him with the same T-shirt when he got home from the convention.

Editor Don Metz wanted to record all those T-shirts for the AYA Star. It was quite an effort getting everybody lined up for the portrait, ...

... but the result was worth it. Look for it in the next Star.

Thursday morning brought the ramp events, with the requisite pilot briefing. Even in the shade, Ron is well protected against sun damage.

Greg and Carolyn sold a few ornaments, too.

Guy Warner marshals a contestant for the precision taxi contest. He yelled at me because he thought I was taking pictures too close to the course, but I knew the contestants wouldn't be paying any attention to me. All their attention was focussed on several eggs, which they were supposed to crush with their nose wheels. The eggs were held still by an ingenious, if labor-intensive, method: Velcro was glued to each egg, and to the pavement.

At the end of the competition, there were several unscathed eggs that were still usable, if the cook could keep the Velcro out of the recipe.

The contest ended in a tie, with Steve Roberts and Greg Sincock each breaking four of nine eggs. There was only one trophy, so it was agreed to settle the tie with an Egg Toss. The combatants are to catch an egg that was tossed in an "easy lob." It started off well enough.

After each pair of tosses, if the egg hadn't broken, the contestants took one step farther apart, and continued.

"Soft Hands" Sincock caught an egg that was thrown suspiciously short, but Steve missed his egg and the trophy.


Our event was on the ramp right next to the egg demolition precision taxi event; we helped judge Spot Parking. Here Sandra Maurer enters the parking stall, where she will try to turn around and park with her wheels positioned accurately, and not hit the wingtips of virtual neighbors or go off a virtual cliff at the rear of the stall.

Our event had the most enthusiastic ground marshal.

There was also an event for the First Officer to fold a sectional chart, overcoming horrific wind, rain (squirt gun), turbulence (the fellow shaking the chair), an indifferent captain, and other impediments to progress.

While this was going on, a nice Swift landed and taxied by. Not part of the convention, but too pretty to pass up.

We also got to watch the Dawn Patrol taxi by and fly. They usually practice their skills much earlier in the day, so this was a treat for all. The taxi lineup: Ron Levy, Stu Morse, Kelly Wallace, and Matt Drahzal. Walt Porter also flew with this group on several occasions, and one of their five-ship flights made the local paper.

Geoff Hickey introduced a quirky competition last year at Glens Falls, the scavenger hunt. It didn't attract many competitors, but those who dared to enter were very creative. This year's contestants also rose to the challenge. One of the requested entries was a short comic strip that featured Grummans. This entry made reference to Ni Thomas's famous flying companion.

Walking around, we saw some well-decorated Grummans. Left to right,
Bart Prieve's Tiger
Mike and Debbie Faulconer's AA-1A
Ken Kerkering's Tiger (the whole plane is gorgeous, inside and out)
Dan Broz's Tiger

As usual, the convention ended with a banquet. There was no featured speaker, but a quilt that was made to auction for the scholarship committee got plenty of attention. Our President was so excited, he couldn't even keep still for a photograph.

When touring by airplane, it's a good idea to carry tiedown stakes and lines. At the AYA convention, it's a requirement for attendance. Most folks get by with plastic rope and those corkscrew dog stakes you can find at Home Depot. I've used those dog-stakes, but don't like them for several reasons. So this year I devised a system of my own. It's sort of like FlyTies, but about ninety dollars cheaper and a little bit lighter.

For each tie-down point, I used three pieces of 1/4-inch steel rod, two feet long. The end of each rod is threaded to let two nuts secure a washer that is useful to grab when it's time to remove the rods. The center photo shows how the rig is installed. Three pins are driven into the ground through a washer, with two of them catching a ring that serves as the tie-down point. Good on ya' if you know how to tie an anchor hitch. Not much is visible when it's all hammered into place, but it holds very well indeed. The idea is to pin the washer, and therefore the tiedown line, securely at exact ground level.

I leaned a few things. The system installed easily at home, and was easily removed. But the ground at Burlington was very dry and hard (what was that about flooding along the Mississippi?). The stakes went in OK for the first 16-18 inches, but the last part took a lot of effort. Next time, I'll take a bigger hammer. The eight-ounce hammer that worked well enough at home just wasn't getting the job done.

At another stop later in the trip, we parked at a place where the ground was even tougher. I couldn't even hammer some of the rods in all the way. The next morning,` one of them proved impossible to remove. I guess that means it would have held the airplane OK, but part of the design does require re-usability. I ended up pounding the reluctant rod a few inches below the surface, where it will eventually rust away.

For those who didn't bring any tie-down equipment to the convention, the organizers provided three lengths of rebar and some plastic rope. This worked OK, but weighed more than I'd like to carry, especially if you include the weight of the necessary sledge hammer. It also lacked the right amount of cachet.

Aside from the scheduled contests, Ron Levy quietly ran an unannounced competition. He was in search of the perfect method of securing an airplane - good tiedown anchors, lines, knots, holes all plugged, you name it. Ron's tiedown is one of these, but he decided that somebody else had the best system. These are some of the more individual styles of tiedown points seen at Burlington. The center one is very similar to my design. It looks simpler, but should be just as effective.

One inventive tie-down is obviously derived from The Claw, a popular device that was well-represented at this year's convention. But this one surely cost a lot less.

on to Beaumont

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