This last weekend, actually the five days from Thursday morning through Monday, have been a roller coaster for me. I took vacation to support the EAA B17 visit to Watsonville. Additionally the 7th Day in the Sky (DitS) event took place on Saturday. These were to be totally separate events and not merged at all which was probably successful. From a participant's point of view the events were probably fun, a good time, and meaningful. The comments about the DitS displays and flight simulators are sounding good. I had kids in my plane totally blown away by being in it, acting differently than their parents normally see them. The B17 visitors I met as a docent on Friday and Sunday were amazed by what their uncles, grandfathers, fathers, and husbands flew in and conditions they fought in. One lady only managed to get a little out of her husband before he died about being a B17 co-pilot, but she knew he had bailed out of one through the bomb bay as the plane burned. She finally saw on Sunday how hard that must have been, that the little he told her about the war was but a drop in the bucket of what he had gone through. On Friday a young lady and her grandfather were there, he was telling and showing her, for the first time apparently, about being a gunner in the belly turret of the B17, how he had to squeeze into it after takeoff with his parachute only half attached. She watched as other vets surrounded him, asking questions and sharing experiences from the war. It seemed to open a whole new relationship between her and her grandfather. I think there were many such stories from families of veterans.
Not all went well however. Thursday I caught an earful from the owner of the aircraft repair shop next door to the EAA hangar where the B17 parked. Getting that large four engine plane into it's spot for the first time was complicated by cars on the ramp that weren't supposed to be there. The B17 was going to blow crap into the repair shop's doors and make a mess, the owner was enraged and let me have it. I got the full depth of his contempt for me and my ability to manage the ramp for this plane. Unfortunately this is the shop where I was going to have my plane's annual inspection done, where its been done since 2007.
Thursday evening I managed to get my plane in the air, the battery, for a change, had enough charge to get it started. This may have been the last time I fly N1844D. I don't have enough money to do the annual inspection, easily a $5000 job this year with a 5 year propeller inspection due. Last year's inspection and repair cost $8000. I can't do that again. It is grounded now with the annual inspection expired. I wanted to fly it one last time on Saturday after DitS was over before the last inspection expired, but the battery was dead and I didn't have the energy to try to recharge it.
DitS on Saturday was a disaster from my point of view. I was in charge of the display ramp and aircraft and I utterly failed. I didn't check in with each pilot as they arrived, I didn't ensure they knew the rules, I didn't even keep track of who showed up. When families started to go up for rides, I didn't move those planes off the display ramp, I should have ensured the families knew there was no insurance to cover them other than what the pilot had (if any), I had no knowledge of who was flying, I had no knowledge if their medicals and aircraft inspections were current. Even worse, people started wandering across the active, unprotected ramp, to the B17. To get there they had to pass the fuel island and aircraft with engines running. We watched and tried to guide people and aircraft but it was a zoo. I saw one small child start to run towards a turning propeller, fortunately stopped quickly by a parent. As a pilot commented, this situation was appalling. My feeble attempt to redirect people was of course futile. I needed to anticipate this to begin with by putting up better signs and barriers to get them there, I needed to actively stop it once it started. I did neither. I had heard the FAA was going to be at DitS. I didn't even remember that. Amazing. My greatest fear is that my friend Don French and his staff will get in trouble with the FAA.
I want to know who decided to fly kids and families. Who selected and arranged the passengers. What were they told. Why was I not told. But then if I had been on the ramp instead of showing my plane, I would know these things.
I like showing my the plane and interacting with the kids, parents and visitors. Being in charge of aircraft movement and crowds is obviously beyond me. I don't do it well, I shouldn't be in charge of it.