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Birds Of A Feather International

     In  May 1996 a truly international Birds group, including those from Iceland and Germany, convened at Pensacola Beach, FL.  Sunrise meetings were held daily on the beach and experience, strength and hope flowed freely in a magnificent setting. Father Martin was the guest speaker at the banquet, held beneath a formation of Blue Angels at the Naval Aviation Museum.

1997 found a warm and loving group of Birds flocking to warm and hospitable Tempe AZ for the annual convention hosted by the PHX nest. Birds were all over the place, playing in the golf tournament, touring air museums, attending AA meetings, and gathering for fellowship in the hospitality suite. Big Bird's hat was passed to George S. The honored guest throughout the convention was Dodie Buckingham, widow of founder Ward B. from Seattle. At the banquet Dodie was given a pendant, crafted from a BOAF lapel pin - a touching moment. She tells this historian that she never takes it off. 

     Bob H. of Charleston S.C. single-handedly took on the job as host of the 1998 convention held in March. Birds from all over found the area an interesting and historic place for touring and enjoying southern hospitality. The banquet was held on the impressive hangar deck of the USS Yorktown, moored permanently in Charleston. Our own Lyle P. was the equally impressive speaker. The Birds were especially grateful to Bob H. for taking on the monumental task of hosting the convention. According to authorities, "to date about 3000 airline pilots with the diagnosis of alcoholism have been returned to the cockpit, but that would not include the thousands with DUI's/DWI's, the private pilots etc., who were certified as an appendage of the Airline Pilot Program." Additionally, much of the very successful HIMS (both HIMS I and HIMS II) program methodology had fallen by the wayside, in the belief that "drug testing" would supplant the need for the HIMS program. That did not happen. Now, HIMS is back again. And Dr. Audie Davis, the FAA official who was so instrumental in bringing change to the agency's medical certification policy, will manage this alcohol intervention and recovery program for airline pilots. Jerry N. started the BirdWord editor's job, and there's a new format - quite a change from the early mimeographs of "Birds Eye View."

1999 Mighty Big Bird George S. and his capable sidekick Tom B. worked diligently to find our convention a home for 1999. They arranged for us to meet in Colorado Springs and though we had a relatively small gathering it was productive. Tom B moved into the Big Bird seat, and the first woman was elected to fill the alternate secretary/treasurer's position, Dotty W. from FLL. The professional panel (O'Connor, Masters, Marinelli, Pursch, O'Flaherty, Talley) talked of both past and present developments in their fields, but expressed concern at an increased relapse rate. Walt D. (MSP) agreed to arrange for the next convention in Minneapolis, immediately prior to AA's Big 65th birthday party. 

     BOAF Convention 2000 (MSP)
Walt D did a yeoman job, and a grand time was had by all. The strike at several hotels in Minneapolis did nothing at all to dampen the enthusiasm of the Birds who attended the MSP 2000 BOAF convention. Walt even arranged a tour to see Buffalo House, a halfway home for about 30 men, that he and some other AA members put together. In spite of the strike the hotel managed to put on a fabulous banquet for us Tuesday night, and a lovely breakfast for our final meal together.
The business meeting produced news. BOAF will have an official website, and the NetNest added some new members. Also Jerry N will be stepping down as our very capable editor after the next issue of the BirdWord, and Patrick W has volunteered to take over the job. Mike B showed up with lapel pins and assorted tourist information to get us thinking about May of 2001, when once again the BOAF International will convene, in Irving (Dallas) TX.
  The Birds didn't slow down after their convention. Dotty W got them organized for participation in manning a hospitality suite and moderated a panel of four Birds speaking at the professional forum at the world convention of Alcoholics Anonymous. The BOAF meeting played to a full house and there was lively discussion after the presentation, with several subscribing to The Bird Word and at least two being added to the NetNest.

     BOAF Convention 2001 (DFW)
Mike B, Michael S and many others of the Dallas nest put together a memorable 25th anniversary convention where Birds of many lands flocked to share their experience, strength and hope. A full schedule of AA and Al-anon meetings were available throughout the four days including a Gratitude meeting chaired by Hal M of the DCA nest. The business meeting resulted in the appointment of our first lady Big Bird as Dotty W (FLL) accepted the Big Bird hat from Tom B (PNS). Scott H (PHX) assumes the service position as alternate secretary and treasurer. Richey G (SFO) found a volunteer in Rick B (PSM) as historian. We heard that BOAF is now listed in GSO's international and professional editions, and that there are potential new nests in Richmond, VA and Anchorage, AK. The NetNesters were delighted to learn that the website is very successful, and a hearty discussion ensued about adding HIMS and ALPA Aeromedical numbers. Representatives from TWA and American Airlines provided insight into dealing with pilots identified with alcoholism in a professional panel discussion. The Saturday banquet and dinner was delightful. Held in the C.R. Smith Museum we dined beneath the wing of a DC-3, watched a beautiful film which began with Michael Bolton crooning "Standing on the shoulders of those who've gone before".. and heard an inspiring message from Don P of Wichita. Michael S (DFW) sent us home reminding us that we do this together.    

     BOAF Convention 2002 (PDX)
Sober Birds of a Feather from around the globe were found in PDX in the spring of 2002. Highlights of this convention include a spiritual workshop with Johanna O providing tips for being open to the Divine Spirit and Garrett O's meaningful musical message of exile and survival, a bus tour to the museum housing the Spruce Goose then to an upscale treatment facility for a relapse prevention seminar.

Regularly scheduled morning and evening AA meetings, as well as a comfortable hospitality suite enabled us to renew old friendships and begin new ones. The Professional forum provided discussion for current concerns in the Aviation Industry. The Business meeting, led by Big Bird Dotty W (FLL), dealt with the costs and process of registering the name of our group "Birds of A Feather", and protecting the use of "The Bird Word" and "BOAF International".
A decision was made to carry the message by increasing the number of aviation publications that would publish a statement about BOAF. Lyle P (ATL) told his story of being "Grounded" at the Saturday banquet held in the Pearson Air Museum. Neil S (SFO) shared his gratitude Sunday. The incredible service of Beth C, Amazing Grace and all of the PDX birds produced a Convention that brought a healthy dose of Unity, Recovery and Service (and greeting tote bags that helped us to find our way around.)

     BOAF Convention
2003 (ORD)
Many Birds have watched Ann and Tom W go through the dating and marriage process and their sons Thomas and Colin became BOAF nestlings from day one. The entire family has shown us what love and true commitment are all areas of their lives...and this years gathering was no exception. They volunteered to host ORD 2003 and were joined in their BOAF dedication by Ann's sister Mary, her mother Rose and friend Kelly, all of whom were eager participants from the time the first Bird checked in. And they checked in from coast to coast as well as Iceland, Scotland and the UK.

The business meeting was lively as usual. There seems to be positive response to our notices in various aviation publications, and that process will continue. During the Nest reports, we were disappointed to learn the DEN nest is no longer active, though there will still be contacts listed in the BirdWord. After two years of diligent service, Dotty W turned over the Big Bird hat to Scott H, and the new guy on the team is Ricky K, a Bird from Scotland who becomes second-in-command. Dotty is hardly retiring from service:she and Jerry volunteered the FLL nest as hosts for 2004.

We golfed and shopped and toured, but the highlight was renewal of old friendships and making of new ones. There were AA/Alanon meetings morning and night, Dr. Pursch gave a wonderful presentation, speakers Grant B and Earl H were OUTSTANDING and there was a fabulous banquet on Saturday night and the annual spiritual breakfast to close the convention Sunday morning.
     2004 found all of us in sunny Florida at the Ft. Lauderdale Convention in late April, early May. It was held in conjunction with the Ft. Lauderdale Air & Sea Show and all week the Blue Angels were either practicing or doing their show for us and the folks on the beaches. We went deep sea fishing plus other activities and our guest speaker at the banquet was Capt. Creighton Pendarvis. Dr. Pursch was again in attendence at the forum and gave another interesting presentation. Dotty, et. al. did a bang up job for us. The Toronto nest gave us a taste of what they had in store at their convention next year in conjunction with AA's 70th Anniversary International Convention.
     Toronto, Canada, sight of the 70th AA International Convention June,
2005. The Toronto Nest under the leadership of Dick, Rick and Tom did a great job dove-tailing our convention just in front of the International. Our hotel was in a perfect location and many of us stayed after our own convention to participate in either our first or for some their second or third International AA Convention. The town of Toronto was awash in laughter and fellowship as tens of thousands of AA's from all over the world convened for their 5-year event. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police loved us: no violence, no crime, no problems. It was truly a great event. Our own convention saw Scott H. hand over the Big Bird hat and Big Bird Mug to Ricky K, our first "International" Big Bird. Rusty N. of the DFW nest has been "inducted" to take over Ricky's treasurer duties. One of the highlights of the convention was a large bus tour to Niagara Falls. Our banquet speaker Dale A. inspired us with his story.
     Birds of a Feather continues to grow as we enter
2006. Not even a hurricane a few months before their event could have prevented the Pensacola Nest from hosting our convention this year. Tom B. and the gang were able to put on a fine visit for us to the sunny beaches of Florida to include boat rides, a little golf, some shopping and a wonderful banquet at the Naval Museum sitting under a formation of A-4 Blue Angels in the large reception hall. At the business meeting Scott H. was pressed into service as the new webmaster of the BOAF website. We had AA sunrise meetings on the beach and once again interesting seminars and guest speakers. We left sunburned and rested.
2007 it was a return to Phoenx,  Arizona where once again we held our convention in Tempe at the same hotel we were at 10 years earlier. This time, however, there was the new Tempe Town Lake available for our enjoyment. Some interesting new things we did this year was an AA meeting on the lake on a chartered cruise boat, a large golf tournament, a night on the town at the Tempe Improv Comedy Club, movies in the hospitality suite every night with popcorn, activities for kids and numerous other events. Dr. Kevin McCauley gave an outstanding seminar on addictions and was followed up by Nancy Hay with her talk on Couples in Recovery. Jack B., a retired SR-71 pilot, was our banquet speaker. Last but not least, Rusty N. of DFW took over Big Bird duties from Ricky K. and Beth C. from Portland will be our new treasurer and Big Bird in waiting. We all have Ken and Anita H. plus their helpful PHX nest minions to thank for a great convention. It's off to Atlanta for next year.
In April of 2008 the Atlanta Nest put on a "peach" of a convention at the Westin-Atlanta North. Bill M, Bill B, Lyle P., Kathleen and Scott did a wonderful job. Ann B. made us exceptional and valuable souvenir bags embroidered with the BOAF logo and "Atlanta 2008" on them. Highlights of the business meeting were the treasurer's report indicating how our donations help future conventions, support the BirdWord and money we send to New York GSO; how the Scholarship Committee oversees a scholarship to Father Martin Ashley's Recovery Center for pilots who wish treatment but are unable to afford it. The BirdWord has been running a deficit over the last two years and we voted for future subscriptions would cost $10 per year. Email issues will continue to be free. The position of BirdWord Editor was announced as open. A decision was made to keep the format of the BOAF meeting at the annual HIMS conference the same as previous years, so it will be up to individuals to choose whether or not to participate since it will continue to be open to all conferees. Tom B. invited BOAF members to meet him at the Reno Air Race T-6 "Race 50" pit in September. The Professional Forum included Toni Curry and Dr. Pursch. Lynn H. and Sandy B. shared their stories of recovery. There were our own AA and Alanon meetings in addition to other activities. This year the meeting was taped and many convention goers purchased a CD to be shared back home. Several new nests came to fruition in 2008 to include Miami, Charlotte and Islip, New York. Our 2009 convention will be held in Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas.
    2009 saw further growth in Birds of a Feather. Sarasota, Florida added its nest to our fold along with Nanaimo on beautiful Vancouver Island in British Columbia. The annual convention was held in Dallas-Ft. Worth this year and it was filled with activities and fellowship. Birds took advantage of a golf tournament, museums, tours of the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium and the Texas Motor Speedway. Speakers and professional forums were held over the course of the event. Our annual banquet was held at the C.R. Smith Museum which highlights the history of American Airlines. At the banquet, Rusty N. handed the Big Bird hat and mug to Beth C. and Canadian Richard B. was named the new Treasurer/Big Bird in waiting. Our special speaker was Beverly R., widow of Buddy Ross, a founding member of the DFW nest. As the year comes to an end, we are all busy planning and thinking about next years convention in San Antonio which will be held just prior to the AA International Convention to celebrate 75 years of Alcoholics Anonymous.
     2010 starts our 5th decade of experience, strength and hope for pilots and cockpit crewmembers in need of help from alcohol and drug addiction. We have come a long way from our humble beginnings in the 1970's and throughout the 80's, 90's, into the 21st century and now beginning with 2010 we have grown and prospered because of the need for our organization. We added Pittsburgh and two nests in Los Angeles this year and the highlight has to be our convention and subsequent participation in the 75th Anniversary Worldwide Convention of Alcoholics Anonymous in San Antonio, Texas. Our hospitality suite at one of the host hotels was heavily visited and attended during the convention week. Our volunteers met dozens and dozens of pilots, may of whom pledged that they would like to start a nest in their city. We once again hosted several hundred people at the Birds of a Feather Forum at the Convention Center where three pilots shared their stories with humor, grace and heartfelt honesty. Big Bird Beth C. and her co-anchor Richard B. guided us through the year. As we look forward to our next convention gathering in Calgary, Canada in September of 2011 we see new nests coming on line in January 2011 in Detroit, Las Vegas and San Francisco. 2010 is history, tomorrow is a mystery, so we have to live in today. It is truly a gift. That is why they call it the "present".
     2011 turned out to be the beginning of an expansion year. We welcomed new nests in Detroit and Las Vegas, along with re-activation of our nest in San Francisco and plans to re-activate Memphis in January 2012. Our first nest in the Middle East (Dubai, UAE) will begin in January of 2012, plus we have those interested in starting nests in St. Louis, Palm Springs and Winnipeg, Canada. Speaking of Canada, the Calgary Canadians did a fantastic job at the BOAF Annual Convention held there this year. At the annual banquet, Big Bird Beth handed over the gavel for the next two years to Dick B. of the Nanaimo Nest. He will preside until the Birds convention in his home town in 2013 at which time Bill B. of Atlanta will be "crowned". Meanwhile, Bill has the task of taking care of our finances and alternate Big Bird duties. Of particular note were the outstanding comments made about their presentation speakers and the many side trips made to the local Calgary area. Congrats to Ian and his Calgary Convention Crew. The Nanaimo, British Colombia Birds will have to step it up for their convention in 2013 to show their Calgary brothers that they can do the same. As of now, plans are now being made in Denver to host the convention in May of 2012. There has never been a bad convention. Each one seems to get better than the last and we encourage all worldwide Birds to make the pilgrimage at least once to one of our conventions. They are too good to miss for fellowship, fun and for experience, strength and hope for all of us in recovery. On a sad note, BOAF lost Dr. Audie Davis, who flew west in October. We will miss his dedication, knowledge and support that he has given our organization for many, many years.
    2012 saw the addition of an additional nest in the Seattle area. The South Puget Sound Nest started up to serve those birds in that part of the state. We also added a couple of more international nests to our organization. A few birds in the Amsterdam area have begun a nest in the Netherlands, thus adding to our European footprint. On the other side of the globe several pilots in recovery have introduced Birds of a Feather to the Korean Peninsula, starting a nest in Inchon. We are very excited with our growth globally and hopefully this will continue going forward. Denver held our yearly convention in May at the beautiful downtown Marriott City Center Hotel and all participants once again took part in fellowship and friendship. Everyone is looking forward to the convention on Vancouver Island next year when Big Bird Dick B. hands over the hat to Bill B.
    2013 Big Bird Bill B. now has the helm as our new Secretary with Steve L. on his wing. The transition occurred in a beautiful setting in British Colombia as the small but energetic Nanaimo, Vancouver Island nest set a nice stage for us at our annual convention there. We enjoyed a salmon and shrimp BBQ, fishing, relaxing, many meetings and a wonderful banquet. The hospitality room was well stocked with refreshments and was a nice place to catch up on old friendships. At the business meeting some changes were proposed to the definition of our group and we will be deciding next year at the San Diego Convention what those changes will be, if any. Until then BOAF has added a meeting at the Betty Ford Center in Palm Springs, we have expanded in Asia with a nest in Kowloon, Hong Kong and other nests are being considered in Milwaukee, Winnipeg and St. Louis. Lastly, a long term goal has been reached when an updated Archive was created of BOAF to include binders on our history to include all of our conventions and BirdWord issues. It has been a busy year.