Behind the scenes at SUN ’n FUN

SUN ‘n FUN was fantastic this year. If you didn’t make it to Lakeland, Florida, at the start of the month, be sure to put it on your 2015 calendar: April 21-26, 2015.

We produce SUN ‘n FUN Today, the daily newspaper for the fly-in, so my view of SUN ’n FUN is slightly different.

As I look back through my notebook, I now understand why I’m so tired. The following will give you a peak into what it takes to cover a fly-in like SUN ‘n FUN or AirVenture.

Our editor Janice Wood and staff reporter Meg Godlewski had similar, but divergent schedules, so what follows isn’t everything nor is it in order.

The week started at a Garmin press conference. Its G3X Touch, VIRB action camera and watch can all work together to control just about everything.

As I walked over to the Daher-Socata display, I ran into Electroair’s Mike Kobylik, who showed me an email he’d received the day before approving the company’s electronic ignition system for six-cylinder Lycomings.

Once at Daher-Socata I learned about its new flagship, the TBM 900. Developed in secret, the plane is the third generation of the venerable turboprop single. Of particular interest, the TBM 900 is both FAA and EASA certified and deliveries have already started. When was the last time you heard of a new plane coming to market that was already certified?

2014_DAHER-SOCATA Team at S'N'FUN (Large)Among the myriad parties, forums, workshops and plain old shopping, a dedicated group of pilots gathered to race in the Sun 40 Sprint.

Rob Logan, who flew his Lancair Legacy to SUN ‘n FUN from Cleveland, Ohio, invited me to fill his right seat. Of course I said yes — 240 knots, 500 feet AGL, 75°-plus banked turns is a lot of fun.

For Rob and his fellow racers, the Sun 40 is a huge reason for coming to SUN ‘n FUN. For one pilot, it was THE reason. No race, no SUN ‘n FUN.

Alan Henley (1024 x 1536) copyMeanwhile, Shell Aviation announced a three-year $24,000 Able Flight scholarship in honor of Alan Henley. Henley, a founding member of the Aeroshell Aerobatic Team, was paralyzed in an accident at his home a few years ago. The scholarship will fund flight training for one student each year.

JetBlue brought a load of students and teachers to SUN ‘n FUN from Orlando in an Airbus A320. Company officials also brought with them a big $25,000 check to support the Central Florida Aerospace Academy, the high school on the SUN ’n FUN grounds.

A few days later, Lightspeed founder Alan Shepard took over the airshow announcers stand to disclose the finals for his foundation’s 2014 grants. Awarded annually, the grants are awarded to aviation-based non-profits based on voting by the pilot population.

AKG Aviation, a division of Austria-based HARMAN, debuted a new headset. You will no doubt hear about the new AV100 in the coming months.

Lyle Flagg was a longtime director at SUN ‘n FUN. His family came to celebrate the naming of Lyle Flagg Way, which is located adjacent to the Aerospace Pavilion and is one of the first streets guests will see when they enter the SUN ’n FUN campus.

If you’ve been to either SUN ‘n FUN or AirVenture in Oshkosh, you’ve heard Roscoe Morton’s voice. In all, he was the voice of the two fly-ins more than 70 times. To honor his service, the announcers stand at SUN ’n FUN was renamed the Roscoe Morton Airshow Announcers Headquarters.

At the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) Foundation breakfast I ran into Bob and Sandy Showalter, the father-son duo who own and operate Orlando’s Showalter Flying Service. The two report that March was the biggest month they’ve had in the last five years. Neither was willing to proclaim a trend, but they sure had big smiles on their faces.

At the breakfast, AOPA President Mark Baker said, “It could still be a couple of years before anything actually happens,” in response to the FAA’s recent announcement it will start the rulemaking process with regards to the 3rd class medical.

Over at the Stemme motorgliders display I met two-time world aerobatic glider champion Luca Bertossia. The 24-year-old Italian is very engaging and properly polite. He will be a wonderful ambassador of gliding for decades to come.

SUN ‘n FUN Radio celebrated its 20 anniversary. Radio Chairman Dave Shallbatter is a tireless promoter of SUN ‘n FUN. What started as a small AM station covering the show grounds, SUN ‘n FUN Radio can now be heard worldwide on LiveATC.net.

F-22The Air Force brought its F-22 Raptor Demostration Team this year. In addition to flying a demo several days, the F-22 also participated in a Heritage Flight with “Glacier Girl,” a P-38 flown by Steve Hinton, and “Crazy Horse,” a P-51 flown by Stallion 51’s Lee Lauderback.

The quote of the year, in my opinion, was from John ‘Taboo’ Cummings, the F-22 Demo pilot. When asked the minimum controllable airspeed of the F-22, his response was, “Yes. The airspeed never reads zero because we are always flying through the air, just not always forward.”

Dr. Peggy Chabrian from Women in Aviation told a gathered group at the association’s annual breakfast that membership has topped 11,000 as of the end of March. She added the recently concluded annual convention saw a 30% increase in attendance to more than 4,500 attendees.

While on my way to yet another event, I ran into Brent Maule, president of Maule Air, his wife and cousin. Things at Maule Air are good. “We just signed a 12 plane contract,” said Brent.

My personal highlight of the week was a seat on Fat Albert Airlines. For the uninitiated, Fat Albert is the C-130 support plane for the U.S. Navy Blue Angels. I was fortunate enough to be assigned a cockpit jumpseat.

Suffice it to say, it was a true “e-ticket ride.” The only thing better than the flight was meeting the U.S. Marine crew. Every one from pilots to crew were engaging, friendly, fun and a true honor to meet.

I’m physically exhausted, yet I can’t wait for SUN ‘n FUN 2015.

Comments

  1. john nadon says

    We hear from Sun-n-Fun officials and from many in the aviation media how wonderful the event was this year. But in truth it has been going downhill for a while now. We old timers remember the grass COVERED with parked airplanes all the way to the east of the field. We remember runway 5-23’s full length occupied by warbirds, with squadrons of Texans overhead. Choppertown and Paradise City were beehives. The air show used to be spectacular. There were acres of RVs and Long EZs. Now SnF is a sad shadow of what it was.

    But no one is writing the truth about it. Why is that?

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