Perfect weather and a purpose-built seaplane base combined to make the SUN ’n FUN Seabirds Splash-in a success this year, according to organizers.
Previously held on the shore of a lake adjacent to Fantasy of Flight, the annual seaplane event has been without a home for several years.
“We are very pleased with the turn-out,” said Seabirds co-chair Geoff Nye on Saturday afternoon.
Over the past year, he and his committee worked closely with the city of Tavares, Florida, to organize the first-ever SUN ’n FUN event not located near the Lakeland airport.
“Since Tavares is 60 miles north of KLAL,” said Nye, “we scheduled a two-day splash-in on the weekend before SUN ’n FUN so pilots could stop here at Lake Dora on their way south.”
Branded since 2010 as “America’s Seaplane City,” Tavares (pronounced tuh-vair-ees), features ideal facilities for a seaplane event, including long open docks to accommodate float planes and a large paved parking area for amphibian aircraft accessible from a wide ramp. Both avgas and auto fuel are available and a hotel and several restaurants are all within walking distance.
The Leesburg Municipal Airport (KLEE) is nearby and a shuttle van was available to take anyone who landed there to the splash-in.
Seaplane pilots were invited to participate in various competitions. Spot landing contests and a melon “bomb drop” were favorites with the large crowd of observers, many of whom were from the local area.
An airplane “beauty contest” offered another opportunity for the public to participate in the event.Jones Brothers, a seaplane ride business based at Tavares, stayed busy during the event with sightseeing flights.
On Saturday evening, once all the flying was done, pilots were invited to participate in a “pub crawl” of the numerous waterfront bars and restaurants in the Tavares entertainment district adjacent to the seaplane base.
Tavares Economic Development Director Bob Tweedie and Aviation Manager Matt Elia are both certified flight instructors and their enthusiasm for a seaplane event is obvious. In addition to hosting two splash-ins a year since the facility was built, the city’s unique lakefront venue is used for numerous other large events, including a recent antique boat show.
Discussions will be held soon to determine whether the SUN ’n FUN Seabirds Splash-in will return to “America’s Seaplane City” again next year.
Meanwhile, no matter how you pronounce it, Tavares should be included in the future flight plans of all seaplane pilots. The city’s next splash-in is scheduled for Halloween weekend.