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Sun N Fun 2017

by Jim Caniff

 

This was the 16th year in a row that I have attended Sun n Fun and there has been an evolution in the event. It is now an entertainment venue for the non-flying public and it is still very much a fly-in and exhibition for the GA pilot and homebuilders.

The 2017 Sun n Fun event had something for everyone. It is no secret that the non-flying public is a major part of the attendees and revenue at Sun n Fun. For the general public there is of course the airshow, a car show and the static military aircraft exhibits and much more.

The airshow crowd was not in the way in the exhibits and Sun n Fun is still a very worthwhile show for the builder. It is just my opinion but I got the impression that there was actually two shows going on at once. One for pilots and homebuilders and the other for the non-flying public.

The airshow attendees brought something to Sun n Fun – the next generation of pilots and other aviation career people. There were parents with youngsters and a fair number of teens to 20 something folks. An event like Sun n Fun exposing people possibly making career choices to what aviation has to offer can only be a positive thing.

The fact that Sun n Fun began as a fly-in for homebuilders and general aviation has not been lost. This year the majority exhibitors were displaying aviation related items. There appeared to be much less of jewelry and trinket sellers. Exhibitors like Dynon had plenty of equipment to demonstrate and staff to answer questions. Most of the usual major exhibitors were present. There several exhibitors specifically geared for the homebuilder selling neatly packaged aircraft hardware and parts. Many vendors had show specials running.

There were many new products introduced at the show. Two especially interesting product are the BOM and Beacon from Levil Aviation. The BOM is a completely self contained AHRS/AOA powered by it own small propeller that Wi-Fi links to your iPad or whatever. It mounts to an inspection cover. The Beacon is 2020 compliant ADS-B out device that is completely contained in the antenna. The only external connections are the GPS antenna/ power and RS-232 to your display. Very interesting! Garmin had a slew of releases, too numerous to review here.

Also for the pilots and homebuilders were the forums and workshops. These ran all week and covered everything from ADS-B to vacuum bagging.

My only regret at Sun n Fun is that because I was working most of the day as a volunteer I did not get to see more of the event, especially the forums and workshops. As we do not work during the airshow I was able to get some photos of that and a few other sights. This is only small part of the entire event.

Patrouille de France is the precision aerobatic demonstration team of the French Air Force. Originating in 1931, it is the world’s oldest precision flight demonstration teams. Pilots currently fly the Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet.

Patrouille de France performed just one day on opening day. They are making a tour through the US to commemorate the 100th anniversary of America’s entry into World war I and the accompanying advent of US air combat.

With the French team being here it gave the opportunity to see another unique aircraft. That would be the Airbus A400M which serves as the support aircraft for the Patrouille de France. Everyone that saw it said it looked like a C-17 with turboprops.

 

 

 

 

 

On Thursday of “Sun n Fun Week” the Blue Angels arrived. They did a reconnaissance and practice performance on that day and then they did their regular performance on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The show was excellent as usual and certainly a big draw for the general public looking for a great aerial performance.

 

Another anniversary being celebrated at Sun n Fun was the 30th year of operation for Stallion 51. They provide flight training and other services for those operating the P-51 Mustang. There were 18 P-51 aircraft at the event and about a dozen in the airshow. Stallion 51 pilot Lee Lauderback flew the “Crazy Horse” two place trainer Mustang in a solo performance, a heritage flight and in other formations.

Always impressive for sight and sound, six P-51s and their Merlin V12 engines in formation.

A heritage flight is always great to see (and hear). This years included two Mustangs, an A-10 and a F-16. The F-16 was from the Viper flight demonstration team based at Shaw AFB. The Viper team also performed in the airshow.

For a local connection the Cavanaugh Museum B-25 appeared in the warbird airshow escorted by two P-51s.

The display of warbirds even continued into the Vintage area. There was this very fine example of the military version of the Cessna 195.

The Vintage area had so many great aircraft a day could be spent there photographing and documenting them. Since this time was not available a fine example was picked from the many. Below is photo of an absolutely beautiful Beech Staggerwing that was prime example of the quality of aircraft on display.

While there is much emphasis on the airshow and entertainment for the non-flying public Sun n Fun is still  a worthwhile fly-in. The Homebuilt and Homebuilt Camping areas were well occupied.

The fly-in part of Sun n Fun started off little slow this year due to bad weather up north. Once that cleared there was a steady stream of aircraft arriving.
The event was very safe with only one notable incident for the week. A twin had a gear collapse on landing and this caused a partial runway shut down for about an hour. The sole occupant was not injured.

The only other incidents were a few dead batteries and flat tires. A good week indeed.

There was a pretty strong crosswind on the runways in use on first few days. The tower was obviously aware of this and announcing to all pilots attempting a landing that if that wanted a go around please do it without hesitation. There were a few takers and no ground loops etc. Safety is always first at the event.

That’s it for 2017. Hope to see you at Sun n Fun next year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lee Lauderback in Crazy Horse

 

Always impressive for sight and sound, six P-51s and their Merlin V12 engines in formation.

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