Day 1: Tuesday, April 17, 2007
My second full day at Sun ‘n Fun is the official first day of the show. Until now it’s been all buildup.
A DC-3 functioned as everyone’s alarm clock, doing a very early video shoot that included low passes down the runway and loud, impressive pull-ups. Yes, it was “just” a DC-3. And yes, it was still very cool. Out in the airplane camping area, a swatch of grass the size of 8 football fields that had half a dozen airplanes on it when I got here is now essentially filled. The Cessna guys worked frantically to put one more coat of shine on their proof-of-concept Light Sport Airplane as thousands of eager aficionados streamed in through the gates. Overhead, sixteen T-6 Texans in a double-diamond formation roared by. Sun ‘n Fun is go.
A finish you could shave with (or photograph into).
Airplanes continue to arrive right up until the flying show starts, and they do so in a continuous stream similar in most significant respects to a fire hose. Somewhere northeast of here there are some controllers sitting in a van by a lake whose job it is to build the stream. It’s an outwardly simple process that actually takes a great deal of skill. Pilots are told to show up over the lake and circle. The controllers then pluck them from the merry-go-round as needed, bearing in mind the mix of airspeeds and maneuverability, to organize a sequence that keeps everything moving smoothly.
The result is an airplane spotter’s dream. The mix is about 50-50 between homebuilts and production airplanes (what are derisively, at least among the homebuilders, referred to as “spam cans”). And you never know what’s coming up next: “Let’s see, low wing, looks fairly conventional, could be a Cirrus, a Mooney, a Piper or…. it’s a Spitfire!”
It’s all part of the fun at Sun ‘n Fun.
The variety is astonishing. It’s hard to believe there’s really a market for so many different kinds of airplanes. There are old ones and new ones, some that are new but look old, and some that are old, but look brand-new. I got hooked by the Bear 360, which has the aggressive demeanor of a Bearcat, but a long single-piece canopy that covers two tandem seats. It’s got a big loud radial up front and it’s aerobatic. It’s not clear from the signs stuck on the prop if you can buy it finished or if you have to build it yourself, but for an airplane this cool, who cares? As I see it, this thing’s only drawback is that my wife’s likely to notice when the mortgage check bounces.
The Bear 360. To my wife’s immense relief, I left my checkbook home. But I do have my credit cards with me…
Everybody from Piper down to My Aunt’s Doctor’s Cousin’s In-Law’s Airplane Company has a new product on display. The spiffy new Piper jet looks very nice, the ultimate owner-flown hot rod. And it’s only $2.1999 mil per. Another company has an airplane that makes a Shorts 330 look, well, if not pretty, exactly, at least somewhat less homely. Three light jets arrived one after the other, two Cessna Mustangs with a Hawker Beech Premier 1A sandwiched in between.
Out on Warbird Row, things had filled in considerably from my visit yesterday. Mustangs, T-28s, and more T-6s than I could count. Oh, and a pair of F-18s, which put on a most entertaining show.