Sun-n-Fun 2012 pictures

... and this year, we have SUN! 
Sunday, March 25th: While not technically part of the Sun-n-Fun experience, we arrived at Lakeland a couple days in advance of the show to fly the Royal Air Force cadets - a promise left un-fulfilled from 2011 when the tornado damaged Wild Mama. This year, we did better: thanks to the help of Ellen Herr, Susansnf2012-5.jpg Carastro, Bob Coats, Rob Weber, Tad Szymanski, Frankie Dupree, and Vern Conly 56 cadets and chaperones flew either to or from Arcadia to participate in the memorial service for fallenn RAF cadets who are buried in Arcadia cemetery.

snf2012-6.jpgThe mission seemed threatened as a line of thundertorms passed over Lakeland then marched forward toward Fort Myers and LaBelle in the early morning hours. We felt the pains of 2011 all over again, hoping for a go in the late morning. Our prayers were soon answered as blue skies crept in to view. All of the pilots checked in with us, ready for their mission. Susan was the next to arrive at LaBelle. Vern helped with fuel and I reviewed the arrival procedure with Susan as she had never been in to Sun-n-Fun before. As 10:30 am approached it was time to blast off .... but the shower of sparks that helps start Susan's 310 failed and the aircrafy woud not start at all. Thanks to Eli Mendes, we had a spare 172 ready and waiting and the mission was back on for Susan - just a little slower, indeed.

We made our way in trail up to Lakeland and joined Ellen on the arrival procedure; well, that is to say that Ellen was assigned the arrival procedure, Vern and I got straight in runway 27 then Tad, Bob and Susan got the arrival procedure. We landed to find Frankie and Rob patiently waiting in our special loading zone. With cadets loaded we made the very bumpy ride relatively low (that would be under 2500', Jim) to avoid the cloud cover that remained. The cadets were full of enthusiasm and questions and seemed quite thrilled with the experience.

While most of the other pilots remained at the Arcadia FBO, Ellen and I attended the service with the cadets. It was quite nice and we learned quite a bitsnf2012-8.jpg about the WWII training bases in Arcadia, the cadets who trained there and about the instructor, who is buried with his cadets, John Riddle. We watched as the young cadets hoisted a flag, laid a wreath at the memorial and dropped posies on the graves of the fallen cadets. It was very nice. With the conclusion of the service, we made our way back tot he airport with the second half snf2012-7.jpgof the cadets for the journey back to Lakeland.

Our cadets were all quite thrilled with their airplane experience. Many told of how difficult and epensive it is to fly in the UK and how much freedom we have here. With good-byes said, logbooks signed and cookies delivered we all made our final leg back home. It was a great day in spite of the stormy start and we are looking forward to nothing but sunshine for the remainder of the week.

Monday, March 26th: Blue skies and sunshine greeted us this morning as we loaded up the car to drive back to Lakeland. We had left Wild Mama in her camping spot last night and we are bring all of the camping equipment today so we can join her for the week of sun and fun! As we were setting up camp, we could not help but to think back to a year ago again when we were fighting wind and rain as we made camp. Today is a georgous day: a ligt breeze, lots of sun and an easysnf2012-10.jpg set up.

Since the show does not start until tomorrow, today was to be an easy day; a tme to say hello to Cliff, Mark, John and out other snf2012-9.jpgfriends form the UK who man the GAC parking area, to deliver goods and pay a visit to VoiceFlight. They are new at Sun-n-Fun this year and Wild Mama is here to help display her new capabilities of voice programmed GPS. Pretty slick. We finiahed the day with some BBQ chicken and a bike ride through the camping area and retired early from a long day. Tomorrow th show begins!

Tuesday, March 27th: Opening Day - A thin mist whafted over the camping area at 6:30 as the sounds of the first arrival aircrat dronned off in the distance. The landing lights came into view and with a chirp, we had our first arrival of the day. A think layer of orange sun-glow was peeking over the runway. A beautiful day is upon us.

We grabbed our bicycles and rode into what I call "downtown which is the main area with the exhibitors, airplanes and stuff. The exhibit area was full with endors both new and old. I headed to the 99s house with the SE Section raffle quilt and Vern headed off to the vendors and stuff. Other than selling raffle tickets for the 99s, my #1 goal for today is to get a new hat - my "A Woman's Place is in the Cockpit" hat has seen better days.snf201211.jpg

I wandered in and out of the exhibition hangars, walked the rowa of aiplanes and cisited lots of friends and sponsors - Voiceflight had a great set-up in D hangar and they got us a sign so we could do in plane demos of the Voiceflight system. We finishe the day at the NAFI BBQ and headed back "home (our campground), completely pooped. The day wasgood: warm, sunny .... did I mention sunny? .... with no hint of rain. With the evening upon us, we were able to sit back and enjoy the sunset and the star show - such a clear, cool evening and great for camping out with Wild Mama!

Wednesday, March 28th: How refreshing to awaken with a gentle breeze, a hint of ground fog and the sound of landing airplanes overhead... as it should be when life is good. Day 2 of the airshow an my day is largly to consist of staffing the quilt ticket sales at the 99s booth and visiting sponsors. We made our way downtown about 0800 while everyone was still in set-up mode or the morning so the traffic was quite light. I brought the remaining fabric from Androsia that I had stashed away to the 99s house to see if there was anyone interested. Almost immediately, Nancy snatched he red and half of the royal blue and Barbara brought her pattern to see which she preferred. She will ring the fabric in tomorrow as she was torn between royal and navy. We can always ordersnf201212.jpg more!

Arnie, Mry's husband, and I went for a ride out to the flight line before things got busy. I could see that the GAC parking was light but I noticed a distince lack of airplanes in the other areas as well: the homebults were light, float planes were few an even the warbirds were looking very light compared to previous years. I can recall just a few years go that the flight line was packed with everything that you could imagine. Now the B-29, a B-25 and a couple other "big birds" were all that was there. Many trainers and quite a few P-51's were off to the side; but, again, much fewer in number than years before. It was quite sad to see.

Back at the 99s, we were watching for the WASP's to arrive, Dora and Barry showed up and joied us for some lively converstion before our lunch break. Such a thrill to see they are still with us and to hear how th gals made sure the planes were safe fo the men to fly - talk about role reversal! Vern and I wandered off snf201213.jpgfor lunch talking to MT Props for the new engine for Wild Mama and getting our parts and pieces together for both the race and the new engine. Be on the look-out for new sponsors coming soon!

With the air show upon us we wandered back to the 99s to enjoy the sights of Julie Clark and the other performers spinning theri aviation magic. A Sun-n-Fun official pulls uup looking very cross and asking for Nancy Wright. She stepped forward to be surprised with her 30 year Sun-n-Fun volunteer pin. Barbara was on hand to receive hers as well. Congratulations to Nancy and Barbara.  By days end, tired (but warm and dry) Mary and Arnie joined us for a camp dinner of grilled vegetables, apple chicken sausage and fresh fruit salad - itsn't "roughing it" grand!

The air is now still with all hints of the breeze gone. We have a lovely sunset  and a spectacular evening. We will sleep well again tonight.

March 29th: Splash-in: Thursday is the annual Splash-in competition for sea planes at Sun-n-Fun, held at Kermit Weeks Museum and Lake Agnes. We headed snf201221.jpgout early to see the preparation for the fly over, the return and the competition itself. They held a Florida grapefruit bombing and spot landing contest.

The target for the bomb drop was, once again, not in danger. While it is easy to sit on the sidelines to holler "drop now", the perspective is completely different from the cockpit. The final tally was a 15' off the mark. The spot landing went a little better. It was fun to watch all of the float planes come dragging in with the crowd hollering "hold it off, hold it off" before the plopped in for landing. The announcer was quite humorous talking about the "short landings" being those that hit the back of the carrier. Short landings did not count. One skillful had a landing spot on - no one could beat that!snf201222.jpg

We headed back to meet Matt and Laura and Wei Chen, the Chinese man who flew around the world in his TBM. We watched airshow, C-17 departure, B-29 departure and Patty Wagstaff and Gregg Koontz perform. Back at the 99s house, we managed to get back just in time to pack up and head to the Aaron Tippin concert.

snf201223.jpgAaron Tippin gave a great Red, White and Loud concert. He rocked the house with some of his old favorites and with his power tools. He shot t-shirts to the crowd out of the potato cannon and built a bicycle for the Marines and Toys for Tots during the course of one song. He finished with "Kiss This" to a roaring crowd.

March 30th: Airplanes!: The morning started as any other in camp: low ground fog wafting across the grounds; 0700 airplanes passing overhead on final; cool, clear morning. We headed off down town early so Vern could get some breakfast and I could spend the day at the 99s house. We ha gotten enough sunsnf201220.jpg yesterday and I was up for serious shade time today. We had not paid too much attention to the crowd although I noted many 99sweb.jpgmore 99s stopping by - Minetta made it in, Judy, Camelia, Nancy, Corbi and all out friends filtered in one by one.

We were summoned to Wild Mamafor a Voiceflight demo and, oddly enough, a demo of our landing lights. As we neared the camp we saw quite a few more planes than when we left. Oh, goodie - the camp ground will be full. We completed our demo an went back to town until the Thunderbirds finished their performance. When we came back, we noted the explosion of aircraft in the camping area: the regular grounds were full, the "overflow" was full and there were planes headed to the north side of the airport like in years past. How amazing and quit wonderful to see so many planes in this economy!

We finished off our camp dinner of left-overs, fruit and more roasted corn. As we sat unde the shade of Wild Mama, we heard the drone of departing aircaft overhead one in trail after the other. It truly was like the days of old. Then the arrivals started. There is a fine window of trying to get in after the day showsnf201226.jpg and before the Friday evening show, and the sky was full again with the young cadets parking planes running back and forth to fill snf201225.jpgin the few vacant slots in the primary camp area. Tonight we see the night show.

A P-51 and a Bearcat did a little pre-night air show air show. They cam zooming right over top of us on several of the passes - that is why I like to be in the camp ground. You could hear the growling radial engine and the scream of the P-51 as it made the dive for the runway. Fed Ex then started with night show with a Missed approach and a fly over. Funny to see such a big bird rocking her wings as she lumbered past the crowd. The Aeroshell team performed followed by a glider with sparkler streamers, the helicopter a couple of other aerobatic and light acts and the rocket truck - the truck "show" lastes only seconds as it shot down the runway over 300 mph. The grand finale was a nice fireworks display at center stage. Another good day. Tomorrow marks our final day at Sun-n-Fun 2012 as we will make our departure Sunday morning for home.

Mach 31st: Super Saturday: A cool breeze greeted us again this morning. We awakened early (well at a normal hour for me, anyway) to see the balloon launch. I wanted to be sure to have my coffee ready for the show. Every year, Saturday morning is the massive balloon launch; although this year there have been several launching out every morning. It issnf2012-30.jpg always quite a sight to see and even more fun if you are a participant. I recall with great fondness memories of the two balloon rides in my lifetime: one over the eastern part of Australia, just west of Sidney; and the other over the Masai Mara in Kenya. Such sights to behold on this earth. I am sure the scenery is not so grand over Lakeland, FL but the experience for those who fly will be memorable nonetheless!

snf2012-31.jpgJust as the sun came peeking over the horizon, the traditional morning sand hill cranes squawked down their landing gear and heading in for final. Between the cranes and the whiperwills we have had quite the morning serenade.

We lingered at the camp site for a bit longer than normal hoping to catch the balloon launch before heading downtown; but time was ticking away and I had a 0920 Sun-n-Fun radio interview so I needed to get going. The skies seemed quite overcast for a balloon launch; still MVFR weather but perhaps not the best for a balloon. By the time we got in to town, we had heard that the balloon launch had been cancelled due to the 30 kt winds reported at 1000’.

Back at the 99s house, we saw many people leaving before the large storm that was supposed to hit this afternoon. I did not give it much thought as the weather had been so beautiful for the rest of the week. sI got word from Marie Griner that she had some materials that she used for her aerospace program in school so I hurried off to collect all that she had for the ARC Youth and Aviation Program. It was a treasure trove of GA, space, military and other aviation stuff that will serve us well for upcoming programs.

When I arrived at the radio room, I was told that the slot was double booked and I was sharing the slot with Operation Renewed Hope. We made the best out of our half times – even though each of us could have used a full hour. Fortunately, after the commercial break, the guest was a no-show so we were able to provide additional information on ARC ad ORH, dove tailing off of each other’s comments and programs. At the conclusion of the interview, I attended the Suncoast 99s meeting before Vern and I took the afternoon off to enjoy the air show.

The air show started with the warbirds and the history surrounding their use in WWII. Fifi flew as did the P-51, some T-28, a Bearcat and a Corsair.They put on quite a showsnf2012-32.jpg strafing the ground and “bombing” the runway.  When the yank and bank performers started, we headed off to the flight line to see some of the war birds. By the time we got to the far east end of the field, we noted the dark clouds looming on the horizon ad stated haing flashbacks to Sun-n-Fun 2011. We caught the trams back to the camp ground just in time for the winds to pick up tremendously. We ran to our camp site and started securing everything we had. Vern got the outdoor gear stowed and I closed the windows on the tent, packed all of our stuff in plastic and got all I could off the floor. We grabbed everything of value and headed to the volunteer building. Sun-n-Fun personnel stopped the air show and called for everyone to take cover as a large cell full of reds and oranges was bearing down upon us. We made it to the shelter to watch as the rain came with ferocity: large droplets were pelting the ground like the fighter planes making their strafing runs earlier. We held our breaths and then suddenly, with no warning, it happened ….. the rains stopped, the winds calmed, the clouds broke apart and the sun came peeking though once again…. then the snf2012-34.jpgThunderbirds flew and all was right with our little world again.

The evening program was straight out of the WWII era with a singer and Abbott and Costello tribute complete with "Boogie-woogie Bugel Boy" and (a personal favority) "Who's on First?" The crowd roared, especially at Abbot poking fun at one particular guest cackling out of control. Withsnf2012-33.jpg laughter in our hearts, full bellies and tired bodies, we made our way back to camp under the cool stary night. Early tomorrow we break camp and head for home - our real home; cmplete with warm bed, LONG, hot shower and furry, purry kitty cat. Thank you Sun-n-Fun 2012 for a great week.

Abbott & Costello - Who's on First as seen at Sun-n-Fun 2012

Sunday, April 1st: Going home:  Time to fly out and head back to reality of Alva. One last pass through the camp grounds for breakfast and to see the annual 99sparade.jpgparade of volunteers pass by. If the campers were not awake before, there was not way they could sleep through the sirens and noise of the volunteer parade. I supposed that is the subtle hint to get up and get moving!

Vern and I packed camp and made our final good-bye until next years' with our friends and I fired up Wild Mama. Since Vernfifi.jpg brought his car, and I brought my plane, it was only fitting (Mary W.) that we go home in our respective modes of transportation. My ride would be 37 minutes; Vern's will be about 3.5 hours. As I taxi out, I get one last glimpse of the B-29 as she taxi's out right behind me. It was difficult to try to remain focused on the planes in front with Fifi to the rear. Then with a mighty roar of my engine I was off leaving the great memories of Sun-n-Fun 2012 behind me.