April 4, 2011
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PILOT - April

Highlights from our April PILOT

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CF N836CFJust as the sun was setting last night, I returned from one of the most eventful Sun 'n Fun gatherings in Lakeland, Florida that anyone could remember.  Having flown to the event in our Bonanza, we had one of the stormiest trips into Florida I can recall and one of the sunniest clear days of VFR flying yesterday that I've seen in a long while.
In many ways, the whole Sun 'n Fun experience was series of contrasts.
The trip to the annual aviation event in Lakeland was the third visit to Florida I'd made in four weeks.  And, having burned jet fuel in the two prior trips in two different aircraft, Karen and I decided it was time to bring out the Beechcraft Bonanza.
First stop was Savannah to spend the weekend with a group in which Karen is involved.  This was a contrast to the week ahead because I had no responsibilities and simply enjoyed some touring and dinning in Savannah.  If you have not visited this beautiful city in awhile, it is well worth the stop.
Then, with weather approaching, we traveled into Florida.  Only about 20 minutes of the flight consisted of really lousy weather....but, the heavy rain and wind occurred throughout the descent and approach to Tampa Executive airport.  I landed to the phrase, " did a really nice job, but let's not do that again!"
The Sun 'n Fun story is below.  It was wonderful to experience this year, but it also had it's own version of unexpected excitement in the form of a tornado.  If there is such a thing as the natural enemy of an air show, it certainly must be a tornado!  As you will see and read, the Sun 'n Fun team made nothing short of a miraculous recovery in less than 24 hours!
Now, back in Washington, we turn our attention to the FAA Reauthorization legislation where we are a step closer to actually getting this done having seen a bill pass out of the House of Representatives.  And, we have the budget debate that seems to be providing plenty of drama around the question of will they or won't they pass a 2011 budget that was supposed to have been finalized prior to October 1st of last year!
One last note, if you enjoy following the AOPA activities on a regular basis, you will like our new Facebook page.  A number of us make regular contributions and a good many aviation enthusiasts have found the page and make comments as well.  I hope you will check it out:  go to AOPApilots .
Sun 'n Fun 2011 Started Strong


With tens of thousands of AOPA members in Florida and the surrounding states, the annual Sun 'n Fun event is always a big deal at AOPA.  Our team arrived with a new larger and better tent where our staff met with thousands of AOPA members to discuss our many programs and services.  We also had space for the Red Bird full motion flight simulator.  It ran all day as people took a number and then checked back for their "flight."


The Cessna 182 Skylane, our Crossover Classic Sweepstakes plane, was right out front where potential winners could view it's new engine, avionics and beautiful interior.  You can follow the whole restoration process by CLICKING HERE.  This is going to be one very special aircraft when the work is completed and it is given away at the AOPA Aviation Summit in Hartford in September.


Finally, we had a special tent for our AOPA LIVE broadcast.  Tom Haines anchored the show and guests appeared Thursday through Saturday for interviews.  A few highlights are described below, but the whole series can be seen by clicking on AOPA LIVE.

Then, the Tornado Hit 

SNF Tornado
Everyone was expecting some wet weather, but the wind and rain near a tornado that touched down in the vicinity of the airport was something most of us have never witnessed.
First, the good news.  No one was seriously hurt.  The same cannot be said for dozens of beautiful aircraft.
The Sun 'n Fun team lead by John Burton did the seemingly impossible and had the show operational the morning after the storm struck.  And, these fabulous hard working people who make up the staff and volunteers at Sun 'n Fun were rewarded with three beautiful days of weather and large crowds on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
We told the story best last week with a short video on AOPA LIVE as John Burton briefed us on what happened.  The video also shows pictures of just what kind of impact the storm had on the airport grounds.  To watch, CLICK HERE.
The one other video that shows you exactly what we experienced as we stood in our tent and watched the storm pass (yes, we were in a tent!) was shot by our friends at the Recreational Aviation Foundation (RAF).  As the weather came in, they filmed the Aviat Husky that was firmly tied down just outside their tent.  Watching this video shows the remarkable force of the wind and rain.  The aircraft did break lose, but it will be flyable again is a short, but graphic real life drama of a storm:  to view, CLICK HERE.
We thank (I think) our fast acting friends at the RAF for capturing this and we are pleased they all came through without a scratch.
I should also report that our aircraft were at another airport and were in no way damaged by the storm.  People were asking as one photograph showed a "...4GA" but it was not one of the AOPA aircraft.
Highlights from Sun 'n Fun


SNF tentI always enjoy spending time with our members.  This year, I was able to visit with people at our AOPA tent throughout the week.  The sweepstakes plane right out front was certainly a big draw.  And, fortunately, everything we had up and outside held in place during the storm!
Our AOPA LIVE team lead by Warren Morningstar did an exceptional job steaming live video from the Sun 'n Fun and even working through the night to tell the story of when the storm hit.  I always appreciate the chance to spend time with the pilots who perform incredible aerobatics.  Here are links to some of the my favorite segments:
-- Patty Wagstaff talks about flying for the Forest Service in California and helping game wardens in Africa as well as her flying at Sun 'n Fun.
-- The Red Bird FMX Full-Motion Flight Simulator really drew a crowd in our tent.  Our team takes a look at the whole experience people enjoyed at Sun 'n Alyssa Miller take a flight and actually perform a flat spin!
-- Mike Goulian shared some incredible footage shot during his aerobatic performance and then sat down to talk about what he does throughout the year as one of the most popular aviators on trhe circuit.
-- The AOPA Sweepstakes Plane was flown to Sun 'n Fun by AOPA's Tom Horn.  He took some time to show just how the new avionics package and the plane perform on his way to Lakeland.
-- Pilot, inventor Dean Kamen dropped by the tent and visited with us about some of his remarkable projects that include the Segway and artificial limbs.  He holds over 440 patents and has produced products that have changed the way we live.  Aviation is an important part of his life.  You can hear how he is flying throughout the month to witness competitions that 19,000 schools participate in to celebrate innovation and technology.
All of this proves that Sun 'n Fun provided something for everyone!
Beaufort park

A Visit to Beaufort, SC

It is always a treat to stop at a new place.  With a five hour Bonanza flight from Tampa Executive to our home base in Frederick planned, we elected to make a stop in Beaufort, South Carolina to see a good friend. 


I am guilty of flying over KARW in Beaufort many times and always admiring the beauty of what they call "the Low Country."  Well, we had such an enjoyable time that a return trip is already being planned. 


The airport staff are friendly and helpful.  Local inns are prevalent.  There is great sailing, golfing, fishing, not to mention, fine restaurants.  A walk in the park along the intercoastal was just what we needed.  We even did a bit of sailing. This was a fine way to conclude the week and we were rewarded with a perfect VFR flight home the next day in N836CF.