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Event Report
Event Reports - Sun 'N Fun 2004

Anticipation... April 8, 2004
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Article by Mike Whaley
 
Sun 'N Fun 2004 is still a few days away, but we're already geared up for it! We've been spending weeks making preparations... it's a lot of work to get the whole company ready to move operations over there for almost two weeks, but we wouldn't miss it for the world! The Fly-In officially begins on Tuesday the 13th and runs through Monday the 19th, but we arrive several days in advance to begin the process of setting up the tent and getting the campsite organized, which will be our "home away from home" for the next week and a half.

It will be exciting... we will have the Pitts Model 14 factory prototype there (with the wings on - see our new Project Log section for details!) It looks like a biplane now, though there is of course a lot of work left. Curtis plans on joining us for some of the time. We also will have our factory Skybolt there, as well as the popular "cutaway" M14 radial engine and other displays.

All in all, we anticipate a really great show. We will be taking a lot of photos and making every effort to upload them every day along with some descriptions of the day's interesting stories. SNF is always a sensory overload experience, with many friends old and new to catch up with, many great aircraft to see, many vendors to check out, forums to attend, etc. We stay very busy, but we're going to try hard to bring the best of our experience to you via this website as it happens. If you can't make it to Lakeland in person, then please stay tuned and check back here often to see what you're missing!


Tuesday, April 13 April 13, 2004
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Article by Mike Whaley
 
Monday found the Steen crew working on the myriad of last-minute details. By mid-afternoon, we were growing increasingly concerned about the weather. About 4PM, the fire inspector came by checking on tent certs and permits. He was a rather optimistic sort of fellow. He said that they had just closed the Sunshine Skyway bridge in Tampa due to severe storms, which were headed this way. When you have two aircraft under tents and everyone's staying in RV's, that is a bit disconcerting. As it turned out the storms amounted to drizzle, though the winds in the wee hours of the morning were enough to blow over the chuck-wagon tent in the middle of our campsite. Not a huge loss, and we were relieved to find nothing worse than a little water blown in on the display tents.

The weather in AL and GA however caused a lot of planes not to make it in for the opening day of the fly-in. Even the typically numerous types such as RV's had only a few examples on the flightline. The weather cleared throughout the day and is expected to be nice throughout the rest of the week, so we are expecting that a lot of folks will be able to make it in tomorrow and the next day. We are preparing for a surge of visitors in the next couple of days.

As opening day unfolded, despite the low turnout by air, it still seemed like pandemonium through most of the day... a lot of people came into the tents to either find out about us for the first time, or to check on the progress of our projects. Not surprisingly, the Pitts Model 14 project was a hot topic of conversation. We have the prototype assembled in one tent, the extra space provided by our sister companies Shapes Group and Aircraft Shapes with the factory Skybolt (N3HW) in the other. There were many folks with questions about the Model 14 and the new Skybolt versions.

We also have our cutaway M14 engine on display, which came to us from George Coy of Gesoco. This engine is real eye candy and countless people stopped by to see how this popular Russian radial engine looks inside.

Curtis came by for to visit and check the recent progress since he visited us just a few short weeks ago. Budd Davisson came by to chat and bring us up to date on the Bearhawk.

We're looking forward to a great day tomorrow... we hope that we can see many of you this week! We'll have more updates soon, so stay tuned.


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The calm Monday after setup before the Tuesday onrush. The Model 14 barely fits into the tent! Thanks to Aircraft Shapes for the additional turf. Under the wing you can see one of the Gulfstream hush kit mixers produced by our sister company Shapes Group.  
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Steen's sister companies, Shapes Group and Aircraft Shapes had displays as well with many of the aircraft and aerospace parts they produce. The large round cookie cutter is a 727 hush kit mixer. Many smaller parts are on display in the background.  
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Our cutaway M14 gives clear insight to the stout internals. Like a good Ukrainian woman - "Strong like buuuull, smart like traktor".  
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The factory Skybolt and displays in the Steen Tent. A look under the cowl is always in order.  
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Curtis chats with Jere about the Model 14 aileron controls. There are no traditional slave struts - the upper ailerons are driven by torque tubes inside the streamline tubing of the interplane struts. It's always a great pleasure to see Curtis... he's the epitome of a nice guy!  
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The difficulty that the weather caused for pilots is evident in the fact that this Starduster and Christen Eagle (both quite nicely done) were the ONLY biplanes in the entire homebuilt parking area, having snuck in before the storms. However, the weather should be great for the rest of the week so we expect to see a lot more biplanes show up in the next few days!  
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William Wynne's brand-new Corvair-powered Zenith. It will fly as soon as the paperwork arrives back from the bureaucrats. William is "The Guy" regarding Corvair engine conversion amd application.  
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This little Davis DA-2 flew in from Louisiana. The DA-2 won Best Homebuilt design at the EAA convention in Rockford IL in 1969, and this example was built in the early 1970s. The V-Tail has a mechanical gimbal mixer. This classic is for sale...  
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This Q2 had gotten its airworthiness certificate merely hours before the show, so it was trailered in (sideways)! Not too many airplanes are trailered by leaving the wings on and taking off the tail! Beautiful workmanship.  
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Absolutely beautiful Lancair. That's all perfect paint - not vinyl stickers!  
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The Zenith CH-801 is a popular 4-place STOL aircraft.  
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Incoming - (Front to back) RV-4, Adams A700 jet, and a Lancair. As always, a very wide variety of airplanes here!  
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The Adams A700 twin jet is a unique entry into the exploding light-jet marketplace. It is similar to he A500 twin engine piston aircraft. Both will be in production soon.  
     

Wednesday, April 14 April 14, 2004
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Article by Mike Whaley
 
The big story is that it's realllly realllly windy. Otherwise, sunny and cool.

Steady 20kt winds with gusts over 30. No ultralight ops. The wind is pretty much right down the runway at Linder so arrivals are easy... still, no picnic for biplanes taxiing crosswind.

The New Standard is giving rides with comically short takeoff rolls and landing rollouts. It climbs like an elevator in this wind.

We are delighted to meet lots of our friends, old and new, and to meet new builders face-to-face for the first time.

Wednesday night, Tom Reilly, our longtime friend and renowned warbird builder had a presentation in the EAA amphitheater. Lots of interesting stuff about the latest projects. The new B17 is really coming along.

WERE HAVING A PARTY !!!

Join us for the Friday Evening BIPLANE COOKOUT

Starting at 6PM Friday Evening

All Are Welcome!!!

We invite Biplane Aficionados of every persuasion to join us for a good time of swapping stories, making friends, and talking about biplanes. These parties have been a lot of fun in the past.

Paul is putting up the burgers, hot dogs, and liquid fuels - just show up as you are and be ready to have some fun!

LOCATION: The cookout will be held at the Steen Aero Lab campsite. We are in four campers in a box structure at the intersection of Laird Blvd and Rocky Rd, right next to the "Tram Pickup Triangle" by where the Fly Mart USED TO BE. Laird is the road between the rear of the display hangars and the "floatplane pond" in the SW corner of the display area. Walk down Laird a hundred yards past the pond towards the campsites, and you're there. We will have a sign up. The campers are right at the start of the bend in Rocky Rd.

We hope to see you there !!


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As the weather improves, the crowd is thickening.  
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The Model 14 is the beloved camel in the Shapes tent...  
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Les Meggars is a Radial Skybolt foundation builder. A select few sets of Skybolt "R" plans have been released to experienced wood, tube & fabric builders who can work with us through the numerous details of first time construction. Things that would be frustrations for a first-time builder are rewarding challanges for these guys.  
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The wind exceeded 20 mph all morning, with higher gusts.  
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A steady stream of visitors stopped in to check out the Model 14 and other stuff.  
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The Model 14 factory prototype is of great interest to folks. The structural work is nearly complete, as is the fuselage skinning. The controls will be wrapped up in a few weeks. Then its on to the systems... oil, fuel, starting air, electrical. We can't wait for first flight.  
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Our friends at Jim Kimball Enterprises are here with a beautiful Pitts Model 12 specifically built for airshow work. It features unique lighting, lots of smoke oil, and many cross-country amenities.  
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The ever-popular Super Cub. This one's a Super Clone.  
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The 400hp LOM engine. The Eastern-Bloc engines are great values. Might be a fit for an aerobatic biplane if it wasn't sooooo darn looooong.  
     

Thursday, April 15 April 15, 2004
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Article by Mike Whaley
 
Thursday dawned clear but cold. Wednesday's 60mph gusts were replaced with gentle 10mph breezes and a ton of aircraft activity. It was truly a busy day!

Many old friends came by to visit us, as did a great number of attendees. The airshow included Randy Harris of Bearfeat Aerobatics flying his Super Skybolt, as well as many other great performers flying a variety of aircraft - from Steve Coan's Windex 1200C Motorglider to Mary Dilda in a T-6 to numerous monoplane and biplane acts. A lot of airplanes that couldn't make it in before due to weather did finally arrive, and it looks like there will be even more coming in tomorrow.

One of the best moments was when Caro Bayley, owner of the third Pitts Special, stopped in. She knew Curtis when he was 27 years old! Paul called Curtis on his cellphone and asked him to head back to the tent to meet someone. When he arrived, they both got that special look that people get when they see a good friend they haven't seen in a long time. Caro's a really neat lady with many interesting stories!


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Curtis and Chris Struthers discuss some features of the Model 14.  
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Thursday was another very busy day.  
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Randy Harris' 300-hp Skybolt awaits its turn in the afternoon airshow.  
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Randy preflights while waiting his spot in the program.  
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Caro Bayley, who owned the third Pitts Special, visited us. What a fascinating lady!  
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Paul called Curtis and told him he should vector over to our tent to see someone (we didn't say who)... it was a most pleasant surprise for him!  
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Two life-long friends catch up on the latest... this is what SNF is really all about.  
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The legendary Jim Clevenger is a big guy and also a big Skybolt fan. He owns the original Pitts Pellet monoplane pylon racer. Here his cap dusts the underside of the yellowbird wing. He's Budd Davisson's sidekick at Bearhawk Aircraft.  
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Famed X-Plane test pilot Scott Crossfield enjoys the airshow. You'll see many well-known aviation legends at sun N Fun.  
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Here is one of the first fighters in the Pacific theater of WW2 (Dick Foote's Wildcat, foreground) along with the ultimate Pacific fighters - two Corsairs. Beautiful airplanes, all.  
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This view really shows why the Corsair is nicknamed "The Bent-Wing Bird". The architecture allowed ground clearance for the huge prop disk.  
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Our friends at Jim Kimball Enterprises recently completed this beautiful M14P-powered monocoupe the "McCullocoupe". It's very fast, and the workmanship is superb!  
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Warbirds and acro. Can it get much better than this?  
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This nice Pitts S1-D belongs to Mike Williams.  
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This is the cockpit of a Fokker Dr.I Triplane replica. Great workmanship!  
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Old and new: A 1918-era aircraft with a 2004-era video system.  
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The view of Baron von Richthofen... pity the 75 or so Allied airmen in the sights!  
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Lovely B-25, a pampered lady reflecting her past.  
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Just the facts, ma'am...  
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The real meaning of PIC...  
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This "Son of Storch" attracted a lot of attention.  
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This is probably the most complicated gear setup you'll ever see (short of a 747)  
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It doesn't get simpler than this.  
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Humor is evident on Al Wise's Pietenpol. It's a past Sun N Fun Grand Champion.  
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Old time nav-lights.  
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This is an original Great Lakes.  
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This beautiful Mustang is polished to perfection.  
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Obviously, this Stearman owner enjoys going vertical!  
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The Rotec 7-cylinder radial is an exciting option for light aircraft.  
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Our friends at at Liberty Aerospace have their newly-certificated XL2 on display. The Liberty XL2 is the first piston-powered aircraft to be certified with a true Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC) system.  
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Grace Ellen shows off the just-finished Corvair demonstrator. This Zenith Zodiac was finished by the Fly Corvair crew in just a few months.  
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Yes, that really is a flying bass boat. EAA'ers are very innovative.  
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Seawind actually offers a pop-up camper for the cockpit!  
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This Yak had an interesting color scheme.  
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This unusual Yak 52TW is being extensively modifieed for engine and airframe research purposes.  
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This Decathlon put on a great show with some smooth, graceful acro.  
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The cockpit of the Laird Super Solution replica. Forward visibility... None.  
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The P-63 is a rare sight. Many were supplied to Russia via Lend-Lease, and ferried through Alaska to Siberia.  
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It's never too early to get kids interested in aviation. This little girl was fascinated, as was her pet lamb.  
 

Friday, April 16 April 16, 2004
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Article by Mike Whaley
 
The weather Friday was perfect. The traditional evening cookout was just right... some 65 attended, and we joked and laughed 'till we hurt. There was just enough grub and liquids for everyone as the guests breezed thru in several waves.


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Unusual Fokker D.VII replica in period markings. The rudder looks way too big ?  
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This is Vince Grasso's Contenental radial powered Skybolt, which was featured in Sport Aviation recently.  
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This Fokker Triplane Dr.I replica is based in Central Florida.  
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Cub Yellow has been a very popular color all week long.  
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That's kinda trick... a smoke ring through a smoke ring...  
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The Friday nite cookout was great fun and a lively exchange. Paul flew left seat on the grill and fed us all. About 65 attended, and we did major damage on the grub and brew.  
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No comment necessary.  
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A bright future for aviation.  
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The night shift... Hangar flying continued late into the night.  
     

Saturday, April 17 April 17, 2004
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Article by Mike Whaley
 
Saturday... perfect weather, big crowd, balloon glow, night airshow, etc. It's all a blur!


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Another very busy day for crowd control... The show was very well attended this year. We usually bring home a quarter of the calendars and posters, which last us until we print again for the next show. They were all gone yesterday.  
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Jon Berndsen's 250hp Skybolt. Very nice airplane!  
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Paul shows Captain Aaron the ropes. Future WAC champion perhaps?  
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Yeah, yeah... gimme the keys already!  
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This unusual vintage airplane is a Rocket 185.  
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Shark teeth on parade... this rare P-40 Warhawk flew in the afternoon airshow.  
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The T-28 also had teeth. Desined as a secondary trainer, it served as a workhorse ground-attack platform in the Vietnam war. It was deployed by the USAF, Navy, the Ravens, Air America, the Laotian AF and the VNAF.  
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More teeth... with a nasty 30mm GE cannon to back them up.  
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"So ugly it's cute" - a phrase that SeaBee owners hear quite often. There were several others of the type in the amphibian area.  
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The Beriev Be-103 seaplane seats six. An unusual design.  
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This USAF Heritage Flight included an F-86, P-51D, and an F-16.  
 
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Despite high winds, three ballon teams were able to participate in the balloon glow. This event is the traditional start to the night airshow.  
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Fantasy of Flight's balloon team fires things up.  
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Airshows look quite different at dusk. The Aeroshell Team enters the landing pattern with their signature approach.  
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Steve Oliver puts on a graceful show in the Pepsi Super Chipmunk.  
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Manfred Radius wows the crowd in his Salto sailplane... glider acro is a beautiful thing, and even more so at night.  
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The crowd was entranced by the show.  
   

Sunday, April 18 April 18, 2004
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Article by Mike Whaley
 
Sunday... things spin down a bit, a welcome respite after a really busy week. The airshow performance today was perhaps the best all week. The weather was perfect.


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Slick's aerial ad seemed to have lost something in translation...  
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Jake (Steen's chief Calendar Roller-Upper) takes a much-deserved break to cool off from the heat.  
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Cheryl Everette, Mike Hughes, and Barrett Brummett answered customer questions throughout the week.  
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The cutaway M14 engine display really got pawed over by the crowd (at our encouragement). The clear coat held up really well.  
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These two P-51s took off into a large, close-formation loop before joining the F-16 for the Heritage Flight. Very, very impressive!  
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Paul brings home the makings of the bassinet for the new baby. It will be refinished in new epoxy varnish and cut one-third by two-thirds (to make it thru the nursery door). We don't make this stuff up, folks. Watch for an article in Ballooning. (A big thanks to David Justice and the folks at Celebration Aviation!)  
   

Monday, April 19 April 19, 2004
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Article by Mike Whaley
 
The last day of Sun 'N Fun is always a slow day... it's known informally as "Vendor Bonding Day". After a week away from home, everyone is ready to pack up, get back home, and recover from the excessive amounts of both sun and fun that they've experienced.

This year, there were a few minor bumps - occurances that we all regret to see. A Glasair III "Jawbreaker" cartwheeled on the runway on Sunday (but fortunately without serious injuries to the occupants) and a PPC pilot hit a tree (he was rumored to be back at the show later in the day). There was a T-6 groundloop and a few other incidents. Considering the intensity of air operations, it was a very safe event.

The SNF staff has a truly challenging job trying to coordinate thousands of airplane movements per day, and they do a great job of it.

If you monitor the tower frequency, you'll hear the controllers managing it all with a mixture of cheerleading, imploring, occasional spanking, and frequent good-natured comments. It's an interesting process, with landings becomong a continuous stream, rather than descrete events.

For us, SNF 2004 was certainly among the busiest and best shows we've attended. It seems that the economy has really turned a corner, and the entire aviation industry seems to be accelerating. It's very encouraging.

SNF 2004 was a great show and we're looking forward to Oshkosh. (It's not that far away, really!)


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William Wynne's Corvair Conversion was a popular exhibit. It was on display in the Contact! Magazine booth.  
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The "last day" attendance is typically very light... kind of a shame, since the airshow and weather were both super.  
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The Laird Super Solution did some fly-bys... man, this thing is FAST!  
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Otto the Helicopter put on an unusual and entertaining show.  
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This is from sitting in the SNF parking lot for a week... A little dust awaiting a good rain...  
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The aftermath: we unload the trucks, put everything back, and catch our breath. See you at Oshkosh!  
   

If you have any additions or corrections to this item, please let us know.

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