Frances Aftermath: Worse Than It Seemed

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As Florida begins to wring itself out from the sopping wet Hurricane Frances -- while keeping an anxious eye on Ivan, spinning away to the south -- aviators across the state are sorting through drenched hangars to see what remains. Despite the downgrading of the storm as it crept across the state, damage has been widespread. "I expected a lot less damage than we had," St. Lucie County Airport Director Paul Phillips told the Palm Beach Post. "I'm very shocked at the amount of damage we sustained." Katherine and Jack Russell of Palm Bay lost the three-quarter-scale Dornier Wal flying boat they were building. The airplane was 80 percent complete, and uninsured, Jack Russell told AVweb yesterday. "There isn't much left of her ... Part of the empennage is about it ... Her 220 hp Mercedes and engine mount are somewhere at the bottom of the Indian River A total loss, I'm afraid." As of yesterday morning, three airports were still being reported as closed: Airport Manatee (48X) in Palmetto, Manatee County; George T. Lewis Airport (CDK) in Cedar Key; and Valkaria Airport (X59). Organizers of the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo, scheduled for Oct. 28-31 in Sebring, Fla., reported yesterday that the Sebring airport escaped the brunt of Frances, even though the eye passed right over the field. Damage was limited and should have no impact on the event, EAA said.

During the cleanup, GA airports are vital to the recovery, AOPA said. Lakeland Linder Regional Airport, home of the Sun 'n Fun Fly-In, has opened its food facilities to the Salvation Army relief efforts. In Vero Beach, New Piper Aircraft has closed down for a week due to roof damage, but the National Guard is using their ramp to stage helicopter relief flights. In many areas, runway and obstruction lights remain unlit, and towers and navaids are offline. Many aircraft were damaged at Pan Am International Flight Academy in St. Lucie County, and Lanshe Aerospace also was damaged. Mirabella Aviation, which renovates antique airplanes at St. Lucie, was a total loss, as were eight airplanes trapped under the collapsed hangar, the Palm Beach Post reported on Monday. Hurricane Ivan is currently at Category 4 and expected to reach Florida by next Monday.