The Show Will Go On

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I hate getting my feet wet but as my mud-caked sneakers dry by the door of my warm, dry hotel room and my spiffy green AVweb shirt dries on a hanger, my pruny toes are of little consequence. Out at Lakeland Linder Airport, the cleanup is already well under way as vendors, show volunteers and some unfortunate fly-in attendees assess the damage and then roll up their sleeves. The show must go on.

I was having lunch with Cessna's VP of Communications Bob Stangarone when the tent structure that serves as a dining room started to flex ominously, a torrent of rain and hail flew horizontally and lightning erupted like strobes at an Aerosmith concert. It was time to go somewhere else.

The food folks threw open the door to the kitchen, a concrete block building, and about 50 of us took refuge as the most intense storm I've ever seen pounded the place. Cell phones came out and most of us called loved ones to report our safety and relative comfort. Outside, it was a different story. I heard one account of a mother holding a baby huddling under the wing of an aircraft, unable to move. An exhibitor hauled them into the safety of a cargo trailer. Other stories of heroism will emerge as we cover this story through the week.

And that brings me to the point. As I sit here in the hotel a few hours after the storm, my only discomfort is that the TV doesn't work. It's pouring rain and the thunder and lightning haven't let up. Out at the field, displays are being rebuilt, wrecked airplanes are being moved and hundreds of portapotties are being lifted upright.

It will take all night to make the site safe and attractive and they're doing it for you. This was a dramatic event and we had to cover it as such but, thanks to the hordes of people working out there, Sun 'n Fun will open on schedule Friday and it promises to be a great day.

If you were planning to come but the storm is causing doubts, please don't let it. Weather for the weekend is forecast to be ideal and if ever there was a time for the aviation community to show some unity and support, this is it. Sun 'n Fun needs you and is doing everything it can to make sure you have a great time this weekend.

See you there.

Comments (10)

Amen, Russ!

Posted by: Rob Finfrock | March 31, 2011 10:02 PM    Report this comment

I'm sure that Ray LaHood is there and helping out.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | April 1, 2011 8:10 AM    Report this comment

Russ: Glad to hear that you and the rest of the AvWeb staff along with everyone else there at Sun 'n Fun are all okay. Aircraft can be easily fixed or replaced.

Posted by: Adam Hunt | April 1, 2011 8:57 AM    Report this comment

The TFR (Blue Angels arrival/practice?) around LAL today (Friday) 10a-noon local won't help fly-in attendance, nor will the conflicting information provided by SNF itself (by phone). Between the TFR and the SNF NOTAM, you could still arrive today before 10a and noon-1:30p, but SNF by phone said you could ignore the TFR and then separately arrivals would be denied after noon, "no exceptions."

Posted by: Bradley Spatz | April 1, 2011 9:50 AM    Report this comment

This is real sad news just hope no one was seriously injured or killed. Reports are not too specific at the moment.

Must be the end times - did you think it was the end time Russ?

Posted by: Bruce Savage | April 1, 2011 11:22 AM    Report this comment

Very sad news. I am happy to hear so far of no serious injuries. My sympathy to the aircraft owners and exhibitors. I know what it is like to look at an aircraft in that condition.

Posted by: Paul Hawkins | April 2, 2011 9:05 AM    Report this comment

I saw the radar from before the strike.

Was any storm alert given and by what agencies or individuals? If so, how long before gusts began? Tornadoes and downblasts are an other matter. Was there adequate warning to move, secure, or fly out aircraft?

Were all aircraft required to be tied down? Were there enough tiedowns? Was their construction adequate for predictable Lakeland conditions?

What can we learn from this?

Fred F

Posted by: Frederic Feingold | April 2, 2011 9:08 AM    Report this comment

This year's event should be called 'Rain and Pain'.

Posted by: Rolf Grandstaff | April 2, 2011 9:56 AM    Report this comment

I am thankful for the safety of those at SnF during the storm. Describing the next day is where my nice words end ...

The almighty dollar is alive and well at SnF. It is clear that is all that matters. SnF 2011 cannot be spun as a success, no freaking way. SnF management is quintessential impotence! The true story here is unbelievable ineptness, poor-to-no management concern, zero contingency planning, etc. SnF's post-facto spinning of the situation as ready to go the next day was a huge joke. NOTHING could be farther from the truth. Friday should have been closed as a recovery day, but instead here is one man's view from on scene: Parking lots were underwater swamps; attnedants were no-shows; gates to parking didnt even open until after 1030; those that did open were single file in which squeezed three-directional traffic into one huge choke point; disabled parking was a nasty quagmire literally a foot deep in mud; there were no efforts at laying rocks or mulch to assist traffic; cars were stuck in the mud up to their bumpers, many in entry ways which then gridlocked traffic TEN MILES down the access roads and interstates; no police of SnF crowd control was to be seen!

to be continued...

Posted by: Jim Epting | April 3, 2011 1:30 PM    Report this comment

continued from above...

For those of us stuck intraffic , we inched on ... waiting 3+ hours to crawl 3 miles. SnF still had the BIG BALLS to charge us to park, and after we trudged thru mud often a foot deep, then scoop up an already RIDICULOUS $35 a head to get in! Local radio reported thousands turning across medians and leaving. Many abandoned cars along roadways and walked the last MILES to get in -- which local police and Highway Patrol rewarded with tickets! Getting across the mud bogs and out afterwards was an entire new chapter in frustration. Add to this the fact the place smelled like hell because of all the recycled sewer water sprayed on to the parking fields and you get the picture of the putrid flavor of an 10,000 hog farm! Disgusting.

Vendors who traveled thousands of miles were livid at SnF's out of control, business as usual attitude. Many gave away their products to let their customers know they cared (Thank you Rosen, Bose, and David Clark...) As for SnF, not the first gesture of goodwill!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I live only 35 miles away in St Pete, and I have been to my last SnF. My future business with favored vendors now goes online. Maybe I am but one voice in the wilderness, but I quit -- DO YOU HEAR ME SnF???! je

Posted by: Jim Epting | April 3, 2011 1:31 PM    Report this comment

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