Coming Up In Lakeland -- Blue Skies And Lemonade
Every airshow, no matter where or when, has its share of challenges, and hopefully its share of good luck, too, and this year's edition of Sun 'n Fun, in Lakeland, Fla., seems to have plenty of both. No military jet team will appear to split the sky with a pure booming roar, thanks to the federal sequester. No military aircraft at all will make it to the show, but Sun 'n Fun CEO John "Lites" Leenhouts has no gripe with that. "I understand that, I was in the military, and when you have to cut back, you cut down on the stuff that's not mission-oriented," he told AVweb on Monday. He said the organization put out a call to warbird fliers around the country to come to the show and fill in that void, and quite a few are flying in from around the nation. "Our vintage ramp is fuller now than it was last year, two days in," Leenhouts said. "The campground is fuller. This year looks to be a banner year."
Leenhouts said he offered discounts to vendors who hadn't been to the show in a while to get them back on the grounds, and he's shortened the airshow to three hours, instead of four, so the crowds don't disappear to the flight lines too early. Despite the military pullout, the airshows will have a varied lineup of performers, with Michael Goulian, Patty Wagstaff, the Bat Copter, and many more, and two night airshows, Friday and Saturday. The Geico Skytypers will fly for their first time at Sun 'n Fun, and Team Aerodynamic -- 12 RVs flying in formation -- will perform in the night show for the first time. The Black Diamond jet team, featuring MiG-17s and L-39s, will fly Wednesday through Saturday. Here and there are signs that the industry is still not expecting airplanes to sell like hotcakes -- Cessna's exhibit has fewer jets than it used to, and Cirrus skipped the show -- but signs of life and optimism abound, and there are plenty of shiny new aircraft of all shapes and sizes to encourage any pilot to dream about their next set of wings. On Monday, the weather was near-perfect, with bright sun and gentle breezes. The forecast suggests some showers and rain later in the week, but whatever comes -- tornadoes, sequesters, economic downturns -- for this one week every year, there's Sun 'n Fun in Lakeland.