Kitplanes Mag Reports from Sun 'n Fun

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From time to time, we'll feature posts and commentary from our sister magazine Kitplanes. If building is your thing, do yourself a favor and check out the Kitplanes blog and be sure to visit their web site.

Our staff began pounding around the Lakeland grounds late Monday and early Tuesday to find, as many have reported, a muddy mess. So what? It's an airshow. It's outside. Stuff happens.

What was worse, the first full day of the show, than the grousing about the axle-grease-like mud covering our shoes and marooning our cars was the fear that bad weather around the country and a soft economy would keep visitors at home. It seemed to be borne out by a quiet Monday on the grounds. As we left the show Monday night, it was with concerns that Sun 'n Fun would be a bust.

Tuesday's weather and mood were considerably better, with good foot traffic on the grounds and plenty of activity in the four big hangars housing the indoor exhibits. If you have to weave and bob down the aisle to get where you're going, it's a good show.

Avionics are the big Experimental-class news, again this year, though the Van's Aircraft booth was filled with RV-12 fans seeing the final iteration for the first time. The company began selling wing kits at the show. Lancair arrived with the Evolution, looking sleek even in primer. (See the video here.)

Back to avionics: Developments in the Experimental-only EFIS class are impressive, including Dynon's new autopilot, Advanced Flight's new EFIS with moving map, Grand Rapids' updated box with synthetic vision. We have more booths to visit today, no doubt more gems to be unearthed.

Does it seem a bit skimpy on the new-airframe front for homebuiders? Sure, compared to the heyday, when it seemed like a new company had a new kit at every airshow, but the reality of the market circa 2008 is that incremental improvements are the rule and all-new airframes (like the Evolution, and the massive Comp Air turboprop single) come along every so often. There is also uncertainty about the future of the "51% Rule" and the implications of reworked guidance regarding commercial assistance, but that's mainly among the manufacturers. The overall mood is that homebuilts are far from endangered.

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