Sun n Fun 2011

Last year, the EAA show at Oshkosh was became known as “Sloshkosh” after some significant rainstorms.   Well, this year Sun n Fun bested it by a few orders of magnitude.  I’ve been going to SnF for 25 years and since it’s in Florida, it usually rains sometime.   The nice thing about Florida is generally it recovers quickly from the rain.   The exception is the parking lots at SnF which can be a bit wet because of lack of drainage.  This problem is far from unique to SnF since ALL of Florida is flat and wet; as well as being former swamps.

SnF had a small problem (see separate story) with a tornado touching down on the field and laying waste to about 50 aircraft.  For once, I saw the value of having insurance (generally I don’t carry any) when one airplane was tossed into another (say another very expensive one).  I planned to skip the day of the storm since it was supposed to rain.  Watching TV and eating breakfast and seeing tornadoes touch down north of the interstate (SnF is just south of the interstate) made it seem like a wise choice.  Then the first text came in from a friend on the field.  He told me what was happening and it was into the car and out in the storm and get to the field to get some pictures.  Betsy and I felt like Salmons swimming up stream, going in when everyone else was going out.

If you weren’t there then, you had no appreciation for the next day.  SnF crews of good hard working tireless (since most didn’t get to bed that night) volunteers cleaned up the field.  They removed damaged aircraft, they filled in mud holes in the parking lot, they cleaned up a forest of downed trees.  It was incredible to say the least.  Twenty four hours after the storm you would have been hard pressed to find signs of the damage.  The day after that, there was virtually no sign a storm had hit.  This was absolutely an amazing performance by the staff and volunteers.  It was a feat the made the rest of the show pale in comparison.

The rest of the week was great.  Weather was nice on Friday and the weekend was the kind of weather that you come to SnF for.  Those days were magnificent, perfect sunny days that you want to go to airshows to be outside and enjoy.

The Blue Angels were the main act.  Their performance was up to their normal high standards.  The higher points of the show were Jim Tobul’s Corsair which as I said at TICO was a great restoration; as well as being here in time for the 100th anniversary of Naval Aviation.  The Navy did bring in a new EA-18G Growler ECM aircraft in WWII South Pacific colors which was really nice.  Hey guys, leave a few painted this way for next year, its POPULAR AND PEOPLE LIKE SEEING THEM.   Recruiting tool, hint…

The aerobatic display of the show was Lee Lauderback in Stallion 51’s Crazy Horse 2.   Lee is the guy that teaches Mustang pilots how to fly and I believe he is the highest time P-51 pilot in the world.  A native of Latrobe PA (I grew up right down the road) and Golf Legend Arnold Palmer’s former personal pilot, he is good.  He put on a very graceful exhibition of what a P-51 can do without unnecessarily risking injury himself or the airplane.  Lee is a real crowd pleaser.

The F-22 Raptor flew its routine, which should strike fear into the hearts of any pilots who would have to fight against it.  It costs a lot, (rumor has it $60,000 an hour to operate) and is actually worth it.  As always, the crowd was transfixed and concentrating on that single airplane.  As always, it was nothing short of amazing.  The Raptor also flew the Heritage Flight with the P-51 Crazy Horse 2.

There was a lot going on and the best way to illustrate it is in pictures and there are a lot here.   Sun n Fun was a good show and you will find me back there next year.

You can contact me direct at TNMark@Me.Com.

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Mark Hrutkay

Mark has been a member of the International Association of Aviation Photographers (ISAP) for several years and attends all their events and seminars. He has won several awards for his work and has been published in several aviation magazines, domestic and foreign. You can contact Mark Hrutkay at TNMark@Me.Com.

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