Feature: Sun 'n Fun 2007
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Day 2: Wednesday, April 18, 2007
A Yak-7 I fell in love with back on Monday turns out to be a restoration after all, misleading data plate not withstanding. Colonel Bob Murphy, US Army (ret), performed the restoration, finishing the airplane in the markings of Major Aresnii V. Vorozheikin, the top ace of the battle of Kursk, who finished the war with 65 aerial victories. Colonel Murphy himself had quite an impressive record in Vietnam, earning the Distinguished Service Cross and two Silver Stars, among other decorations. The Yak-7 was smaller, more maneuverable and faster than most other WW2 fighters. It remained in service well into the jet age, where it tangled with F-51s and F-82s in the Korean War.
An absolutely stunning cream white Yak 7 on the show plane flight line.
While I've been emphasizing warbirds here, there is so much more to Sun 'n Fun. The aircraft that fly into the show are split into broad groups and parked among like machines. Besides the Warbirds, there are Homebuilt, Vintage, Rotor and Ultralight parking areas, An effort is made to break them down still further. In the Warbirds parking area, the jet trainers are together, the light observation planes are together, etc. In the Homebuilts, the RVs, the Lancairs, and the Rutan designs each get their own territory. This indexing makes it easy to see just what you want, and cuts down on unnecessary walking, something very much appreciated by the attendees, especially as the week oozes by. I don't know how many square miles Sun 'n Fun occupies, but take my word for it, it's more than you want to walk.
But wait, there's more. All the GA factories have exhibits showing off their wares — Cessna, Piper, Mooney, Cirrus, Hawker Beechcraft (big inhale) Aviat, Maule, Columbia, Adam, Zenith. (From A to Z. Hmm...) Pedantic readers will enjoy going to the Sun 'n Fun web site and figuring out which current North American GA manufacturers aren't here. By my reckoning, there are two. And that's only certified airplanes. I don't want to try to count the number of foreign and/or homebuilt manufacturers on display, or the seemingly infinite number of vendors selling anything you can imagine to those who buy 'em and build 'em. I myself bought a replacement battery and alkaline battery case for my handheld transceiver — at a discount. My buddy Joe, who's close to finishing his Super Cub replica, is buying paint. Lots of paint. And fuel lines. And wing struts.
Elsewhere on the grounds there are forums conducted by experts covering virtually every aspect of aviation that might interest small airplane pilots. In the educational area, the focus is on helping folks learn what they need to know to feel comfortable making the commitment to start a homebuilt project. There are demos showing how to form metal, how to rivet metal, how to unrivet metal (for when, not if, you hose it up — riveting skills must be learned by doing), how to work with composites, and how to build with wood. Somewhere in the educational area this week a guy is building the fuselage for a wooden amphibian called a Vollmer as a woodworking demo.
And while all that's going on, running kind of in the background, to be noticed or ignored as you choose, is the air show. Some of the best air show performers working today are flying their hearts out to a rapt crowd, which although in the many-thousands, is still just a fraction of those attending. There's simply too much to see and do to just sit and enjoy the air show, even if you're not trying to write something for daily publication. I'll admit to being somewhat jaded about performance aerobatics myself, but I did watch when a big ol' Beech 18 started doing loops, rolls and knife-edge turns. Dang.
The aerobatic Beech 18. Wow. Just wow.
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