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Updates from Sun 'n Fun 2011

The F-22 Raptor delights the crowd at Sun 'n Fun Friday under clear blue skies.

Sun ‘n Fun Spirit Rebounds 

Experimenter Editor Pat Panzera reflects on a hectic but inspirational week

April 2, 2011 (8:20 p.m. CDT) - Experimenter Editor Patrick Panzera spent all week at Sun ’n Fun and witnessed the indelible spirit of the aviation community in the wake of the damaging storm on Thursday. As he departed today the lines to enter the parking lots stretched for 2 miles. Pat passed along these observations about this most eventful week in Florida where, by the end, the sun and fun clearly had returned to Lakeland.

Those arriving in the early afternoon Friday would be hard-pressed to tell that anything negative took place the day before. Not to downplay the heartache and financial setbacks suffered by so many, the overall damage may not be all that the media made it out to be. With the hard work that took place overnight - relocating broken planes, re-erecting damaged tents, removing fallen trees, and repositioning various stray directional signage - the place looked a lot different the morning after. Read more


EAA Founder Honored by GA’s Top Leaders 

Paul Poberezny Receives Plaudits During FAA Session

April 1, 2011 (5:20 p.m. CDT) - EAA Founder Paul Poberezny spoke only a few words to a capacity crowd at Sun ’n Fun on Friday, but the nation’s general aviation leaders had plenty to say about the man who for six decades has led the world of recreational aviation.

After Thursday’s storms at Lakeland, Fla., had postponed the scheduled evening program to honor Paul, FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt used a portion of his annual “Meet The FAA” session at Sun ’n Fun for the program. Also included were Sun ’n Fun President John Burton, AOPA President Craig Fuller, GAMA President Pete Bunce, Dr. Peggy Chabrian, president of Women in Aviation International, and Stephan Brown, president of the Commemorative Air Force.

There was much praise by all the speakers toward Paul, who received a large plaque from Sun ’n Fun that included pins for five, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 and 35 years of volunteer services. The plaque also included a large root from the Lakeland fly-in grounds, honoring Paul as the man who built recreational aviation “from the ground up.”

Paul and his wife, Audrey, were also honored with benches that will remain at the Sun ’n Fun headquarters building. Paul was called “EAA Founder and Friend,” while Audrey’s bench included the inscription as “First Lady of EAA.”

At the conclusion of the honors, Paul took the stage for several brief remarks, including a favorite line with which he has closed many speeches through the years.

“Aviation made us millionaires,” he said of he and Audrey. “Because we now have a million friends.”


Sun ’n Fun - The Aftermath

April 1, 2011 (4:07 p.m. CDT) - They say the three most important things in real estate are “location, location, location,” and that proved to be true for many aircraft owners - both private and corporate - yesterday on the Sun ’n Fun International Fly-In and Expo grounds. A fierce storm passed over the airport early Thursday afternoon, leaving more than 50 aircraft damaged or destroyed.

Phil Lockwood of Lockwood Aviation and Sebastien Heintz of Zenith Aircraft were neighbors in the outdoor exhibit area that appears to be one of the touchdown points of a tornado that skipped across the grounds. “I was in our exhibit tent when the storm hit,” Lockwood said, “and I ran to the back of the tent to turn off the TV because water was everywhere. Just as I reached the TV, the tent went into the air and a large parts display board fell over on me. When I crawled out from underneath the board, I was pounded by hail. It felt like I was being shot with a pellet gun. We all ran and took refuge in George Weber’s car.” Read more


Crowds Return to Sun 'n Fun, EAA Offers Assistance to Members

April 1, 2011 (11:09 a.m. CDT) - Long lines were reported this morning at the gates of the Sun ’n Fun Fly-In after a major storm yesterday caused widespread damage to aircraft, exhibits, and tents at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport, Florida. Despite the calamity yesterday, people were eager to attend the show as the wait for parking stretched to two hours. Flooding closed one parking lot but volunteers were working to utilize hard surface areas. In a situation reminiscent of AirVenture 2010, messages on Sun ‘n Fun’s Facebook page and on Sun ‘n Fun Radio are urging attendees to have patience as organizers adapt to the changing conditions. Read more


EAA Founder Recognition Event Moved to This Afternoon

Sun ’n Fun’s salute to EAA Founder Paul Poberezny, which was scheduled for Thursday evening before storms damaged and closed the grounds, has been rescheduled for this afternoon at 1:45 p.m. at the FAA Building. FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt will use the final portion of his 1 p.m. “Meet The FAA” presentation to host the salute to Paul, who has been at Lakeland throughout the week, including through Thursday’s severe weather.

Administrator Babbitt is expected to be joined by a number of general aviation organization leaders to salute EAA’s founder, recognizing his nearly 60 years of dedication to EAA and general aviation as well as more than 70 years of aviation activity.


EAA Aircraft Insurance Reps on Scene to Assist Members

April 1, 2011 (9:30 a.m. CDT) - Any EAA Aircraft Insurance Plan members who suffered aircraft damage Thursday at Sun ’n Fun can get instant help from Falcon Insurance representatives in Exhibit Building B on the fly-in grounds. Several policyholders have already contacted EAA Insurance representatives from Falcon Insurance and Global Aerospace, and extra adjusters have been sent to Lakeland to answer questions and provide immediate help. They will also provide guidance for non-EAA members who also need immediate assistance.

The insurance group’s goal is to begin processing claims on-site and start the repair/recovery process for all impacted by Thursday’s storms.


Video: Raw video from the middle of the storm and the aftermath grassrootsnews.tv


Sun 'n Fun Issues Statement

Read the statement on Sun 'n Fun's Facebook page


Message From Rod Hightower to EAA Members

March 31, 2011 (5:59 p.m. CDT)

To my fellow EAA members:

As you probably know by now, the Sun ’n Fun Fly-In in Lakeland, Florida, was hit hard by a severe storm and tornado on Thursday. We are grateful that there were no fatalities and only a few injuries that required hospital care. I am also happy to report that despite the severity of the storm, all people on the Sun ’n Fun site have been accounted for. That includes the dozen or so EAA staff members on-site in Lakeland, as well as our EAA volunteers.

Both EAA founder Paul Poberezny, who is here at Sun ’n Fun, and I have talked with John Burton and the fly-in staff today. We have offered whatever assistance possible in the wake of this storm, which unfortunately severely damaged many aircraft parked at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport.

Immediately after the storm, it was remarkable – but not surprising – that EAA members here at Lakeland immediately began asking what they could do to assist fellow members and others who needed help. They were doing what EAA members do best, reaching out to others and helping in any way they could. It again made me proud to be a part of such a quality group of people.

We wish all Sun ’n Fun staff and guests the best as they recover from Thursday’s events.

Best regards,
Rod Hightower
EAA President/CEO


EAA Radio Update: Warbirds Director Bill Fischer Recounts Damage

March 31, 2011 (5:39 p.m. CDT) - EAA Warbirds of America Executive Director Bill Fischer describes the damage including a DC-3 that was blown across the runway in the 87-mph winds. Listen to the interview


Aircraft Damaged at Sun ‘n Fun

March 31, 2011 (5:39 p.m. CDT) - We know that many of you are concerned for your friends and family members who may have flown their aircraft to Sun ‘n Fun; we share your concern for the hardships they may be going through as the staff, volunteers and members at Sun ‘n Fun work to recover from the damage inflicted by the storm. Based on a review of photos from a variety of sources, including a slideshow posted by EAA Multimedia reporter Brady Lane, we can share this list of damaged aircraft with you. It is by no means complete, but it does represent a significant number of the aircraft damaged by Thursday’s severe thunderstorm.

Name/Description (updated 4/1/11) N-number
Helio Courier  60JA
Aviat Husky 43WY
Cessna 208 Caravan 171CC
Zenith CH-701   71ZA
AirCam  912LA
AirCam  612WF
Zenith CH-801 801PP
American Champion 7GCBC 54BY
RV-6A 155ED
RV-3B 12XR
Maule MX-7-180B 11ZV
Eclipse EA500 94GA
Acey Duecy P-70 426AM
971BP Big Piet 971BP
974BP Big Piet 974BP
840LM Big Piet 840LM
Pelican Lightplane XB-ALE
Zenith CH-750 750ZZ
Bearhawk 289R
Piper PA-28 2397C
Alon Ercoupe 6595Q
Taylorcraft DCO-65 57504
CORSARIO (lightplane ampbibian) 106ZX
RV-9 (minor dings) 904KJ
Piper PA-28 55PN
Rans S-7 523J
Nanchang CJ-6A 4674F
Cessna L-19  (displaced from parking spot) 5073Y
Texas Sport (Cub) 260DS
No N-number visible:
Thorp T-18
 Thorp T-18 
Cub lightplane
Black and Purple lightplane  (UL area)
White with Red Trim lightplane (UL area)
Yellow and Black “Kitfox” (?)
Blue T-6 in ditch
DC-3 in ditch (minor elevator damage)
Kolb, yellow with black checkerboard
Low wing homebuilt;
white with Red color on top of cabin
RV-9 (?) white


Sun ’n Fun Thursday Afternoon Press Conference

By Dave Higdon

March 31, 2011 (5:05 p.m. CDT) - At a late afternoon press conference held Thursday, March 31, Sun ’n Fun President John Burton recapped the events of the stormy day that Sun ’n Fun visitors experienced. Burton stated that 15 people were injured, with seven transported to an area hospital. No injuries were serious and all were released by later in the day.

Between 40 and 50 aircraft and several vendors’ outdoor displays were damaged or destroyed, but no dollar estimate was available. Damage was widespread throughout all areas of the field.

Burton stated that power was being restored throughout the field and that the event would “open its doors as usual” Friday at 8 a.m. (Forecasts predict sunshine, clear skies, and temperatures in the 80s for Friday through Sunday.) While the Blue Angels and F-22 Raptor did not arrive because of storms the past two days, both flight demonstration teams are expected on the field on Friday and will perform in the afternoon air show.

Burton noted that Sun ’n Fun had planned to honor 9/11 first responders during the event tomorrow but added, “Now, we’ll include a tribute to the first responders who helped us today.”

The wider Lakeland community was reaching out to assist at the fly-in, with many homeowners offering shelter to campers and others attending Sun ’n Fun who had lost their tents, etc.


Severe Weather Hits Sun ’n Fun

By Mac McClellan, Editor-at-Large, EAA 747337

March 31, 2011 (5 p.m. CDT) - A severe thunderstorm passed over Lakeland Linder Airport shortly before noon on Thursday and caused extensive damage to airplanes on the airport and to tents and other structures that are part of Sun ’n Fun. So far there have been no confirmed reports of serious injuries.

Dozens of damaged airplanes could be seen after the storm passed. Damage was particularly serious in the LSA and ultralight sections of the grounds, and also in the transient parking area.

The heavy rain of the storm flooded much of the grounds and filled drainage ditches to overflowing.

As one would expect, the lighter-weight airplanes were tossed and flipped by the extreme gusts more extensively than larger airplanes, where tiedowns appeared to hold in most cases. But, even some airplanes that remained secured to their spots were damaged when nearby airplanes were pulled loose and tossed into them by the violent storm.

We'll keep you posted as the Sun ’n Fun operations staff makes specific damage reports available. As of early afternoon, scheduled events at the show were on hold.


Storm Rips Through Sun ’n Fun

Substantial damage reported, but no serious injuries

March 31, 2011 (3:48 p.m. CDT) - A massive storm cell blew through the Sun ’n Fun Fly-In at Lakeland, Florida, Thursday morning, halting the event and causing serious damage to aircraft and property, but no serious injuries, according to reports from local news sources. The National Weather Service confirmed that at least two tornadoes moved across Polk County. Photos and video taken at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport in the wake of the storm confirm damage to numerous aircraft attending the fly-in – many severely. Also damaged were numerous exhibition tents and some buildings, and power and Internet service was down. Read more

Video: Rod Hightower and Paul Poberezny describe the damage | Photo gallery


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