Recharge Your Batteries Now
By Dan Grunloh, Editor, Light Plane World
April is here, and the air show and fly-in season has begun. It’s time to get out of the clubhouse or hangar, go to a fly-in, and get excited about another year of aviation. Talking about flying, reading about flying, and watching videos all winter aren’t enough to inspire you to get out and find your own adventures. You need to hear the real sound of propellers biting the air and see the flash of colors as the planes go by. According to the International Council of Air Shows, about 12 million people attend 350 air shows in North America each year. In spite of a slow economy, or perhaps because of it, attendance has been rising about 15 percent per year at most air shows in recent years. As the cost of vacation trips, amusement parks, and sporting events increase, the air show becomes a bargain. A similar pattern was witnessed during the 1980-1982 and 1990-1991 recessions.
The upcoming Sun ’n Fun Fly-In in Lakeland, Florida, began in the early ’70s by a group of EAA volunteers. Its location, climate, and place in the calendar quickly made it a top event for ultralights, setting an attendance record of 104 ultralights in 1981. Just one year later in 1982, the number jumped to 400. By then it had become the second largest event of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. In 2001 the reported number was still 414, but by then many were exempted two-seat trainers. Ultralight and light-sport pilots from all over the United States still go to Sun ’n Fun to see the newest planes for the first time.
Another reason we go is that many of us still fly in open cockpits. The first fly-in of the season, which is held so far south, gives us Northerners a preview of summer flying to come. Float planes, amphibians, and weight-shift trikes are there in abundance. I’ve never made the 1,000-mile trip myself in my own aircraft, but I plan to do that someday. Instead, I fly up high with a large group of passengers; each year I notice the color of the earth below changes from brown to green somewhere around Kentucky or Tennessee. Sometimes it snows on my home airstrip in Illinois while I’m flying in short sleeves in Florida.
There’s no way to measure the total effect of seeing exciting new planes for the first time, learning about the newest hardware, and meeting other enthusiasts. Regardless of your location, if you can’t go to Sun ’n Fun, go immediately to the online EAA aviation calendar where you can quickly and easily find the next fly-in, air show, or EAA chapter meeting in your area. Your dreams of flight and future adventures depend on the inspiration and motivation that come from direct contact with aviation. Now get out there and recharge your batteries.