Most visitors to Sun ‘n Fun are familiar with the outside display areas for vendors. They are occupied by companies selling airframes, kits, engines, hangar doors—anything large enough to require the open air to display. Sprinkled in, of course, are the delightful tents and booths of hardware and tool vendors, their wares brought to the show in bins and crates that take up significant real estate. I always spend a little time looking for bits and bobs of hardware that I know (or think I remember…) that I don’t have on hand in my home workshop. You can never have to many #12 Adel clamps, you know… and my shop fridge seems to be overflowing with torque seal I bought several shows ago, but forgot I had, so more tubes come out of the backpack when I get home.
Then of course, for those looking for expensive components, there are the four vendor display buildings, Hangars A,B, C, & D. These are great places to look for an EFIS, or a radio, or an ignition system. You can also shop for that new headset or maybe an Airpark building lot where you can retire with angel-winged beauties and like-minded aviators. Looking for a new ELT? Maybe a subscription for a tablet-based navigation package? Stop by the hangars—you’ll run out of time before you run out of options.
But any good airplane builder or aviation buff needs to save time for Hangar E! “Hangar E?” You ask… ”where the heck is that?!” Well, come out the back door of C or D, and take a slight right. Pass the bass boat with wings, and cross through the cypress trees on the road to the campground. There on your right you’ll see Hangar E—better known as the “Fly Market”. Check your backpack and bags at the entry door, and let your eyes adjust to the slightly dark coolness—you’ll see rows and rows and rows of tables with all sorts of aviation impedimenta laid out for your enjoyment—and purchase. This is where one man’s junk becomes another man’s treasure.
Here you can buy a tin airplane model from a long-ago gas station collection, or maybe find an obscure plastic model kit for an equally obscure aircraft. Over there is clothing of both dubious and authentic origin with aviation themes. And it is here you can find a bag of cylinder hold down nuts for a Continental C-65 (maybe?) or a set of three old jugs (what happened to number 4?) off the same engine. Over on another table (my favorite), some unknown person has bags of drill bits in popular homebuilder sizes. Where does a guy get thousands of the same size bits to sell? I never ask, but I do stock up! Bags of mixed electronic parts, a test kit for some long-ago-abandoned airline avionics suite, and random tools for fasteners that no one has seen for fifty years. It’s all here!
Like any good flea market, don’t go in looking for something specific—you won’t find it. But you WILL find half a dozen other extremely useful things you never knew you needed so badly. And that’s half the fun of it. Buy something for fun—that old radial engine piston will make a great ash tray (or fondue pot) you know—and haul it home. Everyone needs an old ejection seat for the corner of their man cave… don’t they?