On the Road (to SnF) Again


One of the great things about being an aviation writer is the opportunity to get out and meet other aviators, see their airplanes, find new airplanes, and get back together with all the wonderful folks in the industry. We missed Sun ‘n Fun last year because our organization wasn’t quite ready to get back out among ‘em, and of course, the year before it didn’t happen at all—so its been a few years (2019?) since we’ve trod the mossy footpaths and wide open spaces at Lakeland Regional Airport. But with travel picking back up, we’re on the way—a coupe days late in my case because of previous commitments involving frozen slopes and mountain air, but on the way for a few days of Florida nevertheless!

One of the most common questions I get from all over the industry is “are you going to be at the show?” Followed, of course, by “what airplane are you going to bring?” Generally speaking, I am a believer that aviation scribes should, whenever possible, fly an airplane into fly-in events. We are, after all, supposed to be immersed in the experience of aviation, committing ourselves to the air as often as possible to stay connected with those we serve with information on our chosen passion. Which is what it is always disappointing when I have to answer that the RVs have stayed home in their hangar, and I took the big blue and orange 737 to the show.) The disappointment comes not only from not being able to point at the flight linen and say “that’s my plane!”, but also from the knowledge that I am going to be slogging through airline terminals, rental car counters, and badge claim carousels…).

So why not do it the ”right” way? Well the truth is that when I lived on the Gulf coast, Lakeland was a one-hop away in my RV-8, and that was the easy way to go. But living on the far west coast of the country, the trip becomes problematic. Not that I don’t enjoy flying two days each way (without monstrous tailwinds, there is just no way to do Nevada to Central Florida in one day and observe any sort of reasonable duty day limits), but the reality of spring weather says that I could spend two days flying to Tallahassee and then not make it the last hour or so to Lakeland because of thunderstorms and other nasty frontal weather. This time of year, the weather gods through up barriers to the sunshine state, right at the border.

And the fact remains—my job is to be at the show, not to try and get to the show, and as I always say, the best safety item a pilot for single engine aircraft can invest in is a ticket on Southwest, so that if the weather is bad, they have no excuse—just get in the aluminum mailing tube and show up alive. If the weather is good, bank the ticket and burn some Avgas!

So for all my friends at the show, you won’t see the Valkyrie, Tsamsiyu, Mikey, or Loki out on the line, but I should be there on Thursday, assuming my friends at Southwest do their usual fine jobs and the rental car counter in Tampa still has some cars left tonight.

See ya’ at the Show!

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Paul Dye
Paul Dye, KITPLANES® Editor at Large, retired as a Lead Flight Director for NASA’s Human Space Flight program, with 40 years of aerospace experience on everything from Cubs to the Space Shuttle. An avid homebuilder, he began flying and working on airplanes as a teen and has experience with a wide range of construction techniques and materials. He flies an RV-8 and SubSonex jet that he built, an RV-3 that he built with his pilot wife, as well as a Dream Tundra and an electric Xenos motorglider they completed. Currently, they are building an F1 Rocket. A commercially licensed pilot, he has logged over 6000 hours in many different types of aircraft and is an A&P, FAA DAR, EAA Tech Counselor and Flight Advisor; he was formerly a member of the Homebuilder’s Council. He consults and collaborates in aerospace operations and flight-testing projects across the country.


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