The Sun ‘n Fun Quick Rinse


It happens pretty much every year. Springtime weather brings its expected instability to the Sun ‘n Fun airshow. Few who were here in 2011 can forget the line of severe thunderstorms that spawned a tornado that upended a bunch of airplanes, flooded the grounds and seemed to boresight the Zenith compound. So it’s understandable that the organizers were quick to cancel the daily airshow and suggest showgoers head to safety when around 2 p.m. a line of precipitation marched in from the southwest. No one was really surprised. Veteran attendees remember years of mud, brutalizing humidity and other nature-borne mayhem. Comes with the territory, I guess.

Preceding the rain were strong winds that caused many outdoor exhibitors to button up the airplanes. I was talking with Aeromarine’s Chip Erwin as the rains threatened. His folding-wing Trulite had already been origami’d up and thoroughly tied down. A pair of Merlins rocked in the wind, rudder doing a little dance like an exotic bird’s mating dance. (I could have sworn I heard David Attenborough’s voice.). Erwin and I were walking back toward show center from Paradise City when the first band of rain came. 

Image: ForeflightWithin 10 minutes it was howling down. I watched the radar on ForeFlight looking at the rain intensity and counting the lightning bolts, wondering if we were going to see a repeat of 2011. The wind never got out of hand but many of the streets flooded and several outdoor displays had small lakes around the airplanes.

And as quickly as it came, it passed through. As soon as the rain subsided, the bustle returned, with a notable exception. Many outdoor vendors, expecting both a longer duration of rain and higher winds (the forecast was for 20-plus-knot winds with gusts) and had secured their wares as best they could and found shelter, or perhaps a nice pub. I walked the grounds for another couple of hours and saw no obvious damage. A couple of airplanes turned awkwardly in their tiedowns, maybe, but nothing I recognized as damage. As the radar proved, the front had passed and though the skies remained cloudy, the worst appeared to be over.

By Thursday night, the forecast for the rest of the week looked terrific—sun (to go with the fun?) and temps in the high 70s and low 80s. The weekend crowd will have it good.


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