Report from Lakeland '04

I wasn't planning on attending Sun 'n Fun this year up until about a week before it started, when plans abruptly changed. My planned absense was due to the fact that I'm about to start working on a RV-7A, so even if I did have money coming out my ears a few months ago (unlikely), it's even less likely to be the case now that I just mailed Van's a check for a RV-7A Quickbuild Kit. Also, time off from work would be difficult to get for the entire airshow, as I'm taking a week off in May to go build the RV empennage at the Alexander Technical Center in Griffin, GA.

As it turned out, a few RVers in the area were planning to go down for part of the airshow and were looking for someone to tag along and help pay for the gas. Hence, I had the opportunity to get a ride in the back seat of Doug Preston's RV-8. Doug was just planning to go down for the final weekend of the airshow, and as that didn't require much time off work, I was willing to raid the piggy bank to go. (I should point out that I've never been to either Lakeland or Oshkosh before. Also I've never gotten to ride in an RV-8, and never been on this long a cross-country in any general aviation aircraft. Any way you slice it, this was an entirely new experience.)

In any case, Doug's RV-8:

photo courtesy Doug Preston

General impressions and observations about the show are at the bottom of the page. However, if you want to skip directly to the pictures (which is probably more interesting anyway) and associated commentary this would be the place you could do that. It made a lot more sense to group these by topic instead of in chronological order. Have fun, but be careful of the load times -- some of these involve lots of pictures.

The Pictures

  • Trip Down on 16 April (Friday). We flew down in the company of two other RVs (a 6 and a 6A).
  • RVs on the flightline - Here's Page 1, and here's Page 2. Man, there were lots of these. Pictures of RVs, their corresponding panels, and a couple Team RV formation pictures. (A few Harmon Rockets snuck in here too.)
  • Assorted Van's Stuff - their booth, demo planes (and panels), pictures from the Van's Sun 'n Fun Banquet and their RV seminar on Saturday.
  • Warbirds - on the ground. All of the pictures of warbirds in the air are in the next section, which is . . .
  • Misc. - Page 1, and then Page 2. - all the stuff that I couldn't fit in any other category - airshow pictures, vendors, etc.
  • Trip Back on 18 April (Sunday). We flew back in the company of a newly finished RV-7A, and this time put more energy into getting some nifty air-to-air shots than we did on the way there.
  • Here are a few panoramic shots. Clicking on these makes 'em bigger, but watch out - they are pretty big. Thanks to my buddy Nate Lewis (the resident graphics whiz) for stitching these together digitally:

    Panorama of the homebuilt section of the flightline. RVs are center right.

    P-51 Mustang

What I Learned

Well, this was a blast. Sensory overload! How many times do you get to see the Goodyear Blimp, a formation of RVs, and a couple of F-16s share the same chunk of sky? I saw all three of those in my first five minutes on the ground, so I was a bit overwhelmed. In any case, things that I learned and highlights from the show:

  • Experimentals are really where it's at, it seems. Perhaps it's easy to walk away from Sun 'n Fun with this impression just because of the interests of the people that run it, but I really think it's true anyway when you look at price/performance ratios for these airplanes, booths where the most people are spending the most time, and new products being introduced.
  • The Avery Tools folks are very cool. I got to talk to both the Cleveland Tools people and the Avery Tools people (both of whom had very nice things to say about each other, actually), and wound up getting the RV set of tools from Avery Tools. However, these didn't come home with us in the RV-8.
  • It was really neat to meet people that I've read about in the RV community. The same thing happened with airplanes - suddenly airplanes that have their picture in the RV calendar or in EAA's Sport Aviation are sitting there. That was just cool.
  • I've heard stories about how cool the (largely unofficial and undocumented) support network among RV builders is, but before this show I hadn't really had much personal experience with it though I've sort of seen it in action. I started to see that as I met multiple people who offered to answer questions and help me out once I'm in the middle of this project.
  • It's really amazing how many RVs are out there, and consequently, how many vendors have RVs in mind when they design their product. More the one of the vendors that I walked up to said "Oh, yeah, I built an RV" when I told them I was planning to build a -7A. That's neat.
  • Dynon introduced a new engine monitor at the show. Pictures and a blurb about it are on Misc - Page 1. I really like this unit.
  • The RV is an amazing airplane if you want to go long distances. I had really wondered about this - I was worried about noise levels. This turned out to not be a problem if you've got a good ANR headset. Things brings us to our next point, which is . . . .
  • Active noise reduction headphones are really a necessity in an RV. I know this now because the batteries died in my set on the way down, and I had to raid one of the portable GPS units for spares. (The more I think about it, though, I think it's more the case that after you get used to an ANR headset, it's a necessity in just about any airplane.)

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