Ian Twombly

The screamin’ sweeps

April 15, 2008 by Ian J. Twombly, Associate Editor

Since everyone else is blogging on their rides back from Sun ‘n Fun, I feel obliged to discuss mine.

I had the great fortune of flying the sweepstakes airplane home and the bad misfortune of doing it with a headwind the entire way.

After showing off the airplane in Naples, Florida, on Monday afternoon (thanks Chris LeCroy for the grub and for organizing), I was off to the north. The plan was to stop in Gainesville, Fla. on Monday and make it the rest of the way Tuesday. Gainesville is a great airport. Of course, I’m partial given that I learned to fly there and still root for the Gators. The flight from Naples was beautiful. It was one of the late afternoon/early evening flights when everything is clicking. I took off over the shore and headed north among a scattered layer of puffy white. The sun was setting, the ride was smooth, and the music from my ipod was groovy. We live to fly for days like this.

It wasn’t until the sun set and I couldn’t see much on the ground that I began to care about the 20 knots of wind on the nose. No bother though. I landed shortly after and enjoyed a good sleep.

The next morning it was an early departure, a quick aerial campus tour, and then cruising at 2,000 feet over north Florida. I used to do this all the time in Cessna 152s and I couldn’t believe my luck that it was severe clear and completely smooth.

As time wore on, I began to focus on the Aspen Avionics PFD. It has an air data computer that instantly displays winds aloft, true airspeed, and groundspeed. This is what I hate about modern avionics. I was happy being ignorant of the 30 knots on the nose of the airplane. And yes, for the next seven and a half hours, I saw groundspeeds of anywhere between 85 and 101 knots. Ugh. And to make matters worse, I had to stay low to avoid winds of around 45 knots on the nose. So after knocking my head four times on the new air vents (that poke out, by the way. Now I know why they made them flush with the plastic from the factory), I was happy to land under calm winds in Frederick.

But I shouldn’t complain. Other than widely scattered clouds in Georgia and South Carolina, the entire day was severe clear. And I made a paycheck while flying an airplane. Any day you can do that is a good day.


2 Responses to “The screamin’ sweeps”

  1. Drew Gillett Says:

    only took 9.5 hours to get to sunnfun, but 14 to return to nh. thought we had prevailing southwesterlies?

    thought you might have comments on my thoughts re snf .

    i comletely disagree with burton’s analysis ( see below) of snf..

    it is my view attendance is off 20-50% because of

    1)fewer active pilots,
    2)a decline in the builders,
    3)many with planes do not fly them because of the fuel cost ( the rv8 pilot i got a ride with had driven the day before since ” it costs too much to fly” even drawing only 6.8 gph leaned at 140 knots. he flew because i shared the fuel expenses of the flight..
    4)the high cost of camping per person (20/day ) if you go alone,
    the high cost of a ticket 30/ day even if you are eaa or aopa ( it ticks me off that fl residents can go for only 15/day for the 2 biggest days ) even then you didn’t make it
    5)i felt the thunderbirds actually detracted from the event. on thursday and friday they had a disjointed practice show that took over 2 hours for only 1 hour of flying. part of that was due to having to clear part of the camping area just for them) sundays show was good. but halfhearted. and i watched it from the best spot at vintage. usually the airshow is quite snappy with few or no delays and a variety of acts. the tbirds i would not bother to see again. also they had done a show the weekend before at punta gorda which should have satified nearby floridians need for sturm and drang. hence less turnout.
    5a) warbird turnout was way down.
    6) vendors started packing up sun noon which should be completely against the rules and not allowed. people who pay for the last full day should not miss stuff because vendors and others want to leave.
    7)despite my efforts to drag people along from nh and from fl, nobody seems to have time because they have to “polish their doorknobs” or whatever. note my straight in sun am. with no traffic. one person suggested people might be in church. at least it was not easter.

    sunnfun needs to do something to change the trend. if you can provide a word to the powers that be that might help.

    highlights for me, night airshow, easy in easy out, didn’t have to camp, flying over and back, the rest of the airshow particularly the formation yaks, seeing dan gryder’s dc3 and 6 cnj formation from the air realizing i had flown in it at osh, some booth freebees, meeting a 5 year mooney owner with good advice, talking with volunteers and pilots, potentially finding an airport to buy and invest my ira in in sc., the 3 cyl diesel thorp, harassing diamond about importing their diesel while eating their food., etc

  2. Steve Roth Says:

    I fly Vintage aircraft. It seems that the management (Burton) at Sun ‘n-Fun do not want us there. They throw every roadblock in the way — parking difficulties, the lack of the ability to keep our fragile aircraft safe, the “people train” with tractors making our aircraft dirty, etc. I have to guard my airplane to keep the non-aviaition people from harming it.

    We need to keep in mind that the management is looking to make money commercializing Sun-‘n-Fun. It is no longer a fly-in — it is an commercial event (as is AirVenture). Without US bringing our airplanes, there would be nothing but sand and bugs. I used to do A LOT of volunteering there but felt taken advantage of and quit.

    Agree on the T-Birds/Blues, etc. Takes up far too much time and effort. I would rather see a one-hour airshow. The FL locals have only to drive to MacDill AFB in Tampa each year to see that kind of show.

    I have decided to support the local fly-ins rather than give them too much of my money for little in return. In the last few years, my only reason for going was to meet old friends. Now, we just plan on the regional fly-ins to do the same.

    They will lie about the attendance figures, blaming it on the economy, fuel, etc. They do not listen well to feedback about the real reason attendance is diminishing.

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