Sun and Fun 2005 Trip Report: by Mike Thompson (grobdriver 'at'


We launched at dawn (7-ish) on Friday the 15th after a week of watching the weather forecasts; the Weather Channel supplanted Fox News as the default station to watch.


By Thursday we knew we would have headwinds - We couldn't go earlier, unlike Mark Fredericks (you dog!) who would have tailwinds going AND coming back (Sunday)!



After climbing to altitude on course, we broke out the newly made sunshades against the rising sun.  Some Lexan, stick-on auto tinting and velcro strips to hang from the handles.  They worked great!



We headed for Jacksonville, with two refuels - the first more of a head call after morning coffee, about an hour out.  Then a three-hour run of the gauntlet between the Pensacola MOAs, right down V-198 at 7,500 feet.


The controllers were very helpful and we cruised on through without delay.


Another fuel stop at Tri-County (1J0) where we took on 35 gallons at $3.20/gal.




On into Jacksonville, destination Herlong Field (HEG).  To get there we had to transit Cecil Field's airspace, and silly me actually took the Sectional to heart and contacted Jacksonville Approach control at first.

Jax App. gave me a "Standby" and after 10 minutes of flying figure eights outside of Cecil's airspace I called them up to remind them that we were "Standing by" and the reply I got was, "Roger".


After another five minutes of this, I called Cecil tower direct - what I should have done in the first place - and they cheerfully cleared us though to Herlong where we landed at 1100 EDT.


Kit's mom lives just outside Jacksonville.  She met us at the field and we went to lunch. The plan was for her and Kit to drive down to Lakeland while I had the tough job of flying down.  Well, when the going gets tough, the tough get going, and that's just what I did... except I was going to miss the 1345 field closure due to our headwinds going out and subsequent late arrival.


So I flew into Winter Haven.  What a rat race that was!

I got in and parked, got a coke and settled down to wait out the 1800 field opening at Lakeland.  I wasn't the only one, either!


At Winter Haven I met Ned "Mob" Lynch who was one of the Air Force Reserve guys written about in the February 2005 Sport Aviation.  Ned drives a very nice little RV-4 when he's not pushing the Big Iron around (airlines) or zipping along with his hair on fire in an Air Force Reserve F-16. He was there with his son.


Well, eventually it was time to go into the meat grinder, as I thought of the Lake Parker approach procedure.  I dutifully got the ATIS info and then monitored the advisory frequency and was treated to a pair of hapless Cherokees getting chewed out for wallowing around the sky trying to stay inside the lakeshore line.  Lakeland was not yet open, and we were all in a holding pattern.


Spying a Bonanza carving out circles at the 1,700 altitude, and watching the crowd at 1,200, there was no second thought at joining up in the "High Performance" pattern.  Soon the Beech and I were joined by a Lancair and we all maintained a nice tight circle, 1,700 at 150 kts, rocking our wings when asked.


The field finally opened and one-by-one we peeled out of the holding pattern into "The Procedure".

"Blue and White RV, turn right and begin the procedure" was my call.


After Lake Parker, actually getting into Lakeland was anticlimactic.  Follow the guy in front of you and don't touch down before the Orange Spot…

Of course I made one of the worst landings since I started flying this airplane...


Just when you think you are getting the feel of it, you get a wake-up call.


I won't even blame the BRISK crosswind, lest some of the nose-dragger crowd give me grief.





After parking, the whirlwind of Sun and Fun began - and there is no way to describe it.  Imagine a 10-year-old describing their first trip to Disney World.  It was all consuming, and a hazard to the wallet.


I did pick up a Lowrance AirMap 500 at a good price, as I have been wanting a small battery-powered GPS as backup to my panel-mounted SkyForce Skymap IIIC.


But a more interesting “purchase” was a pair of Bose headsets.  Bose had their booth there and Kit tried it out.  The sales guy was very nice, and their demo sure made the headsets glow.  After some talk about where we were from, etc., the guy made the offer for us to use a pair on the way back and decide to buy or not after the trip.


Kit took him up on it!


She has been using a new set of Lightspeeds, the Thirty 3G, and likes them better than the Lightspeed QFR-XCs we were using (and I still am – I’m already deef so why wear expensive headsets?).


After today's return trip, we will be sending the Bose units back.


!?!? you may ask?  Well, the value just was not there.


For my wife, they were not as comfortable and did not have much if any additional noise reduction over the 3G headset.  To top it off, we couldn't hear the stereo in them! Even cranked all the way up, the CD player was just faintly in the background while the 3G was getting blown out. 

At the next stop we traded back so she could have the Lightspeeds, and I had to wear the Bose, since our other headsets were buried at the bottom of the baggage compartment.


I was not impressed, either.  Bose needs to get a recording of an RV for their sound booth!


The airshow Saturday was a fantastic collection of aerobatic routines and military demonstrations.  The F-16 demo was a kick, of course, but the TF-51 presentation just put everything else to shame.  Those little Extras and Giles and what-not with all their explosive energy are impressive, and the F-16 is pure power unleashed - but everyone who knows me knows I have a special spot in my heart for the Mustang, and the flight we were presented with was the maturing of the Extra's energy combined with a hint of the power of the F-16, and flown with a grace achieved by neither aerobats nor Falcon.



I don’t many good stills of the TF-51 flight – I was shooting in digital movie mode!


To jump ahead a little, when I landed at Herlong on the way back, and taxied to the pumps, there was the P-51D "Cloud Dancer" owned by Jimmie Leeward, having just slurped down 92 gallons of 100LL!  Their gas was $3.31/gallon!  You figure it out!




So of course the camera came out and pictures were taken and we had a nice talk culminating with his admonishment for us to attend the next Florida RV Fly In that he hosts at his fly in community, the Leeward Air Ranch.


Sunday Kit and her mom hit the road for Jacksonville while I stuck around spending as much as I could, picking up little odds and ends that I just couldn't pass up.  Before the field closed I launched back to Herlong, a nice little 40 minute run, passing a Bonanza on the way.  I regretted later I didn't think to slow roll it after passing him, just to say, "I can pass you up and do this too".

;)   Damn, but I get full of myself sometimes!


So this morning we launched at about 0740, were cheerfully ushered through Cecil's air space and enjoyed a smooth ride home at 8,500 feet WITH a small tail wind, hitting the same refueling stops.  The fuel bill for the entire trip, BTW, was about $400, and I still have a full left tank and half of the right.



At noon we entered the overhead at Taylor and with a nice gentle 2-gee break and subsequent squeaker (normal when no one is watching), we were back on the ground in Texas.

La Dolce Vita!

This truly IS, The Sweet Life!


You can see pictures of our weekend at: HERE


I had intended to take a jillion pictures. But the reality was that I was too busy looking at everything!

I did get a bunch of the Sonex (a sad lot) for Chris, who will have to do some photoshopping to glean any useful information from them… some RV-10 shots and some of the Legend Cub for my brother, Don, who some day will build and fly one.



Wrap up:  It was a great trip – long enough for a taste of travel, but not long enough that you get out and don’t want to get back in the plane for a few days.


We saw and did all sorts of new things, and enjoyed every bit of it.

Sun and Fun is now on the list of annual events!  Next year, plane camping… so we don’t miss anything!


If you’re building, keep smashing those rivets – IT’S WORTH IT!