Sun N Fun 2019 - Full Trip Writeup
It's the kickoff to the 2019 big fly ins - SUN N FUN! On my way home from last years SNF, I decided I was not going to make the long EARLY run from Maryland the Florida in the same day if weather permitted. It's a super early wakeup (4am) and a very long day of flying. So this year, on my 4th consecutive SNF, I decided to work half of a day, fly 4 hours, then make the quick hop to Lakeland the next day.
Fast forward a year and holy cow...the weather gods Mostly agreed with my perfect plan...except for the winds. When I was at work, winds were blowing a gale - 70 degree crosswind, 23G38 at my homebase. Screw it, I was going to head out to the airport and see what it really was. 50 degree crosswind, 20G27....LETS GO TO SNF!!!!
It was a severely CAVU day.
My only complaint besides the strong groundwinds was a predominant headwind of 20 kts. But hey, I'm flying to FL, no weather concerns only wind. LIFE IS GOOD!
132 kts GS. Still better than the alternative - still being at work.
461 nm from my night stop at Baxley, GA the wind gods gave me a slight break and decided to be negligible.
I hit 600 hours TT about half way through my trip. Made me reflect on the great SEVEN (ABOUT TO BE EIGHT) consecutive Oshkosh's and (about to be) FOUR consecutive Sun 'N Fun's I've attended. WHAT A MACHINE!!!
BOOYAH! Finally a little push after 3.3 hours!
Scenery was not much on the trip down...apologies to The South. Crossing the Savannah River from SC into GA.
3.8 hours is a LONG TIME to be in the RV. Felt good to be at my night destination in Baxley, GA.
Day 1 (continued)
I tried to reserve a room at the Baxley FBO, but both were taken. Ugh, and none worse than SONEX DRIVERS!!
The two Sonex's belonged to some great guys from Siler City, NC (KSCR) - Wayne and Peter. We all grabbed the crew car to see what sort of wild night life Baxley, GA had to offer. After taking an inventory of what the town had to offer, we settled on Dick's Wings. I had a tremendous time with these two (Only Wayne pictured here...Peter has a "Radio Face" ;)). Both Wayne and Peter coincidentally happened to be heading to my final destination tomorrow - SNF HBC. They might of been insulted that I recommended they leave MUCH earlier than I do to make sure they make it to KLAL before the airshow shut the airport down at noon. They were still kind enough to return me to KBHC for me to enjoy a nights sleep on the FBO's leather couch.
Some people ask me if repeatedly making the same trips to the big fly-ins ever get boring. And this is why it doesn't. You never know what amazing people you meet along the way. I made two new incredible friends even before I made it to Lakeland.
I tried by best to sleep on the couch in the Baxley FBO, but there unicom frequency was piped into a loudspeaker - 122.8 out of all frequencies. I remember every time I thought I was about to fall asleep, someones transmission would come alive. My personal favorite was an R22 helo announcing from 15 miles out his proximity to Baxley in 5 mile increments...COMING AND GOING! Oh well, free place to crash for the night, I can't really complain I didn't get what I paid for.
We woke up to an absolutely perfect morning Thursday. A little morning dew coated the canopy and was quite stubborn to get rid of. In fact it didn't decide to disappear until around 90kts ;-). My friends Peter and Wayne joked about our low takeoff visibility out of Baxley once we all arrived at Sun 'N Fun. While all three of us were getting ready to depart, I looked up at the sky to the north and saw the most incredible meteor shooting to the sky towards the east. I quickly yelled for Wayne and Peter to look up to enjoy. Apparently the three of us weren't the only ones to see it - The American Meteor Society had quite a couple hundred people also report it (https://fireball.amsmeteors.org/memb...vent/2019/1561).
I am not typically a morning person. But today could of convinced me to become one. Silky smooth air and severe CAVU. This weather can only mean one thing - I am going to pay for it on the way home. I never get it easy coming and going from SNF.
Off to the west is equally as tranquil.
Finally, after 700nm some sort of obscuration in the sky. These things called clouds.
Lake Parker approach was eerily quiet. Dare I keep my OSH/SNF record of never being in a hold???
Garmin Pilot ADS-B and my uAvionics ADS-B agreed with the quiet approach frequency. Not a whole lot of arrivals at 8:40am.
It was a relatively uneventful landing at SNF. I was able to get a GREAT parking spot...a mere two spots away from the amazing HBC tent.
After a few hours my Sonex friends arrived (actually they were nearly right behind me...but I like to keep it lively). Sun N Fun is nice enough to offer me media passes for the week to write up my adventures. My usual partner in crime at the last minute needed to cancel (RV-8 Builder, Peter - http://papalimabravo.com/), so I traded one Peter for another! Sonex Peter was great. We really clicked from the moment we first met last night in GA.
WELL THIS WAS UNEXPECTED! The former HBC chair, Mary Jane, made a surprise appearance at SNF. We chat occasionally throughout the year and she kept this an amazing secret.
Off to a quick run through the vendors to see what sort of free goodies I could load up on. Spencer Aircraft had a really cool electric assisted folding bike. 30 lbs, folds up, and was QUICK! Buy one before they're GONE! These things were selling like hotcakes.
Day 2 (continued)
The One Week Wonder painted in front of the EAA tent.
Phew...after a long night of little sleep, it was time to catch up with my friend Chad and his dad at the beer chalet. While not show center to watch the Blue Angels from...it sufficed quite nicely.
The relocated Homebuilt Parking. Before HBP really had rock star parking location. There was a long thread on the change weeks before the event on VAF...however, this media representative didn't pay much attention since he's a HBC'er.
4 SNF's in a ROW!!!! That's how many times Quick Draw Jim Buechler has stolen a beer of mine right before his wife Paula snaps a pic.
Next up was HBC volunteer awards.
Hey...check out those WOOD FLOORS AT HBC! And not to be outdone...the wood floors have LIVE MUSIC! Two firsts for SNF.
Heidi and her team did an AMAZING job at HBC hosting all of us. It was a seamless transition from the previous years. THANKS SO MUCH HEIDI!!!
Day 2 (continued)
Her beauty is only outdone by her class! Ladies and gentlemen - take a look at that presentation of that fine bottle of elixir.
Tired of all of the AirCam pics I've posted on this site? Well get used to it. AirCam released their Gen-3 Fuselage this week which incorporated a legal 3rd seat(http://www.aircam.com/media-and-news...nts-third-seat). On top of that they increased their gross weight from 1680lbs by 220lbs 2to 1900lbs when combined with the 100HP to 115HP conversion kits to the Rotax 912ULS engine by Ronnie Smith (https://www.flysmla.com. The AirCam guys were so impressed with my new knowledge I got "Golden Ticket" to get a ride around the pattern.
Clearly I didn't have any fun and am NOT considering this as my next build.
The XP-82 was definitely the highlight of the show. If you look at the pitch of the propellers you will notice these two Merlin powered bug swatters are counter-rotating.
I ran through the four vendor hangars seeing mostly the same thing. I ran across IFD-NET (http://www.ifd-net.com/) booth which had some interesting 3 1/8" and 2.25" instruments.
IFD-NET's solution had a lot of bang for the buck - each of these are less than $1,000. More information here: IFD-NET Brochure.pdf.
What really interested me is the fun device to the left. FULL SIZED 3.125" EVO instrument with an AMAZING display. The AHRS was really incredible....I lost in my challenge to make it tumble. More info here: IFD-NET EVO Brochure.pdf.
It's not every day you wake up to your hangar neighbor being featured on the front page of your local favorite magazine. His build it the highest quality I have ever seen and he is the nicest guy I have ever met. Except he took off yesterday because he is a scaredy cat of the weather on Saturday!
Homebuilt Camping (HBC) had an amazing view of the Blue Angels portion of the airshow. Plus the beverages were priced right!
I am an man on the move at SNF as I bounce from one social engagement to another. However these two beautiful sisters representing Heavens Landing caught me in a rare moment of free time (and weakness) I had and insisted on a photo.
My vendor friends wanted to bust out of SNF and head off to a fun beer location - Brew Hub! Whilst the bottle caps on the side of this lovely establishment stand out, take a look at the beer bottle integrated into the left side the the building! The Cuban sandwich from the foodtruck here was the best I've had. Beer and service was incredible too. But ****...that Cuban....
Day 3 (continued)
My massive media conglomerate at SNF includes many phenomenal photographers. I was lucky enough to have exclusive rights to Andre Todd's (of http://www.aerotronics.com/) great shots below!
It's been a very quick two nights at SNF. I woke up on Saturday to the Sun n Fun Hot Air Balloon Launch. The conditions were perfect - no winds and severe CAVU.
It pains me to post this, but my friend Peter had a much better pic of the balloon launch...even if his Sonex is in the foreground.
As much trash-talk as I to my buddies airplane, I don't hold a torch to his workmanship.
I wasn't the only one who appreciated the workmanship under the hood - Peter won the "Best Auto Engine Homebuilt" award for his SDS fuel injected hamster. Congrats my friend! Well deserved!!!
My journey home wasn't looking all that optimistic. There was a slow moving system consisting of low ceilings and thunderstorms moving across the south.
My plan was simple - fly as long as I can until I can't maintain VFR or a suitable amount of fuel in reserve. Heading north out of FL I finally had a little push by the wind gods.
The weather north of Waycross, GA seemed to be questionable at best. So I put down here for some fuel and a more thorough look at the weather.
Upon landing, it was apparent I wasn't the only Sun N Funner hesitant to fly further north. This place was packed with every type of aircraft trying to head north. The FBO at KAYS was ready for us - they had incredible BBQ for all of us. At least 4 groups of pilots elected to spend the night here and wait until tomorrow - which proved to be difficult since the "swamp show" was in town and booked most of the hotels. The airport manager assured me and another pilot he had no quarrels with us camping at the airport.
This was a SOLID 3 hours of nearly every pilot on their phones and tablets trying to dissect the weather and try to plan to get through it. Multiple people were thinking of flying as far west as Montgomery, AL to swing around it.
AND this is the very moment I was humbled. My new Sonex friends texted me after they landed in NC asking me where I was. Completely baffled how they accomplished this goal I asked how - and they quickly offered the secret of a very large broken layer at 3,500'! I figured I have nothing to loose - might as well poke around and see what options exist while the sun is up.
By Jove, those Sonex'ers were right!!! Well not at 3,500', I was able to safely find a ample VFR space at around 6,500'!
Day 4 (continued)
The further north I progressed, the better the conditions got. The top layer burnt off and it ended up once again becoming a beautiful day.
My original plans were to spend the night in Greensboro, GA (Green County - 3J7) and visiting friends. However, the weather I just flew through was forecasted to creep north overnight, so the battle I went through today would be there tomorrow, without the guarantee of a clear layer.
With my tail between my legs I flew over my friends house and rocked my wings. Sure wish I could of been kicking back a few cold ones with them, but I feel like I was already very lucky to be able to have made it through that system earlier.
The further north I made it the better the weather got. It was a beautiful flight with the Great Smoky Mountains off to the west.
I didn't need to look down at the map to tell what the name of the next town I was flying over was - the large orange sphere gave it away immediately - Gaffney, GA. The "Peachoid" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peachoid) was featured in the Netflix series, "House of Cards". This is where Kevin Spacey's character, Frank Underwood, was a native of. And who says TV rots your brain???
More severe clear ahead.
Hmmmm...I've never seen this rock formation before.
It's aptly named - PILOT mountain! Wikipedia calls it "..one of the most distinctive natural features in the U.S. state of North Carolina." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pilot_...North_Carolina)).
Just to the east of Pilot Mountain is Hanging Rock state park.
Smith Mountain Lake in southern VA.
Day 4 (continued)
I was going to shoot up the west side of the Shenandoah mountain range but low clouds and the sun setting didn't seem like a great combination. So east of the Shenandoah's I went. It just meant I needed to duck under the KIAD class B layers. It's not ideal to be low after the sun sets, but it's better than being in the clouds!
The sunset was spectacular tonight. Another great adventure in the RV. My friend Curtis and I were talking before Sun and Fun about why we go each year. Nothing much changes in the new airplanes introduced, or what the vendors sell. We both agreed we go for the unknown adventure of getting down there and back (always weather in at least one direction!), seeing old friends and meeting new people. These words never held truer. I had a fantastic time seeing old friends such as Chad, Jeff, Andre, Jim, Paula, Nick, Heidi, Mary-Jane, Jerry (and more???), and meeting new friends like those pesky Sonex drivers and countless more. I had no idea building an airplane would enhance my life to the extent it has. I always pinch myself to make sure it's not a dream every time I complete another trip in this incredible machine.
Once I arrived back home, Sonex Peter shared his MPG with me - 41.3MPG!!! at 145mpg GS. Not too shabby!!!
Andre took some incredible shots of the Blue Angles:
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