Sun 'n' Fun, 2003!!
by Bill Larson
"Come on along!!"
Bill Larson: I recall, as a small child, the most wonderful neighborhood grocery store in the world. Just inside the door was a glass case filled with candy delights to send my tiny mind spinning with visions of absolute ecstasy. I wanted them all.
Scene change! To Sun 'n' Fun in Lakeland, Florida and all those visions revived. Of course, the candy is much bigger and more expensive today, but the ecstasy is still there.
100 Years of Aviationwas this year's theme at Sun 'n' Fun, as it will be at air shows throughout the country. The center piece was EAA's "Countdown to Kittyhawk" exhibit under a 24,000 square foot tent filled with displays. The big draw was a full scale replica of the Wright Flyer which isn't just for display. On December 17th, 2003, this particular Wright Flyer will re-create the first powered flights to the day--and minute--of the original aircraft on the same sand dunes that Wilbur and Orville used. But there was more to the exhibit: three Wright Flyer simulators provided by microsoft with huge HDTV screens. Let me tell ya', there is nothing like flying while lying
on your stomach, changing altitude with a wooden joy stick and attitude by wiggling your hips. I tried it, and turned in my license shortly thereafter. I then went to the kiddies area where I tried a small wooden Wright Flyer with pedals. Same result.
Right: Ersatz Airman Larson.
There will be five more stops for the exhibit, the last at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina where that historic moment will be re-created on the December anniversary date. The display is presented by the Ford Motor Company and supported by Microsoft and Eclipse Aviation.
Though the Lord knows I tried, there is no way to cover the entire show in one day. Ten hours of walking, shooting pictures and taking notes was a little more than this old body anticipated. So I will let the photos tell most of the story.
But one thought struck me on reflection: Orville and Wilbur Wright were the fathers, not only of aviation, but also of homebuilts. (Ed. note: Bill's correct. The Wright Flyer could be considered the world's first ultra-light.) Today, thousands of people spend millions of hours creating their own aviation history, and many were proud to display their masterpieces at Lakeland.
But the "homebuilts" were just one small part of the story. There were the military aircraft of the past, distant and not-so-distant.
Many of them got up and thrilled the crowds with low passes and simulated airstrikes.
There were planes begging to be "judged." Right.
There were the vendors of everything you could imagine and more food stands than any one stomach could endure.
There were the aircraft manufacturers, big and small, conventional and experimental, with mouth-watering displays of their latest creations.
Let's not forget the plethora of workshops and forums; educational experiences for airplane drivers.
There was, of course, the air show with such names as Patty Wagstaff, Sean Tucker, Dale Snodgrass, The Aeroshell Team, (Photo)and many, many more.
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