2017 Sun & Fun

2017 Sun & Fun

by Juergen Nies

This year three of our Chapter’s airplanes attended Sun & Fun. Dan Christian had his Pilatus stationed in Florida. He was in Florida a couple of weeks earlier and got stuck there because of the late snow storm we had in Winchester. Dan left Wednesday morning via airline to retrieve his Pilatus and flew it to Lakeland (he had the easy flight as far as the weather was concerned). Jim Lum flew his Navajo with Joey as his co-pilot and John Ely and Bob Metcalf riding in the back. Their plan was to leave Thursday early, but weather delayed their departure until early afternoon. They made it into Lakeland just before the airport shut down for the night. Jeff Sharp decided to drive down to S&F and (just by coincident) met me right when I taxied the Pacer into the camping position on Wednesday. So our Chapter was presented by a Pilatus, a Navajo and my Pacer.

Jim's Navajo at Night

I was not sure until 5:30 AM Wednesday morning if I can make it through the weather blocking off the Florida peninsula, but after conducting a detailed weather check I was seeing some hope to have a large enough gap in the weather without convective activity to make it. I filed an IFR flight plan from Florence, SC (KFLO) to Ocala, FL (KOCF). Florence would get me close to the weather to have another check before getting into it and Ocala would get me far enough away from it (after flying through it). I knew I couldn’t get direct into Lakeland since the airport would be shut down for the daily airshow by the time I make it to Lakeland.

I took off at 7:15 AM from Winchester and had a very pleasant VFR flight (just a slight headwind) to Florence. I did a quick turnaround with a weather check and all 58 Gallon loaded. As I was getting into the Pacer the rain was falling and by the time I climbed through 2,500 feet I was on the gauges. Other than light turbulence and light to moderate rain it was not too bad. By the time I crossed the Savana VOR I was mostly in the clear with just some clouds below me cruising at 6,000 feet. The headwind on the other hand was between 30 and 35 knots, but I had plenty of fuel and time. However, before I got to the Saint Simons VOR I was back in the clouds and this time it was the nasty kind. Twice the turbulence was so bad that I knocked my head on the ceiling (even though with the harness as tight as possible) so bad that my headset was knocked off my head. I worked with the controller (I was still in IMC) and tried different altitudes, but it was just a very bumpy ride.

Luckily everything comes to an end sooner or later, so I was happy when the controller started to step me down for the approach into Ocala where I broke out of the clouds at about 3,000 feet for the visual straight in approach on runway 18. I was glad to find out there was a restaurant at the field for lunch and relaxation.

I timed my take off (for the remaining 73 NM) to be at Lake Parker exactly at 5:30 PM when the airport opens again after the airshow, and I nailed it, I was the first airplane to be there. However, the friendly controller informed me that the airport would not open for at least another 45 minutes and advised me to go and get fuel if I can’t circle that long. I told him I can circle for the next six hours if I have too and I’m not going anywhere (he thought I was joking, but I wasn’t). A few other airplanes joint (one Bonanza from Warrenton) and in circles around the Lake we went. Finally, after 50 minutes of looking at the Lake I was waved through and landed on RWY 27R (in a gusting 20 knots straight crosswind just to finish off my day of flying).

As I was taxiing into the camping spot I met Jeff Sharp who had driven to S&F. He helped me set up camp and we had dinner together. I was warned already there would be some Thunderstorms during the night and sure enough, they started Thursday morning at 5:00 AM and lasted for about 2.5 hours. I found out that it was not a good thing that I haven’t sealed my tent for a couple of years, but after you get wet, you can’t get any more wet and the nice weather on Thursday helped to dry everything out quickly.

The Morning After

The remaining days were very pleasant and even on the cool side during the day and nice cold sleeping temperatures at night. All of us met up at different times for meals and drinks or just to look at stuff. The airshows during the days (and two nights) are always fun to watch. Dan flew his Pilatus in the Warbirds flybys one day and received an award for his plane.

Dan ready to fly in the airshow

Having a beer with friends

Hanging out with friends

Blue Angels

Just one Blue Angel

Blue Angels

When Pigs Fly

How to transport a Scooter

Warbirds at Night

Warbirds at Night

Warbirds at Night

Warbirds at Night

We all left on Sunday with me and Dan taking off first (I was about five to ten minutes ahead of him). Dan and I flew to Lincolnton, NC where he dropped of his Pilatus for an annual inspection. The flight from S&F all the way home was such a big difference compared to the flight down. Clear skies all the way and sometimes even a little tailwind. At altitudes of 5,500 and later 7,500 the ride was even smooth. Since I had Dan with me flying back into Winchester I managed to squeeze in an instrument approach (under the hood) into RWY 14. As I was setting up for the approach we heard Jim in the Navajo on downwind for RWY 14.

Overall another great time at S&F (minus the flooded tent the first night) and look forward already to go next year again. I hope some more of you can join.

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