Thinner Still In The Air Over Lakeland Linder
The unmistakable baritone of a Packard Merlin engine splits the
sky above Lakeland Linder Regional Airport, and hundreds of necks
crane to see the unmistakable silhouette of a North American P-51D
Mustang flash by. "P-51 Mustang, the Cadillac of the sky!" some
"Empire Of The Sun" fan shouts excitedly.
Cadillac of the Sky? Yeah... in Cadillac's dreams.
The Mustang's roar hasn't faded when the basso profundo of a big
radial signals the arrival of an F4U Corsair overhead. The two
mighty fighters lap the field, reminding a cohort of elderly men of
the sounds of their youth, and introducing a new generation to
these magical sensations.
But is this all there is? From the first day of the show, we
were struck by how few the warbirds were, and how narrow the range
of types. Then, there were only four fighters, zero bombers, and a
boatload of trainers and liaison planes on hand. Twin engine types
comprised a Twin Beech and a pair of military C-47s.
Saturday's airshow was a little better. A PBY showed up, and it
made a formation takeoff with a Grumman Albatross. The O-2s are
always up for flying. But the T-34s aren't; many of them are flying
less while the T-34 Association works out alternate methods of
compliance with a fatigue-related AD that has thinned the herd of
those once-commonplace trainers. Those that remain stay closer to
Rumors say that the warbird paucity in 2006 is due to a dispute
over fuel bills from Sun 'N Fun last year and lots of bad blood
between the event and the warbird community--one of a number of
segments of aviation that is increasingly dissatisfied with SnF
management and conduct. We were unable to confirm those rumors.
Certainly fuel costs have limited operations, especially for
money-conscious operators. For whatever reason, the warbirds are
few this year, and we were warned that this in the offing.
It's a good thing to have a flying Mustang and Corsair, of
course. It's great for the public to see these rare planes, to
perceive their speed, to hear and even to feel their mighty power.
A couple of fighters are immeasurably better than none at all, and
these fighters are beautifully restored and are flown with
But, but, but. But just a year or two back, the warbird ramp was
crowded with mighty single- and multi-engine planes from many
nations. Where did they all go?