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Tue, Apr 12, 2005

Aero-Views: Sun 'N Fun 2005 - Setup Day

A Veteran's First Take

ANN Correspondent John Ballantyne

This warm Florida sunshine feels really good to many of us who traveled from the still-winter beset north! I'm glad to be here.

Still, I have had some passing thoughts of letting this one slide by and saving the money, effort and hassle of another Sun 'n Fun. Trips like this require a huge amount of preparation by anyone who comes, especially for exhibitors, performers and presenters. Anyway, here I am and here is what I see on setup day.

First time airshow goers are walking around with a sense of great anticipation. Vendors are frantically moving boxes, arranging tables, and lifting their colorful signs into the air. How can there be so many of them? Who could not be swept away with the anticipation of a full week of flying, watching flying and talking about flying? The setup activity reveals the many exhibitors, presentations and displays to savor in upcoming days. So much to do and only so much that one's legs can handle. You can identify the folks who are thinking this way by their excited, sprightly step and attempts to look everywhere at once as if trying to take it all in with big visual gulps. Boy, now I'm glad to be here.

Then I see a few grizzled veterans of major airshows. They illustrate only a little anticipation. Their exhilaration has been tempered with past experience of cold, rained out days, high costs for everything, and the likelihood that it won't all be enjoyable. Experience has ingrained a sense of reservation and maturity, perhaps like a little kid who has grown past the informative years. These folks can be identified by the somewhat glazed look in their eyes as their imagination tries to reach into the future to uncover what the week will hold. They know it will bring some really great stuff, and maybe some really tragic stuff. This group also includes exhibitors who will work hard, long hours each day to peddle their wares in an attempt to make money in aviation (almost unheard of so far). Maybe I should just go home right now.

Coming from a history of twenty-some years of Sun 'n Funs, I observe a general activity rate similar to past years. While there is nothing that immediately jumped out as bold and new, some things will bear watching (and reporting) during the week. Most of all, however, is the opportunity to visit with the many with whom past years have been shared. Chronic airshow goers definitely have a bond with others who regularly attend. They become family. Talk of the kids' growing up and things that have happened during the year begin to invade the pervasive background of aviation.

Boy, am I glad that I am here. But it was a little touch and go for a while there…



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