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Sun-n-Fun 2004 Trip Report

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Just one week ago today I was reconciling myself with the bittersweet realization that this would be my final morning at Sun-n-Fun. It's time to pack and head back home. I was privileged with the opportunity to fly down with Marc Zeitlin (of www.cozybuilders.org), in his Cozy IV as his fledgling navigator. This is my side of Marc's story.


Weather for Departure


We were supposed to leave Wednesday morning, but early on in the week a storm system was running wild throughout most of the country. Checking the weather, I thought for sure we'd have to cancel, but after checking with Marc, I was reminded that you can fly under the clouds. Imagine that <g>. Marc also supplied me with some real aviation weather sites:


http://adds.aviationweather.noaa.gov and http://aviationweather.gov


I checked these on Monday and Tuesday, and found that at 2:00 on Wednesday the winds were perfect for a shot all the way to Virginia, where the weather was clearing. Not good enough it turned out. Again I was reminded, it's about the clouds. So now I am researching cloud ceilings in anticipation of the flight, and see that Thursday at 2:00pm things look good for Marc to get out of Massachusetts. On Thursday morning, however, Marc advised that he had sufficient ceiling and would be leaving shortly (~9:30). At this point I knew Marc's personal minimums were safe and conservative, but I didn't quite see how he'd be getting out at this time. As you can see from Marc's report, it was a bit hectic for him.


Departure at 47N


Amy, my wife, and my mother wanted to see me off and were at the field with me waiting for Marc's arrival at ~10:30. My mom must have thought I had a fair chance of NOT making it out of this alive, and insisted that I hold a 1940 silver quarter of hers (her birth year). I thought that was a bit odd, and made a comment about her being able to retrieve it from the wreckage.


At 10:25 I began to comb the skies for Marc's "spaceship". I had a video camera with me to capture the moment. The last time I caught part of Marc's landing on my digital camera in movie mode, but blew it and stopped filming 0.5 seconds before his wheels hit the runway. I was determined to do justice to this landing by filming proper on my Hi8 camera. 10:30 came and went, and then 10:35. Finally, at 10:40, I see a canard high in the sky and the excitement begins to mount.


Marc landed and pulled up to meet us. Posted Image The picture is of Marc and Karen, my mother. Amy was visibly impressed with the design style of the plane, describing it as beautiful and elegant. A warm fuzzy ran through me with those words -- "I'll be all out authorized to build by the time I get back." My mother, on the other hand, said, "I was expecting... well, a door." Amy and I laughed at that, and I began to get my stuff. Up to this point I had realized I'd forgotten a number of small items, but now one significant item -- my sleeping bag. :scared: Luckily my mother had a blanket in her trunk.


My mom didn't know what to do with herself when we were preparing to take off, so I made her pose for this picture.


We loaded up, strapped in, and said our farewells. We blasted off towards Suffolk, Virginia to visit Wayne Hicks, who reluctantly had to decide not to fly down w/Marc this year.


Flight to SFQ


In the air I realized that this was my first small aircraft trip where the destination was not the same point as the departure point. I was just settling in to soak in the joy of the flight when Marc threw a coil-ringed binder of east coast charts in my lap and said, "Now tell me where we are?" I knew we were still in New Jersey, but not yet having my "license" or any real experience, I had to admit, "I really can't tell." With this began my navigation training, being patiently instructed by Marc on the details of reading charts and how to recognize landmarks on the ground. Rivers, airports, highways, and even racetracks.


High above Delaware and Chesapeake Bay, Posted Image wondering where to land in an emergency, the magnitude of flying from Hawaii to the mainland in a Cozy hit me. It also put Lindbergh's achievement into a much better perspective for me. Doing these things today, I feel it's fair to make an analogy to something like climbing Mt. Everest solo -- a feat I can hardly imagine.


In flight there was a sudden KABRANG sound, which I felt come and go as a vibration through the plane. My heart must have skipped half a beat as I collected my thought. Marc pointed out that it was just a spring for the air brake, and that there's another attached, so no worries. I have to admit my immediate concern was nothing more than, "Dang, we're going to have to make repairs and this trip is going to be seriously derailed." Luckily, it was more or less a non-event and we cruised forward. With the wind at our back, we were realizing a 240mph ground speed.


Landing in Suffolk was my third landing in a Cozy, and felt just a bit of anxiety. I think it was here where there were some heavy crosswinds, which Marc handled quite well. We taxied over to the parking area, put the nose down, and had lunch w/Wayne who was there to meet us.


After lunch we went to Wayne's hangar to see Wayne's Cozy project. Posted Image I had been impressed with Wayne's work on the Web, and so this was a special treat for me. Wayne does great work, keeps a clean shop, and I am sure will produce a beautiful aircraft.


Also in the hangar was Steve Volovsek's LongEZ project nearly ready for paint. I'd never seen a LongEZ in any form, so this was another treat. Still, I gravitated to Wayne's Cozy, since that's what I will be soon building.


Flight to CUB and then to Clearwater Airpark (CLW)


We bid farewell to Wayne and headed out towards CUB, our next stop to say hello to another builder and a perennial pre-planning builder (who had Cozy plans for ~15 years -- and I thought my 9 months were long).


They drooled over and pet Marc's plane a bit, with Marc offering up answers to all their questions. Posted Image Soon after we headed out to Clearwater, where we'd be staying at my sister's place. I called my sister just before taking off, and let her know that I'd ring her once more when we were 30 minutes out.


Along the way I continued to soak in Marc's instruction and knowledge, which I readily welcomed. Marc was in tune with the level of my knowledge, and so most of everything he had to offer was useful and appreciated. The most challenging aspect of this flight was to thread a needle through restricted military airspace and that for the Orlando airport. It couldn't have been wider than a mile or two, and on the map and GPS seemed to be the width of the wings. I wondered what would happen if we dragged a rudder through the military airspace... "Not much", I thought, but I didn't care to find out so I cross-checked our position as best I could.


Within 30 minutes of ClearWater, I found out two things: 1) no cell phones in flight, and 2) there's no reception anyway. Posted Image So when we arrived, my ignorance would have it that my sister was not there. On the final approach I did notice a canard that was tied down. It looked like a Velocity, it was as it turned out, but it didn't have an interior or an engine.


My sister made it there just 10 minutes after our arrival, took us to her place, and treated us like royalty. It was good to see my favorite sister. :)


Over to Sun-n-Fun


We left for Sun-n-Fun Friday morning. I could tell from Marc's pre-flight briefing that this was going to be "action packed". At Lakeland there were two lakes where planes where holding at 1100ft (for small planes) and 2000ft (for twins and fast planes). The instructions were to go to lake #1 and listen for when lake #2 had emptied into the regular pattern at Lakeland. Planes were everywhere. In front, behind, up, down, to the left, right -- I thought I was nearly essential at this point, looking out the right side for unexpected traffic.


You could feel the confusion "in the air", with some inbound pilots seemingly barreling in without having previously referenced the SnF procedures for landing. On final approach we were cut off by a v-tailed Beech, which made Marc go high so he could put on all the brakes he could find. Soon enough it was in front of us, and we actually landed first with the tower instructing it to touchdown further down the runway. For sure I thought we would have to do go around, but none of this seemed to faze the pilot in command.


Fun at Sun-n-Fun


With the exception of the early part of the week, and from Thursday forward, this year was hardly to be known as 'Rain-n-Pain'. The only pain I felt was the sunburn I got from Friday, which had me seeking shade the remainder of my stay. As I write this more than a week later, I am still molting.


John DiStefano found us, and he was to be my backup ride if Marc was unable to make it down. John flies 737s for Continental and knows a thing or two about instruments and IFR flight. This was evident as I was visiting glass panel vendors with John, who was grilling the reps about the features and capabilities of their products. Blown away, and knowing my glass panel instruments (I hope and dream) will be markedly different (and I hope far less expensive) than those available today, I just went window browsing.




Posted ImageJohn hadn't made any sleeping arrangements, and so Marc and I offered him space in Marc's ginormous tent. John gladly accepted. When it came time to sleep, I asked Marc if we should zipper shut the screen windows. "No, best to let some air go through here." I thought, "Sure, who wants a tent filled with man breath anyway?" We all went to bed... but at some ungodly hour in the morning, the temp in Lakeland must have hit 50F degrees. Having forgotten my sleeping bag, and with only a blanket from my mom's trunk, I was FREEZING. I looked over at John, and he looked to be in the same shape, with a washcloth or something on his head (could have been Marc's underwear, but I was afraid to ask). I also had to go to the bathroom so bad, but dared not move for fear of freezing to death. John eventually gave up and announced that he was going to finish the night in his iron tent.


In the morning I noticed the window vents were open... doh!




Marc doesn't eat. On Friday Marc promised Steve Brooks a checkout ride at a nearby airport. Not wanting to slow Marc down, and wanting to get more airtime, I followed Marc's lead by passing on breakfast in the morning. After the checkout ride w/Steve, at which I was able to experience back seat flying, we landed back at Lakeland after passing through the Lakes of Terror. Once landed, the Cozy fans immediately approach and it becomes hard to walk away from their enthusiasm and questions. As a result, lunch was cancelled as well.


Thankfully, we were kicked out of the flight line for the afternoon airshow, and I was able to convince Marc to eat. Eating at Sun-n-Fun is just like any other carnival-like experience -- $10 fast food lunches, and people everywhere. In hindsight, I realized that you do not want to eat at "normal" times so to avoid the masses. I also realized that I better chew my food 237 times for maximum digestion and nutrition, as it was not longer clear as to when my next meal would be.


All in all, the food at SnF is fine. Expensive, but it's right there, and cheaper than the hotel equivalent.


Air ShowsPosted Image


Air shows are every day around noon and 5:00pm. Noon has mainly aerobatic acts (see this post), and the evening show is highlighted by an F18 (or a similar F-type jet) tearing up the sky displaying serious force. This didn't compare to some of the pyrotechnic explosions that were being set off. I didn't see a single one, as I was either shopping the exhibits or in the Internet Cafe, but the shock waves ripped through a good 1/4 mile+ of air, earth, buildings, and vendor displays to pound you straight in the chest. I can only imagine what was going on out there. I did manage to catch Lon Arnold of www.longezairshows.com to witness him doing some very "inappropriate" things in his Long EZ -- things we are told the design can/should not do. It was good to see the canard design being put to the test, makes me feel safe, but I do not expect to emulate Lon's style of flying.


Goodbye Sun-n-Fun


The rest of my stay was just a big blur... there was the Cozy dinner on Friday night, which was well attended. There, we got a hands on presentation of someone's fuselage jigged up in the Composites Tent. This fellow was building his Cozy 15% bigger all around than the plans, with the only exception possibly being the canard itself, which he might just widen per advice from an aerodynamic engineer. At first I thought this fellow was crazy, but now I commend him -- 15% is EXACTLY what the Cozy needs, and if he can pull this off, I would only hope that he keeps and publishes plans.


Just before leaving, I put in orders at Wicks and Aircraft Spruce (see post) with Jerry Schneider's help and advice (I'm convinced he has Fein stock). Jerry has been most helpful, and living just a few miles away from my sister, he's a guaranteed visit next time I'm down. Once again I had Marc to appreciate for allowing me to save some shipping on material that was available at the show.


There was an accident of some sort Sunday morning, and upon coming home I found out 3 died in another incident before our arrival aviators were injured in 3 separate incidents -- nobody died (4/25/2004 edit). I think it's very important that your skills are polished and entirely current before attempting to go to such a huge fly-in.


We stopped in to see Wayne again on the way home, where we bumped in to a LongEZ at his airport. Posted Image I didn't recall seeing this one at the show, so I snapped a few more pictures. We were soon off and headed home.




Three hours into the trip home I realized that it was soon to be over. I couldn't stop it... I'd have to get out and let this wonderful experience end. Marc and I talked about the Cozy and its design, where I fully regressed into that pre-planning mode where newbies like me desire to make improvements. I do think I have an idea or two that I may bring to fruition, but with the total understanding that they will be entirely safe. The one mod I KNOW I am going to do is to put carbon fiber over my instrument panel bulkhead. Why? "Because it will look cool", I told someone who asked. Being the one bulkhead that has so many holes cut into it, I also feel it's appropriate for that reason. In any event, minimally, I will just put the carbon on as the last layer, which doesn't change anything. I bought 2 yards of the stuff from Wicks.


We arrived back at 47N and were welcomed by both my parents now who were clicking away with pictures. Posted Image Amy was to be there with my two kids, but apparently had been lost for the past 30 minutes. She was really disappointed that she was unable to see me land. The temperature in New Jersey took a turn towards freezing, and must have caught everyone by surprise as Amy and my two girls were in shorts. They quickly grabbed my "sleeping blanket" and huddled under it.


My mom, who hadn't met Marc before Thursday, ran up and gave him a hug with a tear in her eye. I then realized that she gave me that silver 1940 quarter, which I thought for sure I had spent. Luckily I had not, and returned it to her.


Mom had a table of food, snacks, and drinks, including champagne. I thought the champagne must have come from her knowing about my uncle's balloon flying, where it's common to have champagne at the end. Marc had one more leg, and had to decline the champagne, and with darkness looming, had to decline my offer for dinner. Seeing that Marc is perpetually malnourished, my mom packed him a bag full of almonds and dried craisons (cranberry raisons). I thought, "Perfect for Marc, nuts and berries."


Thank you!Posted Image


It was a joy to fly with Marc and to learn so much about flying and all things Cozy. Marc was a mother lode of expertise and information for me. I am very appreciative of this trip. It was one of those lifetime memories that will surely last until I am "done".


Thank you again Marc, I learned most everything I know about flying from that trip.

Jon Matcho :busy:
Builder & Canard Zone Admin
Now:  Rebuilding Quickie Tri-Q200 N479E
Next:  Resume building a Cozy Mark IV

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