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Sun 'n Fun is A Great Excuse to Fly

By Harold Cannon, Editor, EAA Warbirds Briefing, hcannon@eaa.org

The winter break in flying is finally done. This is being written in the wind and sun (and sometimes blowing sand) of the Sun ’n Fun Warbird flight line. Getting to an air show is often a bit more than half the fun, and this year is no exception. Like a kid writing about his summer vacation, I have work to do (if you can call writing for Briefing work). My T-34 adventure began early last Friday. After a crazy Thursday at work and packing bags, I was waiting for my T-34 to return from its annual inspection. This year didn’t spring any big surprises, and hopefully things would be good to go. By 7 a.m., the “yellow bird” arrived and packing was done. In another half hour, one of my best friends pulled his T-34 onto the apron; briefing for a formation cross-country began.

With that accomplished, we left KOWB (Owensboro-Daviess, Kentucky) behind and started for KGKT (Sevierville, Tennessee, aka Dolly Parton country). Four more T-34s are based there. Some mornings are perfect, and this was one of them. A good element takeoff was followed by a very clear, very smooth cross-country with a 35-knot push. Seeing 200 knots across the ground was a rare treat and made short work of this leg.

The evening in Tennessee was filled with good food and catching up with old friends. By the following morning, it’s time to get a little brush-up on formation skills. That is usually an exercise in humility and intellectual honesty, and this time was no exception. Knocking the rust off is a great reminder of both how serious formation flying is and how much fun it can be. You know you’re concentrating your gaze a bit too much when a halo starts to form around the lead aircraft. As the day progressed, things started to settle down; hands, feet, and head started to sync; and things got a bit more pretty.

The next morning, we left four ships behind to rendezvous in a couple of days and headed over the mountains toward Waycross, Georgia. Weather and tailwinds both held, and now with the winter dust knocked off, an element landing was in order. After a quick pit stop, we launched again as a two-ship for New Smyrna Beach and lunched at George and Ginny Baker’s T-34 fly-in. This is a wonderful gathering of T-34s and owners, as well as a great formation clinic. Mr. Baker is someone who has truly “been there and done that” – from Reno racing, to air show pilot, to award-winning aircraft restoration. A short hop later (and after working the Daytona, Orlando, and Tampa approach) found us on the Warbird arrival at Sun ’n_Fun Fly-In at Lakeland, Florida.

For the following morning, it’s south to Punta Gorda to visit with Warbirds of America hall-of-famer and EAA Director John Baugh and his wife Deborah. John is a T-34 owner as well, and my back-seater (and mechanic) will be flying his airplane back to Tennessee. The remainder of the Tennessee bunch will be meeting us there to put together a five-ship back to Lakeland for the remainder of the week. Some weeks are better than others – that’s just life – and this is definitely shaping up as one of the better ones.

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