The Angel Mechanics At Sun ‘n Fun

The Double M Aviation tire change crew, Chris Gallant, left, and Michael Bowen, at work during Sun ‘n Fun. (photo by: Jeremy King).

If you fly long enough, you’re eventually going to have an airplane break when you’re far from home. When you scale up the factor to the level of the Sun ‘n Fun Fly-in, statistically there will be a lot of airplanes needing the loving touch of a mechanic’s hand before they can fly back home.

In a little gray shed off the warbird parking area, a group of volunteers are taking a moment off. This group is composed of mechanics, inspectors, pilots, and folks who’ve been tinkering with flying machines their whole lives.

“When we’re bored and idle, everyone else is having a good day. If we’re busy, there’s a lot of pilots who are not so happy,” says Ed Stark, chairman of the Emergency Aircraft Repair crew. The volunteers come from near and far to lend a helping hand to pilots in need.

“We basically have tools that we can loan out and we offer assistance. Some pilots are mechanics, or can do their own preventative maintenance. Some need more assistance than others,” Stark said.

The volunteers don’t charge for their services. It’s literally a helping hand fueled by mechanics as passionate as the pilots who make the journey down here.

They’ve helped with minor maintenance squawks as well as helping to move a few disabled aircraft.

But please, don’t come to Lakeland in your wheezing, coughing bird expecting to get a complimentary overhaul. The volunteers try to keep their services toward the simpler fixes. If you find yourself with a wounded bird in need of intensive care, you might cross paths with the crews from Double M Aviation, a maintenance shop here on the field.

“We’re here to supplement the volunteer maintenance crews,” said Audrey Baxcajay, from Double M. “Those mechanics have limits as far as what they’re comfortable with and what tools they have available. That’s when we can step in to help.”

Out on the flightline, Chris Gallant and Michael Bowen loaded up a hoist to change the tire on a Piper Comanche. Normally, a simple jack could lift the nosewheel, but the sandy soil here makes that a bit of a challenge. It’s easier and safer to use a hoist with a bigger footprint on the ground. Rain pelted them as they worked, but they didn’t seem to notice. Liquid air conditioning, if you will. As they worked, they talked about some of the other stuff they’d seen in the week: Flat tires. Struts needing service. Oxygen tank refills. 

“One owner had bought a case of oil and wanted to borrow a bucket so he could do an oil change out here in the field,” Gallant said.

Another owner had a vacuum pump fail. He walked over to a vendor’s tent, got a deal on a replacement, and had it installed just hours later. In the grand scheme of things, there are much worse places to be stranded with a busted airplane than Lakeland, Florida, this week. 

Chris Gallant of Double M Aviation helps Sun ‘n Fun visitors keep their birds maintained while at the show. (photo by: Jeremy King).

This article was sponsored by Piper and Continental

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Blue Angels Arrive At Sun ‘n Fun Via….The Porta Potty Arrival?

The Blue Angels at Sun ‘n Fun in Lakeland, Florida. (photo by: Jeremy King).

The U.S. Navy Blue Angels arrived at the Sun ‘n Fun Fly-In Thursday in spectacular fashion. The demonstration team’s arrival on a show site is a performance in and of itself, as the team circles the field from a number of angles while they set their timing marks. The full formation circled the field from a number of directions as the aviators got the lay of the land. After the main formation recovered and taxied in, the lead and opposing solo pilots tore up the pattern for another several minutes.

At one point, the announcers fed the Angels’ radio feed over the PA system, and showgoers learned that one of the key timing points the pilots were using is a porta potty in a field near the show.

The crew advises anyone needing a quiet moment during the Angels’ displays to avoid any isolated toilets. Stick to the banks of multiple potties.

The Blue Angels in close formation at Sun ‘n Fun. (photo by: Jeremy King).

This article was sponsored by Piper and Continental

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PHOTOS: Sun ‘n Fun Kicks Into Gear On A Sunny Second Day

While industry announcements, vendors and manufacturers are all part of the week-long Sun ‘n Fun Fly-In, it’s the aircraft that steal the show. The Blue Angels are scheduled to perform on Thursday afternoon, but there’s been no shortage of aerobatics.

Check out this gallery for scenes from the first couple days of Sun ‘n Fun 2019.

For news and notes from Sun ‘n Fun, click here. 

[See image gallery at]

This article was sponsored by Piper and Continental

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AirCam Gen-3 Boasts More Power

AirCam’s Gen-3 offers more power, higher gross weight and three seats.
(photo courtesy: Lockwood Aircraft)

An additional seat, more horsepower and a higher gross weight are some upgrades Lockwood Aircraft is touting for its new Gen-3 AirCam as Sun ‘N Fun kicks off this week at Lakeland, Florida.

Lockwood Aircraft is one of more than 500 aviation vendors and exhibitors at the fly-in, which takes place Tuesday,April 2ndto Sunday, April 7th.

Airframes for the open cockpit kit plane will have the option of a third tandem seat and a 220-pound max gross weight increase to 1,900 pounds.

The third seat can be installed in either an open-cockpit AirCam or one with a full enclosure canopy.

“The new jump seat will be quickly removable to convert between cargo and third passenger,” said company founder Phil Lockwood, who designed and built the first AirCam in 1995.

Modifications are also available for AirCam’s twin Rotax 912 engines. Those include heavier pistons and upgraded cylinders to accommodate the higher gross weight. Pilots who want the third seat must use the upgraded engines.

“Customers opting for the standard 100-horsepower 912 engines will be limited to the original 1,680-pound maximum gross weight,” Lockwood noted.

The higher gross weight also spells modifications for the kit’s landing gear. Strengthened gear legs, a stronger fuselage gearbox and Beringer wheels and brakes are all available on the Gen-3.

The aft section of the fuselage and tail spring have also been beefed up for the higher loads. The fuselage incorporates a new set of foot wells, adding comfort and safety for passengers.

“You’ll also find harness attachment hard points that are built into the new fuselage for the third seat passenger,” Lockwood said.

The Gen-3 kits retail for $70,000, a $5,000 increase compared to standard kits, and can’t be retrofitted to existing AirCams. The engine upgrade costs approximately $6,000 per engine.

For more information on AirCam and the Gen-3 models, click here.


A look at the Gen-3 AirCam’s third seat. (photo courtesy: Lockwood Aircraft)

This article was sponsored by Piper and Continental

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