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I spent the week in Lakeland at the annual Sun-n-Fun fly-in and airshow working with the Civil Air Patrol.  Normally, CAP will deploy people there all week, including overnight, to run several missions, including logging incoming aircraft (for the week of the airshow, Lakeland is the busiest airport in the country), searching for ELTs (more on that in a bit), and other tasks.  But the Air Force didn’t provide the funding this year, so instead, we arrived daily and focused on recruiting, drug demand reduction, and showing off our newest airplane.  That was my job, actually; hanging out by the plane and talking to people about the plane and about CAP in general.  At least until today (more on that in a bit)!  Here is the setup we had:

The CAP static display area at 2011 Sun-n-Fun in Lakeland, FL, with a new Cessna 182T, a xxx L23 glider, comm trailer, command trailer, and FEMA trailer.

We had our new Cessna 182T, and a Blanik L23 glider.  Behind them are our communications trailer, command trailer, and a very nice FEMA trailer.  Here is a better look at the Cessna, which is brand-spanking new – only 85 hours:

Brand new Cessna 182T airplane for the CAP Florida Wing.

The brand new Cessna 182T belonging to the CAP Florida Wing, on display at the 2011 Sun-n-Fun fly-in and airshow in Lakeland, FL.

It’s a really pretty plane, and it’s got a nice panel, too, a state-of-the-art Garmin G1000 glass cockpit:

Garmin G1000 panel inside the CAP Cessna 182-T

Across the way, there was a display with an Evektor SportStar, a small Light-Sport Aircraft (LSA) made in the Czech Republic.  It’s not particularly notable, except that when I first started my flight training, it’s the first plane I flew.  Here’s a picture:

An Evektor SportStar LSA aircraft, similar to the one in which I did my Discovery Flight when first starting my flight training, on display at the 2011 Sun-n-Fun fly-in / airshow in Lakeland, FL.

Surprisingly, for such a very small and simple plane, it also has a nice glass cockpit:

The glass cockpit of the Evektor SportsStar light-sport aircraft.

So, the week was going just fine until today.  We knew that a cold front was headed our way and it was going to collide with the warm humid air over central Florida..,. meaning the potential for severe storms.  Turns out there were several very severe thunder cells and a number of tornados across Tampa and central Florida today, including one that hit Sun-n-Fun.  Not sure that there was an actual tornado there (there are mixed reports); I think it might have been straight-line winds that did the damage, but the winds were measured at 70 m.p.h. sustained, with gusts up to 90.  That’s hurricane-strength and too much for a bunch of tents and airplanes, many of which were poorly tied down or not tied down at all.  The result looked like this:

Damage at 2011 Sun-n-Fun following the heavy storms

Damage at 2011 Sun-n-Fun following the heavy storms

Damage at 2011 Sun-n-Fun following the heavy storms

Damage at 2011 Sun-n-Fun following the heavy storms

It was actually a lot worse than what I was able to capture, because most of the flight line was quickly closed by the police, who later closed the entire airshow.  CAP was ready to help find any missing planes and locate all of the ELTs that were going off, but the local officials wanted everyone out, so we departed.

Speaking of ELTs…  For those that don’t know, an ELT, or Emergency Locator Transmitter, is a device in every plane that transmits a warbling siren signal automatically when the plane comes to an abrupt stop (e.g. crashes).  Normally when an ELT goes off, the signal is detected by the FAA and other authorities who contact the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC) who will dispatch the Civil Air Patrol to find it.  It’s one of our key missions.  Here is a link to page on Wikipedia where you can hear what one ELT sounds like. Today, with all of the planes flipped over and otherwise tossed around, we figured there must have been 50 or more ELTs going off all at once.  It’s something I’ve never heard before and likely will never hear again.  Here is what it sounded like (as captured on my handheld nav/com transceiver):

(Warning!  The sound is pretty obnoxious.)

Anyway, I made it out of the parking lot with my car… I was worried, because it was a grass lot that was now mostly deep water and mud, but I know the trick to driving through mud even in a two-wheeler (heavy foot on the gas and NEVER stop rolling).  And now the next few days are supposed to be sunny and beautiful.

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Heard about Tampa twisters and hoped you guys were okay. Glad to see you are.

PS Still kicking butt in the Obama Economy Bet.

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