SnF's Decade Long Attempts To Evade Responsibility For Its MANY
Problems Has To Stop
Observation/Opinion by ANN Editor-in-Chief, Jim Campbell
Freedom is never more than one generation away from
extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the
bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for
them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years
telling our children and our children’s children what it was
once like in the United States where men were free.
All my life I have
aspired to meet a number of lofty standards -- but none more
important than that set before me by my Grandfather... an MD of the
old school who practiced the true art of healing with humanity,
honor, humor and integrity... and I loved him beyond all
Medicine was not to be my life -- though I have always found it
fascinating. Instead, I found the sky to offer me the life I wanted
-- a pursuit filled with passion, precision, excitement, challenge
and more wonder than any other I could conceive of. I can't tell
you how much I have loved each and every second I've been aloft...
only that the seconds I fly now are even more precious than ever...
and I find that the only way that I can repay karma for the amazing
life I lead is to serve that which gives me the life I love...
flight -- and all those who fly.
So, imagine if you will taking on a great fight for all the
right reasons -- to help others be safer, happier and more enriched
by aviation... and to be attacked for it, year after year after
year, and in some of the most spiteful, occasionally criminal,
ways. To be slandered, threatened, libeled, assaulted, called
crazy, a liar, even "Jewboy..." -- all in attempt to blunt the fact
that even when it was a risk to do so and unpopular to some, I told
the truth as I know it to be, verified each of my words, and was
vilified for it all by the very people who have, in many ways, made
aviation so very unpleasant, unsafe and less than it could be for
the thousands they are supposed to serve. And when direct attacks
upon my person were not enough for them, they attacked my staff
(even reducing one of my staff to tears after a
blistering/threatening verbal assault on her that personally
distresses me more than anything they have done to me directly).
They have vandalized my office, my vehicles, threatened my friends
and staff, interfered with sponsors and partners, and committed at
least one documented assault. And it has been going on for years.
We have been told and have seen various diatribes that make us
concerned about having our airplane anywhere near this event and
know for a fact that our movements and aircraft are to be reported
if anywhere near the event... one of my senior staffers, in light
of this and associated nonsense, has voiced serious concerns about
the safety of our aircraft while SnF personnel are in a position to
be anywhere near it. I hate to admit that I share that concern
(especially with their history of vehicular damage and tampering).
And most recently, they have started working outside of their usual
environment… a person who has served on the SnF Board
accosted one of my Senior Staff at a prominent National Aviation
event well outside Lakeland (the 2008 AOPA Expo), ridiculing his
decision to work for ANN, slandering myself and my company, and
telling him to remove himself from our organization.
Our crime? Our great sin?
We told the truth.
When we saw something dangerous, we told
When we caught them lying, we told you.
When we saw them acting in ways that did not seem to be in the
best interests of the aviation world, we told
you... and for that, they have apparently decided to do
their best to harm our company, our mission and ignore the other
harms that they've allowed through their refusal to deal with
legitimate concerns and complaints.
In a nutshell, that's the guts of the Sun 'n Fun situation. I
know that they tell a different story (mostly based on personal
attacks that sway way wide of the issues at hand) but the
undeniable facts are these...
At NO other event in the world, am I banned or have I been so
threatened (and indeed, I can not possibly hope to consent to all
the many invitations I receive from those who want ANN's staff and
I to attend their events).
NO other event has the
accident history that this event does... especially after the
numerous warnings and safety issues were brought to light by ANN or
my other companies.
- NO other aviation event has treated any journalist the way that
SnF has treated me (and while my treatment is the worst, they have
- NO other event has gone so far out of their way to obfuscate
the truth and create a smokescreen around their problems and
- NO other event has seen the frequency and severity of
complaints as we have noted about the Lakeland event (we have
hundreds on file... from the smallest aero-vendor to mighty GA
- NO other event has seen the decline in attendance, prominence
and industry trust as has SnF... and those are just some of the
- NO other event has lied to the public so blatantly or
foolishly... from their false and fraudulent attendance figures to
outright lies about Florida Use taxes (in response to our warnings
to the contrary).
- NO other event has received the condemnation this action has
received... with the heads of innumerable aviation organizations
and associations not only repudiating the action, but several took
steps to help overturn it... to no avail.
EVERY SINGLE ONE of our primary safety warnings and concerns has
been verified in the most horrible way... by the undeniable fact
that our concerns for future hazards came true with a series of
terrifying accidents, one after another, and all after we had
expended incredible effort to seek less dangerous remedies.
We warned about specific safety issues in the LightPlane area
and within days of one of the most aggressive of our announcements
one person died and another was injured specifically as we had
warned. While SnF officials were making snide and judgmental
comments about why the pilot crashed that day, my heart sank and as
I learned the details of what had happened… a pilot told to
use a short runway, with too many obstacles at both ends, and
dispatched with a significant downwind component (despite the
advice of many there) by a staff that failed to turn the pattern
around… folks, I went home and literally cried.
Really. Real frustration. Real tears. Real regret.
It was a pointless accident… and we warned them…
and they wouldn't do a damned thing about it.
We warned about issues with incoming air traffic (and were joined
in this concern by a number of controllers who contacted ANN to
tell us of their great concerns), and within weeks of our warnings,
a number of near midairs occurred and one actual midair took place
-- injuring one and (again) killing another. Again, it was an
emotional low… such frustration, such needless destruction,
and as our fears were literally echoed by FAA controllers who also
warned of impending troubles, we suffered the worst kind of
emotional low… that of knowing that there was something
wrong, and feeling powerless to affect a fix.
We warned about necessary site improvements for the safety of
moving airplanes -- and aircraft still wind up damaged for no good
reason while operating through the less than ideal environs
controlled by the SnF organization. Good friends have reported time
and time again of their issues… and the damages their planes
have faced as a result… and we could nothing but shake our
head and sympathize.
We have repeatedly warned about the danger to pedestrians while
walking the area at SnF -- and within days of one year's (repeated)
warning, two persons were struck down by moving aircraft --
improperly supervised by an ill-prepared operations protocol that,
at that time, still put innocent attendees closer to moving
aircraft than at any other event in our recollection. One of those
struck was a child… and after the first few calls to our
offices to report the incident to us that day, I literally had to
walk away from the phone for a while, to take a long, long walk
with my dog… to try to shake a sense of powerless that is
just not in my nature.
And the complaints, I have to tell you... we have heard amazing,
blistering complaints from vendors -- including some of the biggest
names in aviation, that are finding it overly unpleasant,
unprofessional and expensive to do the SnF event... to the point
where many are curtailing their participation and quite a number
have voiced an intent to do away with future participation
altogether. Some of the neatest people in the world… our
brothers and sisters in the aviation world are being treated
rudely, abusively and driven out of something that want to support
and grow-only to face greed, arrogance, intimidation, harassment
and a stunning lack of proper professional conduct.
Folks... this event is melting down -- and if you have the
gumption to point that out, you may also find yourself under attack
in short order. In a survey of well over 100 vendors, conducted
over several years, had any of these companies been presented an
alternative to the Lakeland follies, they would have taken it and
abandoned this failing event. NO other event has so alienated its
(formerly) closest allies as has SnF... do you wonder why the EAA
name has been omitted from the event's title... why EAA will no
longer host a separate membership tent, why EAA's on-site profile
has been on the wane, why EAA has had to distance itself from (and
even apologize for) the outright frauds and falsehoods of
We've not undertaken a number of proper defensive responses before
now because of our fear for additional negative press on an
industry that did not need more of the same -- and trying to find a
solution through the legal system is a joke... we spent months,
waiting for responses, spent way too much money and got nowhere.
Despite the fear that we have about negative press for or about
aviation, other journalists tell me that this is a fear we can not
afford to be concerned with. At a time when the standards and
ethics of a number of industries, ours included, are under attack,
we need to show that what is wrong will still be condemned and held
to proper condemnation by those involved. It is the right response
to a wrong situation, and so I feel that it is time to take other
steps in this matter -- even though the mess causes me no small
measure of concern and discomfort.
The fact is this... I could have gone with the flow and done
what so many others have done... refuse to tell the emperor that he
is sans clothing... and in so doing ignored safety issues of great
concern to the flying community as well as the general public as
well as other issues of great prominence. Instead; I looked to
those I have admired and respected... and sought to do the right
thing, the difficult thing, the unpopular thing... and spoken up in
order to safeguard the welfare of folks like... well, you.
Each and every one of you.
Aviation can be about doing the right and professional thing...
or we can continue to ignore the sickness that pervades it like
those exhibited by the actions of this deceitful, untruthful, and
often unsafe organization... or we can stand up for our right to
say and report what is right and wrong about our world... and in so
doing, make for a safer and more enjoyable industry. I can't find
anyone outside of the SnF organization's sphere that can
countenance what they've done... their actions against ANN and
myself have been condemned by EAA (even by direct action of Founder
Paul Poberezny), AOPA (especially the ever-so-classy Phil Boyer),
an FATA President, The Reporter's Committee for Freedom Of The
Press, The Freedom Forum, former USUA President John Ballantyne
(who was an active participant in a number of heroic actions to try
to make SnF safer), a number of our brethren in the media,
countless vendors, and so many more.
I'm not sure what else to do.
Complaining gets you nowhere but in more trouble (and I assure
you that NO ONE is more sick of discussing this than I). The
consequences of actual deaths, injuries and other damage seems to
have been ignored to the point where we've been told that our
complaints were bogus... once within hours of someone becoming a
fatality in a manner that so closely paralleled our concerns as to
be positively spooky. And while no one will support SnF's actions,
so many organizations are afraid of SnF taking out their
displeasure on them (yes, I have heard these concerns from
organizations as large as EAA and AOPA as well as from vendors who
have actually been threatened with expulsion for complaining), few
seem willing to rock the boat and make a bigger issue out of it...
We believe that the SnF organization has so mismanaged their event,
and created such a negative situation that they are doomed to
failure. We think that failure will do great harm to aviation,
directly and indirectly... while also noting that their continual
issues over safety, as well as the horrific falsehoods transmitted
by their managers, hasn't helped the matter, either.
We'd love nothing more than to help fix this mess -- and we have
always said so... but if it can't or won't be fixed, then it's time
to stick a fork in it and declare it DONE, once and for all.
It is time to demand better from those who ask for our support,
our money, our trust, and our participation... and if they won't
step up and deliver, it's time to pass them by and move on to those
who will. I think that's where we are right now... and if they
continue to act as they have for the last few years, then it is
time for those who would step up to do the right thing, to take
direct measures to bring about a more positive and proper
Like everyone else, we're doing what we have to do (and no more)
in regards to Lakeland. We're going to do what we have to, to cover
this year's actual news, as it occurs at Lakeland and then go home
to do far more important things and get ready for a truly deserving
event -- Oshkosh. We strongly believe that this is the last year
we'll expend much effort on Lakeland... and that's no one but
Lakeland's own fault. ANN is one of the most widely read
Daily/RealTime Aviation and Aerospace news services extant...
interfering with our effort, as they have done for years, cheats
the public, cheats their vendors and is a poor attempt to
fraudulently hide from the truth... that this is a crumbling
edifice sitting on a shaky foundation doomed to collapse at any
moment -- and take the hopes and dreams of many aviators with
Enough is enough; if the event continues as it has, it will
shortly find itself without sufficient support, credibility (what
little remains), vendors, attendees, and having to compete with
aggressive efforts to replace them with a far more ethical and
positive alternative... not out of some sense of "Payback" for
being untruthful, unsafe, unpleasant and unethical... but because
we desperately need an event that works on behalf of us all rather
than being obedient to the arrogant and misguided aims of those who
can not deal fairly with criticism or provide a safe and positive
environment for the aviation community. It either has to change for
the better or be forgotten and replaced with something far
So... that's just what will happen... some of the very biggest
and most important names in all of aviation have joined with us...
to produce something RADICALLY different, intensely creative and
anchored in the needs of TODAY's aviators and wannabe flyers... we
call it Aero-Fest... and over the next few years,
you're going to hear a LOT about it... and it starts right here,
right now. It has one goal in mind.. to SERVE aviation. Keep your
eyes and ears open... MUCH more info coming soon.
Legal Note: Due to specific threats and
harassment toward the ANN staff by very senior persons associated
with the SnF 'organization', this editorial missive was held until
all our people had completed our basic news-gathering missions and
left the area... such is the seriousness of the situation we find