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Sat, Apr 17, 2004

Hell Freezes Over... Part II

Yup... It Appears That They Lied To Us... Again

You're NOT going to believe this. On Thursday, in the oh-so-public glare of TV and still cameras wielded by a dozen journalists and a lawyer or two, the ever-deceptive Sun 'n Fun Fly-In organization seemed to finally cave in, and gave ANN Editor-In-Chief Jim Campbell the access to the publicly funded airport/event (and the FAA Building therein) which numerous legal experts state is his right.

Then, the cameras left. Since then, we have read that they claim that Campbell's access was a "mistake." This, after we (and others) watched the media staff call headquarters and wrangle over the phone for the better part of several minutes.

Mistake? Baloney.

It is the latest in a series of deplorable falsehoods and tactics employed by Sun 'n Fun to avoid responsibility for their excesses, falsehoods and problems. It is also a thundering mistake, as a number of observers and journalists who witnessed Campbell's entrance note that "they aren't fooling anyone." We are simply staggered by the institutional arrogance and outright dishonesty we see in this organization.

In a limited statement to the local paper, though, SnF's John Burton states that a reason for the ban is that Campbell had harassed vendors at the Fly-In. We've heard variations on this theme before, but never so blatantly stated... especially since they have indicated to Campbell and a few others (including a local journalist) that the affected vendors are aero-problematical companies Revolution Helicopter, Adventure Amphibian, Max-Air, CGS, and Parascender.

Briefly; the DEFUNCT Revolution Helicopter that disappeared several years ago, is responsible for the deaths of over a dozen people and frauds encompassing millions of dollars (according to government officials). Campbell's arduous efforts to alert the public to this growing tragedy drew the congrats and support of former NTSB Chairman, Jim Hall... Sun 'n Fun sees this as an excuse to ban him.

DEFUNCT Adventure Amphib was responsible for the death of a pilot near Oshkosh several years ago (in a flawed and poorly constructed kit design) and defrauded dozens of pilots who never got the parts they paid for, for a design judged by the NTSB to be riddled with problems. Sun 'n Fun went so far as to use their security people, one year, to bar affected customers from visiting Adventure Air to protest and seek restitution. NTSB personnel (not to mention a well-known EAA luminary) congratulated Campbell for taking this issue on... Sun 'n Fun sees this as an excuse to ban him.

Max-Air was a company that Campbell and former USUA Prez John Ballantyne complained about to Sun 'n Fun, concerning dangerous and illegal operations in the lightplane area... but Fly-In officials turned a deaf ear... including one of their managers/board members who had a financial/legal relationship with the company and it's (then) owner... a convicted felon and con man who 'did time' for the kidnap and attempted murder of FBI Agent Ron Rozier, in the 1980s... Sun 'n Fun sees this as an excuse to ban him.

The CGS case is (somewhat) a bit more nebulous in that this is a company that occasionally does some good work... and then screws some customers for little apparent reason. The most serious complaint (of well over a dozen, through the years) in which SnF had any known involvement was that of a local Florida pilot with a legal state court judgement against CGS -- which Sun 'n Fun said could NOT be pursued at the fly-in (via Sheriff's seizure of assets--actions that SnF has permitted in other cases)... Sun 'n Fun sees this as an excuse to ban him.

DEFUNCT Parascender was a powered parachute manufacturer known to have defrauded dozens of people of hundreds of thousands of dollars for products that were paid for, but never delivered. The company was also run by a convicted felon (drug related offenses--also reported, years ago, as a suspect in an unsolved WA state homicide) who actually assaulted Campbell at a time when his leg was in a temporary cast and unable to affect much of a defense. Sun 'n Fun sees this as an excuse to ban him.

This is Sun 'n Fun's beef with Campbell -- by their own admission. In other words, it appears that the money paid to Sun 'n Fun ('pieces of silver') by these companies is more important than the lives, blood, and/or suffering experienced by the victims of the companies. Blood for money. Ouch.

OK.. ENOUGH for now.

This organization which has been lying to the public (by their own admission) for many years and (in our opinion) ignored safety and ethical issues in many other cases. They have made it clear to us (and to the many thousands of you who have written accordingly) that your safety and well-being do not matter so long as they get paid. We understand that...

We have come to a few conclusions about all this... We're probably wasting our time in holding our breath and waiting for improvements -- this is a failing and corrupted organization that needs to be replaced -- period. The situation will not be solved by reason or public pressure... the egos involved are too intensely invested in their campaign of obfuscation, falsehood, and avoidance. This will and has to lead to their own destruction... but when it happens, it isn't going to be pretty... and we'll ALL suffer for it.

Shortly; you will hear of a solid movement to replace the annual Lakeland Fly-In with a better managed, more safety and public oriented event, at a better/safer facility. ANN (and many others that we are aware of) will now choose to support that effort with the weight of it's considerable resources and work hard to see that it does what Sun 'n Fun apparently can not or will not do... put the safety and well-being of the public their first and foremost priority. If they won't let you join them, I guess it's time to beat them. We shall see...

FMI: www.lakelandgov.net/airport,


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