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Tue, Apr 19, 2005

Lakeland's Unsung Heroes

ANN's Completely Unscientific, but Sincere, Survey

By ANN Correspondent John Ballantyne

Sure, there are many awards and commendations showered on well deserving individuals who excel at Lakeland each year. But it seems that some always fall through the cracks. So ANN endeavored to ferret out those individuals who get less credit than deserved, and to again mention those who are the rocks on which ultralight and light sport aviation are anchored. To accomplish this goal ANN conducted an entirely unscientific, but thoughtful, series of interviews with principal exhibitors, volunteers near the close of the Lakeland fly-in, 2005.

It is worthwhile to note that no single individual or any individual company came out as an overpowering star. Instead, the consensus was that many powerful, helpful and capable folks are repeatedly involved with this show. The names mentioned below are certainly of leaders and upcoming stars as a portion of a team that has been evolving over nearly three decades.

During this year's Sun 'n Fun, the flying in the ultralight area resulted in no crashes nor personal injuries of any kind. Only two aircraft landed off field and both did so without damage or problem. One of those out-landings was a dummy who had simply run out of gas. He was grounded for several days and is deserving of a particular kind of award that is beyond the scope of this journalistic venue. That was the worst that happened. Now let's consider the best that happened. Well, wait a minute. Comments were heard all week about the painful admission price increases and the continuing hassles with camping sites and general on-field living conditions. That story reaches show-wide, however, and is not limited to the ultralight area.

Best Of Show

Gary Furdell was singled out as a principal individual who has been conducting traffic pattern briefings for pilots for years. The commendation ANN heard was that he has mellowed a little bit, which was more pleasing and effective for those being briefed, without compromising safety.

Mike McClellan significantly grew and showed promise in just five days of airshow announcing (commentating?) under the able tutelage of Vernon Peckham. Vernon, for those don't know because they have lived in a closet for the past couple of decades, is the ubiquitous ultralight/light plane airshow "commentator" (he objects to the term announcer). To be a protege of his is an honor all in itself, and ANN heard that McClellan is deserving of that role. Incidentally, McClellan was the first individual to obtain his fixed-wing (three-axis) sport pilot certificate without prior FAA certificates. Congratulations to McClellan.

The Pilots

Numerous comments were heard about the mature, responsible manner that the pilots treated each other in the traffic pattern. This is especially commendable because, unlike the familiar farm field at home, Sun 'n Fun's ultralight area has a seriously congested pattern were every pilot feels the pressure of the cameras and hundreds of spectator eyes on every movement. It is easy for those with little experience, or short on self-control, to act up and show off. Well, OK, maybe there was a little showing-off, but not in a way that reduced safety. ANN offers an "Atta Boys & Girls" to you all.

Also often mentioned was the way that the many volunteer folks worked together, had few disagreements internally, resolved those few internal issues without rancor, and did a great job overall. ANN congratulates each of them with the respect due especially since not one of them can get a raise (no pay at all), nor become a senior VP (this group is a simple collection of dedicated aviation junkies), nor be granted "golden parachutes" after the show (they just go home and sleep a week straight).

Finally, long-time ultralight airshow boss, Dave Piper, and Exhibit Chairman, Ron Beretta, were given great marks for general management of the ultralight area. These are not easy jobs. Many unforeseen problems must be creatively resolved each year by these individuals. They have earned the respect of their peers, and of ANN, for their consistent, even-handed styles.

ANN congratulates all of these folks for a job well done. Flying for fun is a wonderful sport and thanks to these folks is more accessible because of their steady hands in the ultralight area at Sun 'n Fun.

FMI: www.sun-n-fun.org

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