April 1, 2011, dawned clear and cool on the Lakeland Linder Airport, but for a few pilots and vendors, it had probably been a sleepless night, as they wondered what to do next after a series of nasty microbursts destroyed or severely damaged their aircraft the day before.
But the nice thing about the aviation community is the way people tend to band together to help each other, and this is particularly noticeable when people are in need. By 8 a.m. on Friday, the grounds of Sun 'n Fun hardly reflected the extent of damage the winds of the day before had wrought. Teams of volunteers had spent a portion of the evening hauling off broken and bent tents, blown out canvas, and, yes, some seriously bent aircraft. (You could still find many of them resting, waiting for insurance adjusters, repair shops or their owners, on the far eastern side of the airfield.) As the first of the new crop of attendees began to roam through the exhibit buildings, the pathways leading up to them were free of fallen tree limbs and detritus from overturned food carts that had impeded everyone's exit path the day before.
What they did see of the storm's aftermath, namely the Lockwood Aviation trailers and the buzz of Skilsaws carefully dismantling and untangling the bent metal pile of AirCams, showed what the spirit of teamwork could do. The Lockwood crew meticulously worked to salvage every unbroken piece, every unbent control surface, in hopes of facilitating the reconstruction of these demo aircraft for their owners (and presumably Lockwood's customers).
Look, no one who has built an airplane from scratch or from a kit wants to see it scrapped in a windstorm, nor do they truly relish the opportunity to have to build it again. That said, the spirit of reconstruction was everywhere on the grounds of of the show this day after, and the homebuilder spirit was certainly in residence.
The sun was shining, and the breeze was cool. The jets were flying in formation with afterburners blazing, and the energy was good. Best of all, the forecast was for an entire weekend of the same. Here's hoping that sunshine is as healing as the positive energy that pervaded the show today. That will go a long way toward rebuilding both vendor and show attendee spirits.