It would be very difficult, in words or in pictures, to describe what Sun-N-Fun was like. For what seemed like miles in every direction, there were thousands and thousands of airplanes, ultralights, helicopters, jets, gyroplanes, and pretty much anything else that flies.
The event lasts a week, but I was only able to go for three days. I wonder, though, if a full week would have been enough time to see it all. I tried to take a few pictures that would show the vast sea of airplanes, but they didn't really do it justice. So, instead of those, I'm going to share with you a few shots of the daily airshow, which this year was said to be the largest in the world.
Each day, the airshow started with the national anthem while a paratrooper descended with the American Flag, and a couple of planes circled him, leaving trials of smoke in a spiral coming down. After that, there were a series of formation flyovers by large groups of "warbirds", or military aircraft. Most of these were from the WWII days, and they were very impressive. While they flew over, there was an annoucer giving some history about the aircraft, the formations, the training exercises of those days, etc.
After the warbirds, there were a seriese of performances by "aerobatic" teams. Some were just a single pilot, but a few had as many as four planes flying in formations and performing stunts together.
A number of these were very impressive, and I got some pretty good photos of them. The best, in my opinion was the Aeroshell Team, which was a group of four pilots flying AT-6 SNJ's. The planes were very large and very loud, yet the group flew in very tight formations and did some really cool maneuvers together. I saw them fly each of the three days and it never got old.
I really wish I had a longer zoom lens so I could get some closer shots of these planes in the air. Of course, there were a lot of other photographers with gear to be envious of, but I was happy with my camera and I like the stuff I got.
My dad went with me one of the days, and my youngest brother, Keith, got to go another of the days. They both enjoyed it and I think Keith is going to try to schedule some more time off to go in the future (he only went for half a day this time). I don't know if I'm going to get to go next year because of some other trips I have planned around that same time, but I'll definitely be going again sooner or later.
Several people have asked if I got to take any rides in anything, but unfortunately, I didn't. I almost bummed a ride off a pilot in the ultralight area, but that didn't work out. I ran into several of my fellow MTUG members, but none of them had brought their airplanes down with them (most of them being ultralights, they would take a long time to make the trip). I could have paid for a helicopter ride, but I didn't feel like spending the cash.
I was really impressed with the organization of the event. Landing, parking, and managing all those aircraft takes a ton of volunteers, and they were moving like clockwork. There were dozens of motorcycles being used to lead aircraft down the taxiways, mobile fuel trucks, tour groups, and even a free shuttle service to take visitors to various areas of the event (which I didn't notice until after my legs started hurting).
I was looking forward to seeing the new F-22 Raptor, a fighter jet with stealth capabilities. This was to be the first time it has been displayed to the public at a non-military airshow. Unfortunately, though, it was delayed a day and I wasn't able to be there when it arrived. I read that the pilot who was flying it graduated from my high school (although not at the same time I was there).
Instead, I got to see one of the last flights of the F-14 Tomcat (the fighter jet featured in the movie Top Gun). They are being decomissioned, and this one was making a stop at the airshow on its last trip. It made a couple of passes over the airport at about 550 miles per hour, and the sound that came a few moments after each pass was incredible.
Once it landed, we got to get a good, close look at it, and my brother Keith spoke to one of the pilots for a few minutes.
There was a lot more that I could have seen and learned, but I was already pretty tired from the recent frenzied work environment and the drive down to Lakeland (which was not exactly pleasant), so I just tried to take it easy and enjoy the atmosphere. Hopefully, next time I can actually go to some of the forums and classes that they offer, and possibly be there for some of the other events such as the hot air baloon race and the "splash-in" that took place on one of the nearby lakes with all the amphibious aircraft.
By the end of the third day, I was wiped out and a little sunburned, but glad I went. I was a fun experience. There's another event like this one up in Oshkosh, Wisconsin in July, but I really doubt I'll be able to go to that one. Unfortunately, I can't devote my whole life to aviation...
Tomorrow, we head to Florida for a week. I'm looking forward to this trip for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that this past year has been a bit stressful, and now that the deal is done at work, I'm ready to relax a little before jumping into the next phase of my job.
Here's a summary of our plans:
We are leaving after church tomorrow and heading to my parents' house in Lakeland. I don't know if we'll drive all the way there in one shot - we're just going to drive until we can't stand it anymore, and stop for the night along the way if we have to. It will probably depend a lot on how Owen and Ivan do in the car. Owen is usually pretty good, but it's been a while since we took a trip with a baby on a 3-hour meal schedule. That may slow us down a bit.
Monday, we'll either get up early to finish the trip, or sleep in late if we manage to get all the way there on Sunday. We'll probably go visit some family in the area, and maybe go swimming at my grandmother's condo.
Tuesday is the first day of Sun-N-Fun, which I'll be attending for the first time this year. It lasts for a week, but I'm only going to go for the first three days (Tues - Thurs). Mary will go with me one of the days, and my Dad is going to go with me one day as well. Several members of the Middle Tennessee Ultralight Group will be there, so I'll probably try to hook up with some of those guys for part of the time. I've never been to any kind of aviation event of this size, so I don't quite know what to expect, but I'm sure it will be very interesting and a lot of fun (and sun). I will definitely have the camera so expect some pictures at some point.
On Friday, we'll take it easy in the morning, and then leave in the afternoon to go up to north Florida for our annual Family Reunion, which runs from Friday evening through lunch on Sunday. We always have pleanty to do there - canoeing, hiking, football, basketball, RC cars, games, and pleanty of good food. It's one of my favorite events of the year.
Sunday, after lunch, we'll make the drive back to Nashville. I'm quite certain that we'll be wiped out by the time we get home (and probably in need of a vacation!), but it will be a lot of fun and a great break from everyday life.
The acquisition of my company finally closed today. The general mood around the office was relief that it's finally done, mixed with some excitement about the bonus checks that will be given to everyone who stuck it out for the last 11 months, as well as a little sadness for the people who will be leaving the company over the week or two. There's still a lot of uncertainty about the structure of the organization and where certain people fit in and what they will ultimately be doing, but now that the deal is done I hope that the lines of communication will open up and things will become much more clear over the next few months.
In addition to that, I had my annual review this week, and it went very well. I scored high in every category, and my (soon to be former) boss said that the only reason I didn't score at the highest point overall is that I didn't really have enough good opportunities this year to do what I do best. I was a little out of place for most of the year, and quite frankly, wasn't all that busy. The move into the architecture group never really panned out to be what it was intended to be. Hopefully, though, now that I'm back with my old team and we are moving forward with the new organization, things will be better this year in that respect.
I did manage to get a little bit of info about who I will be reporting to (at least for the short term), but that information has not been made public yet. I also was told that one of my co-workers (as well as a couple of contract resources) will now be reporting to me.
In a couple of weeks, I'm scheduled to travel to the main headquarters of the new company to meet some of their developers and get a look at some of the tools they are using. I hope to get a better idea of where we will be headed as a company and what opportunities may lie ahead on that trip. For now, though, I'm getting ready for a much-needed vacation. More on that later.
I have mentioned before that the company for which I work is being acquired by our biggest competitor. This process has been dragging on for some 10 months, with very little information about what's going to happen and when - until this week.
On Thursday, I received a letter, which basically said that after the close of the acquisition (expected next week), I would continue to have the same job at the same rate of pay, etc. Basically, that nothing would change for me. But oh, how things are changing.
Each of my co-workers also got letters, but they were not all like mine. A few (including one guy that I work closely with) were told that they would be severed as of the close of the acquisition. In addition to that, I found out on Thursday that my boss has resigned effective the first business day after the close of the acquisition, and that his boss (who I worked directly under for 5 years) has also resigned. A few other middle managers are also planning to leave.
There have been piles of meetings, lots of gossip, and a high "emotion" factor in the office the last two days. Not a whole lot of actual productive work has gotten done. Some people are angry, a few are excited, and many seem frustrated by this whole process. I wouldn't really say that it's going well.
To make things even a little more confusing, I'm due for an annual review this week, to be given by a guy that I have only worked under for three months, and who is leaving the company in a matter of days. There's no telling what the result of that will be.
One way or another, I think big changes are in store. I think that a lot more people will be leaving the company in the next couple of months, and I may start looking for something myself. I'm trying to keep my emotions in check and think rationally about this, but a lot of the people that I respect and enjoy working with are jumping ship. Even if I do stay, it's definitely not going to be the same old job...
More to come.
It was a rough weekend. On Friday night, about 9 PM, I started feeling a little ill. It was a little bit of everything - headache, upset stomach, dizziness, etc. Within a few hours it was nasty. Really nasty. I'll spare you the details but I spent a lot of time sitting on the bathroom floor during the night.
Saturday, I was out of it. I pretty much laid in bed all day trying to sleep. Mary went out early and got me some Gatoraid and stuff like that. I was able to hold things down, but couldn't really stand to eat or drink much. I initially thought it was some sort of bug, and hoped it would pass after 24 hours so that I would be able to go to church on Sunday, but late Saturday night I was still feeling pretty crummy.
Sunday, Mary woke me up a little before she left to give me one last chance to decide I felt good enough to go. I really hated to miss church, and especially teaching my Sunday School class. But I was really out of it and didn't feel like I could get up very quickly, let alone get ready to leave in time.
Mary taught the class, which I think turned into more of a discussion time. I had given her my lesson notes on Saturday when I started to realize that I might not make it, but she was spending so much time taking care of me and the boys that she didn't really have time to get familiar with them or to prepare something of her own. She said it went pretty well, though, and I'm sure everyone understood the unforseen circumstances.
I watched the main service on-line. They've upgraded the internet broadcast recently, and it looked and sounded as good as a typical TV broadcast (in my opinion), without any skipping or delays. That's a big improvement over the last time I watched the service over the internet.
By the time Mary and the boys got home, I was feeling good enought to eat a little lunch, but I still couldn't sit up for very long and I ended up sleeping most of the afternoon. Once again Mary took care of the boys and made sure I had plenty to drink by the bed. She's a good wife.
I got up this morning and still felt a little bit "not right", but I decided I was well enough to go to work and I would see how the day went. I'm always a little hesitant to go back to work too soon after being sick, because I don't want to be the one that brings something contagious into the office and spreads it to others. I had a couple of important meetings that I needed to be at today, though, so I decided to risk it.
When I got in to the office, I found out that two of my co-workers had enjoyed the same exact experience over the weekend. We figured that it must have been food poisoning from a particular restaurant (which I won't name) that we had eaten at on Thursday, and when the fourth member of our dining party came in to work and told us about his great weekend, we felt pretty confident that we had discovered the source.
So, the good news is - it's not anything contagious. I would hate to think of the rest of my family having to go through that. The bad news is that this sort of thing usually lingers a while. Please pray that I get over it quickly. I'm well enough to eat and work and function, but I still feel a bit queasy and weak. The worst of it is definitely over, though.
Man, that was a rough weekend.
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