Friday, April 12, 2013

Lakeland Sun 'n Fun Fly-in goers watching the weather, memories of 2011 storm never far off


LAKELAND - The memories of the tornadic activity that swept through the Sun 'n Fun air show are never far too off whenever the weather gets a little cloudy.

Pilot Mike Zidziunas still remembers when hail and high winds pelted the Lakeland Regional Airfield and threw planes around like they were toys.

"All of a sudden the sky started turning green and we had a big frame tent that was destroyed and a few dents in the airplanes," he says.

That's why Friday's weather caused just a slight concern.

The skies were grey, and the sun was nowhere to be found as wind gusts occasionally hit up to 15 knots just before noon.

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Even though nothing near tornadic activity was forecasted for Friday afternoon, high winds and cloud levels could ground some of the planes and not allow some people who would fly-in to the show to think twice about their decision.

Some flights have already been canceled.

President of the show John Leenhouts says the show has gone through the extra measure to be storm ready, even implementing extra-warning technology to keep the show running, even if the rain does damper the area.

Right now they're just trying to make the most out of what they currently have.

"Well you know we'd hope for perfect blue skies, but the weatherman doesn't always do that. So we're making lemonade out of our lemons here," Leenhouts said.

And the viability of the show is definitely something that a lot of people are paying attention to; the show brings in an estimated economic impact on Lakeland of about $67 million dollars and it's also expected to bring in about 200,000 visitors throughout it's entire run.

All everyone asks for is just a little sun, but for now, they're making do with what they have.

"It's been pretty iffy. It's been on and off. For a while it clears up and then we get these little bands through here," Zidziunas says.

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Rhode Island National Guard cancels air show

News, Weather and Classifieds for Southern New England 

The Rhode Island National Guard said Thursday that it has canceled the annual Open House and Air Show scheduled for June 29-30 at the Quonset Air National Guard Base. 
An Air National Guard spokesman said the Blue Angels were the last of its seven military acts to back out of the show.  He said the guard is not allowed to hold an air show without any military acts.

Earlier this week, the Navy demonstration squadron canceled all performances for the year because of the federal budget cuts called sequestration.

The National Guard also said its personnel were prohibited from participating in the combined arms exercise, another popular aspect of the event.

"The Department of Defense and its services are facing difficult fiscal challenges, which requires us to prioritize our training and plans, ensuring we are prepared to perform overseas and domestic missions," said Col. Arthur Floru, 143rd Airlift Wing commander.

Officials said they spent the past few days looking through policies, trying to come up with alternatives. But they could not.

"We understand it's a very important event, not only for the community, but for our members in uniform as well. It's a community outreach for us. Everyone is disappointed. And we're considering the local vendors, the small businesses that depend on the air show. I can tell you we took a close look at everything and we made the best decision that we could," Maj. Christopher Peloso said.

The air show did not charge an admission fee, but donations raised thousands of dollars for Hasbro Children's Hospital.

Maj. Gen. Kevin McBride, the adjutant general, said the National Guard would continue to make plans for the 2014 air show.

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Airport offers music for Masters travelers: Augusta Regional (KAGS), Georgia


Tom Gallagher stepped out of Augusta Regional Airport’s Gate 5 Wednesday, his rolling suitcase behind him, and stopped and stared. 

There among the bustle of travelers were four members of the Thomson High School Jazz Band, belting out tunes on a baritone saxophone, trombones and percussion.

“I thought it was like being on the Titanic,” said Gallagher, who flew from Chicago to attend the Masters Tournament. “It was nice to see.”

For the first time, Augusta Regional has brought in musicians to perform for travelers during Masters Week, the airport’s busiest seven days of the year. A local musical act will perform in the Spring Music Fest each day through Monday.

“We thought this would be the perfect opportunity to get local artists the most exposure we could,” said Augusta Regional communications manager Lauren Smith. “This week is very busy. The terminal is full. Almost shoulder to shoulder with people.”

During Masters Week, Smith said, about 20,000 passengers filter though the airport – the same number seen during a typical month.

Augusta Regional began planning the Spring Music Fest earlier this year as an expansion to the mini concert series held around Christmastime.

Thomson High School band director Jessie Morlan said the gig is an opportunity to give exposure to his four young musicians, who were chosen to play at the airport from the school’s 25-member jazz band based on their skill and academics.

His band agreed.

“We’re just in high school, so we’ve really just done band concerts and football games,” said Thomson junior Mitchell Powers, who plays trombone. “This is really exciting.”

The airport’s marketing budget will also pay out $100 an hour for the three-hour slots, which Powers said is another bonus.

When he arrived at the airport Wednesday, Michael Via of Sarasota, Fla., had about a three-hour wait for his 1:40 p.m. flight back home. It was his first trip to Augusta for the Masters Tournament, and he spent Tuesday watching golfers at the practice rounds and taking in the azaleas.

His ears perked when he heard the band start playing.

“It’s pretty neat,” he said. “I had a long wait, but hopefully now it will go quicker.”


Tuesday: Eryn Eubanks and The Family Fold

Wednesday: Thomson High School Jazz Combo

Thursday: Sunwell

Today: Robin Dixon

Saturday: Cloud Formations

Sunday: Ramblin’ Fevers

Monday: Mike Frost Jazz


Ventura County Air Show canceled by US Navy amid budget cuts


POINT MUGU, VENTURA COUNTY (KABC) -- The U.S. Navy's annual Ventura County Air Show has been canceled amid military budget cuts.

The show was set to take off on Sept. 28. The Blue Angels expected to attract over 200,000 people over the two-day event but then the sequestration axe fell.

When the Blue Angels fly at an air show, jaws drop. And when they don't fly at an air show, attendance drops.

So when the U.S. Navy decided to ground the aerial demonstration team, the organizers of the Naval Base Ventura County Air Show decided to pull the plug on this year's event.

"Announcing the cancellation was a little gut-wrenching, done a lot of planning, it's very important to the community but it was the right choice to make," said Kimberly Gearhart, a spokeswoman for the base.

All of the Blue Angel's demonstrations for this year have been cancelled. The Air Force's air demonstration team, the Thunderbirds, have also canceled their entire 2013 season. The cancellations are the result of Congress' automatic budget cuts called sequestration.

The cuts will keep the fliers from taking part in other air shows as well including San Diego's Air Show at Miramar, which is considered to be the biggest in the country.

"This is kind of unprecedented," said Blue Angels pilot and Cmdr. Thomas Frosch, "I know it hasn't happened since Korea but we also sent them over to Korea. This is the first time I think the team has been grounded for this amount of time."

Ventura County Air Show fans won't be the only ones affected by the cancelation. Small business owners throughout the Ventura area say they too will feel the hit.

"When something like that is cancelled, all those people we would have had business and it just could really hurt us," said Alexandra Walters, a Ventura business owner.

Naval base officials say Ventura's last Air Show brought over 100,000 people through the gates. Many attendees ended up spending money in the county at stores, restaurants and hotels. That's money that now may not make it to places like Nature's Grill located in downtown Ventura.

"The more people that are around the more people come in here and the better it is for us," said Kelsey Meritt of Nature's Grill. "Anytime that there's an event that goes wrong, we get less customers so it makes a difference."

But even if Congress is able to solve its budget impasse, don't expect the Blue Angels to rocket back into Point Mugu anytime soon. Gearhart says now that the show's been canceled, there's really no way to get the high-performance fliers back this fall.

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Pilots Work to Save Big Country AirFest after Dyess Backs Out: Abilene Regional Airport, Texas (With Video)

You can see them flying high, every May, during Abilene's annual Big Country Airfest, except this year, as Gary Potter admits:

"The air shows not going to be the same."

The sky will be a bit emptier after budget cuts forced the Air Force to cancel their public airshow.

However, that doesn't mean the Airfest has been entirely cancelled.

"It'll be a smaller, more intimate get together," said the President of the Experimental Aircraft Association's Abilene Chapter 471.

At least that's if Potter and other members have anything to do with it.

"We're going to try to do something for the local aviation community," said Potter.

While Air Force participation did have a big influence on the shows turnout, which brought in hundreds of participants, for Potter, the show must go on.

Except without much public participation, since only pilots will be allowed in.

"The experimental aircraft association does not want to hold themselves liable for any injuries that could occur to the general public," he said.

Spectators may have to just stand outside of the airport to catch a glimpse.

"They could come out and park alongside the roads and see airplanes flying," said Potter.

Members searching for other pilots to participate in their own event which will include an airplane rally and fly in.

So far people from all over are signing up.

"I believe we're expecting people to come from Oklahoma and New Mexico," said Potter.

They just aren't sure of how many  will show up.

"We have no idea, whether it will be 10 airplanes that fly in or 1000 airplanes fly in," he said.

One thing is for sure, come May 3rd you'll be able to spot Potter's plane up in the sky and he'll be there with a few others to participate in the annual breakfast his chapter sponsors.

"We don't know if were going to run out of eggs and bacon or not, we're just going to hope," he said.

Because there's no grounding their plans to keep the Airfest going.

The fly in is scheduled for May 3rd at the Abilene Regional Airport.

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