Team RV Flight Lead Tad "Stripes" Sargent and Crew Chief Tony "Sleepy" Spicer briefly mourned the loss of their homebuilt planes in the tornado that hit SUN 'n FUN Thursday, March 31 before they began an earnest search for replacements. Stripes built his RV-7A with his son, TJ, and Sleepy built his RV-3B to honor his dad, a fighter pilot who was shot down and captured by the Germans in WWII. Both pilots reacted calmly to the sight of their planes upside down after 95 mile-an-hour winds moved through the field. They both are more concerned about getting back in the air than looking back. Stripes is on the hunt for an RV-8, Sleepy an RV-4. Team RV has standby aircraft and this loss will not impact our air show schedule.
Other Team RV members suffered comparatively minor damage. Four planes require new rudders, one needs a new aileron, several planes have a series of scratches and one plane suffered water damage when the canopy opened during the storm. Two other planes parked near us did not fare as well.
On the bright side, Team RV still made a positive impression at SUN 'n FUN. We arrived in formation on Tuesday at 1700. Fans posed for photos with team pilots in flight suits. Numerous people told us how they looked forward to our performance. We anticipated our first performance of the season. This was not to be: officials canceled Wednesday's show just as the first act took to the sky. Team RV then rescheduled into a great time slot at Thursday's show.
You pretty much know the rest of the story. Thursday's storm "eclipsed" SUN 'n FUN, beginning with black skies followed by torrential downpour and finally the wind. NOAA reported damage consistent with downbursts and a tornado at the west end of KLAL at 1205 Thursday (click here for details). SUN 'n FUN officials evacuated the grounds, and volunteers and Lakeland city workers toiled through the night to meet an 0800 opening time Friday.
Team RV members returned home Friday after inspections by pilots and insurance adjusters. We do want to thank NationAir, our new team carrier, for their quick response, and Van's Aircraft for offering discounts to all damaged aircraft owners and to expedite parts to team members. Mostly we want to thank friends and family for their concern and well wishes in the aftermath of the storm.
Team RV suffered a brief bit of heartache, but we look onward and skyward. We'll see you in Vidalia on April 30.