A Flight To & From Sun ’n Fun With Lightspeed

by Dave Weiman
Published in Midwest Flyer – June/July 2018 issue

It had been a few years since Peggy and I flew our Cessna 182 Skylane to Sun ‘n Fun in Lakeland, Florida, so as with any long cross-country flight, I wanted to put a lot of thought into planning the trip.

First was to get the plane in for its annual. Fortunately, I was able to get the plane into the shop a few weeks before our trip, which allowed for any unexpected maintenance and the ordering of parts.

While the plane was being worked on, I got my Jeppesen data bases for the Garmins updated and packed the “electronic suitcase” with ForeFlight on my iPad.

Next was to order a new headset. I had used my dependable and bullet-proof, but head-squeezing headsets for the past 40 years, and certainly got my money’s worth out of them, but I needed comfort for the 16-hour, 2,000-nm round-trip flight.

In 2015, we had planned a day flight up to Washington Island on the Door County, Wisconsin peninsula, but just prior to departure, the weight and tight fit of the old headsets aggravated a sensitive area behind Peggy’s ears, resulting in a headache, so we had to cancel the trip.

I immediately began to explore other headsets, and considered the ultra-lightweights, but felt that Peggy needed a headset that completely covered her ears to provide the best noise protection. We spoke with friends who own Boise and Lightspeed Aviation headsets, which are highly rated and priced competitively. After trying them both on, Peggy chose the “Lightspeed Zulu PFX.”

The Zulu PFX has been Lightspeed’s top of the line headset and weighs only 14 ounces. The PFX features plush ear seals that provide 20% more surface area and 30% more space for your ears inside the ear cups than its closest competitor, creating a better seal and more comfortable distribution of side pressure.

All Lightspeed Aviation headsets employ active noise reduction (ANR), which works by sensing cockpit noise and generating an audio signal that is 180 degrees out-of-phase with the noise. The noise and the signal cancel each other out, creating the remarkable quiet that Lightspeed is known for, as well as reducing dangerous noise-induced fatigue. The headsets continuously adapt to your environment, extending the amount, consistency and frequency range of noise cancellation. Firmware enhancements are just a download away, giving Lightspeed headsets unlimited potential to evolve with new innovations.

Other features of Lightspeed headsets include FlightLink – the free, proprietary app developed by Lightspeed for the iPad® and iPhone® that adds enhanced functionality to the headsets. FlightLink works seamlessly to capture and retrieve incoming and outgoing communications. A great tool for any pilot, it is especially valuable for flight training. FlightLink’s enhanced capabilities also allow users to set a variety of personal audio and operational preferences.

Lightspeed’s “trading up” program makes it convenient for pilots to stay on the cutting edge of headset technology. Lightspeed will give you up to a $400 trade-in allowance, depending on the headset you are trading in. What Lightspeed does with the trade-ins after that, I don’t know.

Lightspeed’s newest headset is the “Zulu 3.” Priced at $850.00 for GA plugs or battery operated, the Zulu 3 is actually $300.00 less expensive that the Zulu PFX, and priced less than either the David Clark One-X at $895.00 and the Boise A20 at $1,096.00.

Comfort-wise, the Zulu 3 has all of the same features as the Zulu PFX, plus larger cup cavity, providing 50% more space for your ears, allowing your entire ear to fit comfortably inside, while preventing the pain caused by seals pressing against the   of the ear.

The Zulu 3 is more durable than the competition, using new rugged cables built around a Kevlar core, delivering more strength and flexibility with less weight than standard cables. The headset is made from stainless steel and magnesium.

The Dual Aperture Disc™ microphone provides greater noise cancellation for clearer, more intelligible communications.

Front Row Center™ (FRC), stereo cross-feed technology, and redesigned speakers, deliver crisp, rich audio and unparalleled music fidelity.

It’s no wonder on my way to Canada last August for our annual Canada Fishing Fly-Out to Miminiska Lodge, Ontario, that I overheard two pilots talking plane-to-plane on 122.75 Mhz, how pleased they were with the Lightspeed headsets they purchased at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. It was a great testimonial and only confirmed my decision to buy a second Lightspeed headset.

Like all Lightspeed headsets, the Zulu 3 comes in a hard case to protect your investment and is backed by a 7-year warranty. For additional information on Lightspeed headsets, visit www.lightspeedaviation.com.

The Cross-Country Flight

The ultimate test for my new Lightspeed Zulu 3 headset was to fly IFR from Wisconsin to Florida, confident that I would not miss any communications with air traffic control, and that they would hear me loud and clear!

We departed Wisconsin in the afternoon and arrived at Madison County Executive Airport (KMDQ) in Huntsville, Alabama about an hour before sunset, thanks to a nice tailwind. There, we were greeted by Donna and Ray Meyer and their staff at Executive Flight Center, who were kind enough to tuck our Skylane in a hangar overnight, so we could plug in our Tanis engine heater. Yes, temperatures in Huntsville dropped to the mid 20s overnight, and I wanted a warm engine in the morning.

We departed Huntsville at approximately 10:30 a.m. the next day on an instrument flight plan, direct to Bartow, Florida.

After we leveled off a 9,000, I leaned the mixture on our Continental 0470-S2B rich of peak. Then about an hour into the flight, Center requested that we descend and maintain 7,000 to make room for two aircraft overtaking us from behind. We complied with the request and were handed over to a different controller. Shortly thereafter, that controller requested that we descend and maintain 5,000 for two more aircraft that were overtaking us, which would have put us skimming the top of smoke caused by forest fires in northwest Florida. Rather than descend again, ATC gave us a different waypoint to separate traffic.

Before ADS-B, there was a lot of traffic out there we didn’t know existed. Now with ADS-B, at least we know where the traffic is and can do a better job at “seeing and avoiding” other aircraft.

Upon our arrival at Bartow, Florida, we taxied to Bartow Flying Service, where we were met by very professional and courteous line personnel who brought our rental car to the plane to unload. Since we arrived early for Sun ’n Fun, we had our pick of parking spots on the ramp. We tied down the plane, fueled and wrapped our Bruce Custom Cover around the canopy, then headed for lunch and to our hotel.

Sun ’n Fun Fly-In

As for the Sun ’n Fun fly-in itself at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport in Lakeland, Florida, April 10 – 15, 2018, the event has many of the same features as EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, but it is smaller in scale. Unfortunately, their headline airshow act – the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds – had to cancel because one of the team members – Maj. Stephen Del Bagno of Valencia, Calif. – was killed during a practice flight on April 4, while flying his F-16 over the Nevada Test and Training Range near Nellis Air Force Base where the team is headquartered.

Maj. Del Bagno was the slot pilot, flying the No. 4 jet, and this was his first season with the team. Prior to joining the Air Force, Maj. Del Bagno was a General Aviation flight instructor, corporate pilot, skywriter and banner tower. He had logged more than 3,500 hours in more than 30 different aircraft – 1,400 hours as an Air Force pilot.

As tragic the accident was, Sun ‘n Fun officials had to scramble to fill the performance time slot with other military demonstrations, and they did. Congratulations to former Naval aviator, John “Lites” Leenhouts, who is President and CEO of Sun ‘n Fun, and to the organization’s board of directors, for pulling out all stops to hold a successful event. Likewise, thanks go to two former Midwesterners – Gene Conrad, director, and Chris Hallstrand, assistant director, of Lakeland Linder Regional Airport, for helping make the event possible logistically.

One the biggest attractions of the fly-in for us was the appearance by the B-17 Flying Fortress “Texas Raiders,” flown by the Commemorative Air Force Gulf Coast Wing, and the former B-29 crew chief who got a ride. (See article beginning on page 41.)

The Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association (AOPA) exhibited, as they do at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, and AOPA President & CEO Mark Baker and some members of his executive staff were featured speakers. Baker briefed members on current AOPA initiatives, and thanked them for contacting their congressional representatives when summoned to do so in opposing legislation to privatize the air traffic control system.

The weather during Sun ’n Fun was pretty good with the exception of heavy rain on opening day, which kept spectators in the exhibit buildings buying products, and again on closing day when the show shut down early due to bad weather. Among some of the exhibitors from the Midwest were Schweiss Doors out of Hector, Minnesota, and Eagle Fuel Cells in Eagle River, Wisconsin.

For more information on Sun ’n Fun, visit their website: www.sun-n-fun.org.

Kennedy Space Center

While in Florida, we visited Kennedy Space Center (KSC) on Merritt Island, Florida, for the first time in 30 years, and has it ever changed! It has truly become a Disney-like attraction for adults, but there’s plenty of attractions for people of all ages, so bring your entire family.

KSC has become a major central Florida tourist destination and is approximately a one-hour drive from Orlando. KSC offers public tours of the center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

As a taxpayer supportive of the space program, I was pleased to see the National Air & Space Administration (NASA) finally realizing the opportunities in partnering with private enterprise to expand the space program. Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Space Florida, Florida Power and Light, United Paradyne Corporation, and SpaceX have made major investments.

SpaceX was founded in 2002 by billionaire, Elon Musk. The company has more than 5,000 employees at its headquarters in Hawthorne, California; launch facilities at Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California; a rocket-development facility in McGregor, Texas; and offices in Houston, Texas; Chantilly, Virginia; and Washington, DC.

SpaceX has gained worldwide attention for a series of historic milestones. It is the only private company ever to return a spacecraft from low-Earth orbit, which it first accomplished in December 2010. The company made history again in May 2012 when its Dragon spacecraft delivered cargo to and from the International Space Station – a challenging feat previously accomplished only by governments. Since then, Dragon has delivered cargo to and from the space station multiple times, providing regular cargo resupply missions for NASA.

In 2017, SpaceX successfully achieved the first preflight of an orbital class rocket – a historic milestone on the road to full and rapid rocket reusability.

Our trip home began with an instrument clearance which included vectors from Bartow to Lakeland to V-7 to Cross City, then direct Huntsville, where we were once again greeted by the friendly folks at Executive Flight Center. Before long, we were back in the friendly and less congested skies of the Midwest.

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