Florida's Top Gun Show Moved To A New Site!

Top Gun 2002 - A Personal View
By Lyman Slack

3-D AerobaticsWhile living in the Greater Miami area, we had attended Top Gun at Palm Beach Polo for many years. It was a great location at first, but as our models got bigger and faster, Top Gun simply outgrew the facility. I moved to north central Florida six years ago, a far distance from Top Gun. This year, the event moved to Lakeland's Linder Airport. This is the same airport the EAA has its "Sun 'n Fun" convention every year - the second largest general aviation event in the world, second only to Oshkosh. This meant readily available hired workers to handle the tasks of parking, gate receipts, and clean up.

Five of us piled in a van and drove down to Lakeland Saturday, April 27. Attendants served coffee & donuts en route. We arrived in preferred parking (found a place in the shade!) in time to view the opening ceremonies.

First impression was that the flight line was a bit tight for the pilots, but it didn't seem to bother them. Runway was East - West but the light breeze was from due South, causing some turbulence as it rolled over the trees and grandstands (lots of seats for everybody). At the Polo Club, the runway was North - South with the winds always from the East!

Bob Violet F-100Pilots had pitched their tents all throughout the trees, helping to make the 90 degree heat bearable. Many vendors were on hand showing loads of goodies as well as all types of gourmet delights; most all also in the shade.

We never did see the static scores, which normally get posted after the first round, but I heard Ray Torres' T-34C had top static. I'm sure Frank Tiano will publish the complete results soon.

T-34Personal Impressions
Jets were everywhere; all turbines and not a DF in sight. I was most impressed by Tommy Woods' FA-18 -- seeing this big twin turbine taxi out, close the canopy, set the brakes, run up, and go! Followed by his dirty fly by with gear, flaps, speed boards, and tail hook all hanging out, Impressive!

Warbirds by the dozens; Ray Torres' T-34C was outstanding in its camo, as was another huge yellow T-34.

DR-1WWI also represented by a beautiful black DR-1 flew great and had no problem with the pavement/cross-wind.

Classics I saw included a Culver, Fairchild 24R, and the model that impressed me most overall - a Sikorski S-39 amphibian. This model flew as well as it was detailed! I believe it received the Engineering Excellence Award.

The Airshow was between rounds at noon, kicked off by tons of kids out on the runway performing a mass launch of AMA/Sig Delta Darts. Flew quite well and last up was presented an award. Though I must say I don't get turned on by 3-D or choppers, the demo by Jason Schulman (sp?) with his huge Sukoi and the extreme 3-D heli routine flown by Chip Hyde were beyond belief! Mac Hodges on hand with his 'new & improved' B-29. All 20 feet of its wingspan carried the also new X-1 aloft for its always impressive drop and surprise. A turbine L-1011-500 in USA livery was beautiful.

Frank TianoFriends were everywhere and it's always great to see old friends you haven't seen in years, though it's rather bittersweet as you realize some of these old friends are getting old, just as I am. Col Art Johnson is still a formidable competitor at age 82! Don't give up, lads!

Frank Tiano once again deserves applause for promoting this huge event. I had a long talk with him, and you just can't conceive of how much work goes into an event of this stature! He is aware of the several glitches that held the event back a bit, but knowing Frank, they will be fixed. He has also just announced the creation of a new MAJOR JET EVENT. Stay tuned.

Sadly, we had to depart mid afternoon for the return trip back to Gainesville.

Additional Unofficial info:
Bob Violet flying his F-100F (two-seater) won designer class as well as "Top Gun". The model is shown on his Web Site www.bvmjets.com. Another of his F-100s was second. The FA-18 of Tommy Woods was fourth; Tom scored a near perfect flight in round 4 with a 98, but his static score was down a bit from the others -- conflicts between photos and documents hurt him. "Mr. Scale" Dave Platt was given the Gray Eagle Award at the banquet. Full results are now available at: http://www.franktiano.com/ Here are the simplified results:

Additional Photographs
Designer Class
1. Bob Violett, F-100F
2. Jeff Foley, Bf-109E
3. Roy Vaillancourt, Typhoon
4. Pat McCurry, ME-109G
5. Charlie Nelson, Wacos
Expert Class
1. Joe Rafalowski, T-33
2. Gustavo Campana, L-159
3. Kim Foster, Moth Minor
4. Tommy Woods, F-18C
5. Mitch Weiss, F-100
Team Class
1. Grice/Shulman, F-100
2. Richardson/Elias, F-100
3. Mairiano/Pinegar, TU-4
4. Snyder Dodgen, Mig 15
5. Malchione/Malchione, F-4
World Class (FAI)
1. Ramon Torres, Beech T-34
2. Cliff Tacie, Aeronca L-16
3. Stephen Saugar, Fairchild 24
4. Manny Sousa, Culver Cadet
5. Bob Benjamin, Taylorcraft
Helicopter Class
1. Russell Matteini

Article & Photographs Contributed by
Lyman Slack

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