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SUN ’n FUN Today -

Changing lives, one rivet at a time to do some rivets and get their hands on a project, he said. Such a small project can make a big difference, according to Boyce. “People have told me that we’ve changed their lives,” he said. “They say, ‘before I came to SUN ’n FUN, I couldn’t do anything and now I can build a plane.’” It’s all a matter of showing people what is possible, Nelson added, telling the story of a young couple in their 20s who showed up a few years ago, the man all excited about building his own plane and the woman just tagging along, unsure of what to do. Nelson looked her in the eye and said, “You’re going to help him, right?” “She said, ‘oh no, I can’t do that,’” Nelson recalled. “I took her to a table and showed her what to do and within 15 minutes she looked at me and said, “you know, I think I can do this.’ We got her to where she saw that she could learn.” “We turn the key,” Boyce chimed in. Want to join in the fun? The workshops run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

By JANICE WOOD Interested in building an airplane, but just not sure if you can do it? You can hone your skills — and increase your confidence — at the SUN ’n FUN Workshops. This year there are 14 workshops offered near the Buehler Restoration Center and the Florida Air Museum, covering everything from engines to basic sheet metal, composites, metal shaping, fabric covering, avionics, and more, reported Vic Boyce, workshops chairman. “Everyone is welcome,” he said, noting, “they are all hands-on workshops.” There are 167 volunteers at the workshops, including Burl Nelson of Diamondhead, Miss., who was manning the Sheet Metal and Riveting Workshop. He noted that Van’s Aircraft and Zenith Aircraft both donated supplies for the workshop, including parts for participants to work on. Zenith donated the pieces for wouldbe builders to create a Drawings Binder. Putting it together gives people a chance

April 1, 2012

Monda Thompson, workshops co-chairman, Vic Boyce, workshops chairman, Joe Birch, a workshops participant, and Burl Nelson, a workshops volunteer, hold one of the remaining pieces of the “Spirit of Hope,” a Zenith 701 that was built in the workshops area over the last few years but was, sadly, destroyed by last year’s tornado.

Taking flight Photos by Ben Sclair


Joe Birch

A few days from now, Joe Birch of Corrigan, Texas, will do something that very few people get to do: Fly the plane he built with his own two hands for the first time. As he sat in the workshops area of SUN ’n FUN earlier this week, he recalled the day back in 2008 when he walked into one of the workshops and found a group

of volunteers building a Zenith 701 that, once complete, was to be donated to a charity (Sadly, the “Spirit of Hope,” as it was dubbed, was destroyed in last year’s tornado). But back in 2008, Birch found himself working on that plane every day he was at SUN ’n FUN. When he bought his Zenith 750 kit — “I fell in love with that plane,” he said — he was prepared for the project.

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Getting that hands-on experience at SUN ’n FUN “taught me all the skills I needed to build mine,” he said. “He was practicing on mine,” Burl Nelson, who headed up the “Spirit of Hope” project, said with a laugh, “so he knew he could build his.” Birch built the Zenith all by himself, taking about four years to complete the project. Just a few months ago, he headed to Carson City, Nev., for six hours of transition training with a CFI to prepare for his first flight. With the DAR sign-off complete, he was anticipating first flight in the week after he returned home. “I just turned 73,” he said. “This will be my birthday present to myself.” Volunteering Opportunities Would you like to volunteer at SUN ’n FUN? Stop by the Volunteer Center across from the Main Admissions Gate to find out more. About 3,000 volunteers help SUN ’n FUN be a success every year.

We’re not attending SNF this year so visit us at our website: Standard & custom placards, custom circuit breaker overlays along with instrument & switch panels. 151 N. Granby Road • Granby, CT 06035 • Ph. (860) 653-2780 • Fax (860) 653-7324 • E-mail:

April 1, 2012 SUN 'n FUN Today  
April 1, 2012 SUN 'n FUN Today  

The April 1, 2012 edition of SUN 'n FUN Today produced daily during the show in Lakeland, Florida.