Plane makes hard landing druing Sun 'n Fun fly-in

- Lakeland’s Sun ‘n Fun fly-in had a turbulent start.

A small plane made a hard landing Monday. Its front wheel collapsed, and the plane flipped.

The student pilot, a 54-year-old man from Virginia, was not hurt.

That wasn’t the only challenge. Rain grounded the planes and kept the crowds at home.

Lightning rather than planes filled the sky at Sun ‘n Fun on opening day. A torrential rain hit midday and sent people diving for cover.

“So what you do when you can’t go play with your planes? Well, what do you think I should do? I think we are going to start drinking. Margaritaville” Brenda Barnes, of Jacksonville, said.

Others were more concerned about their planes as the rain pounded down.

Pilots who planned on flying in from elsewhere were held off. The air show was canceled and the crowds were thin, at best.

“And this is a charity event for a lot of educational programs for Sun ‘n Fun so it’s important that we get people here,” said former fighter pilot Dave Rothenanger.

At least it wasn’t as bad as back in 2011 when tornadoes touched down.

 “We saw a pile of airplanes. Just piled together. One would hit the next, hit the next, and end up being in piles,” Jim Tobul remembers.

There’s a 50-50 chance of rain Sunday. Pilots are keeping their fingers crossed this doesn’t happen again.

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