I attended Sun n Fun 2017 and everything was pretty much the same as in 2014 (my post). I flew in with a friend who owns a Cirrus SR22. After about 500 hours he hasn’t mastered the Garmin G1000 panel. I also have hundreds of hours of G1000 time, including as part of a jet type rating, and I was fumbling quite a bit while trying to do something pretty simple: set up a user waypoint at a latitude/longitude and fly there. The experience reminded me that aviation is still in the “horseless carriage” mode of using computers. The FAA has some electronic processes for registering aircraft, pilots, and mechanics, but paper or plastic certificates are still required and the electronic processes closely mimic the old paper-only processes. There are tablets in the cockpit and a copy of an old paper approach plate will appear on the LCD screen. The 1950s aircraft had one switch and dial for every subsystem. The 2010s aircraft has one screen corresponding to each subsystem. The computer is not a partner in accomplishing a mission, but rather a 1:1 replacement for physical switches. It is the pilot’s job to set up each switch while the computer remains ignorant of the rationale.
Landing gear is not down and the airplane is otherwise configured to land with flaps and a slow airspeed? You’ll hear an electronic warning “horn” that replaces the old mechanical horn and, if you remember your annual training, might associate that with imminent damage to the belly. This shouldn’t be confused with the warning “tone” to tell you that the electronic trim is running away and therefore a crash from stalling might be imminent. Why can’t the $50,000 to $500,000 of onboard computers get it together to synthesize a “trim runaway” or “check landing gear” warning? That’s not how it was done in the 1950s and the point of the fancy computers is to mimic the 1950s processes.
Epic was in the same location as in 2014, with the same 6-seat turboprop and the same message: will be certified within about a year.
In the world of amphibious seaplanes, Searey was there with a track record of having delivered 700 (kits plus LSA). One of them at the show had lived on a yacht for a couple of years. The owner would periodically lower it into calm water and fly around. The company featured an Australian’s round-the-world trip in 2015 (they didn’t mention the recovery from spatial disorientation that is in the linked-to article). Icon wasn’t around (at their current production rate they have several hundred years worth of orders). An amphibian designed in Finland will be built with cheap labor in Maine (Avweb).
The L3 Lynx transponder-with-touch-screen was being demoed and generated a lot of excitement as a way to bring an old airplane up to date in a bunch of areas, including ADS-B. Garmin was showing their G5 attitude indicator that can be used to replace old vacuum-driven steam-gauge “artificial horizons.” Inadvertently they demonstrated the cost of regulation: $1,199 for experimental aircraft or $950 extra ($2,149 total) for the identical “certified” version that would be legal to put into a Cessna or Piper.
For pilots: the Sun n Fun NOTAM is moderately terrifying in its complexity, but most of it relates to IFR or other airports. The VFR approach is pretty straightforward and we didn’t have much company on the morning of the first day of the event. There was an epic amount of taxiing involved, but it was well-organized, and only a short wait to take off after the airshow. Things are compressed at the end of the day because the airport is closed until 5:30 pm due to the airshow and then closed after 7:30 pm, period. To avoid the rush, consider flying in and out in the morning.