These days everybody is looking for a bargain. The bad news, in part, is the grueling economic downturn, now fully entrenched in its fourth year, is still here, and aviation has suffered. There are also continuing high fuel prices (though our European readers might chuckle at $5-plus fuel being considered anything but dirt cheap), a depleted new airplane marketplace and an FAA that sometimes seems more intent on making a profit off of pilots than in helping make aviation safer and more accessible.
There is good news, too, though, because anytime aviation economic times are tough, there are bargains to be found for pilots in the market for . . . well, anything. And Sun 'n Fun historically has been a great place to find these deals.
Potentially the most fertile hunting grounds are the new and used airplane markets at the show. From airplanes advertised on the flight line — where else can you go and kick dozens of tires in one place? — to new airplanes that sales people these days are more than willing to wheel and deal on, to LSAs (make an offer; they'll at least listen) to homebuilts, where your sweat equity is the key to low prices. If you're serious about owning an airplane, Sun 'n Fun is a great place to start the search or seal the deal. And this year the buyer is king.
If you're looking to upgrade, it's just as promising a marketplace. As the first show of the year, Sun 'n Fun is the site where aftermarket manufacturers, from Avidyne to Zaon, roll out their new hardware for the year and, in the process, offer great deals. Looking for a new autopilot, an engine monitor, new seatbelts, an ELT, sun visors, or . . . well you name it, there are deals to be made. And remember that just about every company has competitors at the show, so they're even more motivated to give customers the best deal possible.
For pilots who fly their airplanes anything resembling a lot, there's one gold mine you can't ignore and you can find it on your iPad, a device built by Apple that pays for itself though the fabulous aviation apps available for us pilots, because these apps tell you where the cheapest fuel is on a cross country trek. Depending on what you fly, the savings can be measured in hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a long trip. If you don't have an iPad, get one. Then shop the apps. There are a number of excellent ones out there, and they're just getting better.
Finally, there's always new stuff available, too. Without knowing much more about it than you do, this year I have my eye on portable ADS-B weather products for the iPad. I'm bringing my figurative checkbook — who actually carries one around any more? — and getting ready to gear up. Can't wait to see what surprises Sun 'n Fun has in store.
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