SUN ‘n FUN has been and still is a collaboration of spirits in the form of volunteers who given willingly of their precious time to create the most enjoyable and successful aviation experience on the earth.
The Lakeland, Florida chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) decided to hold a fly-in for sport aviation enthusiasts at the Lakeland Airport. EAA is a national organization of individuals who build their own airplanes. The Southeastern Sport Aviation Council (SESAC), an organization of 60 EAA chapters in the Southeast, and the Florida Sport Antique and Classic Aircraft Association (FSAACA, an association of pre-1936 antique, 1936-1942 classic, and World War II military aircraft restorers, joined in the effort.
The first weekend fly-in, called Mid-Winter SUN ‘n FUN, was held in January at the Lakeland Municipal Airport and was limited to pilots, EAA, SESAC, and FSAACA members. 1,980 guests and 365 aircraft were present.
The second annual fly-in was expanded to a full week and the City approved a lease for the convention site to be moved to the Southwest quadrant of the airport. The public was invited on a limited basis with the limiting factor being crowd control near moving aircraft and static displays. It was a huge success with 6,168 registrants from 38 states, Canada, Australia, and Holland. 1,200 aircraft including 200 homebuilts, 180 antiques, 260 classics, and 28 Warbirds were on site.
In spite of unusual weather – real snow and low temperatures – 7,000 folks from 42 states, all the Canadian provinces, and four other countries attended the Fly-In. More than 2,000 aircraft flew in throughout the week.
SUN ‘n FUN 1978 easily became the second largest Fly-In in the United States, topped only by the EAA convention in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Attendance was at a new high of 10,100 with 10 countries represented, including all the Canadian provinces. The FAA estimated that over 4,000 aircraft made appearances throughout the week.
A great convention, with the United States World Aerobatics Team appearing to demonstrate their skills in aerobatic flight. (The team continued on to become World Aerobatic Champions in 1980.) The first wave of ultralight aircraft appeared on the scene.
The date of the Fly-In was changed from January to March. The decision paid off beautifully with great Florida weather prevailing. A privately owned replica of the Spirit of St. Louis was brought in from the EAA Air Museum. The owner had plans to make a Trans-Atlantic flight in the aircraft shortly after the Fly-In. Two new commercial buildings were opened for the convenience of exhibitors. SUN ‘n FUN hosted guests from 11 countries.
For the first time, hot air balloons became a part of SUN ‘n FUN. 24 balloons lifted off from the site on opening day. Over 4,000 aircraft movements were recorded during the week. A record 104 ultralights, the largest gathering ever recorded at a single event, were also in attendance. 350 showplanes, including 40 Warbirds, were registered. Visitors from 23 countries were represented.
Many improvements were made to the SUN ‘n FUN site with the completion of the Antique & Classic, Judges Headquarters, and the OX5 buildings. Visitors from 21 countries signed in. One of the convention highlights was the Laird Super Solution, which was on display all week. There were 254 showplanes registered and 400 ultralights. The FAA recorded 22,045 aircraft movements during the week.
The Fly-In Convention suffered inclement weather. Rain for several days dampened everything but the spirit and enthusiasm of those who attended. Even with the bad weather, the general attendance increased over prior years. All 50 states were represented and the international attendees continued to increase with guests from 25 countries.
The 10th anniversary SUN ‘n FUN. The weather was as close to perfect as it could be. 480 showplanes registered and visitors from 20 countries were also in attendance. SUN ‘n FUN EAA Fly-In, Inc. announced plans to build an aviation education center on the site. It looks as if SUN ‘n FUN is here to stay.
Continued growth was apparent with a record attendance and 22 foreign countries represented. 615 showplanes registered. Breathtaking air shows were topped off with flybys by a graceful C5A. Volunteers have continued to make improvements matching the growth.
The convention marked a milestone with dreams becoming reality for SUN ‘n FUN with the opening of a new corporate office and exhibit building. A newly restored Convair XF2Y-1 Sea Dart is proudly displayed near the new mini-museum. The first incident on the airfield added a touch of sadness to this convention. The volunteers are dedicated to work harder to keep the convention safe and fun as we continue to grow. Attendance was very strong with 34 countries represented.
The convention was the largest yet with increased attendance and 851 registered showplanes. 34 foreign countries were represented. Without a doubt, the 13th annual convention was the most successful in our history with tremendous growth in almost every area. The convention, run by volunteers, is one of the most smoothly and safely operated, aviation events.
The convention was moved from March to April in an effort to improve the housing situation and to benefit from the milder April weather. The convention attendance increased only slightly for the year. There was a slight increase in international visitors with 37 countries represented. The City of Lakeland approved a five-year plan for support that included many site improvements. A new Fly-In Headquarters building was constructed and the workshops were relocated and expanded. The Polk County Economic Development Council showed more support. The SUN ‘n FUN Aviation Foundation was formed to oversee the development of the aviation museum. An F-101 VooDoo, an HU-16 Albatross, and several small aircraft were acquired.
A banner year for SUN ‘n FUN. Attendance soared to new heights. Growth was evident in every area. Showplanes numbered 1,055. 868 guests from 42 foreign countries were registered. A new 20,000-sq. ft. exhibit building was completed and open for the Fly-In and a new building was constructed for food service. SUN ‘n FUN EAA Fly-In, Inc. granted the SUN ‘n FUN Aviation Foundation use of an existing building for the first SUN ‘n FUN Air Museum.
The convention gate count was up again with 51 countries represented. New this year were a permanent building for the FAA programs, a convention campground and showerhouse, another exhibit building, and a new main entrance at Medulla Road. Airport expansion created the need to relocate our main entrance to the Southwest.
The convention was a great success with attendance up a bit including visitors from 47 countries. The City of Lakeland approved 32 acres on lease to SUN ‘n FUN Aviation Foundation, Inc. for the new museum facility. The City also approved funding for construction of the first phase of the museum and a new merchandise center (renovation of an existing building). Plans for the a new News Media Center were developed and construction is scheduled to begin early in 1992. The first annual Wheels ’n Wings & Interesting Things was held by the SUN ‘n FUN Air Museum in December.
The SUN ‘n FUN Air Museum held its grand opening during the convention and kicked off its brick sale campaign. Record growth again at SUN ‘n FUN, with gate counts up compared to last year; international visitors at an all time high of 2,158. A new woodworking/carpentry shop was added to the maintenance facility. A new road between the Corporate Office and the Museum was named Peggy Brown Lane. New buildings: Gifts of Flight, EAA Headquarters and Media Center. The corporate office building was renovated to add four new offices and a conference room. Land holdings were increased by nine acres. Three additional staff members, two Museum and one Fly-In, were added.
Record attendance gate count recorded with 60 countries represented. Runway 9/27 extension was begun with anticipated completion by ’94 convention. Antique/ Classic headquarters building moved enlarging the homebuilt area and providing new large commercial display areas. Convention Campground was expanded. Two additional Fly-In staff members were added for a total of 12.
Guests representing 64 countries, 2,231 showplanes resulted in another banner year. New for ’94: Nature walk, new exhibit building, relocation of Planes Parts Mart (flea market), expanded aircraft camping area; the Air Museum’s Florida Aviation History display was unveiled at the convention. The continued large increases in attendance brought about the need to revise our Long-Range Development Plan to incorporate more land area for expansion.
This was another great event for SUN ‘n FUN. 57 countries were represented during the Fly-In week. There were 2,028 showplanes registered. Brigadier General Chuck Yeager and astronaut Lt. Col. Curt Brown were featured guests. The Kermit Weeks’ B-24 Liberator was on display here during the convention. Also seen was the Stinson Tri-Motor, one of the rarest privately owned antique airplanes in the world. A new Announcers’ Stand was built for this year’s show.
This was an exciting year, with the showcasing of some of the original racers. Replicas of pylon and distance racers were on display to include Mr. Mulligan, Wedell Williams 121, Gee Bee Model Z and Model E, Clipwing Monocoupe, Grovenor House, and Miss Los Angeles, a Brown B-2 pylon racer. The Bushmaster, a one-of-a-kind airplane named the St. Louis Tri-Motor, was also on hand. Our guests, including 1,963 from 65 countries witnessed the first Wittman Sun 100 Race, named to honor Steve Wittman after his untimely death in 1995. Fly-In Headquarters surrendered its building to the homebuilders and moved to a location near the new Admissions Plaza. We registered 1,949 showplanes of all types this year.
The Brazilian Air Force Demonstration Squadron joined us this year as we celebrated the Year of the Volunteer. They were in the United States to help celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Air Force. Aptly named the Smoke Squadron, they performed a fantastic show for us at the end of the week. Bob Hoover, making his comeback debut in the airshow circuit, made the daily airshow. Colonel Charlie Precourt was our visiting astronaut. The program book added an information insert and Fly-In Headquarters moved again. Visitors included 2,204 from 70 foreign countries enjoyed the show. We continued to up-grade our entryway with an improved people path to get our guest to the expanded commercial area. We registered 2,228 showplane. Campers were treated to a new, more user friendly entrance to the site and that operation ran more smoothly than ever.
This was another banner year with the beginning of the development of Clubhouse Row. Yet another area has been opened up for expansion. We are finding new real estate in our midst. Workshops were moved slightly to the west, in front of the clubhouses and a new Youth Aviation Activities Center was added to the mix. Michael Fopp, Director, Royal Air Force Museum was our special guest this year. The Museum kicked off its Capital Campaign for the International Sport Aviation Museum (ISAM). Fly-In Headquarters found a permanent home at the south end of the people path. Of those in attendance, 2,355 were from 64 foreign countries. A total of 1,847 showplanes registered in all categories and Lakeland once again was The World’s Busiest Airport with 56,463 aircraft movements during the week.
Our Sterling Year was a great one. Many 25 year volunteers attended and were honored at the Annual Thursday Ground Loop Party. The Education Corridor was inaugurated with the Youth Aviation Center at the northern end. Also involved was the co-location of workshops and forums in the northwest corner of BackAcres Campground. This is the first step to take place in order to fully develop this area. Guests representing 74 foreign countries particpated. There were 2,035 showplanes registered in all categories. Aircraft movements totaled 64,810 for the week. It was truly a great celebration for 25 years of fly-ins.
Twenty-six years of great fly-ins…this year’s event was as exciting as all that had gone before. Major changes to the site included a redesign of outdoor exhibit areas. Opening Day was highlighted by the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the FAA Flight Safety Center. Hans Georg Schmid arrived in his Long-Ez as we were a stop on the second circuit of his Around the World (Twice) Millennium Flight and we were honored to be a part of the adventure. Bob Hoover flew the last flight of his Shrike Commander on Sunday, loaning it to the International Sport Aviation Museum for display for the next two years. The First Flight Centennial Pavilion made its debut this year as a first step on the path to the 2003 celebration of the Wright Brothers momentous accomplishment in 1903. Daily airshows and a beautiful night airshow on Tuesday were a part of the excitement. Discovery Wings was taping all week, presenting a production in the Pavilion on Friday night. 3,051 registered guests at the International Visitor Center represented 90 foreign countries. The tower was busy with a total of 61,696 air traffic movements for the week. Display aircraft included 537 Homebuilts, 283 Vintage, 313 Warbirds, 414 Ultralights and 96 Seaplanes. It was another great Spring Celebration of Flight.
This year, a new pedestrian corridor from the Main Admission Gate to SUN ‘n FUN’s International Sport Aviation Museum (ISAM). The corridor included exhibits focusing on the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots (WASP) and the Tuskegee Airmen. SUN ‘n FUN’s “First Flight Centennial exhibit, commemorating the upcoming 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers’ flight at Kitty Hawk was also located in the corridor. NASA, SUN ‘n FUN Youth Activities were also found in the corridor. This year we also welcomed major sponsorships including Trade-A-Plane, Exxon Elite, Outback Steakhouse, Michael Holley Chevrolet, John Deere, Bernie Little Distributors and Central Florida Visitors and Convention Bureau. 2,402 International Guests registered represented 85 foreign countries. Once again, all 50 states were represented. Registered showplanes numbered 524 Custom Built aircraft, 403 Ultralight, 336 Vintage, 295 Warbirds, 87 Seaplanes and 66 Rotorcraft. Controllers had a busy week overseeing 52,250 aircraft movements. Once again, the airshow season was opened in grand style at SUN ‘n FUN.
While its theme was “Red, White and Blue Skies,” near perfect weather made for mostly blue skies over Lakeland, Florida, for the 28th edition of the SUN ‘n FUN EAA Fly-In. Held at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport April 7 – 13, this year’s event drew nearly 5,000 aircraft, 3,000 volunteers and 500 exhibitors for what has become the annual kick-off event to the summer flying season. Activities began even before SUN ‘n FUN’s Opening Day. Aircraft held up temporarily by a weather system covering central and north Florida began arriving steadily two days prior to the official start. That same day, the third annual Gulf Coast Avionics Golf Tournament (to benefit the SUN ‘n FUN Aviation Foundation and the Florida Aviation Safety Foundation) took place at nearby Eaglebrooke Golf Course. The inaugural SUN ‘n FUN Gala (to benefit SUN ‘n FUN’s youth education and Endowment programs) attracted more than 450 people to the outdoor pavilion at the SUN ‘n FUN museum. During the Gala, the family of Tom Davis was recognized for their commitment to helping fund the Tom Davis Education Center, a core element of SUN ‘n FUN’s future education campus. The traditional Hot Air Balloon launch at sunrise on Opening Day was spectacular, with 36 colorful balloons launching almost simultaneously under clear, blue skies. A new Main Entrance, featuring flags from each of the 50 United States and landscaping native to the state of Florida, greeted visitors who arrived by auto. Later that day, Kermit Weeks arrived in his faithful reproduction of Charles Lindbergh’s “Spirit of St. Louis,” helping SUN ‘n FUN celebrate the 75th anniversary of Lindbergh’s famous New York-to-Paris flight. Bruce Bohannon and his turbocharged Exxon “Flyin’ Tiger” set a world record for altitude in level flight early in the week. Bobby Younkin debuted the world’s first aerobatic Learjet at SUN ‘n FUN. Members of the U.S. Aerobatic Team participated each day and showcased their colorful aircraft and outstanding flying skills. SUN ‘n FUN’s air show, which is sponsored by Exxon Elite, also included many perennial airshow favorites. And in what may have been an aviation first, Monday’s air show included the sight of Space Shuttle “Atlantis” launching from the Kennedy Space Center nearly 75 miles to the east. During a reception for donors and other special guests on Tuesday evening, the name of SUN ‘n FUN’s museum was changed to the “Florida Air Museum” at SUN ‘n FUN. The FAA Safety Center and Production Studios on the SUN ‘n FUN grounds introduced live satellite broadcasts during the 2002 Fly-In. The daily up-linked programs were broadcast live to all 60 sites in the Aviation Training Network, (ATN) and the Government Educational Training Network (GETN). Many Vendors at SUN ‘n FUN seemed to be pleased with sales activities that were equal to or higher than last year’s. With the aviation community watching carefully, results from SUN ‘n FUN seemed heartening, especially when the dire predictions and slumping economy that followed the events of Sept. 11 are considered.
The 2003 SUN ‘n FUN EAA Fly–In celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers first flight at Kitty Hawk with activities that included EAA’s “Countdown to Kitty Hawk” exhibit – a 24,000 square–foot facility centered around a faithful reproduction of Orville and Wilbur Wright’s “Flyer.” This year’s Fly–In, SUN ‘n FUN’s 29th annual, was the first to open midweek – beginning Wednesday and ending Tuesday – instead of its traditional Sunday through Saturday format. A new exhibit within the Florida Air Museum at SSUN ‘n FUN contained a portion of the museum’s Howard Hughes collection – focusing on Hughes’ record–breaking around–the–world flight in 1938. The Parts Exchange was re–located from the Campground to Paradise City, which created new indoor exhibit space in the former Plane Parts Mart hangar, which also included an area to showcase SUN ‘n FUN’s aircraft restoration efforts. Exotic aircraft such as a 1910 Bleriot and 1912 Sopwith Camel made special appearances on the Flightline. A new “Air Margaritaville” food, beverage and retail outlet provided guests with a great place to “hang out,” and a full–motion simulator offered rides at the Florida Air Museum. There was also an enhanced “Gifts of Flight” satellite sales facility in the core area and new locations for Medical Hospitality and Security facilities as well as the popular Homebuilt Barbecue food service outlet. While the Fly–In’s emphasis remains on educational forums and workshops offered throughout the week, more than 3,000 volunteers enthusiastically pitch in to help with virtually every detail imaginable. About 500 commercial Exhibitors showcase aviation products and the world’s best air show performers showcase their skills during the daily air show. Add a comprehensive mix of informative and entertaining evening programs and SUN ‘n FUN traditional “southern–style” hospitality and you’ve got an un beatable combination!
The 30th annual SUN ‘n FUN EAA Fly–In was themed a “Salute to Volunteers.” Unseasonably cool, wet and windy skies quickly gave way to picture–perfect weather and an influx of near–record aircraft over the remainder of the week. Nearly 5,000 airplanes and a record number of commercial exhibitors participated in a variety of activities that combined to make this year’s event one of the safest and most enjoyable on record. The number of Commercial Exhibitors at this year’s SUN ‘n FUN – 501 – set a new record for the event. An additional 11 non–commercial exhibitors pushed the total number of exhibitors even higher. The day before Opening Day, a monument containing the names of more than 200 SUN ‘n FUN “Pioneers” – Volunteers whose significant contributions early in SUN ‘n FUN’s history was dedicated in front of the Florida Air Museum. The popular SUN ‘n FUN Gala, held on Opening Day this year, attracted more than 350 people to the Florida Air Museum’s outdoor pavilion, which was beautifully decorated utilizing the “Salute to Volunteers” theme. Later in the week, during a reception for members of the Florida Air Museum and other special guests, it was announced that Florida Governor Jeb Bush had signed into law legislation naming the Florida Air Museum as Florida’s “official aviation museum and education center.” The Florida Air Museum at SUN ‘n FUN also hosted a series of forums featuring an impressive list of aviation notables, including Gen. Paul Tibbets; noted aviation artist Sam Lyons; Charles Taylor, whose grandfather built the engine that powered the Wright brothers’ “Flyer”; members of the Tuskegee Airmen and Women’s Air Force Service Pilots (WASPs); and round–the–world–in–a–Mooney pilot Carol Ann Garratt. In addition, renowned experimental test pilot A. Scott Crossfield and members of the American Volunteer Group (AVG) “Flying Tigers” also participated in SUN ‘n FUN activities during Fly–In week. Members of the Tom Davis family joined SUN ‘n FUN officials midway through the Fly–In to break ground for the new “Tom Davis Education Center.” The Goodyear Blimp was a popular addition to aircraft visiting SUN ‘n FUN this year. The blimp arrived on Thursday and departed Saturday. SUN ‘n FUN’s popular “Splash In” expanded from one to two days this year, with Ultralight and Experimental (“Homebuilt”) category seaplanes and amphibians participating one day followed by factory–manufactured aircraft the next day. Several of SUN ‘n FUN’s educational workshops were approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for Inspection Authorization (IA) Refresher Training Courses. SUN ‘n FUN’s popular night air show culminated with a spectacular fireworks display that drew a standing ovation from the enthusiastic crowd. An “Exhibitor Appreciation Dinner” sponsored and hosted (poolside!) by the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel was a huge hit with Exhibitors. More than 1,500 guests from 73 countries registered at the International Visitors Tent. SUN ‘n FUN instituted an enhanced food service operation this year, featuring the expanded presence of Jimmy Buffet’s “Air Margaritaville” Café. Air Margaritaville’s “Lone Palm Airport” subsidiary offered a condensed menu – and evening entertainment – in SUN ‘n FUN’s campground. In addition, available food service also featured the tremendously popular Johnson’s Barbecue and an expanded Food Court that included Mexican, Italian, Chinese and Greek cuisine as well as several seafood selections. SUN ‘n FUN also brought in a high–end coffee provider who offered specialty drinks such as latte, cappuccino, and espresso. A Dessert Court could be found nearby and some specialty desserts in SUN ‘n FUN’s Campground added to the culinary delights. SUN ‘n FUN, a 501(c)(3), not–for–profit organization, presented Boys & Girls Club officials with a check for $40,000 on the Fly–In’s last day as the first installment of a seven–year, $250,000 pledge that underscores SUN ‘n FUN’s hopes of continuing the long–term relationship between the two organizations. The first “AOPA Day at SUN ‘n FUN” was held. In addition, AOPA President Phil Boyer conducted an AOPA Pilot Town Meeting as part of SSUN ‘n FUN’s evening programs, during which he presented a check for $5,000 to the Florida Air Museum. . A new agreement with EAA separated SUN ‘n FUN during this year as the original agreement expired. The now separate events continued agreements to continue to work closely together because they shared in the ultimate objectives.
The theme for this year “Come Fly With US” is an invitation for all to come join us as we offer events and opportunities for everyone. The Tom Davis Education Center was dedicated this year, built largely with funding from the Tom Davis heirs. Tom Davis was founder of Piedmont Airlines. This year’s program included a “Salute to Veterans” following a nationwide recognition of the need to honor those who had been serving in combat and support roles on this anniversary of World War 2. Among the many warbirds that always serve as highlights to the show, this year included “Glacier Girl” a restored “P 38” recovered from under 268 feet of Greenland Glacier ice after being forced down in 1942. There was also a “C 54” military transport that served in the Berlin Airlift. Incidentally, the first President of SUN ‘n FUN, Martin Jones served aboard a C54 in the Berlin Airlift.
Not to be outdone, Choppertown experienced the debut of the “Flying Motorcycle”. This was the first year of the new Sport Pilot and Light Sport Aircraft rules resulting in forums dedicated to informing participants on these new provisions. One of the first of the light sport aircraft was the Legend Cub, an entry into this new category of aircraft for sale and on display at SUN ‘n FUN. By contrast, also offered for sale was a 320 knot twin engine jet at a mere $611,628. The vendor areas are filled with interesting offerings. Other Light Sport Aircraft newly offered included the Flight Design CT from Germany and the Allegro 2000 imported from the Czech Republic. Every year a Zenith Aircraft is present and this year included the Zenair CH601 light sport. In Paradise City (Ultralight Area) many other light sport aircraft were offered including the “Escapade” offered by SkyRanger Aircraft of Hedgesville, W Va. The light Jet market debut included the Eclipse 500 appearing in public for the first time here.
The homebuilt area has begun to attract a large number of Van’s” aircraft with two award winners, Reserve Grand Champion Kit and Best Metal Homebuilt going to RV 8’s. But innovative homebuilts continue as evidenced by the T-58 jet engine powered “Cozy”. Its owner refers to it as “Insanely modified”.
The antique and Classic aircraft are always a highlight with this year’s Grand Champion an exceptional Spartan Executive flown in by its owner from New Mexico.
“The Joy of Flight” theme for this year, always a part of the SUN ‘n FUN experience, combines southern hospitality with the camaraderie that is part of all aviation.
Funding from outside sources resulted in the construction of two new buildings opening this year. They are the Cessna Building, provided for by Cessna Aircraft. It will be used by Cessna during the annual fly-in and by our education programs the rest of the year. The second building is the Buehler Restoration Skills Center. With Funding largely from the Emil Buehler Trust and added support from the Florida Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, and the Florida Arts Council, this activity was able to move from temporary quarters in the Echo “E” Hanger. One of the first projects is refurbishing a SUN ‘n FUN icon the vertical riser that has stood for many years outside the front door of the SUN ‘n FUN offices.
A first time event in the air this year was the Air Force F-22 A Raptor. This new state-of-the-art aircraft flew its first airshow here at SUN ‘n FUN. Two of these aircraft were displayed, both piloted by Florida natives, one of whom grew up in Lakeland graduating from Lake Gibson High School. The Raptor was scheduled to fly with the Warbirds in the Air Force Heritage Flights scheduled for Saturday and Sunday Airshows.
At the other end of the spectrum was a mass arrival of Piper J-3 Cubs. Total count eventually reached 108 Cubs arriving in an hour and a half.
The new Southeast Exhibit area, formerly a campground, provided new space rapidly taken up by Light Sport Aircraft vendors. This year the certified LSA aircraft are reported to be 250 in number. Another new Light Sport Aircraft had its debut here this year. Under license from Italy, a US company, Prestige Aircraft of Jackson Michigan unveiled its “Storm” LSA. Sonex has also introduced three models, the Sonex and the Waiex sport planes and the Xenos sport motor glider. The first kit Waiex was completed this January. Not just airplanes are introduced during the fly-In, as this year there is a Kit for an engine offered by San Antonio, Texas based ECi. It is called the Titari IOX-340 Stroker. Other engines, including a new high power one from Lycoming were also on display. A new addition to the Moony aircraft family, first in over a decade, the M20TN Acclaim was presented. Look to the morning showcase to see these new aircraft flying.
This year a place for Airline Pilots to sign up, so as to gather together later, was established. Another first at SUN ‘n FUN. The down side of this year was a fire in the parking lot that seriously damaged 24 cars. Fortunately there were no injuries.
The program cover showing a child lying in grass looking up at a model plane he is holding captures the theme “Living the Dream”.
This year’s high powered entertainment included Aaron Tippin who appeared at the Gala at the start of the event and on Saturday evening the end of the week. He is an aviation enthusiast. Cessna used the event as an occasion to celebrate their 80th year. The winner of the Classic aircraft division for judged airplanes was a 1954 Beechcraft Bonanza, very appropriate for this 60th year celebration by Hawker Beechcraft who introduced their Bonanza G36, a highlight of their SUN ‘n FUN exhibit this year. The other judging winners included a twin engine 1939 Lockheed 12-A Electra.
A significant change of the rules was made this year allowing all visitors access to the flightline. In previous years only members of aviation organizations or pilots were allowed access to the flightline. This greatly enhances the experience of visitors not previously aviation oriented.
Light sport aircraft continued to appear in great numbers again filling much of the southeast display area, now accessible directly as visitors come into the grounds from the main parking lot.
The seaplane event “Splash-in” has been growing and this year moved to another location on Lake Parker to accommodate the growth. Transportation from the SUN ‘n FUN event continues to be provided.
The Airshow lineup included all the regulars ranging from the Aeroshell team to the warbirds USAF and Navy heritage flight and Navy legacy flight, always crowd pleasers.
This fly-in is recognized by pilots and the aviation industry as the kickoff of the aviation season captured with this year’s theme “The Aviation Year Starts Here”.
With the regular complement of airshow performers, this year welcomed the US Airforce Thunderbirds with exciting performances as they warmed up for the event mid-week and gave their full performances on the weekend.
A significant change in landmark locations is the renaming of the large food service pavilion now dubbed the “Sunset Grill”. Also, the southeast display area occupied by Light Sport vendors was crowded with LSA displays. Included in new concepts for LSA’s this year is a diesel powered aircraft. It comes from Dallas based IndUS Aircraft and burns Jet-A fuel. It was installed in a Thorp T 211 Sky Skooter. It was on display in the LSA area. While on site for the Thunderbirds performance, the Brigadier General commander of the Their home base paid an informal visit to the LSA displays, perhaps an indication that regardless of our station in life, the inherent fascination of airplanes remains strong.
Another “Air Force” many may have never heard of also had its debut here this year. The “Commemorative Air Force” Dixie Wing brought display World War 2 aircraft for display and included a P-51 that would be giving rides. This 50 year old organization headquartered in Midland, Texas specifically recognized that the aviation year starts here at SUN ‘n FUN.
State-of-the-art military aircraft make their debut often at SUN ‘n FUN this year represented by the tilt-rotor V-22 Osprey. It was to be on display for the weekend. As well, the visitors were treated to the introduction of the AV-8-B Harrier. It is a strange experience to see an aircraft make a high speed pass then return to show center, slow down to a stop, airborne, then turn around and stare at you. Then it turns away and speeds off at jet aircraft speeds. Seeing the Harrier is truly an experience.
The seaplane part of the event even outgrew last year’s venue adjustment and this year went to Lake Agnes near Polk City using the “Fantasy of Flight” facility as their ground base. This location was exciting since it provided more space for parking of airplanes that could taxi up the ramp and park where visitors to get a close up view. Transportation to the splash-in was again provided from the SUN ‘n FUN site.
Another innovation was introduced this year. The SUN ‘n FUN radio station broadcasting continuously during the event on a localized AM frequency can now be monitored by purchasing a small radio receiver at one of the several gifts of flight locations. It includes a second frequency that monitors the tower chatter. This is a nice way to enhance the visitors experience during the fly-in.
This year celebrates “Spring Break for Pilots”. The signature Airshow included the regulars with the Aeroshell team as well as many of those ever popular WW2 Warbirds. Also performing were the “Golden Knights” US Army sky diving team.
A highlight of the season however comes from a major leap forward in SUN ‘n FUN education activity with the introduction of the Central Florida Aerospace Academy which moved this past fall into the refurbished Maintenance facility located directly behind the Florida Air Museum. The Polk County School District, The University of South Florida and Polk Community College each lent their support of the idea to house a High School aviation related facility on the Sun and Fun site. While beginning this year with 9th and 10th grade enrollment, it is anticipated to grow to a full four year program and serves as another milestone in the development of the Sun and Fun education Campus. This school is adjunct to the Kathleen High School located just north of the Airport on Memorial Boulevard in Lakeland. It had the distinction of receiving one of only nine Grants from NASA, this one for 1.4 Million Dollars.
Establishment of Pilot Mall in the former Gifts of Flight location begins another significant feature for this gift facility will be in operation year-round. This is a ten year old business that also has a large on-line capacity.
A unique reunion took place at SUN ‘n FUN this year with two opposing aircraft pilots, one from the US Air Force and one from the Vietnamese Air force. The Air Force F-4D Phantom shot down the MiG-21 over Hanoi in 1972. They appeared together at an evening program at the Museum Pavilion, at the AOPA tent and in the Florida Air Museum.
Among the aircraft on display was an electric powered plane, an ElectraFlyerC LSA. But attracting visitor interest was the flying car. The Terrafugia display included their prototype “Transition”. It had its successful flight just weeks before coming to SUN ‘n FUN. It was a static display only.
Keeping the theme “Spring Break for Pilots” the Thunderbird return to kick off their new demonstration flight season. We knew they enjoyed their visit in 2008 and we are proud to have them return. Also joining in spring break is Jeff Skiles, co-pilot of the miracle landing on the Hudson River in New York. Another new feature is the addition of an Aircraft Auction hosted by Flight Level Aircraft Auctions who located on a ramp located down near Choppertown. Incidentally, Choppertown is celebrating its 20th year as part of SUN ‘n FUN.
New aircraft innovations and components are on display by vendors as in previous years filling all hangers and spaces including the LSA dominant Southeast display site. Piper reached a significant milestone when presenting the keys to the very first purchasers of the Pipersport, an aircraft built by Czech Sport Aircraft.
Education objectives of SUN ‘n FUN received a substantial and unexpected boost when James Ray donated 7 ½ Million Dollars for construction of a complete school building to house the Central Florida Aerospace Academy, the High School affiliated with Kathleen High School of the Polk School District. Ground breaking took place on Thursday of the Fly-in in the location directly south of the Florida Air Museum across Doolittle Road. This building will balance the entrance to SUN ‘n FUN as visitors enter thru the Doolittle gate.
The red, white and blue Central Florida Aerospace Academy just completed welcomed the visitors this year to spring break for pilots. The ceremonial ribbon cutting was part of this year’s events.
Headlining the airshow were the Navy Blue Angels. They are celebrating 100 years of Naval Aviation. The first day however was treated to the arrival of the Cub Convoy, a large number of cubs arriving together… as together as you can make it with cubs. Low ceilings however reduced the initial numbers below expectations. The airshow also hosted what is called the largest airshow team, Team RV. This eleven member flight of RV homebuilt aircraft perform aerobatic formation flight with all eleven aircraft. This is their first SUN ‘n FUN appearance.
The F-22 Raptor also returned to SUN ‘n FUN this year. Airshow performances by the regulars rounded out the skyward portion of the sights with vendors of planes and parts filling all available spaces elsewhere.
Two new VIP sites opened up this year; a 9/27 VIP members only tent with special features aimed at making its participants especially comfortable, and there was the Flightline Club, a somewhat less opulent but special venue for those wishing extra benefits. Among special guests this year were Congressman Sam Graves (R-Mo) an aviation proponent who hosted a town hall chat. Also visiting was FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt who joined in the event now for the second year.
The Friday SUN ‘n FUN Today published by General Aviation News had the significant headline on page one with a graphic photo. “Rain and Pain” it announces. This accompanies a color photo of an airplane upside down on top of another airplane. This was the aftermath of a direct hit of what was deemed to be a tornado crossing the main vendor display area from West to East. Fortunately there were only minor injuries but 40 aircraft were seriously damaged. The Friday edition contained numerous photos of aircraft damaged. Participants reported that next morning cleanup had been accomplished and events moved ahead. The Blue Angels arrival was delayed until Friday morning and their participation went on as planned. The Raptor also arrived late but did its performance as expected. This weather event ranks at the top of the “Fear it might happen “ list along with the snow that came on the occasion of the third fly-in in 1977.
The Commemorative Air Force “Red, White and Loud” tour again was featured at SUN ‘n FUN for this year’s Spring Break for Pilots. They included a concert with Aaron Tippin. With a new SUN ‘n FUN CEO at the helm the fly-in forges ahead with all the amenities associated, but with last year’s storm experience, SUN ‘n FUN has acquired a readiness recognized by the National Weather Service as “Storm Ready”. John R. “Lites” Leenhouts joined SUN ‘n FUN at the beginning of this year but this is not his first SUN ‘n FUN. Lites is a Naval Aviator retired with the rank of Captain and he holds a few records that make for great conversations.
Stallion 51 (Mustang) this year recognized its 25th year and Piper celebrated the 75th anniversary of the J-3 Cub as part of this year’s SUN ‘n FUN. One of the special aircraft the Commemorative Airforce had on the ramp is FIFI a B 29 rarely seen. It was giving rides. Even more rare. This year also recognized the 100th year of Marine Corps Aviation. The headliner for the airshow this year is again, the US AIR FORCE Thunderbirds. They really have developed a fondness for starting the season at SUN ‘n FUN.
The airshow also featured the Black Diamond Jet team, now based at Lakeland Linder Airport. One of the fly-bys this year included two solo pilots who are students at the aerospace academy. An objective of James Ray, the grant provider for the school building was to foster young people in becoming pilots, and this fly-by recognizes and honors that objective. Several young pilots are developing at CFAA.
For those seeking aircraft parts, they found the Parts Exchanged moved indoors from the traditional tent to Hanger E located on the roadway going toward the convention campground. A new venue appeared this year on a prominent corner in the convention campground. A fire ring was dedicated for the Recreational Aviation Foundation with engraved bricks surrounding the fire ring. This is a story swapping site with firewood available. Another new facility having a ribbon cutting was the Piedmont building adjacent to the Tom Davis Center. This replaces the tents that formerly housed the youth activities at this location.
“Where Aviation Begins and Never Ends” as this year’s theme captures the shift of SUN ‘n FUN from a week long fly-in to a year-round aviation event producer. While this shift has progressed over time, the developments of the education campus have significantly opened the front gate keeping it open year-round. Aviation summer camps run now from June into August and the Central Florida Aerospace Academy completes the monthly education picture. Added to the education assets was a donated Boeing 727 which will eventually become a training tool and include classroom space.
The Black Diamonds Jet team again appears during the Airshow here at their home base. Other acts include many of the faithful who appear each year as a part of the SUN ‘n FUN airshow family.
Paradise City, long recognized as the home of ultralight aircraft now is home as well for Light Sport Aircraft, the newest addition to the overall aviation community. A significant change in rules governing flying at Paradise City is the allowance of flying even during the airshow periods with exception for those events including jet teams. This greatly increases the opportunity for LSA and Ultralight flying.
Another anniversary, the 70th for the WASPs is commemorated with a luncheon for several of those women pilots from WW2 and a proclamation by Lakeland Mayor Gow Fields establishing WASP 70th Anniversary Celebration Day. Recognizing veterans this year took a step forward with establishment of a veterans plaza located just across Longcoy creek on the sidewalk going out toward the Workshop area. This gives groups like the Vietnam helicopter pilots association a place to display exhibits. Several veterans groups have already taken advantage of this new location.
Bob Hoover, Jimmy Leeward and Freddie Cabanas had their names added to the Flight Path Hall of Fame located by the Vertical Riser just across Doolittle Road from the Buehler Center.
Visitors to SUN ‘n FUN this year can hardly overlook the transformation of the scattering of buildings that make up the education campus. They are all in a uniform color scheme designating them without question to be part of the education campus. And the identification of this overall theme of Aerospace Center for Excellence (ACE Educational Facilities) is the common thread. This all occurring during this, the 40th fly-in anniversary. SUN ‘n FUN radio celebrates its 20th year of operation. A day was dedicated to recognizing Billy Henderson the fly-in’s first director and founder serving for 25 years.
Two significant former participants have returned; The Blue Angels and the Glacier Girl P-38 recovered from the depths of a Greenland Glacier. And, of course, the airshow would not be the same without the faithful performers who headline the show each year. Included also was the US Air Force F-22 Raptor again and the ever popular USAF Heritage flight of WW2 warbirds. EAA’s Ford Tri-motor was on hand as a part of the recognition of the golden age of aviation.
The history of SUN ‘n FUN’s development over the years was documented with an article in the daily SUN ‘n FUN Today published by General Aviation news and by release of the book “Unfreeze your Bird, the story of SUN ‘n FUN the international Fly-in and Aviation Exposition” published in late February this year.
Paradise City got an additional boost this year with the rerouting of Doolittle road up to the edge of their site. Addition of the LSA vendors and aircraft has made paradise city one of the must see locations.
New aircraft and new aviation innovations continue to be introduced at SUN ‘n FUN. This year another diesel engine installation was unveiled as a powerplant in a glasair.
As SUN ‘n FUN continues its transition from a one-week event on the SUN ‘n FUN Convention Campus into a year round learning adventure, exciting educational components have been added. The Piedmont Aerospace Experience, a fully-functional Boeing 727 has been transformed into an interactive learning laboratory as students watch the effect of decisions in the cockpit through the use of modern technology in the aircraft classroom. Generous donations that include the Tom Davis Foundation and the Emil Buehler Perpetual Trust allow for expanded STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programming. The Bernie Little Conference Center will open in November.
Since the inception of its scholarship program, SUN ‘n FUN has facilitated the learning environment for 41 high school students to become certificated pilots. The Annual SUN ‘n FUN International Fly-In & Expo continues to be the source of more than 80% of the annual operating budget. Sponsors, Partners, Advertisers, Guests and Attendees are all making a difference in the future of aviation. All proceeds from all events on the SUN ‘n FUN Convention Campus are returned to STEM education programs, activities and facilities.
In addition to the USAF Thunderbirds, the Breitling Jet Team made their first U.S. appearance at the 41st Annual event. Veterans’ Plaza hosted Air America for their 40th Anniversary. More than 200,000 participants from 80 countries arrived for the excellent airshows, seminars, Forums and Workshops, student tours and military enlistment ceremonies on the grounds.
Of significant importance is the construction of the headquarters of the Florida Chapter of the Warbirds of America that was opened during the 2015 Fly-In.