By Jeff Mattoon
Sun ‘n Fun organizers are recuperating after another successful fly-in, air show and educational gathering, opening the 2007 aviation season.
Atmospheric gloom and doom threatened the opening of this year’s event, but a pre-week storm with over 70 mph winds took a favorable turn and left planners and attendees of the annual aviation show breathing a sigh of relief.
While some fly-in arrivals were delayed, there was no net weather effect. Organizers had a response plan in the event the storm pushed through, but the plan stayed in the folder.
“The Aviation Year Starts Here” is Sun ‘n Fun’s slogan and this year’s aviation season is off to an enthusiastic start. The show was held April 17-23 at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport (LAL) in Lakeland, Fla.
A daily air show featured the world’s premier aerobatic performers, including the AeroShell Aerobatic Team, Red Baron Pizza Squadron, Patty Wagstaff, John Mohr and Bill Stein.
With more than 500 commercial exhibitors, nearly every part or product related to aviation was available at the show, themed “Living the Dream.” But it wasn’t all about products; tremendous training opportunities were offered.
“The Sun ‘n Fun fly-in is built around education,” said John Burton, Sun ‘n Fun president and fly-in chairman. “The enthusiastic exchange of information between exhibitors, participants and aircraft owners—plus the educational activities offered by the Federal Aviation Administration through its year-round facility here on the Sun ‘n Fun campus—combine to create an unsurpassed aviation experience.”
Some 50 seminars and hands-on workshops were held each day of the week-long event, totaling nearly 450, and giving participants an opportunity to increase their aviation education.
From “Liability Planning for Aircraft Owners” to “Boost Your Crosswind Landing Skills Without Your A/C,” and nearly every conceivable aviation subject in between, Sun ‘n Fun delivered as promised.
This year’s Sun ‘n Fun had three “firsts,” including the flight line being open to all. Sun ‘n Fun’s equivalent to a pit pass allowed everyone a view of the wide variety of aircraft that flew in, as well as aircraft participating in the air shows. This also provided an excellent opportunity to show off aircraft for sale.
“The reasoning for the past restriction was safety,” said Wayne Boggs, director of operations at Sun ‘n Fun. “The initial concerns of increased risk and injury to both people and planes proved to be unfounded, with the incidence of injury or damage very similar to when we had no restriction.”
The second change was the addition of a Saturday night concert. Country music star Aaron Tippin, an accomplished pilot, thrilled fans with a fun and affordable family outing.
Finally, this was the first year half-priced tickets were offered to Florida residents and members of the military, offering local families a fun-filled and exciting week of all things aviation.
This year’s Sun ‘n Fun was a hit with visitors and exhibitors, and organizers plan on leaving changes in place.
Organizers don’t keep official yearly attendance records, but this year’s turnout appeared in line with the past. Every five years, the University of South Florida conducts an area economic impact study, which includes an attendance estimate. The most recent study, in 2003, revealed that approximately 160,000 visitors gave the area a nearly $30 million boost. The next study is slated for 2008.
For more information, visit [http://www.sun-n-fun.org].