SUN 'n FUN is Much More Than a Great Air Show

5:13 PM

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

This week, the aviation family has been drawn to Lakeland Linder Regional Airport (KLAL) in Florida for the Sun 'n Fun International Fly-in and Expo, a huge event that kicks off the air show season each year. As I watched the happenings from 2190.8 nautical miles way here in Oregon, it appeared that perfect weather allowed large crowds to enjoy every second of "Spring Break for Pilots."

Social media has been buzzing all week with real-time updates from the show. What struck me though was not the awesome air shows, the exhibitors selling the latest and greatest aviation stuff, or the many fine #avgeeks that inhabit Camp Radioactive or volunteer at SUN 'n FUN Radio. Yes, these are all elements that make SUN 'n FUN a fantastic show, but what stands out for me is the year-long work so many people do on and around the SUN 'n FUN campus that contributes greatly to the overall aviation community.

When we think of giant advocacy machines in aviation, we naturally think of EAA, AOPA, NBAA and WAI...all doing notable work to push GA forward. But I believe we need to start mentioning the SUN 'n FUN organization in that conversation. Because this is not just a week-long aviation celebration, but a very successful educational and advocacy operation that does outstanding work 365 days a year.

To list all the great things happening throughout the year at SUN 'n FUN would take 10,000 words. So allow me to pare that down to some of the highlights:
SUN ‘n FUN and the Florida Air Museum are both 501(c)3 corporations, with a mission statement focused on developing the next generation of aerospace professionals. As of March 2015, over 100 scholarships valued at $400,000 have been presented through the Aerospace Center for Excellence. The A.C.E. complex is made up of 11 buildings and a Boeing 727 Classroom. Highlights of A.C.E. include Aerospace Discovery, the Central Florida Aerospace Academy, Florida Aerospace Historical Annex, Aerospace Opportunity Center, Buehler Aerospace Restoration Skills Center, Piedmont Aerospace Experience, Crossfield Aerospace Center, Piedmont Aerospace Lab, the Tom Davis Aerospace Education Center, Aerospace Pavilion and the Aerospace Enterprise Center.
Some other very successful programs that are doing great work at SUN 'n FUN include Future Eagles, comprised of students from 8th grade to their senior years in high school who want to learn more about careers in aerospace, and the Lakeland Aeroclub, the organization's High School Flight Club. The Polk State Aviators is a student activities group from Polk State College that also includes a competitive flight team. Other programs that happen throughout the year include a lively Outreach and Mentoring Program, Classroom to the Sky, Central Florida Aerospace Academy's Homecoming to the Sky, an Aerospace Discovery Weekend, STEMtastic™ Day Camps and the popular Destination Aviation Summer Camp.

The above is just a sampling of what goes on at "SUN 'n FUN" all year. If you think this is just a one-week air show event, you have not spent enough time at This week, the crowds are loving the warbirds, the incredible air show acts, the camaraderie and the wall-to-wall airplanes. But next week, after the Port-a-Potties are gone and the crowds have flown away from KLAL, SUN 'n FUN will begin to debrief the show and get back to what they do the next generation of pilots and aerospace professionals.

The next time you are in a conversation and someone mentions all the important work that the other big acronym groups do, make sure to tell them about SUN 'n FUN, the educational campus, not the air show. And if you need to see the future of aviation, stop by KLAL most any day, and walk in just about any direction. It will only be a few steps before you run into the best and brightest young aviators.

Be nice to them too, because they'll be running our world in a few years.

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