March 29, 2011
By Jill W. Tallman
Amid a flourish of music provided by the Kathleen High School marching band, Sun ‘n Fun officials cut the ribbon on Lakeland’s sparkling new Central Florida Aerospace Academy.
Located on the Sun ‘n Fun grounds, the $7.5 million facility is the new home of an aviation-oriented high school/career academy that has been in place for three years.
“There is sunshine all over this project,” Sun ‘n Fun President John Burton told the assembly. Calling the new building “the realization of a dream for many people,” Burton saluted officials from the Florida Air Museum, Polk County School Board, and other “partners in education,” saying, “Thank you for sharing that dream.”
The 58,000-square-foot facility will house up to 500 high school students when it reaches full enrollment. Ground-breaking ceremonies took place at the 2010 Sun ‘n Fun Fly-In, and construction began in August 2010.
The new building was made possible by a $7.5-million grant to Sun ‘n Fun by the Aviation Education Foundation, a not-for-profit organization founded by James C. Ray. The foundation donated additional funds for the purchase of furniture, fixtures, and equipment for the new building.
“It is my belief that teaching young people the discipline required to learn the science of flight builds character and confidence,” Ray said. “The experience of solo flight teaches them that they are independent and free-thinking individuals who are fully capable of being in control of their own life. I hope this building serves as a launching pad for CFAA students to become more actively involved in aviation and, in doing so, build a pathway for successful careers and successful lives.” Ray is a pilot with 70 years of flying experience, and a former B-17 “Flying Fortress” pilot and a captain during World War II.
AOPA Technical Editor Jill W. Tallman is an instrument-rated private pilot who owns a Piper Cherokee 140.
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