August 2, 2012
By Jim Moore
Transformed into a year-round operation with a fresh focus on education and building the next generation of aviators, Sun ‘n Fun will see many logistical improvements for 2013. President and CEO John “Lites” Leenhouts said the airshows will be shorter, prices will be cut for pilots and passengers arriving by air, and sooty fields will be a thing of the past.
Sun ‘n Fun President and CEO John “Lites” Leenhouts announced a variety of improvements planned for the 2013 edition of “spring break for pilots.”
Year-round mowing will mean grass no longer needs to be burned at the sprawling show site on and around Lakeland Linder Regional Airport for the thirty-ninth edition of the show, scheduled April 9 through 14—dates pushed back from the late-March opening of 2012.
“Too much effort goes into preparing a beautiful airplane to be shown off at our event just to be trashed within minutes of parking by the soot left from burning the grass,” Leenhouts announced in June, a message repeated during a news conference at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wis.
Moving the dates will bring the show closer to Aero Friedrichshafen in Germany, April 24 through 27. Leenhouts said the decision to push the dates up to March about seven years ago significantly cut general aviation traffic to the show, with many pilots in northern latitudes still ice-bound.
“The better dates are always in April,” Leenhouts said.
The afternoon airshows will be shortened during the week, with 2.5-hour shows Tuesday through Thursday, and roughly three-hour shows Friday through Sunday. The airport will close immediately prior to each afternoon airshow, and open immediately after the show concludes, easing the task faced by pilots hoping to land at Lakeland Linder.
Leenhouts said a separate entrance has been created for campers, part of an overall redesign of the traffic flow that will make it easier for exhibitors and visitors alike to get where they want to go. Tram routes also have been overhauled to make ground navigation easier for visitors.
“Our number one driving focus is to build a better America through better citizens through aviation,” Leenhouts said. “Good citizens are made through aviation.”
AOPA Online Associate Editor Jim Moore joined AOPA in 2011 and is an instrument-rated private pilot who enjoys competition aerobatics.
Sun n Fun,
The AOPA National Aviation Community Center hosted Paws and Planes, an event that showed kids flying for others – including our four-footed friends – can be rewarding and fun.
J. Reid Garrison, an airshow performer and formation pilot who has been part of the story line at the major aviation events, including Sun 'n Fun and EAA AirVenture, across the years, was recently inducted into the South Carolina Aviation Hall of Fame.
AOPA connected with hundreds of pilots, aircraft owners, and aviation enthusiasts during the thirty-second Northwest Aviation Conference held in Puyallup, Washington, Feb. 21 and 22.
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