Sun ‘n Fun International Fly-In and Expo attendees will have new technology to tap into the excitement and adrenaline rush of an aerobatic pilot's perspective without ever leaving the ground when performers take to the skies April 10 through 15 at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport in Lakeland, Florida.
The crowd-pleasing Phillips 66 Aerostars also are sporting new technology for their precision aerobatic ballet. The April 10 afternoon airshow was set to be the debut of the team’s sleek and colorful Extra 330L aircraft, which replace the round-ruddered, gray-and-red Romanian-made Yak 52TWs. Paul “Rocket” Hornick previously told AOPA that the Aerostars’ aircraft and pilots take a pounding because maneuvers are practiced, critiqued, and then practiced again and again until they are executed perfectly. The team announced on its social media site that the well-loved taildraggers have already found new homes.
Other favorites include Red Bull Air Race winner Michael Goulian in an Extra 330, Matt Younkin in a twin-tailed Beech 18, Greg Koontz in a red Xtreme Decathlon, the AeroShell Aerobatic Team in North American AT–6s, aerobatic gliders, warbirds, jets, and more.
Pilot and country music recording artist Aaron Tippin and his sons Tom and Ted watched several of the performers practice during breaks from cleaning their immaculate 1941 Boeing Stearman and North American T–6 SNJ warbirds on static display near show center.
Tippin said when he was “just a kid” he enjoyed coming to see all the different types of aircraft. Now that he is a pilot and a warbird owner, “showing up with your birds and being proud” to be part of the general aviation community continues to draw him and sons Ted and Tom—who also are pilots—away from their Tennessee base to visit with other aviators.
Airshow director Greg Gibson said the 44-year-old Lakeland, Florida, event would be “dramatically” enhanced—whether attendees were on site in central Florida or catching the action via the internet or through social media channels.
Gibson explained that the Sun ‘n Fun International Fly-In and Expo would test, during the daily afternoon airshows, a first-person virtual reality experience “of live onboards” that showcased multiple camera angles. Two night airshows also are planned for Wednesday and Saturday. Gibson added that the objective was to engage attendees to “experience their content, not just see it or hear it.” The technology includes social media stations and special headsets that can enable participants to “join performers in the cockpit for the most immersive airshow experience ever!”
A highly anticipated Sun ‘n Fun performance by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds was scrubbed after an April 4 air crash claimed the life of F–16 pilot Maj. Stephen Del Bagno.