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Sun 'n Fun starts with 'a very positive vibe'

Enthusiasm is running high among Sun ‘n Fun Aerospace Expo exhibitors and pilots who flew in ahead of the show’s April 13 opening: Everyone is excited to be face to face with other pilots at a large-scale aviation event after more than a year apart because of coronavirus-pandemic restrictions.

Sun 'n Fun Aerospace Expo

  • Sun 'n Fun Aerospace Expo
    Pilots gather after parking their airplanes during setup for the Sun 'n Fun Aerospace Expo on April 12 in Lakeland, Florida. Photo by Phelan M. Ebenhack.
  • Sun 'n Fun Aerospace Expo
    A pilot taxis after landing during setup for the Sun 'n Fun Aerospace Expo. Photo by Phelan M. Ebenhack.
  • Sun 'n Fun Aerospace Expo
    A pilot parks after landing at Lakeland Linder International Airport for the Sun 'n Fun Aerospace Expo April 12. Photo by Phelan M. Ebenhack.
  • Sun 'n Fun Aerospace Expo
    Brad Marzani cleans off his Focke-Wulf FWP-149D during setup for the Sun 'n Fun Aerospace Expo April 12. Photo by Phelan M. Ebenhack.
  • Sun 'n Fun Aerospace Expo
    An airplane is towed near the Piper Aircraft display during setup for the Sun 'n Fun Aerospace Expo. Photo by Phelan M. Ebenhack.
  • Sun 'n Fun Aerospace Expo
    Brandon Wilson, right, and Ted Geist, of Avid Jet, clean off an Air Tractor AT802F Fire Boss during setup for the Sun 'n Fun Aerospace Expo. Photo by Phelan M. Ebenhack.
  • Sun 'n Fun Aerospace Expo
    Steve Anderson, right, of Aviat Aircraft, talks to Steve Boyer in front of a Husky A-1C aircraft, at the Sun 'n Fun Aerospace Expo. Photo by Phelan M. Ebenhack.
  • Sun 'n Fun Aerospace Expo
    Robert DeLaurentis, also known as Zen Pilot, removes the cockpit covering from his Gulfstream Turbine Commander 900. Photo by Phelan M. Ebenhack.
  • Sun 'n Fun Aerospace Expo
    Flight Design President Tom Peghiny prepares his Flight Design F2 during setup for the Sun 'n Fun Aerospace Expo. Photo by Phelan M. Ebenhack.
  • Sun 'n Fun Aerospace Expo
    Airplanes are displayed in front of a hangar during setup for the Sun 'n Fun Aerospace Expo. Photo by Phelan M. Ebenhack.
  • Sun 'n Fun Aerospace Expo
    An airplane is towed to the expo area during setup for the Sun 'n Fun Aerospace Expo. Photo by Phelan M. Ebenhack.
  • Sun 'n Fun Aerospace Expo
    Stan Hammons cleans off a Waco YMF-5 floatplane. Photo by Phelan M. Ebenhack.
  • Sun 'n Fun Aerospace Expo
    Brandon Wilson, of Avid Jet, polishes the spinner of a Cessna Caravan. Photo by Phelan M. Ebenhack.
  • Sun 'n Fun Aerospace Expo
    The AOPA tent will feature an aircraft display and educational programming during the Sun 'n Fun Aerospace Expo. Photo by Phelan M. Ebenhack.
  • Sun 'n Fun Aerospace Expo
    An Aviat A-1C Husky on amphibious floats soaks up the Florida sunshine. Photo by Phelan M. Ebenhack.

“Folks are excited to be back to aviation events,” said Chris Eads, AOPA senior director of outreach and events.

Sun ’n Fun officials report that registration is at an all-time high, with “lots of exhibitors showing up, but with a scaled-down presence,” Eads said. AOPA is on site but also with a smaller presence. However, AOPA staff will be on hand to talk about aviation and provide discount codes for attendees to make membership and apparel transactions online from their home or hotel. AOPA apparel from our Pilot Gear Store will not be available on site. However, AOPA will be displaying four aircraft at its tent—a Cessna 152, a Cessna 172, a Piper Super Cub, and a Grumman Tiger standing in for the AOPA Sweepstakes aircraft that is undergoing restoration in Illinois. Inside the AOPA tent will be a series of educational seminars with socially distanced seating.

AOPA You Can Fly Ambassador Jamie Beckett will be presenting a Rusty Pilots seminar in person—for the first time since March 2020—at the AOPA tent, and he said he’s looking forward to the face-to-face interaction. The tent has been set up inside for socially distanced seating to create a safe space to brush up on aviation knowledge.

“It’s nice to be with people again,” Beckett said, adding that many people are frequenting restaurants and eating outside. “It’s not normal,” Beckett said of the crowd size, “but it’s the closest to normal we’ve seen in over a year.”

If human interaction is one of the most sought-after activities at Sun ’n Fun, watching the U.S. Navy Blue Angels perform during the airshows might be a close second.

“I have a feeling that the Blue Angels are going to draw a pretty darn good crowd,” Beckett said. The Blue Angels No. 7 is scheduled to arrive during the April 14 airshow, followed by a Blue Angels practice run during the April 15 airshow, and performances on April 16, 17, and 18.

“In general, there’s just a very positive vibe to the whole thing,” Beckett said of Sun ’n Fun.

Alyssa J. Miller

Alyssa J. Cobb

AOPA Senior Director of eMedia and Online Managing Editor
AOPA Senior Director of eMedia and Online Managing Editor Alyssa J. Cobb began working at AOPA in 2004, is a flight instructor, and loves flying her Cessna 170B with her husband and son. Alyssa is also co-host of AOPA Live This Week.
Topics: Sun n Fun

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