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'A bang-out year' at Sun 'n Fun Aerospace Expo

Much of the general aviation world is converging on Florida for the Sun 'n Fun Aerospace Expo, which opened April 5 with expectations for a huge show running high.

  • A CubCrafters Carbon Cub frames the AOPA tent at the Sun 'n Fun Aerospace Expo, which opened April 5 in Lakeland, Florida. Photo by Niki Britton.
  • A 1942 Convair BT-15 is displayed proudly with an American flag at Sun 'n Fun.
  • A Kodiak display is set up April 4 at the Daher exhibit. Photo by Niki Britton.
  • Passengers enjoy the ride on a custom first-class airline seat trailer. Photo by Niki Britton.
  • The pilot of a Beechcraft Sierra flashes a thumbs-up as he arrives at the Sun 'n Fun Aerospace Expo. Photo by Niki Britton.
  • Volunteer motorcycle marshals prepare to greet the rush of aircraft arrivals. Photo by Niki Britton.
  • Starlight Aerial Productions prepared its drones for a night show planned with Bell also to participate. Photo by Niki Britton.
  • The AOPA Sweeps Grumman Tiger on display at the AOPA booth at Sun 'n Fun.
  • AOPA's Cayla McLeod and Erick Webb set up the AOPA Sweeps Grumman Tiger at Sun 'n Fun.
  • Sun 'n Fun attendee Matthew Miko gets an early peek at your AOPA Sweepstakes Grumman Tiger. Photo by Niki Britton.
  • Kevin Yurus sets up the Bruce's Custom Covers booth in the exhibit hall at Sun 'n Fun. Photo by Niki Britton.
  • AOPA's Cayla McLeod and Method Seven's Jamie Mitchell pose for the camera at Sun 'n Fun. Photo by Niki Britton.
  • Volunteers help push a 2021 Scoda Aeronautica LTDA Super Petrel LS at Sun 'n Fun. Photo by Niki Britton.
  • Attendees admire early arrivals displayed on April 4. Photo by Niki Britton.
  • A red 1961 Dornier DO28 A-1 on display. Photo by Niki Britton.
  • A Boeing CH-47 Chinook is pushed into place at Sun 'n Fun.

There’s electricity in the air at the Lakeland Linder International Airport this week, and the energy is palpable.

Loyal airshow connoisseurs know these sensations well; the familiar smell of Jet A in the morning, the sonorous rumble of warbirds taking off, and the distant murmur of countless conversations signaling aviation camaraderie. All that and more is here at Sun ’n Fun 2022.

Beginning on April 5 and continuing through April 10, visitors have the aviation world at their feet and above their heads, with airplanes to spot, landings to grade, and conversations to be had with others who share passion for aviation. There is also plenty to eat, as one only can at an aviation expo like Sun ’n Fun. Daily and nightly airshows from well-known performers (headlined this year by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds) will take to the skies, while more than 500 exhibitors on the ground welcome guests to check out the latest aircraft, newest technology, products, and services.

Exhibitor Abingdon Mullin of The Abingdon Co., setting up her display on April 4, said she is "so excited" to be at this year's show.

"If last year was any indication of how this year is going to go, it’s going to be a bang-out year," Mullin said as she and her crew set up their booth in the exhibitor hangar.

Jamie Mitchell of pilot eyewear retailer Method Seven said it was a first-time Sun 'n Fun experience ahead, "pretty much all of my crew, including myself. We’re super jazzed because we’re a West Coast company, so for us, this is our only way to really meet and greet and hang out with all of our East Coast fans!”

Kevin Yurus of Bruce’s Custom Covers said he’s excited to be in Lakeland and “connect with a handshake and a face and meet the clients we don’t actually get to see, in person.”

Attendees visiting the AOPA Campus at the northeast exhibit area will have a chance to meet with AOPA ambassadors, learn about pilot services, and check out this year's AOPA Sweepstakes Tiger,, a totally renovated 1978 Grumman Tiger AA–5B, complete with new paint and interior.

“I think this one’s beautiful,” April Allen said as she admired the Tiger with her father, Claude. “It’s absolutely something that somebody would love to have…If I won it, which would be amazing…I would take it cross-country.”

Sun ’n Fun visitors will have their pick of delicious airshow fare, as they peruse the exhibits and take in the action. Aircraft from humble homebuilts, classic warbirds, and high-tech speed machines will be on display for attendees to take in and even take home, with some aircraft owners taking advantage of the foot traffic by placing "for sale" signs on their aircraft.

“I’m just happy to be here and share this experience with my family…” said Brian Watkins,. “We’re really excited for the airshows and the warbirds!”

The nonstop action in the sky and on the ground has airshow season off to a stellar start. First timers and old hands of Sun ’n Fun alike are in for a week to remember.

Niki Britton

eMedia Content Producer
eMedia Content Producer Niki Britton joined AOPA in 2021. She is a private pilot who enjoys flying her 1969 Cessna 182 and taking aerial photographs.

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