By Rick Elmhorst
Polk County’s airports and other aviation businesses and attractions are joining forces to promote the aviation industry in the county.
The newly formed Polk Aviation Alliance includes the municipal airports in Lakeland, Winter Haven, Bartow and Lake Wales. Also included are the Sun n’ Fun Fly In and Fantasy of Flight.
Members believe that Polk County is an ideal place to attract student pilots and aviation tourists. That’s partly because of the airports and flight schools but also the location and great flying weather most of the year.
“Here you can get a sport pilots license in as little as two weeks. You can get a private pilot’s license in as little as a month,” said Winter Haven City Commissioner Jamie Beckett.
A central goal of the alliance is to have members promote each other rather than just compete.
“That we each have a niche. That we provide an aviation service. That we find out what that niche is and help each other enhance that,” said Sun n’ Fun president John Leenhouts.
The Polk Aviation Alliance hopes to become an official nonprofit organization soon.