If you’re involved in aviation in any way or happen to live in Central Florida, then you probably know the Sun ‘n Fun International Fly-In and Expo.
More than 200,000 gather annually at the Lakeland-Linder Regional Airport for incredible flight displays, shopping overload with more than 500 exhibitors and vendors, plus forums, workshops, famous food and evening entertainment — all served up with a generous helping of good old-fashioned Southern hospitality.
It is not uncommon to see three or even four generations of a family come to the event, and in a flying family, a young pilot’s first Sun ‘n Fun arrival is an exciting rite of passage.
With a solid 43 years to build on, it’s this next generation of pilots to whom Sun ‘n Fun has now turned its focus.
The Aerospace Center for Excellence, or ACE, is located on the Sun ‘n Fun Expo Campus, and features 10 STEM learning and classroom extensions anchored by the Central Florida Aerospace Academy, a Polk County public high school.
There is another standout element: a fully functional Boeing 727. Donated by FedEx, the 727 has been converted into a learning laboratory, complete with a Smartboard and cameras on every system so that students on board can monitor each element while an instructor guides the discussion.
“Sun ‘n Fun has always supported aviation education, but we’ve taken it to a whole new level,” said John “Lites” Leenhouts, Sun ‘n Fun president and CEO.