At ABC Action News, we know it's the combination of all the communities that make Tampa Bay great to live in. That's why we've started a new series of reporting highlighting good things happening around town, discovering cool gems you may not know about, and uncovering the big news events impacting those areas.
On Friday, the Good Morning Tampa Bay team focused on Sun 'n Fun, the annual aerospace expo in Lakeland.
- Started in 1974, Sun 'n Fun is now Florida largest annual convention of any kinds
- More than 200,000 people attend each year
- Sun 'n Fun Fly-In, Inc. is a non-profit that supports dozens of events year-round
- The events are the primary source of funding for The Aerospace Center for Excellence (ACE)
The annual event started on Tuesday and ends on Sunday.
Safety precautions are in place such as masks required in all areas where social distancing isn't possible and limited daily ticket sales.
After being canceled last year because of the pandemic, aviation enthusiasts are on cloud nine about the SUN ‘n FUN Aerospace Expo returning to Lakeland.
The Lakeland Aero Club is the largest youth flying club in the world. The nonprofit is open to all young people ages 14 to 24, no matter their experience.
The Aerospace Center for Excellence (ACE) is home to so many different entities, educating and encouraging the next generation of pilots, aviation technicians, mechanics and so much more.
SUN 'n FUN is one of the largest airshows in the world. But, there's more that goes on at ACE all year long.
“It’s everything to do with aerospace. It’s a hands-on learning environment,” said Doug Jeanes, Executive Director Aerospace Center for Excellence.
Lakeland Linder International Airport has seen lots of changes in the years since then, especially this past decade.
“We just have a unique mix, a diverse mix of businesses here in the airport and we want to protect that. It’s important to what we’re doing,” said Gene Conrad, Airport Director
Lakeland's Central Florida Aerospace Academy of Kathleen High School is a one-of-a-kind public school on the campus of the sprawling Sun 'N Fun Expo.
Think the X-Men Academy for future aviators.
The first airshow performance of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels' newest jet is being showcased in Lakeland.
Larger, more powerful, and faster the F/A-18E Super Hornet is the Navy's premier strike fighter. And its capabilities will be on full display for the first time anywhere in the world at the SUN ‘n FUN Aerospace Expo in Lakeland.
“Super Hornet is about 30% larger than the ‘legacy’ Hornet. So, it’s pretty cool seeing the Super Hornet in the delta because it’s a much larger aircraft. Pretty neat to see that, but performance wise it does have increased thrust, bigger engines and upgraded avionics as well,” said Maj. Rick Rose, United States Marine Corps Pilot.
For most of us, Sun 'n Fun is an airshow, but for Lake Wales pilot Jerry Kerby, it's more like a family reunion.
“The people that fly air shows, the people that support air shows, become part of a family over a number of years so you get used to seeing them,” said Kerby.
Due to the pandemic, shows across the country were grounded, and so too was business for many of these pilots.
NOAA's team based in Lakeland does more than chase hurricanes.
"So it depends, when we when we're flying for the Fishery Service, we may be out doing a whale survey, we may be out looking for different animals as an indicator of the health of the environment. When we're flying for the National Ocean Service, which sounds kind of weird, we're performing a critical role for the nation, which is coastal mapping," says CDR. Sloan.