LAKELAND, Fla. — While hundreds of thousands of aviation enthusiast come to the SUN ‘n FUN Aerospace Expo in Lakeland, to see unique aircrafts and some of the best airshow performers, the purpose of the convention is to generate revenue that goes into supporting the Aerospace Center for Excellence, also known as ACE.
“It’s everything to do with aerospace. It’s a hands-on learning environment,” said Doug Jeanes, Executive Director Aerospace Center for Excellence.
ACE is where you’ll find the Central Florida Aerospace Academy. The school provides students an opportunity to learn flight training, aircraft maintenance and avionics and engineering.
“They do just everything to do with aviation aerospace, they have a drone program where they can learn to operate and maintain drones. And when they come out in some cases in some instances, they can be certified,” Jeanes said.
ACE also provides more than $450,000 in scholarships for students to pursue their private pilot certificate. The scholarship director said ACE leads the world in producing teenage private pilots.
“Currently have 122 teenage private pilots. Now these were students that were teenagers when they received their private pilot license. Some of them are already in airline jobs,” said Richele Floyd, Director of Scholarship.
The center is also partnering with Polk County Public Schools to offer aerospace science programs to students, at its new Skylab, which will feature a simulator training lab, and holographic theatre.
“Fifth, sixth and eleventh-grade kids coming through using this laboratory that we’re building. Just state-of-the-art stuff that the Polk County School District couldn’t afford to have in every school so we’re going to have it available,” said Jeanes.
Jeanes said all of their programs help grow the local job force and aviation industry.