Central Florida is known for space, whether it’s launching rockets with spacecraft on missions to enhance national security, support operations on the International Space Station, or explore worlds such as Mars. This week, however, the attention turns to one of the biggest, and most popular, aviation events in the world, one which promises to wow onlookers old and young alike. The 40th annual Sun N’ Fun International Fly-In and Expo, which takes place in Lakeland, Fla. (between Orlando and Tampa), will host a variety of air show performers and aviation-enthusiasts from across the country and will be headlined next weekend with the return of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels in their first Florida air show appearance since federal budget cuts (sequestration) grounded the team in 2013.
The world-renowned event, which takes place from April 1-6, continues Sun N’ Fun’s mission to inspire and educate people by preserving and enhancing the future of flight through world-class events, and this year’s Sun N’ Fun is shaping up to be one of the biggest yet.
“After a year of sequestration and no military participation at airshows, Sun N’ Fun is honored to host the first appearance of the Blue Angels in the southeast in 2014,” said John “Lites” Lennhouts, president and CEO of Sun N’ Fun. “It is exciting for us to offer our guests the stellar precision that represents the piloting skills of naval aviators.”
The big act of the week is, of course, the Blues. Their name is synonymous with precision, professionalism, patriotism, speed, and noise—over 25,000 people showed up to NAS Pensacola a few days ago just to watch the team practice. But many other well-known and highly skilled aviators will be joining them to entertain crowds, which are expected to be in the hundreds of thousands over the course of the week. World Aerobatics Champion Rob Holland, the GEICO Skytypers, Mike Goulian, Patty Wagstaff, and the USAF F-22 Raptor Demo Team—among many others—will be ripping a new ozone in the skies above central Florida.
One of Sun N’ Fun’s signature events, the night Airshow, is planned for Saturday, April 5, with several performers such as Matt Younkin, Team Aerodynamix, and the Aeroshell Aerobatic Team performing skillfully choreographed, stomach-churning maneuvers while dazzling light displays and pyrotechnics shoot off their aircraft, topped off with an always-impressive fireworks show on the flight line to end the evening.
A Balloon launch will take place that Saturday morning, too—weather permitting, of course—with many of the giant hot-air balloons taking to the skies just as the sun rises in a “Hare and Hound” race that is sure to be quite a sight.
VIDEO: Join me for a taste of adrenaline-pumping aerobatics with World Aerobatics Champion Rob Holland, one of many headline acts performing at this week’s Sun N’ Fun. Video Credits: Mike Killian / Rob Holland
Rides in various aircraft will be available for the public to purchase throughout the week, including flights on a B-17, SB2C Helldiver, a Huey, and even an Apache helicopter. There will also be lots of aircraft on static display through the week, everything from a F4U Corsair to the P-38 “Glacier Girl,” in addition to many other military and civilian aircraft.
New for 2014 is the “Dinner with Legends” banquet, an exclusive, intimate dinner with many of aviation’s most significant heroes, such as WWII Triple Ace Col. C.E. “Bud” Anderson and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, the second man to walk on the Moon. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Aerospace Center for Excellence and Project STRATOS, a program that rewards students for aviation-based research efforts and raises awareness and funding for Sun N’ Fun’s year-round education activities.
Tickets to the week-long event are available for purchase HERE, with weekly and daily ticket prices up for grabs. A one-day adult ticket costs $37, kids aged 11-17 will cost $15, and kids 10 and under are FREE. Preferred seating next to the announcer’s stand on the flight line is also available, as are VIP upgrades.
Sun N’ Fun 2014 has something for everyone: movies each evening, a kids’ zone, a car show, a parts exchange, student tours, teacher workshops, youth workshops, concerts, and even an aviation/aerospace job fair with recruiters from Jet Blue, Mesa Air Group, and even NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (among others). Presentations in a pavilion amphitheater by various guest speakers are also scheduled each evening, including one by an SR-71 Blackbird team on their incredible tale of ejecting over the South Pacific in one of history’s fastest and most secretive aircraft ever made.
AmericaSpace will have on-going coverage throughout the week from Sun N’ Fun, complete with unique flight footage and interviews with various performers, including the Blue Angels, so stay tuned!