By Marie Gilmore
For the 39th year, the Lakeland sky will become the destination for thousands of pilots, airplanes and air show enthusiasts as Sun ‘n Fun Fly-In, Inc. kicks off its annual exposition of everything airborne.
This year’s event which attracts almost 200,000 attendees each year, will be held April 9-14 at Lakeland Linder Airport. With 2,200 acres, thousands of aircraft and more than 500 booths, along with daily air shows, demonstrations and educational opportunities, there is something for everyone.
This year, Sun ‘n Fun adds a new destination to its expo, the Veterans Plaza. The plaza will recognize and acknowledge the 40th Anniversary of “Operation Homecoming,” with the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association and its exhibit of artifacts and aircraft. Following the Paris Peace Accords of 1973, 591 American prisoners of war (POWs) were returned home.
Another new addition this year is Honor Flight of West Central Florida. Honor Flight has the sole purpose of taking World War II Veterans to Washington, D.C. for free to see the World War II Memorial. In just two years, HFWCF has flown eight missions and 543 World War II Veterans to D.C. The organization, established as an official regional hub of the national network, has more than 500 WWII Veterans on the waiting list and typically flies 75 Vets per flight. Three flights have been scheduled for 2013 with funds and volunteers needed to continue the effort. For more information on getting involved as a volunteer or guardian for a WWII Veteran on this day trip, stop by the booth or visit www.honorflightwcf.org.
“We are just thrilled to be partnered with the Sun ‘n Fun expo this year,” said Honor Flight president and 21-year Army Veteran James W. Haake. “We have to get the word out about Honor Flight and its mission to get our World War II Veterans to D.C. and this is a great opportunity to meet a huge audience of people and explain how Honor Flight works.”
In addition to Honor Flight and the Pilots Assoc., Hillsborough Veterans Park, Military Officers Association of America, James A. Haley Veteran’s Hospital, Polk County Veterans Council, Air America, Vet Center, The Bomber Girls and Gold Star Moms will offer booths in the new Veterans Plaza.
A daily highlight of the expo is the air show, held each afternoon and evening with special illumination and pyrotechnics evening shows on both Friday and Saturday nights. Aircraft of all shapes and sizes including the USAF Thunderbirds and the civilian Black Diamonds jet teams to wing-walkers and aerial acrobatics will perform. Team Aerodynamix offers upwards of six planes flying in formations and audiences incredible precision. For a full listing of events and performers scheduled, visit www.sun-n-fun.org.
Tickets include all events, activities and air shows and are $37 per day for adults, $15 for youth ages 11-17 and children under 10 years old are free. Parking is $5 and Sunday, April 14 is Florida resident day with adult tickets $25. Reserved air show seating is also available for an additional fee or residents are encouraged to bring chairs.
Please note: all schedules are subject to change.