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The 43rd iteration of Sun ‘n Fun opened on Tuesday morning and the show’s management reports that vendor attendance is the highest in the show’s history and is up 25 percent from the 2016 numbers. President and CEO of the Sun ‘n Fun non-profit organization John “Lites” Leenhouts told reporters Tuesday morning that he sees increased participation as a sign the economy has turned a corner.
Leenhouts noted that ticket presales are up 25 percent over 2016 and 15 percent above the organization’s all-time ticket sales records for the week. “And that’s just presales,” he said. “We’ve got 510 aviation-oriented exhibitors on the airfield, of which 85 are new to Sun ’n‘ Fun this year.”
Leenhouts also introduced Bob Knight, chair of the board of Sun ’n‘ Fun, who pointed out that the Florida Air Museum is now officially the Aerospace Center for Excellence (ACE), and that all the profits from the Sun ’n‘ Fun show go directly to ACE. “We support the Central Florida Aerospace Academy high school, Traviss Technical College and Polk State College aviation and aerospace programs,” said Knight.
Leenhouts added, “The ACE program has now produced 57 teenage certified pilots, at a cost of about $12,000 each, from these funds. And just this year we’ve created seven new A&P mechanics. You’ll find students from the Central Florida Aerospace Academy embedded throughout the Sun ’n‘ Fun airshow as volunteers this week. We are opening doors for them everywhere in aviation.”
The event will stretch across six days at Lakeland Linder Airport ending on Sunday 9th April and more than 500 aviation exhibitors and guests from more than 80 countries will be in attendance.