Sun ’n Fun 2012 Gears Up for Opening Day

Sun 'n Fun's organizers are hoping the 2012 edition of its annual International Fly-In and Expo, held in Lakeland, Florida, this week will be nothing like 2011's tornado-plagued event, where multiple airplanes were destroyed and visitors ran for shelter from pelting rain and flying debris.

While a repeat of last year's storm is highly unlikely, Sun 'n Fun has enhanced the safety and efficiency of the show. The show has become a National Weather Service StormReady event — the first aviation event to achieve this certification, said Sun 'n Fun's new president and CEO, John "Lites" Leenhouts.

In an effort to reduce the potential for flooding, the parking lots have been raised by several inches and the surfaces of the access roads have been improved. This along with a new traffic flow pattern into and out of the parking areas should significantly reduce the painfully long lines visitors had to endure to enter the show grounds last year.

A new voice will greet the visitors once they get through the gates. Roscoe Morton has retired and will be replaced by another announcer veteran — Rob Reider.

“He’s very energetic, very exciting, and he brings a wealth of aviation knowledge and enthusiasm to the microphone,” Leenhouts said.

Some of the events Reider will announce include the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds’ awe-inspiring F-16 Flying Falcon formation flying and solo demonstrations and the “Red, Hot and Loud” musical tribute to American heroes, featuring country and western performer Aaron Tippin at the Florida Air Museum’s Pavilion stage on Thursday at 8 p.m. The Commemorative Air Force (CAF) Boeing B-29 Superfortress FiFi will be on the show grounds all week, offering rides and cockpit tours. And you can learn more about the Tuskegee Airmen at the CAF Red Tail Squadron’s exhibit, “Rise Above.”

There will be a lot more to see and experience at the Lakeland Linder Airport. If the weather gods cooperate, the 38th annual Sun ’n Fun could become one of the best ever.

Pia Bergqvist joined FLYING in December 2010. A passionate aviator, Pia started flying in 1999 and quickly obtained her single- and multi-engine commercial, instrument and instructor ratings. After a decade of working in general aviation, Pia has accumulated almost 3,000 hours of flight time in nearly 40 different types of aircraft.

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