Sun 'n Fun Fly-In Coming With Changes
The Sun ’n Fun International Fly-In and Expo, taking place March 29 to April 3 this year,has undergone many changes since it began as a small local chapter fly-in. The warm Florida climate quickly made it a favorite event for ultralight and light plane pilots. The current name of the 37th annual fly-in and expo and the scheduled appearance of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels are testimony to the evolution that has occurred. Ultralight Chairman Dave Piper revealed some of the changes you can expect to see at this year’s event.
The sod runway used by ultralights and light planes for so many years has been improved. Dave says it’s now a “real” certified runway and will no longer be merely temporary. Trees, brush, and obstacles have been removed to meet improved clearance requirements. The drainage ditch on the west end has been completely removed and leveled leaving only a slight ramp up to the threshold. He hopes the east end will be fixed next. The new runway designation is 8-26 to distinguish it from Lakeland Linder’s runway 9-27. The ILS approach that is normally disabled during the fly-in to allow the use of the ultralight/light plane area is to be removed permanently and will free up some space to wider usage. Dave is trying to get the east campground moved westward back across the drainage ditch and closer to the runway where it was located in the past.
The traditional Sun ’n Fun Dawn Patrol from the ultralight field involves a sunrise trip around the site including a rare flight down the main runway. Participation has been low in recent years due in part to the need to rise well before sunrise for the briefing. The Dawn Patrol will be moved to 10 a.m. and will now be called the Light Plane Showcase. It should give more fly-in attendees a chance to see the light planes and ultralights in flight. General attendance has been down in the ultralight area (known as Paradise City) since the end of the ultralight training exemption, and the decline is exacerbated by the migration of the new special light-sport aircraft exhibitors to locations closer to the air show center in order to appeal to a wider audience. Dave says the number of volunteers has also decreased. It’s as if the ultralight strip is searching for a new identity. Perhaps a refocus on the fly-in aspect of the event in that particular area would help Paradise City find its way into the future. For more information and schedules, go to www.Sun-n-Fun.org. If flying into Sun ’n Fun, you can download the arrival procedures here.