It’s still going great guns — one of America’s most unusual airports. Complete with Western theme buildings, 28-room on-airport motel and airplane-shaped swimming pool, it’s the recreational center of its community. And this one-time “aeronautical dude ranch” lives on in…wait for it…New Jersey!
This holiday weekend, give an extra thought to flying safely. I have a special reason to ask. And that experience still gives me pause each July 4 weekend since 2002 when I had a “box seat” for a base-to-final stall.
At best, it sounded like a novel idea: SUN ‘n FUN would write and stage a musical for local Florida schools to interest kids in flying and aviation careers. Nice community relations for the newly expanding SUN ‘n FUN mission, but could they pull it off? Turns out, they did — with flying colors.
This woman is lit! She’s electric. Lori Bradner, selected late last year — in lieu of a new Florida Air Museum director — is now SUN ’n FUN’s executive director of education.
That’s right: SUN ’n FUN now highlights youth education and year-round engagement, not just an annual celebration of aviation’s glory. The entire team is involved, but Bradner is the focal point for educational programs making SUN ’n FUN relevant — everyday — to aviation’s future.
Being a pilot offers a special overview of your world and the events affecting it. It’s part of what makes flying special. This month’s devastating tornados call this to mind. Our airborne views of human civilization and nature’s ways are perspectives the Average Joe might not see in a lifetime.
He’s been on the SUN ’n FUN board for years, but chairman for just 18 months. Robert C. (Bob) Knight is head of Knight Industrial Equipment (a long-time Lakeland Airport tenant), an airport board member and community leader. He’s been flying out of LAL since 1965. That A-36 Bonanza of his, which he calls “my lifeblood,” is on its fourth engine and third turbo-normalizer.
At a time when our GA institutions seem in transition, plagued by leadership changes and questions of fiscal stability and stewardship, it seems SUN ’n FUN got a head start on fixes. Its new leadership is now in gear and beginning to roll.
A recent visit with new President John “Lites” Leenhouts was my second, but I came away even more impressed. [Read more…]
Many factors have challenged the typical GA airplane as a transportation mode.
I recall the early-1960s debate at my home field whether the new Interstate Highway System would be boon or bust for General Aviation, at least for the average Cessna or Piper. My conclusion then, as now: Both.
We lost some key “downtown” airports as the 20th Century faded into history. Famous campaigns fought to save them; local politicians with big plans “got” them — Chicago Meigs (10 years ago this month) and Bader Field in Atlantic City, N.J. They represented the height of GA utility. Now, in their absence, have politicians’ airport-killing schemes and dreams worked out?