Once again, the 2019 Sun ‘n Fun International Fly-In & Expo did not disappoint! Nearly a quarter million aviation enthusiasts, pilots, mechanics, industry professionals, students, and even pups swarmed the Lakeland Linder Airport (KLAL) last week for all things aviation! From the exhibits to the airshows, the sights and sounds of aviation filled the air daily with the roar of aircraft from all eras.
Airshows and Aircraft Displays
Dozens of specialty aircraft were parked on the flight line in all directions while aerial performances graced the skies above. The Blue Angels headlined the airshow, which featured other legendary performers like Patty Wagstaff, Gene Soucy, the Aeroshell Team, and so many more. The fusion of smoke, lights, and airplane noises created a symphony, keeping the crowds craning their necks toward the sky.
Saturday morning provided a more serene aviation display as dozens of hot air balloons lifted off and cruised in the annual “Hare and Hound” race, where one initial balloon takes off while others follow as they attempt to catch up.
Two night airshows featuring aircraft decked out with specialty lighting and pyrotechnics lit up the skies so crowds could enjoy aerobatics after dark. Fireworks shooting from aircraft wings during aerobatic flights dazzled thousands of onlookers both on the field and several miles from the airport. The Golden Knights U.S. Army Parachute Team jumped from a C-31 during both night airshows, skydiving toward a landing target with pyrotechnics strapped to their feet.
While the airshow portion is the biggest draw, visitors were also able to enjoy the action up close by exploring exhibits and static aircraft displays. Visitors had the opportunity to view and tour cargo transport aircraft, fighter jets, vintage planes, rotorcraft, and rare warbirds. The highly anticipated XP-82 Twin Mustang made its debut appearance after more than a decade-long painstaking restoration project led by Tom Reilly and his crew from Douglas, GA. The aircraft received the Grand Champion Warbird Award, a recognition well-deserved.
Flying the Gleim Virtual Cockpit
The Gleim Aviation team was excited to meet nonstop crowds in Hangar C to talk about flight training and hear countless successes stories from past and current students. Once again, the Gleim Virtual Cockpit flight simulator was a huge crowd-pleaser, drawing everyone from aspiring pilots to WWII Veterans to veteran airshow performers, who all had a blast test-flying scenarios in our flight simulator. New options this year, including fully functional navigation radios, an autopilot panel, a switch panel, and multi-function avionics, made the flight experience even more realistic. Both career pilots and those who had never flown before marveled at the realism of the Gleim X-Plane Flight Training Course and its virtual flight instruction on our immersive set up. Gleim Aviation instructors even demonstrated how easy it is to set up custom scenarios using the built-in instructor operating station functions.
Not only is it extremely fun to fly the Gleim Virtual Cockpit, it is also an excellent educational tool. High school teachers and administrators visited Gleim to learn about our STEM resources and how we’re available to help them start aviation programs and student flight clubs at their schools. When we weren’t helping new or long-time pilots with their flight training, we took every opportunity to meet event attendees on the flight line while enjoying the airshows and aircraft displays.
Women in Aviation International (WAI) hosted a lunch for members and guests on Friday, April 5. Gleim is proud to partner with WAI in their mission to provide resources to assist women in the aviation field and encourages young women to consider aviation careers. WAI’s special speaker panel included wing walker, pilot, and aviation artist, Teresa Stokes; commercial pilot and WAI freelance columnist, Devan Norris; and attorney and author of Final Flight Final Fight: My grandmother, the WASP, and Arlington National Cemetery, Erin Miller. The president of WAI, Dr. Peggy Chabrian, kicked off the panel with a raffle and announced the winners of this year’s Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award, one awardee being her husband.
If we missed you at Sun ‘n Fun this year, there will be plenty of opportunities to visit the Gleim team throughout the year. Look for us at the opposite end of the United States at the Great Alaska Aviation Gathering in Anchorage, AK, May 4-5. We’ll be returning to Florida June 8-9 for the Flight Sim Expo in Orlando, then heading to the EAA Airventure in Oshkosh, WI, July 22-28. We hope to see you soon, but if you cannot visit us at an upcoming event, you can always reach our Aviation Training Consultants online, call us at 800-874-5346, ext. 471, or stop by our offices in Gainesville, FL.
Written by Callie Wilkes, Gleim Aviation Marketing & STEM Coordinator, and Paul Duty, Gleim Aviation Product Manager & Chief Instructor.