Excitement and excellence highlighted the 2021 Sun ‘n Fun Aerospace Expo. The theme of the event, “We don’t need roads!” could be felt by all as participants explored the variety of flying machines and state-of-the-art gear found throughout the show. While the effects of the pandemic reduced the number of exhibitors, there was a record-high number of attendees who were excited to return to the nearly week-long event.
An equally significant aspect of the show, the Gleim Aviation booth, was buzzing with activity as novice and experienced aviators of all ages flew the Gleim Virtual Cockpit and the newly launched FAA-approved Gleim Virtual Cockpit BATD. Thousands of aviators at all levels visited the booth to browse the full assortment of training materials and take advantage of show specials on pilot kits and online courses, and reference books. Many pilots were just getting started with their training and rusty pilots found refresher courses to brush up on their skills. Inspirational to hear, the Gleim mission of excellence in aviation training was apparent as clients stopped by to talk about how instrumental the Gleim material has been in their career.
As aircraft roared over show center, the Gleim team offered their expertise in several education sessions providing participants with information on flight training, flight simulation, and STEM education programs. Paul Duty, Chief instructor, and Ryan Jeff, Aviation Research Assistant, taught sessions on using flight simulation as a training aviation aid which was so well received that they had a standing-room only audience. Similarly, Maureen Shankman, STEM Coordinator, conducted a session on infusing the aviation classroom with engaging hands-on activities. More than half of the aerospace educator workshop participants attended this session.
Highlighting the airshow, the Blue Angels soared through the sky celebrating their 75th season flying their new F/A-18E Super Hornets. They roared into the area on Thursday with their magnificent display of synchronized flying taking place over the weekend. The new aircraft were mesmerizing to watch as this was the first time the Blue Angels changed their aircraft since 1986.
From single-engine aerobatics, to routines flown with the engines turned off, the afternoon airshows drew thousands of people outside to watch the world-renowned aerial performances. The F22 Raptor appeared to suspend itself in air, seemingly defying all laws of physics. The many acrobatic feats were not only impressive to watch, they inspired many new pilots of all ages to take their first steps into flight training as the week went on.
The Sun ‘n Fun Aerospace Expo is a primary funding program for the Aerospace Center for Excellence (ACE). ACE provides scholarships and other education programs reach thousands of students, teachers, and schools. In giving back to the community, Gleim donated a Virtual Cockpit to ACE – the first simulator to be featured at the Project Skylab. Project Skylab, currently in construction, will be the hub of the Aerospace campus where students of all ages will experience STEM activities and workshops. With the Gleim Virtual Cockpit donation, students will spark their interest in STEM while learning the skills needed to navigate an aircraft. Expected to open in July 2021, with assistance from Gleim and many other contributors, the $15 million Project Skylab will serve as the foundation for future aviators and a model training center for STEM aviation programs.
Reflections on the Event
The event wasn’t just a first for thousands of new attendees, several Gleim team members were thrilled to experience their expo debut. Sirinity Zimmerman, Gleim FIRC administrator said, “this year I was given the opportunity to attend and, interact with some incredible aviators and witness more than one awe-inspiring airshow. I watched the Blue Angels soar through the sky and saw so many airplanes, in so many different shapes and sizes, both in the air and on the ground.”
As fantastic as these experiences were, the true highlight of the show was being able to speak directly with you, the aviation community and once again meet in-person with people who have been using Gleim training materials over the decades.
“As the FIRC Administrator for Gleim, I got a special delight from meeting with flight instructors I have been helping renew , many of them for over a decade (shout out to William, a CFI I was finally able to meet, who has been renewing with Gleim since 2008), said Zimmerman. “I loved hearing about their experiences within the course and how they can apply what they’ve learned with Gleim to the flight training they provide to their students.”
In addition to meeting with the life-long customers and pilots who have been using Gleim Aviation products and services for years, quite a few people who were new to aviation were excited to realize we could help them make their dreams come true. For some it was trying out the Virtual Cockpit, for others it was the organization of the Private Pilot Deluxe Kit, which includes everything needed to pass the FAA exams. The passion for flight that ignites the entire industry was evident with everyone we met.
Also new to the event, Maureen Shankman, Gleim STEM Coordinator, said “after the first day at Sun ’n Fun, I knew we were somewhere different from any other place I have worked. When I walked out of the hanger and looked up to the sky, all types of aircraft buzzed by. From the Blue Angels to the aerobatic flyers, I delighted in seeing the gravity-defying activity. As a science teacher, I soaked in the plethora of opportunities this event provided.”
“Numerous clients expressed their love of the Gleim materials, and they explained how the handbooks helped them to learn the material necessary to pass their exams, reaffirming how well-respected Gleim is,” said Shankman. “In fact, I helped fathers, who had used Gleim for their own careers choose the Private Pilot Kits for their own sons and daughters.”
Clients from around the country were thrilled to meet with Gleim Aviation Training Consultant, Grant Smith, who used to be a pilot with the U.S. Navy. Smith said “Having the chance to match a face to the e-mails and phone calls made over the last year was fantastic; I’ve built some strong working relationships with several clients, and it was a joy to be able to meet them in person finally. It’s exciting to see the success and growth that they’ve accomplished as a school or business, and I take pride in knowing that I could help them in some way.”
“As an aviation training consultant, it’s been a pleasure helping people, and Sun ‘n Fun provided the opportunity to do that in a live, face-to-face setting. Whether it’s an aviation newcomer who’s not quite sure where to begin, a seasoned aviator looking for their next challenge, or a fellow veteran sharing sea stories, all have allowed me to share my passion for aviation. The ability to leverage my expertise and aviation experiences in the Navy to help folks achieve their goals is a rewarding result and a primary reason I enjoy my job” said Smith.
Swarms of people tried out their hands at flight simulation, many who sat in the cockpit for their first time. Experienced pilots were excited to have an affordable FAA-approved training device which can be brought home to keep their skills fresh and maintain instrument currency. It was inspiring to watch the eyes light up by younger aviators as they took off from the Lakeland Airport on the Gleim Virtual Cockpit. As a teacher, Shankman said she “embraced the excitement that comes with learning how to fly because there is so much science, technology, engineering, and math to learn. It was refreshing to see science in action in our simulators.”
One of the highlights of Sun ‘n Fun was helping fellow educators learn how to make their classrooms more engaging during the Aerospace Educator sessions. Shankman shared a lesson on Bernoulli’s principle by using diaper disposal bags, and followed that up with a lesson on Newton’s Laws by using an index card, a penny, a cup, and the flick of a fingers. Teachers visiting the Gleim booth were appreciative for the classroom ideas. “I knew I had embarked on a journey so unique from any other place I have ever worked.”
Overall, Sun n Fun 2021 brought back the excitement and passion for aviators throughout the week. The spectators experienced a lively show while learning all about the many aspects of aviation. Gleim Aviation is committed to providing excellence in training whether it be at a flight school, in the classroom, at home, or at an airshow. Sun ‘n Fun revealed that the passion for aviation is as alive as ever, because in the future, “we don’t need roads.”
Written by: Maureen Shankman and Sirinity Zimmerman