Bright Weather, Paradise City Boost Sun 'n Fun

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The weather in Lakeland wasn't perfect every day during Sun 'n Fun -- Friday was blustery, keeping most aircraft on the ground, and a few clouds and showers passed by -- but it was close, with temperatures in the breezy 80s and no tornadoes or mud-storms, and on Sunday morning CEO John Leenhouts was enthused about how things went. "We've had an absolutely superb week, with fabulous attendance," he told AVweb, citing numbers up about 5 percent over last year, except for a 5 percent drop on that windy Friday. "We had more people fly in than we've had in the last five years." Two incidents at the Thursday splash-in left two seaplanes damaged, but there were no serious injuries, Leenhouts said. Some vendors told AVweb the crowds in the main display area seemed substantially lighter than usual most days, with fewer serious buyers, but the revived Paradise City area got more than its usual traffic.

The main changes to the LSA Mall and the Paradise City ultralight area were a new paved road leading visitors from the main field to the site, more golf carts and trollyes ferrying visitors in, and improvements to the grass strip that kept the takeoffs and landings going all day long, when the wind and weather allowed. Electric-airplane pioneer Randall Fishman was there front and center with the battery-powered ultra-sleek ultralight glider he's been flying since last summer, attracting a constant stream of curious visitors. The night airshow, expanded to two nights, continues to be a popular draw. More food vendors are offering healthier choices, with salads and wraps now easier to find than corndogs or turkey legs, and Leenhouts has trained the hordes of volunteers to smile and help and even offer golf-cart rides to the crowds. New aircraft and new technology were scarce at the show, as has been true for the last few years, and reactions have been mixed about what it all means for the future of general aviation -- but like most things, when it comes to the future, we'll just have to wait and see. Sun 'n Fun 2014 is set for April 1 to 6.

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