The FAA’s decision to delay its tower shutdowns until June was a save for Sun ‘n Fun, but the federal government still has declined to pay all the expenses of sending 50 extra controllers and 20 technicians to cope with the traffic, so the bill — an estimated $285,000 — is going to the Sun ‘n Fun organization. “That’s a pretty substantial chunk of money,” Sun ‘n Fun CEO John “Lites” Leenhouts told AVweb on Monday. To raise the funds, Sun ‘n Fun has put together a coalition of donors in the state and local area who are pitching in to support the event. Leenhouts also said the focus of Sun ‘n Fun this year is on the pilot community, with more attention to workshops and sport flying, lower ticket fees for anyone who flies in, and less emphasis on the airshow.
Leenhouts also said the experiment last year to organize additional events year-round on the Sun ‘n Fun campus was successful, and will expand in the future. Events included fly-outs to the Bahamas, AOPA and EAA fly-ins and gatherings, a weekend fly-in for local scouts, and a barbecue fly-in last fall that brought in about 200 airplanes. A major change to the Sun ‘n Fun site for this year’s event is a new paved road that leads to the LSA Mall and the ultralight area at Paradise City, with an improved grass strip that will allow operations to continue all day, even during the airshow. Those changes have had an impact, according to Dan Johnson, president of the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association. At the new LSA Mall, he said on Monday, exhibitors are up from 25 a year ago to 44 this year.
For more details from Leenhout’s conversation with AVweb‘s Mary Grady, click here to listen to the podcast.