John “Lites” Leenhouts, president and CEO of the Aerospace Center for Excellence (ACE) and the Sun ‘n Fun Aerospace Expo (SNF), has announced plans to retire after Sun ‘n Fun 2022. Leenhouts has held the position for more than a decade and is credited with having “created a world-class event venue attracting dozens of multiday events annually, built the world’s largest high school flying club, and consistently increased attendance at the annual SUN ‘n FUN Aerospace Expo.” He was also responsible for conceptualizing and establishing ACE, a nonprofit organization that provides aerospace-based science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) learning opportunities for young people, and overseeing the restructuring of the ACE/SNF organization in 2019.
“He was the perfect addition to our team. I don’t think we could have found anyone with more experience or excitement about aviation,” said Tracy Neal, ACE chief financial officer. “He jumped right in and helped us transform from a Not-For-Profit living on a line of credit to a Not-For-Profit able to survive the COVID pandemic. He has guided the team through major improvements across the entire campus, including our latest addition of the Ramus SkyLAB Innovation Center.”
Prior to joining Sun ‘n Fun in August 2011, Leenhouts served for 27 years as a U.S. naval aviator and spent 11 years working at Northrop Grumman. He plans to continue working as an ambassador for both ACE and SNF following his retirement. Sun ‘n Fun 2022 is scheduled to take place April 5-10 at Florida’s Lakeland Linder International Airport (LAL).