New SNF Boss Refocuses Show
John "Lites" Leenhouts, who was named president of the Sun 'n Fun organization just last summer, has hit the ground running, with an abundance of energy and new ideas for this year's show. "I want all of our guests to leave here feeling inspired and educated, and with a plan for moving forward if they want an aviation career or to learn how to fly," Leenhouts told AVweb on Sunday in his new office, filled with memorabilia from his active aviation career. "I want all of them to become participants, not just observers." Leenhouts has been meeting with staff and volunteers to ensure everyone is focused on customer service. He also has scheduled a new event for the Sun 'n Fun campus on Nov. 9 and 10, called "When Pigs Fly," a weekend barbecue and fly-in paired with a motorcycle and car show.
Leenhouts also is working on more plans for the next five years, from an enhanced focus on education and career-building, to teaming up remote-control aircraft displays with military exhibits of unmanned aerial systems. "I've been an aviation enthusiast since I was a kid," Leenhouts said. As an F-18 pilot in the Navy, he set the record for most carrier landings, despite having been "scared to death" when he first started. Later, he took on various fundraising projects, managing flocks of volunteers, and worked for Northrop Grumman, where he learned about running a business. And for 30 years, he's been a visitor at Sun 'n Fun, camping under the wing of his Stearman, and experiencing the show from that perspective. "So it's as if I've been training for this job my whole life," he said.