Air Force Scrambles To Replace Thunderbirds At Sun ‘n Fun


Last week’s fatal accident of a Thunderbirds F-16 outside Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, has led to the cancellation of the aerobatic demonstration team’s appearance at the Sun ‘n Fun fly-in in Lakeland, Florida, which opens Tuesday. The training accident claimed the life of Air Force Maj. Stephen Del Bagno. Sun ‘n Fun President John “Lites” Leenhouts told AVweb the Department of Defense may instead send a demonstration team consisting of an F-16 Viper and an F-35 Lightning II.

“The Pentagon doesn’t like to break promises so they got right on it and we’ll see what happens,” Leenhouts said.

In other Sun ‘n Fun news, Leenhouts said more than 500 exhibitors have been spending the past few days setting up. Reps from tried-and-true airframers like Beechcraft, Cessna, Daher, Pilatus and Embraer are in full force. Gyrocopters, amphibs and light sports are here representing the fun side of flying. Bose is expected to make a major new product announcement.

Leenhouts said Sun ‘n Fun this year boasts significant improvements in the site’s physical amenities, including new restrooms and showers. “The campground is really filling up,” he said.

Gate proceeds and other revenue from the annual fly-in help young people pursue aviation careers as pilots, maintenance professionals or engineers.

AVweb will be on the show grounds all week, so be sure to say hello.