There was sun and there was a lot of fun!
The annual Sun n’ Fun Aerospace Expo happened last week, and I ended up going on Saturday the 9th. Since I had been planning to go, I was able to work around my classes so that I’d be able to attend. I went with Chris, and we made sure to check the weather beforehand. It looked a little windy, but we decided to go anyway.
Every year, the annual Sun n’ Fun event is held at the Lakeland (KLAL) airport. Lakeland is about a two-hour drive from Daytona, which means that we left early and got back pretty late. Chris and I ended up getting the two-day Florida discount in case we wanted to stay the extra day; we’d also brought camping supplies in the back of his car.
Once we got our daily wristbands, we pulled out the map and looked around for a bit. A lot of the larger planes were military aircraft (such as the Boeing C-17), which is where we headed first. On the way over, we ended up buying a lemonade and souvenir cup.
I’d never seen this many aircraft in one place before. It’s pretty amazing to think that someone had to fly the hundreds (or potentially even thousands) of aircraft on display over to the Lakeland airport. The aircraft ranged in size from small one or two-seater aircraft to big jets (aka the C-17 and other larger military aircraft).
Once we’d gotten our lemonade, we ended up behind the tail of the C-17. The back door was open, which meant that we were free to look inside.
So we did!
The C-17 was taller than I expected, but not as long. Every year when the Thunderbirds arrive for the Daytona 500, so does a C-17. So I’ve seen them before, but they’ve always seemed shorter in height but longer in length.
It’s a wide-body aircraft, so it reminded me of some other wide-body aircraft I’d been in (like a 747), but it was weird to see no rows of seats. Instead, the seats were against the wall and more of a pull-down jumpseat style. It was interesting to explore for a bit, and then we ended up moving on.
Chris and I explored the larger aircraft and then headed over to get food. Once we’d gotten our food, the daytime airshow was about to start, so we watched the first part in the stands. It was pretty interesting to watch people turn their aircraft upside down and do pretty cool maneuvers.
After that, the two of us ended up going to apply sunscreen, which we’d forgotten earlier in the day. From there, we ended up visiting my friend (and a Riddle alumna!) at the Republic Airways tent, where she works as a recruiter. From there, we ended up going back to watch the airshow.
The airshow was pretty cool- there were plenty of aerobatic aircraft and a few military aircraft flying. The final act was the Thunderbirds, who also pay an annual visit to Daytona each year.
However, at Sun n’ Fun, the Thunderbird show lasted a lot longer. I’d say it was almost a half-hour long, and they did a lot more than a flyover. They inverted their aircraft, flew in formations, and nearly blew out my eardrums. (Okay, I’m kidding- but they were very loud, especially when multiple flew overhead at once).
The airshow was really cool to watch. As a pilot, it shows the insane skill that some people have when it comes to controlling aircraft. As an engineer, it shows the edge of engineering- what angle of attack can an aircraft produce lift for, and how long will it produce lift? How many aileron rolls can an aircraft do in a row?
After the airshow, Chris and I ended up walking back to the car and going out to eat. Food onsite was super expensive, so the two of us ended up getting Burger King. After that, we went back to the main parking lot and parked while we waited for the night airshow to start. I ended up taking a nap in the car, and when the night airshow started, the two of us walked back.
It was golden hour when it started, so I had that to enjoy. A few of the aircraft that were in the daytime show were parked at the end of the runway, so we got a good look at them up close.
The night airshow was pretty cool. Everyone in it made use of their lights, but it was freezing outside, even with a sweatshirt and thick jeans. Chris and I ended up walking back to the parking lot and watching the finale of the airshow (a drone show and fireworks) from the car.
The drone show was pretty cool- they made various formations, from a Thunderbird F-16 to the American flag to a simulated rocket launch. The fireworks show was also pretty cool, and it lasted a good while.
After that, since we were already in the car, we had a head start on everyone else when trying to leave. The two of us ended up in a McDonald’s drive-thru, getting a small fry and hot chocolate for the two-hour trip back to Daytona. We ended up leaving around 10:30, getting back into Daytona around 12:30 AM.
Overall, I had a lot of fun at Sun n’ Fun and hopefully get to go back next year. Even though I’m currently planning to do the astronautics track, I still find aircraft super cool, and it’s especially cool to see airshows. This was my first airshow, and Sun n’ Fun is one of the biggest in the United States. It’s also great that it happens only a couple hours from Riddle- I know that a lot of Riddle students went on the weekend. If you become a Riddle student, I might see you there- and I’ll see you in the next post!