March 22, 2023
SUN’ n FUN 101 – The Basics
Sun ‘N Fun is less than one week away – some basics to consider.
―By Phil Lightstone
The Sun ‘N Fun Aerospace Expo (www.FlySNF.org) is just around the corner (March 28 to April 2). For those readers who haven’t experienced SUN ‘n FUN, think of it as spring break for aviators. Located at the Lakeland Linder International Airport, (KLAL), the event can be thought of as a mini Air Venture. You’ll see and experience the same things at SUN ‘n FUN but without the hustle and bustle of 650,000 attendees.
Flying into Lakeland is a breeze. Checkout the NOTAM located at https://flysnf.org/flying-in/notams/. There are lots of other airports in the vicinity of Lakeland, such as Kissimmee (KISM), Orlando (KMCO), Winter Haven (KGIF) and Bartow (KBOW). Fuel and parking tend to be discounted during the week of SUN ‘n FUN, but always a good idea to call and confirm. Even better, call the FBO and arrange for parking, aircrew rates at nearby hotels and rental cars.
Getting down to central Florida may entail a multi-day, many hop long cross country. If you’re coming from Western Canada, that can also involve a few overnights (unless you’re blessed with your very own Very Light Jet). On long cross county flights, when you’re going to be away from your home airport for an extended period of time, consider taking a few of the basics: tie down ropes and anchors; canopy cover; extra oil; extra spark plugs; smart device charging adapters and cables; supplemental oxygen and cannulas; soft sided thermos for cold water bottles; and chocks.
During the show, you can expect moderate line ups, but purchasing your admission tickets on-line can help reduce the wait. General admission tickets pricing are: USD $45 daily; $170 for the week; youth (11-17) $20; youth weekly $70; children 10 and under are free; Florida residents enjoy discounted admission pricing; and parking is $10 per day or $40 for the week. Aircraft camping is $280 for the week which includes one admission ticket ($420 for two admission tickets). While the airport is blanketed with Wi-Fi hot spots and cellular services, it’s a good idea to have US cash with you for use at the concession stands, flee market, and exhibitor hangers. After all, SUN ’n FUN is a great opportunity to purchase aviation supplies at discounted prices. For Canadians, you can save the shipping, taxes, duties and brokerage costs (up to your maximum Customs limit). Don’t forget to setup a roaming plan on your Canadian smartphone.
Like any vacation to the sun, a few things to bring may include: sunscreen; knapsack; towels (there’s a lot of sweating); rain jacket; good walking shoes; extra socks; insect repellent; collapsible chair; and camera. PRO TIP: during the show, change your socks in the midafternoon. It’ll make you feel like you’re walking on a cloud.
On a personal note, I have found getting around Lakeland pretty easy. In years past, ride sharing services like Uber and Lift were fast and efficient to get you from your hotel to SUN ’n FUN. There is something to be said about avoiding the parking congestion and getting lost on the roads. Rental cars costs appear to be roughly CAD $100 per day from companies like Enterprise, however rates will vary based upon rental companies and location of pickup. There is still a lot of accommodation available, but as time goes on, you may have to stay further from Lakeland. Don’t forget about COPA’s discount programs for hotel and car rentals.
Night life at SUN ’n FUN adds another dimension to your spring break. The night air show, vendor meet and greet events, camping with your buddies, dinners out with fellow aviators, and don’t forget pool time. Flying into congested airspace requires an extra level of alertness not only keeping your head on a swivel but your ears wide open. Flying with a defensive posture, will help you avoid another pilot, whose level of airmanship leaves something to be desired.
(Photo: Phil Lightstone)