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50th Anniversary Fly-In Celebrates Future of Flight

April 1, 2024 News

The future of flight is now, and the 50th annual SUN ‘n FUN Aerospace Expo is devoting a Plaza to it during the April 2024 Fly-In. 

“The Future ‘n Flight Plaza is a new component of the SUN ‘n FUN Aerospace Expo,” said Jane Winter, vice president of Strategic Partnerships for SUN ‘n FUN. “We are excited to bring over 70 exhibitors to showcase innovative technologies, flight simulation and training entities.” 

To find out more about the plaza, described on the SUN ‘n’ FUN website as “the place for youth activities, aviation careers and new tech in aviation, visit”

Eric Crump, vice president and COO of the Aerospace Center for Excellence (ACE), said his organization is “completely committed to preserving the future of aviation. This idea is the cornerstone of our mission. We are thrilled to participate in the many efforts during the week of the SUN ‘n FUN Aerospace Expo that really move the needle on opening opportunities for folks to enter the industry and remain engaged in it throughout their journey.”  

The Fly-In will be held April 9-14 on the grounds of the SUN ‘n FUN campus at Lakeland International Airport. Adult single-day tickets are $45; weekly tickets are $170. Other ticket offerings, including to the opening concert featuring Dylan Scott, also are available, along with the daily schedule and much more information, at 

“The Future ‘n Flight Plaza is a literal hub for the future development of the aerospace industry. From the Junior ACEs programming for our youth, through the Flight Sim Experience where participants can interact with the coolest tech in flight simulation today, to the Career Fair and so many more opportunities, our guests are going to get a truly unique experience that is guaranteed to blow minds and engage people in aviation.” 

Eric Crump, Vice President and COO, Aerospace Center for Excellence

What’s Featured in the Plaza

Winter said the Plaza includes:  

  • “The Flight Sim Experience – Guests have an opportunity to engage the innovative Virtual Reality flight simulation technology and get hands-on experience with flight sim peripherals. 
  • Career Fair—Several companies will participate to share information about job opportunities. Interested guests may well be hired on site. 
  • Flight Schools, Technical Schools, Colleges – Training providers will be on-site to discuss opportunities to train to be a pilot, an aircraft mechanic or other rewarding careers. 
  • Junior ACES—Youth attendees ages 7 to 17 will be given a Junior ACES pass upon admission to engage in STEM activities hosted by exhibitors. 
  • International Oasis – Visitors, vendors, and volunteers from over 80 countries will be able to check-in, locate a person who speaks their language and ask questions about the event. 
  • Family Oasis – located in the heart of the Future ‘n Flight area, Family Oasis is designed to provide a welcome respite while enjoying the Expo. 
  • Innovation Showcase – Exhibitors at the Innovation Showcase will present state-of-the-art technology and futuristic aviation concepts. Demonstrations include Wing Aviation’s drone package delivery and LIFT Aircraft’s HEXA — an ultra-light hover-motored manned flying aircraft.” 

Having a pavilion like this is important to raise awareness about opportunities the aviation industry provides, Winter said. 

“There are so many paths to attaining a career in aviation — pilots, maintenance, air traffic controllers, airport management and so much more,” she said. “We’ve taken it upon ourselves as an organization to spark the interest of the next generation and show them the pathways.”  

The Plaza showcases the innovative technologies being used or in development, Winter said. “It also tells guests of all ages that they can engage the cutting-edge technologies as an aviation professional or enthusiast, aspiring pilot, maintenance technician, air traffic controller or any number of careers.” 

Future in Flight Training

The Boeing Pilot Technician Outlook projects that 127,000 pilots are needed in North America through 2042.  

Polk County Public Schools has several career academies devoted to aviation and aerospace, including those at Kathleen High School (the Central Florida Air Academy), Lakeland Highlands Middle School, Sleepy Hill Middle School and Winter Haven High School.  

The Polk Public Schools website describes the CFAA program as one that provides “students with a foundation of knowledge and technically oriented experiences in the study of Aerospace Technologies, its effect upon our lives and the choosing of an occupation. The content and activities will also include the study of safety and leadership skills. This program focuses on transferable skills and stresses understanding and demonstration of the technological tools, machines, instruments, materials, processes and systems in business and industry.” 

Kathleen also has academies on Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operations and Aviation Maintenance. 

Supporting Future Training

SUN ‘n FUN Aerospace Center for Excellence hosts a premiere fundraising event during the April Fly-In benefiting the Center’s Stem Education and Scholarship programs. The BASH, set for April 11th, supports education initiatives to train the next generation of avaition talent.

Plan Your Trip to Future in Flight Plaza

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