Sun ‘N’ Fun 2021 Highlights
It feels like the last year and a half has been a waiting game, and the aviation industry has been no exception. With the previous year’s Sun n’ Fun canceled, it left a lot of people wondering what this year’s event would bring. Would there be people? Who would attend? Which vendors would be there?
As of Monday, there were still many unoccupied booths inside the hangars, and fewer pilots arriving than ever before. The weather over the weekend had been bad and prevented many people from being able to fly their own aircraft into Lakeland. Still, all the key players seemed to be in attendance, and everyone was cautiously optimistic that the show could have a good turnout. This year, rather than starting on Monday, the show began Tuesday morning, which could also account for the later arrival of both exhibitors and attendees.
Tuesday morning started out with calm winds, sunshine, and more people wandering around. The curiosity and interaction between people and exhibitors felt more like the Sun n Fun of the past, if on a lesser scale. This made it interesting though, as the environment lent itself to more extended and personal interactions. Without a line of twenty people waiting to talk, vendors were able to get more in-depth about product and share their own stories and journeys to production.
One of the best things about the aviation industry is everyone has their own narrative about what brought them to where they are. Most of the time, they are fascinating stories. For a pilot or any attendee, getting to have that one-on-one interaction with a creator brings more meaning to a product. It adds credibility and trust. When someone shares the why of what they are doing, then it becomes obvious that they care about the how, and creating a product that backs their passion.
By Wednesday and Thursday, things were in full swing at the show. The blue angels were taxying, the C17 with a low pass overhead, and there were lines at almost all the booths. The handmade donuts behind the hangars had an incredible line every morning, and everywhere there were people circling the planes on display. Walking through the fields surrounding the hangars, most rows were full of the planes that had been flown in over the last few days. Families wandered from seaplanes to bi-wings, with each design being carefully inspected by the children for functionality as a climbing apparatus.
Based on ticket sales at Sun n’ Fun, it looks like OshKosh will be a go. As more and more people receive the vaccine and our country continues to open up, there will be an increase in attendance to larger events. General aviation has seen growth within the industry, with more demand for products, which continues to drive competition towards better technology and innovation. Certainly, there were still some empty booths, and the lines for the bathrooms weren’t as long, but overall the expo was no less of a success in terms of vendor-to-attendee interaction than in previous years. Though the density of attendees was decreased, there was no less excitement or enthusiasm from vendors, pilots, and enthusiasts.
The aviation community seems to be back in the swing of things, and as devoted as ever to get back in the air.