Photo: Harry Parvin

Don’t Miss The FUTURE of FLIGHT at SUN ‘n FUN 2024

By RJ Walters
Photos provided by SUN ‘n FUN


he future of the next generation is up in the “air”—and the Aerospace Center for Excellence’s (ACE) goal is to keep more young people up in the air and working in fields directly connected with aviation and aeronautics.

Through the Future ‘n Flight Plaza, this year’s event will show off emerging technologies, offer a wide array of simulator experiences, connect people to career opportunities and celebrate and encourage up-and-coming aviation enthusiasts.

Jane Winter, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships for ACE, said this plaza showcases the organization’s absolute commitment to educating young people.

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

Located directly inside the main admission gates of SUN ’n FUN, the Future ’n Flight Plaza has a number of exciting exhibitions and immersive experiences for all ages:

Flight Sim Experience

It’s game-on all day long thanks to FlightSimExpo providing hands-on flight simulators that put you in the virtual cockpit and allow you to fly numerous aircraft in a variety of locations and weather conditions. Participating organizations and exhibitors include Dogfight Dynamics, Flight Velocity, FS Academy, Jetline Systems, MSI Computers, Propwash Simulation, SimFab, Thrustmaster, X-Plane, Yaw VR, and many more.

“We’ve taken it upon ourselves as an organization to spark the interest of the next generation and show them the pathways” – Jane Winter, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships for ACE

Career Fair

What began years ago as a single day affair at SUN ‘n FUN has become an integral part of every single day of the expo. More than 20 companies and organizations will have representatives on hand to talk about career paths and even schedule meetings and interviews with potential candidates. The employers vary from organizations like Frontier Airlines to Mission Aviation Fellowship to Southwest Airlines.

“Although the aviation industry is thriving, there is a shortage of pilots and mechanics, and everyone from the big companies to the little companies are trying to hire,” Winter said.

Junior Aces

Throughout the week there will be activities to especially engage with the 7 to 17 year-old audience. The Junior ACES program will host an array of STEM activities, “build a plane” workshops, air traffic controlling exercises, simulators and more across three buildings: the Junior ACES Tent in Future ‘n Flight Plaza, the Buehler Hangar and in the Skylab Innovation Center.

“There are so many little kids who don’t even know that there’s an avenue for them in aviation….so if we can get them to look into the future and realize, ‘I could actually do this myself,’ that’s success to me,” Winter said.

Celebrating Women in Aviation

On Wednesday, April 10 SUN ’n FUN is hosting the Women ACE’s Breakfast to showcase talented women who led the charge in the aviation industry to provide opportunities to current and future generations of girls and women. “We’re so proud to honor the women who have paved the way in commercial and military aviation careers,” Winter said.

Innovation Showcase

On February 23, the race toward personal air transportation was on display for all the world to see when “Good Morning America” crew filmed live at SUN ’n FUN the historic launch of Lift Aircraft’s HEXA, a vertical takeoff and landing vehicle that resembles a giant drone and is powered by 18 separate electric motors. It classifies as an ultralight aircraft and requires just an hour of training before an adult can go up and pilot the experimental vehicle.

Lift will be on site during SUN ‘n FUN to let people get up close and personal with the technology as one of more than a dozen exhibits in the Innovation Showcase.

Also being featured is a company who does drone deliveries—who Winter said be doing some “pretty interesting deliveries” during the expo—as well as a German company who has built an app that creates personal co-pilots that can assist individuals in flight.

International Oasis

Visitors, vendors and volunteers from more than 80 countries can check-in and find someone who speaks their language to share stories with and have their event questions answered.

Family Oasis   

Sponsored by Carilly and Badcock Furniture, the Family Oasis is designed to give your family a welcoming place to chill while enjoying the grounds of SUN ‘n FUN. Young families will especially enjoy an escape from the sun along with comfort stations, nursing areas, and more.

And don’t miss Kids Club at the Family Oasis at Night, which allows parents to enjoy the SUN ‘n FUN nightlife while their kids are engaged in a fun-filled night of their own! Every night is themed to the activities happening at the show. Each Kids Club ticket includes professional child care, dinner, snacks and activities.

Don't Miss Out on the 50th SUN 'n FUN Fly in!

April 9-14