SUN ’n FUN CAMPUS, LAKELAND, FL. – John R. Leenhouts, a 27-year veteran of the United States Navy with a distinguished record of service as a carrier fighter pilot along with an extensive list of community involvement, has been named President of SUN ’n FUN Fly-In, Inc. The announcement was made by SUN ’n FUN Board Chairman William A. Eickhoff after the SUN ’n FUN Board of Directors unanimously approved the selection.
“SUN ’n FUN is very proud to announce that John “Lites” Leenhouts will serve as our next President,” Eickhoff said. “We were all very impressed with his distinguished military career but we were also happy to learn of his involvement with various volunteer-driven organizations as well as his enthusiastic interest in general aviation aircraft and activities. He has been a regular and active participant at virtually every SUN ’n FUN Fly-In over the past 30 years. The only events John has missed are when he was away from the United States on active duty with the Navy. He was the outstanding choice in a highly qualified field of candidates. We are exceedingly pleased to welcome John Leenhouts to the SUN ’n FUN organization.”
Eickhoff said more than 180 candidates applied for the position vacated when former SUN ’n FUN President John Burton accepted the position of President of the Florida Air Museum (FAM). Leenhouts becomes only the third person to lead the professional staff of the organization and its international aviation event during its illustrious 38-year history, following Burton’s 12-year tenure who was in turn preceded by Billy Henderson.
“I’m tremendously excited about this amazing opportunity,” Leenhouts exclaimed. “This is literally a dream come true for me and I look forward to building on past accomplishments as we create pathways for continued growth and success. I hope my past participation at SUN ’n FUN will help expedite my transition to the event and the organization. My wife, Nancy, and I are both anxious to re-locate to Lakeland and become active and integral members of the community. I can’t wait to get started!”
Leenhouts obtained his private pilot license in 1970 and has accumulated more than 10,000 hours as pilot in command of various military, antique and civilian aircraft that include A-7, F-14, F/A-18A-F, A-6, E-2, C-1, C-2, S-3, P-3, SH-3, SH-60, T-33, T-28, F-16, and F-5 (military) as well as Cessna 150, 152, 170, 172, 182; Piper 140, 160, 180 (civilian); and Beech T-34 B&C, B-17, B-24, B-25, B-29, PT-13, PT-17, BT-13, AT-6, SNJ, P-51, AD-5 and TBM (vintage military aircraft aka “Warbirds”). He also holds Airline Transport Pilot (ATP), Certified Flight Instructor (CFI), Multi-Engine and Seaplane ratings.
A 1973 graduate of Oklahoma State University with a B.S. degree in Aerospace Engineering, Leenhouts entered the United States Navy via the Aviation Reserve Officer Candidate Program. Commissioned an Ensign in March, 1974, he was designated a Naval Aviator on August 22, 1975 at NAS Kingsville, Texas. After a distinguished 27-year career, he retired from the Navy in 2000 holding the rank of Captain. Leenhouts holds the distinction of performing more landings (or “traps” in naval nomenclature) on an aircraft carrier than any other naval aviator in U.S. history.
The 37th annual “Spring Break for Pilots and friends” will be held March 29 – April 3 at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport in Lakeland, Florida.
Bob Knight assumes the SUN 'n FUN Chairmanship after serving on the Board for the past ten years and most recently as its Vice Chairman.
SUN ’n FUN President John Burton is taking on a new role and a new challenge: President of the Florida Air Museum.
About 160,000 are expected at this week's Sun 'n Fun Fly-In aircraft extravaganza.