LAKELAND - The Sun 'n Fun Fly-In's $25 ticket will buy a lot more this spring.
For the first time, standard admission will include access to the flight line, the area just off the main runways of Lakeland Linder Regional Airport where pilots attending the Fly-In park their aircraft.
That means the colorful "warbirds," the historic and restored fighter aircraft from World War II and earlier that are a Sun 'n Fun calling card, will be open for close inspection. So will the helicopters at "Choppertown" as well as the Fly-In's vintage and experimental aircraft.
It also means greater access to the builders and pilots who make the aircraft fly and bring them to Lakeland each spring as part of the country's second-largest fly-in.
"This fits with our mission of exposing people to aviation," said Sun 'n Fun spokeswoman Donna Gabriel. "It's a great opportunity to let people get up close and personal with the aircraft."
The Sun 'n Fun EAA Fly-In, now preparing for its 33rd installment, brings thousands of pilots and aviation enthusiasts to Lakeland each year for a week of flight celebration.
Everything from the most rudimentary Cessna to warbirds to elaborate corporate jets can be seen during the week.
In the past, the $25 ticket for the event bought access to the ultralight section, concessions, aircraft vendors and the daily air show.
Flight line passes were reserved for certified pilots and mechanics or members of Sun 'n Fun's Florida Air Museum and others affiliated with the Fly-In.
There were concerns that opening access would be a safety risk.
Gabriel said another large fly-in in Oshkosh, Wis., opened its flight line to the public several years ago, with no reports of increased problems.
"They found there was no higher incidence of injuries than before" the flight line was opened, Gabriel said.
This year's Sun 'n Fun Fly-In is scheduled for April 17-23 at the Sun 'n Fun campus at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport.
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