Aviation group goes sky high to inspire, support future generations of aerospace workers

SUN 'n FUN proceeds support Aerospace Center for Excellence

LAKELAND, Fla. – They're known for their aerobatics. A squadron of World War II planes that fly in close formation -- in a performance designed by military veterans.
News 6 was invited to experience this one-of-a-kind flight to see first-hand what these "war birds" are made of.

Reporter Carolina Cardona was geared up in a suit, an inflatable vest and a parachute. She then got on board a 1941 WWII T-6 plane, formerly known as an SNJ. These planes were used to prepare pilots for combat. The aircraft were built between 1940 and 1941 as advanced WWII military training aircraft --designed to perform all the maneuvers of a fighter plane at slower speeds.
At an altitude of about 2,600 feet and with a bird's-eye view of Lakeland, the planes that perform fly just a few feet apart from each other.
"We went down south of Lakeland and just did some formation changes -- a diamond and then we went into a line breast formation, a trail, then we did a little ups and downs for a little bit of fun," said Chris Orr, a former Navy fighter pilot.
The SUN 'n FUN International Expo was created 45 years ago by a group of aviation enthusiasts as a way to share their experiences-eventually, it paved the way for future generations of aviation workers. The industry has recently seen a decline in aerospace professionals.
"SUN 'n FUN raises money to support a museum and mostly a school," Orr said.
Proceeds from the annual event go toward the Aerospace Center for Excellence an educational campus for those interested in a career in aviation.
The Aerospace Center for Excellence was built on 25 acres of the SUN 'n FUN expo campus in Lakeland. High school and college students obtain private pilot licenses, aviation-related degrees and certificates.
"When they graduate, a lot of them have pilot's licenses and mechanics degrees so they can go out and start working in the aviation field right away," Orr said.

Air shows and events run from April 2 through April 7 as part of the expo. Click here for more information.

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