Sun 'n Fun begins as FAA tower closures loom - WFLA News Channel 8

Sun 'n Fun begins as FAA tower closures loom

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Lakeland Linder Regional Airport becomes one of the busiest airports in the world this week as thousands of pilots descend on Lakeland for the annual Sun ‘n Fun fly-in and expo.

"We have grown to approximately 200,000 people will come through our gates or fly in over the next six days that actually includes ten to 11,000 airplanes that are moving in and around the airfield," explained Sun ‘n Fun President John Leenhouts.

While getting ready for the fly-in to start, airport officials had to shift their attention to something else. The FAA announced plans to close Lakeland Linder's air traffic control tower as part of the government's sequestration cuts.

This month 149 towers across the country were set to close, including the ones at Lakeland Linder and Albert Whitted in St. Petersburg. The FAA postponed the closures Friday until June.

"We get a little bit of breathing room. We can actually enjoy this week now with Sun ‘n Fun," said Lakeland's Airport Director Gene Conrad.

Conrad had planned to bring a plan to the Lakeland City Commission next week to keep the control tower open through a private contractor. He said arrangements were already made to staff the air traffic control tower during Sun ‘n Fun if the government would have pulled its controllers out.

"Who knows where we're going to go from here. We're going to continue planning," said Conrad.

While all those details are worked out, the show in the sky begins Tuesday and runs through Sunday. Gates open at 8 a.m. The daily air show is from 3- 6 p.m.

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