LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – In a matter of days, the Lakeland Linder International Airport is said to become the world’s busiest airport as hundreds of thousands of aviation enthusiasts swarm.

“We have astronauts speaking. We have industry leaders. We have town halls,” said John Leenhouts, who is retiring as president and CEO of Sun ‘n Fun after this year’s expo.

The Sun ‘n Fun Aerospace Expo will kick off April 5 and go through April 10 in Lakeland. It is described by the organization as Florida’s largest annual convention of any kind, and the second largest air show in the world.

According to Leenhouts, advanced ticket sales are showing a 20% increase over last year’s sales. It is welcome news since the expo was one of the first large-scale events to be canceled at the start of the pandemic.

“It was a $6 million loss to the Sun ‘n Fun organization,” said Leehouts.

The event helps pay for Sun ‘n Fun’s multiple education programs, including the Aerospace Center for Excellence.

Leenhouts had to sell planes, trucks and automobiles to keep the budget in the black.

“It was amazing the stuff that we said – maybe we just don’t need to have that right now. We gotta survive,” said Leenhouts.

After taking 2020 off, the expo returned in 2021 with large crowds and minor COVID-19 restrictions. This year, all restrictions are lifted. The campus is set to welcome more than 230,000 people and 2,000 aircraft.

“We are preparing to become the world’s busiest airport for about 5 days,” said Adam Lunn, interim assistant airport director at Lakeland Linder International Airport.

The airport starts to plan for the influx of aircraft in October.

The Federal Aviation Administration sends 30 to 40 extra air traffic controllers to coordinate all of those landings and take offs. The skilled air traffic controllers will be arriving in the area this weekend to begin training.

The airport makes accommodations to make sure all of the planes can come in and out of the airport safely.

“We actually turn one of our taxiways into a runway. We actually have reduced separation here. So basically that means we are allowed to land in the aircraft behind each other with only 1,500 feet of separation. So they’re landing simultaneously on the taxiway while also having aircraft landing on the main runway which is used year round,” said Lunn.

Amazon Air, which operates at the airport, will not be able to fly during the Thunderbirds show and has chosen to drop some flights to not interfere, according to Lunn.