SEBRING - For the 10th year in a row, Sebring will host an annual exposition that year after year seems to grow and really take off.
The U.S. Sport Aviation Expo is celebrating its 10th anniversary of flying, food, fun and international aviation forums and speakers. Held today through Sunday at the Sebring Regional Airport, this year a total of about 130 light-sport and home-built aircraft and equipment associated with them will be on display, said Expo Director Jana Filip.
The expo runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today to Saturday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. The 2014 expo theme is "Home-built and Kit-buiilders."
"We welcomed more than 17,500 visitors to our event last year. This year, we've organized an even more interesting program of activities and we look forward to welcoming (visitors) to our 10th annual aviation celebration," she said. "I'm not sure people realize there will be about 20,000 people related to this event in Highlands County over the course of the four days. It will be great."
There are a few firsts at this year's expo, said Filip. A "hands-on" workshop will be held along with about 35 educational forums. At 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. each day, Stewart Aircraft Covering Systems of Cashmere, Wash., will hold hands-on workshops on aircraft covering including fabric, metal and wood finishing and paint.
"I think this is exciting because it helps enable people to build their aircrafts and the more hands-on experience, the better for them," said Filip.
For the first time, the expo events and forums will be streamed live via Internet, giving everyone access to the event whether they personally visit or not. The live stream can be found at www.liveATC.net/exporadio.
Filip said another slight change would be "enhanced" manufacturer hour-long showcases at 10:30 a.m., which will feature aircraft and live flight demonstrations. People considering purchasing an aircraft can also arrange for demonstration flights throughout the weekend.
As regularly done, local pilots of home-built aircraft can fly their aircraft to the event for display. A special home-built parking area as well as an area for under-the-wing camping has been set aside.
Tom Peghiny, a pilot and representative of Expo sponsor ultra-light aircraft company Flight Design CT of Woodstock, Conn., said he's attended the expo since its inception. He said his company will have three aircraft on display and the event is a great way for owners, pilots and just anyone interested in aviation to showcase products, learn about the latest in aviation and have "great fun."
"It's a great place to show your products; it's very product-oriented. It's a great place to fly in and see all the neat little airplanes," said Peghiny, attending the expo with his wife, Natasha.
During event forums, beginning flyers and expert pilots can get valuable tips. In addition, they can learn about the No. 1 killer of pilots and how to prevent it; how the Recreational Aviation Foundation is promoting flying for fun and what it takes to be a sport pilot, which requires just a valid driver license and medical fitness.
Other highlights include:
Food vendors serving barbecue and other food and beverages, with entertainment by the Flying Musician's Association from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. daily in the Show Center Tent.
At 1:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, guest speakers will discuss aviation past and present in the Show Center Tent. Thursday, EAA Homebuilding Community Manager Charlie Becker will discuss how home-building saved general aviation. Friday, Craig Fuller, chairman of the board for Redbird Flight Simulations and former president of the Aircraft Owner's and Pilot's Association, will discuss the future of light-sport aircraft.
Saturday, Tuskegee Airman Lt. Col. Leo R. Gray, who flew 15 combat missions over Europe during World War II and remained with the U.S. Air Force until 1984, will share stories of his experiences before, during and after the war.
Kimble McKay, Bob Wood and Ron Owen started the aviation expo in 2004 to develop an economic engine for the area and in particular the airport and the aircraft industry.
Daily admission is $20; $15 when tickets are purchased online. For information, see www.sport-aviation-expo.com.