Reaching for the Sky: A recap of SUN ‘n FUN 2019

For the past three years, Double M Aviation has helped high school and college students interested in aviation reach for the sky – literally.

This year was no different as Double M helped goals and dreams take off through its annual hangar party and raffle held during the SUN ‘n FUN International Expo & Fly-In. The fly-in is one of the world’s largest aviation events, bringing aviation to the general public while simultaneously raising funds for the Aerospace Center for Excellence.

During its 2019 hangar party & raffle, Double M Aviation raised $7,100, nearly $6,000 more than was raised last year. One hundred percent of the funds raised during the event go directly to the Lakeland Aero Club, a nonprofit high school flying organization that teaches students how to fly and restore antique airplanes.

“We are proud to support the Aero Club because it gives the younger generations a chance for hands-on experience in the aviation maintenance and pilot fields. It’s important to us to bring the next generation into aviation,” said Audrey Baxcajay, who has worked for Double M Aviation since 2015.

This year’s hangar party boasted an attendance of more than 300 people, including customers, vendors, and friends and family of Double M Aviation staff. In addition, representatives from local companies such as Sheltair Aviation – Lakeland and Mohawk Brand Agency were at the event to lend their support.

“It’s a big event for them and I’ll support them however I can,” said Austin Beyke, owner of Mohawk Brand Agency. “I also contribute in-kind sponsorship for some of the hangar party items for the auction, and I am honored to have the opportunity to give back.”

It’s all part of keeping the Lakeland Aero Club relevant, functioning and mostly, fun. The club was founded in 2010 by James Ray and became active in 2012 as an after-school activity. It is open for ages 14 to 24 and there are currently about 65 active members.

The Lakeland Aero Club has used the funds to support field trips to Oshkosh, Wisconsin for the annual EAA AirVenture Conference, and for tools and supplies for servicing the club’s Piper Cub and other various airplanes the club members maintain, said Baxcajay. For 2019, the club also plans to build a Zenith 750 Cruzer in support of Able Flight.  

The club is housed in a 12,500-square-foot hangar-clubhouse next to a runway at SUN ‘n FUN. It currently has three flying airplanes, five project airplanes, and a full motion flight simulator in which young pilots have logged more than 1,200 flight hours. “We’re grateful to have the chance to help the future success of the Lakeland Aero Club,” said Baxcajay. “We want to see it continue to grow and thrive.”