The Gator Fly-In and Armed Services Appreciation Day will land on Saturday, March 25, for its 7th annual event, hosted by the Gainesville Regional Airport and University Air Center.
Pilots will arrive by air and visitors can arrive by car at the General Aviation Entrance on Waldo Road to park and take a shuttle to the festivities. Both parking and the shuttle are free, and the event lasts from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“It’s an exciting day for our community — especially anyone who is curious about flight — to learn more about aviation,” airport CEO Allan Penksa said in a press release.
Military, civilian and homebuilt aircraft will arrive for visitors to view on the ground and watch fly above. The list of attending aircraft currently includes a C-130 Hercules, UH-60 Blackhawk, T-34B Mentor, P-8 Poseidon, Shandscair helicopter and Alachua County Sheriff’s Office helicopter.
A classic cars and motorcycles display, food trucks, live music and kids’ corner will also be open throughout the event.
This year’s fly-in will be held in honor of retired Air Force Col. Joseph W. Kittinger. A UF alumnus, Kittinger held the world record for the highest skydive (19 miles) from 1960 to 2012 and earned a Purple Heart in the Vietnam War. Kittinger died on Dec. 9, 2022.
The fly-in will have a new event in his honor: a Col. Joe ‘Pamcake’ Breakfast at 8:30 a.m. Donations at the breakfast will go toward the International Sky Diving Museum & Hall of Fame, a favorite charity of Kittinger. And visitors can also buy a copy of Kittinger’s autobiography “Come Up and Get Me.”
“We are honored to dedicate this year’s event to our dear friend and Gator Aviator Col. Joe Kittinger with a fitting and poignant ‘Flown West’ ceremony with a squadron of beautiful T-6 Texan and T-34 Mentors,” Penksa said.
The ceremony will start at 11:15 a.m. followed by two speakers: retired Air Force Col. Michael Hare and retired Navy Capt. Bill Pokorny.
Attendees will get to vote for the People’s Choice and Best of Show Airplane contests.
Schedule of the day’s events:
- 8:30 a.m. – 11 a.m. First Annual Col. Joe “Pamcake” Breakfast
- 9 a.m. – aircraft arrive and park
- 10 a.m. – Helicopter and airplane rides begin; Pilot Seminar with Jamie Beckett
- 11 a.m. – Opening Ceremony
- 11:15 a.m. – Flown West Ceremony for Col. Joe Kittinger
- 11:20 a.m. – Speakers begin
- Noon – Live Music, food trucks
- 1 p.m. – People’s choice and Best of Show Airplane Contest Announced
- 3 p.m. – Final thank you and prep for departures