2016 TICO Warbird Air Show
Story by Ken Kula
As part of a group of aviation photographers in the 1980s, we used to have a saying that if it’s TICO, it must be Spring! After all, that top-notch warbird air show occurred at the Space Coast Regional Airport in Titusville Florida every March, when the earth was warming and flowers were finally blooming up and down the winter-weary Atlantic Coast. The TICO air show is usually the first big warbird air show on the East Coast every year, and in 2016, the Valiant Air Command’s 39th air show is already complete. A diverse group of warbirds and active military aircraft, pilots, crews, owners and fans gathered together for a three day salute to the past and present of military aviation.
The Valiant Air Command (VAC) formed in the 1970s as the warbird movement in the U.S. was gathering momentum. Its main purpose is as “a 501(3)c educational organization dedicated to the preservation of, education about and commemoration of Warbirds from all eras and the men and women who flew, maintained and fought in them”. The airport in Titusville is home to the VAC Museum, full of static and flyable warbirds. Each year, an air show full of home-based and visiting aircraft is presented as a living part of their charter, as well as a major fundraiser. Here’s just a part of what you missed:
In 2016, the flying portion of their show included the Air Force’s F-16 Viper and Navy’s F/A-18 Super Hornet demonstration teams. A USDA Forest Service UH-1H Huey helicopter demonstrated a firefighting water basket drop. Matt Younkin flew his awesome Beech 18 aerobatic sequence. And Paul Schulten flew aerobatics in his Christen Eagle too. But, in reality, the days and the new Friday night air show belonged to warbirds of all size, ages and shapes.
World War II vintage aircraft always draw attention. The AeroShell Aerobatic Team performed in their North American T-6 Texans. Examples of P-51 Mustang and F4U Corsair fighters took to the skies, both types were used in World War II and the Korean War. Multiple B-25 bombers flew, and the Commemorative Air Force’s B-29 “Fifi” attracted throngs of spectators around it. A highlight was when the Museum’s C-47, which participated in the World War II D-day landings, dropped parachutists.
Vietnam War-era aircraft were well-represented. Helicopters, such as the AH-1 Cobra and UH-1 “Huey” flew. The VAC’s own A-4C Skyhawk, which was restored by Skyhawk Ventures and returned to the sky in 2011, also flew. Randy Ball performed MiG-17 aerobatics, complete with afterburner. North American T-28s filled the sky with smoke and thunder as well.
There was a large group of trainer aircraft on the grounds… including radial and in-line piston engine types as well as jet trainers. Liaison aircraft included a former Austrian Air Force L-19A Bird Dog. The static aircraft display included many of the Museum’s collection of 40-plus non-flyable types. The Museum’s restored F-11F Tiger was a rare supersonic fighter of the 1960s vintage. An F-4 Phantom, F-105 Thunderchief and A-6 Intruder were just a few of the Vietnam-era jets on display that have been carefully restored to pristine static condition by the Museum.
After enduring next winter in the Northern Hemisphere, there’ll a light at the end of the tunnel… another TICO Air Show. Next year’s show, in 2017, will be their 40th event, and there’s no telling what exotic aircraft of the past and present may show up. But after looking at Dietmar Schreiber’s photos from the 2016 show, you can anticipate that there’ll be a diverse group of aircraft, both old and new, for one of the season’s first large warbird air shows of the year.