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Look Up! Air Shows Are Taking Flight

March 09–When it comes to air shows in Florida, the big-name Blue Angels and Thunderbirds are the top draws. In 2017, the calendar is front-loaded with shows featuring the top-notch aerobatic teams from the Navy and Air Force.

For the Air Force Thunderbirds, the spectacle begins this weekend with the TICO Warbird Air Show in Titusville.

Although the Thunderbirds are the highlights on Saturday and Sunday, a show today features a sunset aerobatic team performance and concludes with fireworks. Now celebrating its 40th year, the event at Space Coast Regional Airport is hosted by the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum and will include civilian and military demonstration flights with more than 40 aircraft on display. Rides will be available on some aircraft including the Tico Belle C-47. Also on hand will be World War II re-enactors, historic military vehicles and tanks, a collectible car show, as well as entertainment and food vendors.

Advance tickets cost $20 for 13 and older, $5 for children 6-12 and free for 5 and under. Parking is free. The airport is at 355 Golden Knights Blvd. in Titusville.

Up next for the Thunderbirds will be the Melbourne Air & Space Show on April 1-2 and a final stop in Florida up in the Panhandle for the Gulf Coast Salute at Tyndall Air Force Base on April 22-23.

At the Melbourne show, the Thunderbirds will be joined by the French Air Force’s Patrouille de France jet demonstration team, which has not performed in the U.S. in more than 30 years. Also on tap will be a performance from the military’s newest fighter jet, the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, which will fly together with a P-51 Mustang to demonstrate the past and future of the Air Force. Civilian acts include a Harrier jump jet, a T-33 Shooting Star used by the Air Force in the 1950s and 1960s, the GEICO Skytypers vintage World War II precision flight maneuver team, the B-25 Bomber “Panchito” and stunt flyer Kent Pietsch, who will try to land his airplane on a moving RV.

If purchased before March 13, advance tickets are $18 for 13 and older, $9 for children 6-12 and free for 5 and under. Parking is an additional $15 when purchased online or $20 day of show. The event is sponsored by Northrop Grumman and held at the international airport, 1 Air Terminal Parkway in Melbourne.

The Navy’s Blue Angels make their Florida debut at the Sun’n Fun Fly-In at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport on April 8-9.

The Fly-In is a weeklong event that draws thousands of airplanes to Lakeland each year. It features daily performances Tuesday-Friday and the headlining acts Saturday and Sunday. This is the 43rd year of Sun’n Fun, and the week will include the arrival of an honor flight carrying World War II and Korean War veterans from Washington, D.C., a vintage jet display, B-1 bomber, twilight midweek airshow as well as a weekend classic car show and hundreds of vendors and displays. It’s the only spring stop for the Blue Angels.

More than 200,000 people are expected to attend. Daily admission is $37 for adults, $15 for those ages 11-17, free for 10 and under. The airport is at 3900 Don Emerson Drive in Lakeland.

The Blue Angels, based in Pensacola, will make three more stops in the state stretching into November: the mid-summer Pensacola Beach Air Show on July 8, a two-day performance at Naval Air Station Jacksonville on Nov. 4-5 and the Homecoming Air Show at Naval Air Station Pensacola on Nov. 11-12. Air shows held at military bases are free.

Several other big shows are planned for the year. Tavares has its Seaplane-A-Palooza on April 1-2; the Fort Lauderdale Air Show featuring the Canadian Snowbirds performance squad is May 6-7; and the inaugural Miami Beach Air & Sea Show is May 27-28.

Air shows

Florida skies will be filled with flights of fancy and awe several weekends this year. Here’s a sampling:

Saturday and Sunday: TICO Warbird Air Show featuring the Thunderbirds in Titusville: valiantaircommand.com/airshow

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