Valiant Air Command’s TICO Air Show – Hey… I Remember That!


Every few weeks or so, you’ll see a new report here about an air show or event that contains some recollections and images from a bygone era.  Some reports will review air shows no longer produced while others may feature some notable past military exercises; all will contain some long-since retired aircraft.  As we here at Classic Warbirds go through our extensive collections of images (slides and negatives as well as digital archives), we often mutter under our breaths “Hey, I remember that…”, and so, can you do the same?


Event: Valiant Air Command’s TICO Air Show

Location: Space Coast Regional Airport, Titusville Florida.

Reported Dates: 1989 – 1998

During the 1990’s, traveling from New Hampshire to Florida to take in the Valiant Air Command’s TICO air show was a sure sign that Spring was on the way.  A three day March air show, it including the Friday afternoon arrival and practice show… part of a long weekend of smoke and thunder.  The TICO show was one of the most talked about warbird shows of the year, with plenty of the southeastern U.S.’s retired and active military aircraft displayed on the ground and in the air.  After a long harsh winter, the inviting temperatures, semi-tropical green foliage, and the blue waters of central Florida’s Atlantic coast were a welcome distraction too.

Fuel was relatively inexpensive back then, and one of the treats of a TICO air show was the large amount of different aircraft that took to the air.  One ramp full of warbirds was opened to the public for viewing until late morning; it turned into a “hot” ramp full of taxiing aircraft lined up for the afternoon flying display.  In the days before instant internet information, one never knew what types of planes would appear.  Over the years, jets included examples of: a Fouga Magister, CL-41, F-86 and MiG-17, civilian T-37, L-39s and T-33s.  Bombers ranged from B-17 and B-24 heavies to multiple B-25s and A-26s, a PV-1 Harpoon and an AD-1 Skyraider.  Trainers were numerous; T-6/SNJ/NA-50, T-34, PT-22, T-28, CJ-6s, Yaks, and twin Beeches were seen in many colors of the rainbow.  Liaison aircraft including L-19s and O-2s, plus exotics like a Broussard, an ME-208, and Fuji LM-1s were in abundance. Transports were led by the VAC’s flagship C-47A “TICO Belle”, and included examples of a Lockheed 12, C-45, C-119, C-123 and R4D-8 (tall tail C-117/DC-3) too.  Fighters the likes of P-51s, a P-47, Corsairs, Sea Furys, and a Spanish HA-1112 – an ME-109G built under contract – all graced the ramp.  In a 10 year span, my library of warbird airplane photos overflowed with variety.  The Saturday night banquet and memorabilia auction was another highlight; great food, and fund-raising goodies like signed rare prints and paintings, models and apparel, and even an aircraft or two.

Static military and government aircraft ranged from jets like F/A-18s, Harriers, S-3 Vikings, OV-10s, and A-6 Intruders to trainers like a T-37 and T-2.  NOAA WP-3D and Air Force Reserve WC-130H Hurricane Hunters were displayed during the tropical storm off-season, and drew interested crowds.  Often, tactical flight demos from the likes of an F-111 and F-16 added more muscle to the already overflowing show.  Some of the VAC’s own museum aircraft were always displayed too, as much of the museum’s collection was moved outdoors to accommodate the Saturday night auction and banquet.

The Space Coast Regional Airport was originally constructed by the U.S. Government in 1943 as an auxiliary airfield for the Sanford Naval Air Station, in nearby Orlando.  In 1947 the Navy released the airport to civilian authorities.  The field gained importance during NASA’s space development in the 1960s and 70s, as it is close to Cape Canaveral and the Merritt Island tracking facilities.  Today it is a stand-alone civilian airport governed by a local Airport District Authority.

Luckily, the Valiant Air Command’s TICO air show still exists today, and although many of the aircraft have changed, the venue and theme of military warbirds in the air hasn’t.  The show in 2014 marks the 37th consecutive year of this warbird extravaganza.

Ken Kula


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