By Aaron Haase

The 2024 edition of the annual SUN ‘n FUN Fly-in in Lakeland, FL was its golden 50th anniversary! A wonderful week of events were planned at the aptly named “Spring Break” of aviation. Warbirds and vintage ranged wide and far from Kermit Weeks’ 1930 Sikorsky S-39 to Jared Isaacman’s Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29UB and even a very rare appearance of the Starfighters Incorporated Lockheed F-104 Starfighter.

The Ghost Squadron Alpha Jets in formation with the team’s MiG-29. [Photo by Aaron Haase]

Many warbirds showed up throughout the week, primarily on Tuesday during warbird portion of the air show. Types included around ten North American P-51 Mustangs, single examples of the Goodyear FG-1D Corsair, Grumman FM-2 Wildcat, Consolidated PBY Catalina, North American B-25J Mitchell, Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star, Douglas SBD-5 Dauntless, Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, and multiple trainer and cargo types. The show was also slightly hindered by a few warbird cancellations such as the Commemorative Air Force’s (CAF) Boeing  B-29 Superfortress (recently out of winter maintenance) and Consolidated B-24 Liberator, and Rod Lewis’ Grumman F7F Tigercat. Over the course of this article, we’ll go through day by day what warbird and vintage type flew and the overall award winners.  Let’s get to the action!

Tuesday’s airshow began with the debut of the Titan Aerobatic Team. Formerly known as the Aeroshell Aerobatic Team, Titan took to the skies with their newly-painted North American T-6 Texans. After they concluded, Nathan Hammond flew his 1956 de Havilland Canada Super Chipmunk in an aerobatic performance. The warbird arrival show took place next with a series of formation arrivals that included two Aero-Vodochody L-39 Albatross and one SIAI-Marchetti S.211 in the jet formation, six North American T-28 Trojans, nine T-6/SNJ/Harvard types, eight Nanchang CJ-6a, four SOCATA TB 30 Epsilons, and 16 Beechcraft T-34 Mentors. These formations were able to make several passes at varying altitudes before recovering. The T-34 Mentors then proceeded to fly a “missing man formation” using all their aircraft in four separate diamond formations with one of the diamond formations pulling as the missing man.

Once the T-34s recovered, the Jack Aces P-51 Mustang formation team took off to prepare for their performance. This is a wonderful performance flown by two experienced Mustang pilots, Louis Horschel flying the Cavalier P-51D Mad Max and Ariel Luedi flying the TF-51 Little Witch. They fly an impressive demonstration showcasing their formation flying ability through a series of rolls, loops, and passes. The final warbird act of the day was the debut of the Ghost Squadron, a demonstration team formed by Jared Isaacman that is part of the Polaris Program civilian space flight operations. The team aircraft include their leader flying his MiG-29UB Fulcrum, three Dassault-Dornier Alpha Jets, and four Aero Vodochody L-39 Albatross. The Tuesday and Wednesday evening performance were minus one of the Alpha Jets, but the Friday and Saturday evening performance included all eight jets. After the show concluded, a lot of photographers gathered in eager anticipation for the arrival of the Lewis Air Legends Lockheed C-121A Constellation known as Bataan. Once this beauty appeared, that concluded the warbird/vintage arrivals for the day.

The queen of SUN ‘n FUN 2024, Lewis Air Legends’ majestic Lockheed Constellation “Bataan”. [Photo by Aaron Haase]

The Wednesday show opened with a surprise airfield attack from the CAF’s “Tora Tora Tora” performance. Eight modified T-6 Texan/BT-13 aircraft were designed to emulate Japanese and American aircraft of WWII; five were replica Mitsubishi Zeros, two were replica Nakajima B5N Kate torpedo bombers, and one was a replica Curtiss P-36 Hawk. This performance is designed as a living history lesson demonstrating the December 7th, 1941 surprise attack on Pearl Harbor which catapulted the United States into World War II. After Tora Tora Tora recovered, Larry Kelley brought the fight to Japan with a performance of the Delaware Aviation Museum’s B-25J Panchito by recreating the Doolittle Raid mission. Once the B-25J was safely on the ground, the CAF sent up several more of their aircraft including their incredible SBD-5 Dauntless, P-51C Tuskegee Airmen, P-51D Gunfighter, and their T-34 Mentor Mellow Yellow.  Each of these aircraft made a few passes before recovering.

More warbird action commenced with the trainer warbird show plus one C-47 Skytrain Placid Lassie. The trainer types again included L-39 Albatross, T-28 Trojan, T-6 Texan, T-34 Mentor, TB-30 Epsilons, and Nanchang CJ-6 formations, and a couple of PT-17 Stearman biplanes. A few liaison type aircraft displayed as well. After all returned to earth, the Lewis Air Legends C-121A Constellation rumbled into the air. However it was forced to land a few minutes after takeoff with a nose gear issue, returning safely to the field. Doug Rozendaal flew his replica Howard DGA-6 Mister Mulligan in a modified Bendix Trophy-style race that was an excellent performance showcasing the history of this replica.

Mister Mulligan flown by Doug Rozendaal. [Photo by Aaron Haase]

The final warbird/vintage performance was flown by David Martin in his striking yellow Bücker Bü 133 Jungmeister. David flies a fantastic demonstration that really shows just how maneuverable this aircraft really is. The night show featured another performance by the Ghost Squadron flying the same seven aircraft as the Tuesday show. Lee Lauderback from Stallion 51 performed his beautiful twilight TF-51 Mustang routine after the Ghost Squadron recovered. The Titan Aerobatic Team closed out the vintage/warbird types for the evening.

The Thursday show was cancelled due to impending strong storms right near the start time of the show. No major damage occurred during the higher winds.

The Friday show was action packed and started off with Louis Horschel joining the U.S. Navy F/A-18F Demonstration Team in his FG-1D Corsair for the Navy Legacy Flight. Lewis Air Legends took to the skies again in the Connie and provided two glorious passes for the crowd in that beautiful four-engined piece of history before departing for home. The Titan Aerobatic Team flew their day show again but only as a three ship. Tora Tora Tora returned to the airspace to provide their history lesson again for the crowd in Lakeland, FL. Ghost Squadron also performed again, this time with eight aircraft.  It is quite a sight to see a Mig-29UB performing barrel rolls with three Alpha jets in a diamond formation — there is absolutely no other place in the world you would have seen that combination together. David Martin flew again in his Bucker Jungmeister showcasing its incredible maneuverability.  Steve Hinton Jr. arrived earlier in the show in Tom Friedkin’s P-51D Double Trouble two, joining the Lockheed-Martin F-35A Lightning II in formation to perform the USAF Heritage Flight which wrapped up the vintage/warbird flying for the day.

The US Navy Legacy Flight of FG-1D Corsair and Super Hornet. [Photo by Aaron Haase]
Another pass by the USAF Heritage Flight of a P-51D and F-35A. [Photo by Aaron Haase]

The Saturday show again started off with Louis Horschel joining the Super Hornet for the Navy Legacy flight. Scott “Scooter” Yoak was up next by displaying his P-51D Mustang Quicksilver in an aerobatic routine. Tora Tora Tora followed soon after and took the field by surprise with their performance. Several CAFe aircraft plus Jordan Brown’s C-45 Expeditor entered the airpsace next: these aircraft included the SBD-5 Dauntless, T-34 Mentor, P-51D Gunfighter, T-6 Texan, and another C-45 Expeditor. Steven Hinton Jr joined the USAF F-35 again in the Heritage Flight and the Jack Aces P-51 formation team rounded out the day show portion of the Saturday air show for the warbird and vintage types. The Saturday night twilight show again provided displays by the Ghost Squadron with all eight of their aircraft, Lee Lauderback in his TF-51 Crazy Horse 2, and the Titan Aerobatic Team in a three ship performance.

I was unable to attend the Sunday show, but the acts included Lieutenant Colonel Jerry “Jive” Kerby USAF (Ret.) flying his T-28B Trojan Mad Dog in an aerobatic routine, a timey reminder that the North American T-28 is celebrating 75 years this year! The Jack Aces P-51 team flew again as did Larry Kelley in the B-25J Panchito.  David Martin flew his Bucker Jungmeister and Doug Rozendaal flew Mister Mulligan as well.

The awards ceremony was held Saturday with Tim Savage’s beautifully restored P-40N Warhawk taking Grand Champion of the warbirds.  Tony Caldwell won the Silver Age Grand Champion in his beautiful 1934 Waco UMF-3.

Here is the list of Antique and Warbird award winners:


Tony Caldwell, Oklahoma City, OK: 1934 WACO UMF-3 N13571 — Silver Age Champion Antique

Stephen Zoerlein, St. Charles, IL: 1936 WACO YQC-6 N516212 — Silver Age Runner-Up Antique

Cecil Bradford, Huntersville, NC: 1942 Meyers OTW N34330 — WWII Era Preservation Award Antique

Sherrie Dietrich & Rocky Driggers, Hernando, FL: 1940 Luscombe N28412 — Bronze Age Monoplane Outstanding Closed Cockpit


Tim Savage, Ocala, FL: 1942 Curtiss P-40N Kittyhawk N740PN — Grand Champion

Jeffrey Berry, Bartow, FL: North American T-28C N80269 — Best Post WWII Trainer

Brandon Swanbom, San Antonio, FL: Nanchang CJ-6a N801VX — Judge’s Choice

William Rourke, Greenville, SC: North American T-28B N284MS — Preservation Award

Congratulations to the winners and a huge congratulations to everyone involved at SUN ‘n FUN for a successful 50th Anniversary!

From its humble beginnings in 1974 as a fly-in for sport aviation enthusiasts, the SUN ‘n FUN Aerospace Expo has grown into one of the largest and most successful aviation events on earth. It is Florida’s largest annual convention of any kind, and each year over 200,000 visitors flock to what has become known as “Aviation’s Season Opener” or “Spring Break for Pilots”.

Make sure to mark your calendar for the 51st SUN ‘n FUN Aerospace Expo on April 1-6, 2025. For more information visit

The Empire of the Sun: Lee Lauderback performs his twilight routine for the SUN ‘n FUN crowds. [Photo by Aaron Haase]