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GEICO Skytypers, Thunderbirds headline Melbourne’s Air and Space Show

The precision flight of the GEICO Skytypers six aircraft will take to the skies above America’s Space Coast this weekend as they join the Air Force Thunderbirds and top civilian aerobatic pilots at the Air and Space Show.

The Skytypers soar aboard six sleek 1940 SNJ-2 single-prop aircraft. The silver SNJ, Navy’s version of the Army’s T-6 Texan, was used by the pilots of the second World War and Korea to practice their flying skills and prepare for combat in the skies.

The squadron’s popularity has risen as they continue to co-headline many of the nation’s top air shows performing with both the Blue Angels and the Air Force Thunderbirds. The team is slotted to perform at around 1:20 p.m. on each day.

“It’s a very dynamic demo with a lot of things happening very quickly with some maneuvers a tribute to the era of the generation of these World War II airplanes,” Skytyper 1 and commanding officer Larry Arken stated on Friday as we stood on the flight line. “Other things are done for the spectators view like a heart or a bomb burst, and other maneuvers are tactical maneuvers which the military still uses.”

The squadron is lead by Arken, with Chris Thomas, Ken Johansen, Chris Orr, Steve Salmirs, and Tom Daly as pilots of aircraft 2 thru 6. Skytyper 7 pilots include Jim Record and Bob Johansen as the team’s advance pilots. The Skytypers 20 minute demonstration will tell the story of the dizzying maneuvers executed by the pilots 70 years ago during air-to-air combat.

“There is no better place to begin our 2017 season than on Florida’s Space Coast!” Team spokesperson Brenda Little said as the World Famous GEICO Skytypers Air Show Team prepared to rehearse on Friday. “This air show has become a favorite for a few of the team members.”

On the ground, the Skytypers spend their time at each air show site visiting hospitals and education centers with their public outreach program. The team has also been know to host student groups at the air show for a group discussion plane side, and the chance to climb aboard their aircraft.

Melbourne International Airport will be center stage for the two-day air show designed to spark interest in both aviation and honor the United States military. Beautiful weather will keep aviators on time each day as the opening ceremonies get underway at 11:30 a.m. Tickets for the air show remain available for both days via their web site or at the gate.

The dynamic sky show will begin with the National Anthem followed by the civilian pilots performances. A rare performance of an F-35 Lightning II is scheduled to take to the air at about 2:00 p.m., and will take part in the traditional airshow remembrance moment known as the Heritage Flight. The Thunderbirds will take-off minutes later aboard their sleek F-16C Fighting Falcons at about 3:10 p.m. to begin their 40-minute flight demonstration.

Melbourne airshow officials promises a fleet of vintage and current aircraft, both civilian and military, will be on display this weekend. Guests can get up close with several historic aircraft poised on the airport’s tarmac as aircraft engines echo and jets screech across the sky above.

(Charles A. Atkeison reports on aerospace and science. Follow his updates on social media via @Military_Flight.)

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Charles Atkeison

Written by Charles Atkeison

Charles A Atkeison is a long time aerospace journalist having covered both military and civilian aviation, plus 30 space shuttle launches from Cape Canaveral. He has produced multimedia aerospace content for CNN, London's Sky News, radio, print, and the web for twenty years. From flying with his father at age 5 to soaring as a VIP recently with the Navy's Blue Angels and USAF Thunderbirds, Charles continues to enjoy all aspects of flight.

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