Mustangs shine at Sun ’n Fun
Sun ’n Fun 2017 at Lakeland, Florida from 4-9 April was unfortunately affected by bad weather in northern Florida and adjoining states for much of the week which kept many aircraft away. As a result the turnout of vintage aircraft was quite poor, with only a dozen or so PRE-WWII aircraft present. Likewise warbird numbers and variety were down. Other than Stallion 51’s gathering of Mustangs the only WWII fighters were a Corsair and a P-40 Warhawk.
The 30th anniversary of the highly regarded Stallion 51 Mustang operation, based at nearby Kissimmee, promised to be a great event with over thirty P-51s invited, but again weather and some serviceability issues meant that only seventeen attended. However, for the Thursday airshow they pulled the stops out in what must have been one of the best warbird flying displays at a US show in recent years. Stallion 51’s Lee Lauderback led the way with an aerobatic display in Crazy Horse 2, then with another P-51D joined an F-16 Fighting Falcon and A-10 Thunderbolt for a USAF Heritage Flight routine. A big formation of ten Mustangs and two B-25 Mitchells then made a series of flypasts — somewhat unusual for a US airshow. Approaching seventy years since the start of the Berlin airlift, it was good to see the Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation’s Douglas C-54 in attendance; hopefully this will soon be joined by the Boeing C-97, which has recently been cleared to fly by the FAA.
Notable amongst the more modern warbirds was Canadair CF-5D Freedom Fighter N115DV, sold by the Canadian Forces in 2007 to a Delaware company, and a civilian-owned P&W Pt-6-powered early prototype PZL-130T Turbo Orlik.
One of the warbird award-winners this year was newly restored Temco YT-35 Buckaroo N4PB/50-0739. A development of the Globe Swift for the 1949 USAF trainer competition eventually won by the Beech T-34 Mentor, it was one of 26 Buckaroos built, with the only major order coming from the Royal Saudi Air Force for ten. This was the first time that two Buckaroos have been seen together for many years as it joined fellow YT-35 N68773/500740, a regular fly-in visitor.
An interesting new exhibit at the Sun ’n Fun museum is Boeing 307 N19904. Originally delivered to TWA and then operated by Howard Hughes as his private transport, the forward section of the fuselage was converted to a house boat in the 70s and lived in the waterways around Ft Lauderdale latterly named Cosmic Muffin. It was finally taken out of the water and acquired by the museum in 2016.
Sun ‘n Fun 2018 is scheduled for 10-15 April next year. www.flysnf.org Report & photos: Nigel Hitchman
Colourful line-up of North American P-51 Mustangs at Lakeland
Two P-51s joined an F-16 and an A-10 for the USAF Heritage Flight routine
Former Canadian Forces CF-5D Freedom Fighter now owned by a US company
Civilian-owned P & W Pt-6-powered early prototype of the Polish PZL-130T Turbo Orlik
Award-winning, newly restored Temco YT-35 Buckaroo N4PB
Lee Lauderback performs his signature ‘undercarriage roll’ during an aerobatic display in Crazy Horse 2
Sun ’n Fun Museum’s former houseboat Cosmic Muffin