Ten things not to miss during the 2024 airshow season

Every airshow season brings with it some stunning one-off events, new performers, retiring aircraft and fond farewells. Here, we try to summarise the unmissable moments that will make the 2024 season a memorable one, and the outgoing aircraft and displays which we will probably never get another chance to enjoy.

Last season we said an unexpected farewell to the Belgian F-16 solo display, witnessed the last airshow appearances of the Czech Mi-171, Italian A-11 and French C-135, enjoyed the world flying display debut of the F-15QA/EX, and welcomed the world’s only airworthy Fiat G.91 and Caproni CA.3 onto the airshow circuit, as well as the world’s first civilian-operated MiG-23. Some of those moments were impossible to accurately predict and prepare for, only announced with a few days’ notice, and inevitably the same will be true of some highlights of the 2024 seaso – but other defining moments of the coming year are much easier to predict.

A rare edition of AirVG, featuring a farewell to Europe’s last MiG-21s

Following the retirement of Romania’s MiG-21s last year, Croatia is now the last operator of the type in Europe. This is soon going to change, with the Croatian jets due to be retired imminently, possibly within the next few weeks. MiG fans will, therefore, want to head to Zagreb on the 11th May, when an airshow will be held at Zagreb International Airport to celebrate the end of MiG operations and mark the arrival of Croatia’s newly-acquired Rafales, which arrived in the country just a few days ago.

Photo: City of Velika Gorica (via Facebook)

Croatia operates an eclectic assortment of MiG-21s of several different variants and ages, all of them purchased second- or third-hand. Now, it seems just four jets are active, and between them they only fly sorties every week or two. At AirVG, at least three MiG-21s (a MiG-21bis D, MiG-21R and MiG-21 UMD) are due to appear on static display, and at least one MiG-21bis D is due to perform in the flying display. This could well be the last time that a military-operated MiG-21 performs at a European airshow.

Additionally, Croatia’s new Rafales will make their first public appearance, taking pride of place in both the flying and static displays. In fact, every single type of aircraft operated by the Croatian Air Force – with the exception of those operated by the aerial firefighting squadron – is expected to perform; a very rare chance to see this small and unusual air arm in action.

The “last demonstration” by a USMC Harrier, MCAS Cherry Point

If MiG-21s aren’t your thing, there is another historic farewell set to occur on the 11th-12th May. The Harrier is one of the most recognisable and charismatic aircraft of the second half of the 20th century, and the Anglo-American AV-8B+ variant is its most advanced derivitive. Sadly, though, even this much-upgraded variant is now coming towards the end of its useful life; the US Marine Corps plans to phase out their AV-8B+ Harrier IIs by 2026. Its time on the airshow circuit is coming to a close rather sooner than that, and the type’s one and only airshow appearance of 2024 will be at the MCAS Cherry Point Airshow. This may not be the Harrier’s final airshow appearance in US service – there’s still time for several static displays and flypasts, should the squadron have the desire – but Cherry Point has been billed as its final proper airshow “demonstration”.

The USAF A-10 Demonstration Team’s farewell tour

The US Air Force’s A-10C Thunderbolt II solo demonstration has been a stalwart of US airshows for many years. Its energetic displays – often aided by ground pyrotechnics and featuring brightly painted special-scheme jets – could be seen not just at the country’s biggest airshows, but also at smaller events; the jet’s comparitively low speed meant that it was classed as a Category II airshow performer, enabling it to fly at venues with constrained aerobatic boxes that are simply incapable of hosting most other jet demonstrations.

The entire US airshow scene will, therefore, take a hit at the end of this season, when the A-10 Demonstration Team is stood down. This does not signal the end of the A-10 in US service – the type will solider on until around 2029 under the current plans and some units will likely continue to conduct static display appearances, flypasts and close air support demonstrations – but there will no longer be any opportunities to see a proper, fully-aerobatic A-10 performance.

The A-10 will perform at 22 airshows across the USA in 2024, with its final performance being at the Pacific Airshow in Huntington Beach, CA, on the 4th-6th October.

Sweden’s SK 60 to bow out with final phenomenal solo displays

The Swedish Air Force’s gorgeous little SK 60 jet trainers will finally leave service in June, over 60 years since the type first flew. The SK 60 (known by its manufacturer as the Saab 105) is a diminuative aircraft and might perhaps be underestimated as an airshow performer by those who have not had the privilage of seeing it in person, but its display pilot, Capt. Nils Schylström, delivers a captivating performance including extraordinary slow rolls, seemless dirty aerobatics, negative-G turns and even a partial rolling circle. The performance has won many accolades, including the King Hussain Memorial Sword for the most polished and precise display at the Royal International Air Tattoo 2023.

In the weeks leading up to its retirement, the SK 60 will perform a short but busy airshow season with stops at the Kjeller Airshow (Norway), Höga Kusten Flygdag (Sweden) and the Sola Airshow (Norway), among others. A farewell event will be held on the 18th June in Linköping, Sweden, and the type’s final ever airshow appearance in military service will be at Antidotum Airshow Leszno in Poland on the 21st-22nd June.

Although Sweden is the last remaining operator of the SK 60, this will probably not be the last opportunity to see the jet perform at airshows: one is already operated by the Swedish Air Force Historic Flight, and it is expected that several more will be handed over in a fully airworthy condition. However, it seems unlikely that the jets will perform in private ownership with either the frequency or the flamboyance that we have been able to enjoy from Capt. Schylström. This is a performance that is worth making a special effort to see, before it is too late.

So long, Sukhois; the last chance to catch a European Su-22

After much to-and-fro over the exact retirement date, it is now looking increasingly likely that 2024 will be the last full year of operation for Poland’s Sukhoi Su-22 fleet. Once flown widely in Europe, the Polish Air Force is the last remaining European operator of the Su-17/20/22, and this means that any realistic chance of seeing the type at a western airshow is about to evaporate for good.

Poland no longer shows off its Soviet-era hardware very often, and hasn’t performed its Su-22 role demonstration for several years now, but the type will be making a few public appearances in 2024. That will reportedly include a flypast over Warsaw for Polish Armed Forces Day on the 15th August and further flypasts at the Malbork and Łask air base open days on the 30th August and 21st September respectively.

A final season for the spectacular Danish F-16?

Although no formal announcement to this effect has been made, it is prudent to assume that 2024 could be the final airshow season for Denmark’s outstanding F-16 solo display, with the type now scheduled for retirement in 2025. Even if you have seen other F-16 displays, this one is worth seeking out; remarkably impressive, the show features dynamic sequences of energy-on-crowd high-alpha loaded rolls and some extremely tight turns, demonstrating the fastest sustained turn rate of any aircraft we saw at an airshow in 2023. While last year’s photogenic Dannebrog livery has now been consigned to the history books, there are rumours of a new special scheme being prepared for 2024.

So far, displays have been planned at the Sola Airshow (Norway), Royal International Air Tattoo (UK), Nordic Air Power (Sweden) and the Sanicole International Airshow (Belgium).

The RAF’s new F-35B Role Demonstration

It’s not all retirees, and there is a smattering of new military airshow acts joining the circuit this year. Probably the most hotly-anticipated of these is the Royal Air Force’s new F-35B Lightning Role Demonstration. This is strictly a demonstration, rather than a display – and in UK parlance, this means that it will likely be non-aerobatic and less sophisticated than the likes of the RAF’s Typhoon FGR.4 display team. Still, the ten minute performance is due to include fast and slow flybys, a weapons bay pass, high-G turns and a hover demonstration.

The UK will only be the third nation to launch formal airshow performances with the F-35, and the second nation to do so with the STOVL F-35B variant. In a year when the Red Arrows are spending several weeks in Canada and other military participation is being stretched thin, the new F-35 display will add some much-needed noise to the British airshow circuit. The first display will be at the RAF Cosford Air Show on the 9th June, with follow-up appearances at the Royal International Air Tattoo, Old Buckenham Airshow and Duxford Battle of Britain Airshow. Additional performances may yet be added to the schedule.

Fighter Aviation Engineering’s Tempest II and the Sywell Airshow Weekend

One of the most anticipated warbird restorations of recent years has now, finally, been completed, and Fighter Aviation Engineering’s Tempest II is almost ready to make its flying display debut. This is the only flying Tempest in the world, and when it finally performs at an airshow, it will be the type’s first flying display appearance for over 50 years; little wonder the anticipation is at fever pitch.

At the time of writing, the Tempest is due to perform at its first airshow on the 5th May, at IWM Duxford’s VE-themed Flying Day. However, there’s an even more exciting prospect for warbird enthusiasts coming up, when the Sywell Airshow bursts back onto the airshow circuit after a ten year hiatus. The show is now being masterminded by Richard Grace, the owner of Fighter Aviation Engineering – and yes, the Tempest is expected to be there.

But far more than just the Tempest will be taking part at the Sywell Airshow on the 22nd-23rd June; this is now set to be one of the biggest warbird airshows in the world, with historic aircraft flying in from across Europe and even the United States. Eight Spitfires, six Mustangs (the biggest UK gathering for years, including the British airshow debut of “Miss AVA” and an apperance by newly-imported “Jersey Jerk”), three Corsairs and two Buchons are on the flying display list, as well as examples of the P-47, B-25, B-17, P-38, Fury, Tempest, Wildcat, Bearcat, Fokker D.VII and Fokker DR.1. A newly-completed Fokker D.XXI, making its British airshow debut, will also have a starring role.

There is currently no guarantee that the Sywell Airshow will return in 2025, so it’s probably worth heading to this year’s edition, in case it transpires to be a one-off.

Dakotas gather in Europe for D-Day 80

Many airshows this year will feature C-47s and DC-3s in the flying display as we mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day, but the most impressive spectacles will doubtless be at those events supported by the D-Day 80 Legacy Tour, a joint effort being organised by AeroLegends in the UK and the D-Day Squadron from the USA. While the group of aircraft will be a fair bit smaller than in 2019’s version, they will still make for quite a sight, with 12 examples of the C-47 and its derivatives currently on the roster. This will include five from the USA, three from the UK and one each from Switzerland, Finland, France and New Zealand. Among the highlights are “That’s All Brother”, which led the main airborne invasion during D-Day itself, and – hopefully – “Night Fright”, which is in the final phases of its restoration to flight.

While there will be tour stops across Europe, the biggest and most spectator-friendly events will be on the days around the D-Day anniversary itself. The aircraft will come together to perform at the Duxford Summer Airshow on the 1st-2nd June, with the first day featuring a mass parachute drop by over 100 paratroopers. On the second day, the entire formation will parade over the airfield before heading over the English Channel to Normandy. Once in France, the fleet will perform more flyovers and parachute drops from the 3rd-9th June, based out of Cherbourg.

Ghost Squadron impresses with new and improved airshow routine

The Ghost Squadron is not exactly new, having made its airshow debut in 2022, but they are nonetheless worth keeping an eye out for. Flying one MiG-29UB, three Alpha Jet As and four L-39C Albatrosses, the group’s airshow appearances over the past few seasons have attracted much attention, but have only consisted of simple, non-aerobatic flypasts – usually by relatively small groups of aircraft.

This has all changed in 2024; the team has developed a proper airshow routine, featuring bomb bursts, high-G manoeuvring and even mixed-type formation aerobatics. They are also performing in larger groups than before, with up to eight jets in the air at any one time; this makes them comfortably the largest civilian jet aerobatic team in the world today.

The debut of this newly-improved performance was at Sun ‘n Fun on the 9th-14th April, with further shows planned in Fort Lauderdale, Atlantic City and Oceana. They are also scheduled to take part in EAA AirVenture, although this will likely be an old-style non-aerobatic performance due to the show’s restrictive aerobatic box.

That completes our list of ten unmissable airshow moments to catch during the 2024 season. We’ll be attempting to cover as many as possible here on This is Flight and look forward to bringing you photo and video coverage of those major milestones which you haven’t been able to attend in person.