The Evolution of Military Aircraft at the Air and Sea Show

Mickey Markoff
6 min readMar 9, 2024
Mickey Markoff 2024 — Photo of U.S. Army Stearman planes, yellow and blue with red white and blue tails flying in sky

Air and Sea Show Executive Producer Mickey Markoff delves into the advancement of military aviation in the Air and Sea Show over the years

At the helm of one of the most iconic showcases of such military prowess-the Air and Sea Show-is Mickey Markoff. The “Greatest Show Above the Earth” may be known for its spectacular displays in the skies and sea, but it is about more than entertainment. From its inception, the event has been dedicated to its driving mission: to pay tribute to our nation’s heroes. The annual event, held in South Florida for the last several years, has always sought to honor the true meaning of Memorial Day by honoring our nation’s heroes. It has done so throughout the decades by not only providing exhilarating displays of military might, but by sharing the heartfelt stories of those who have sacrificed their freedoms in pursuit of our nation. Markoff began his work organizing air shows in the 1990s with the Chicago Air and Water Show, where he pioneered the integration of private-public partnerships. He later brought this concept to South Florida, transforming local into national events. Through Mickey Markoff ‘s visionary leadership, he has provided a platform for all of the branches of the United States military to showcase their latest technology. From classic warbirds to modern stealth bombers, the annual show has featured an array of impressive technology. Let’s take a deeper dive into the various craft on display throughout the years, shall we?

From Chicago to South Florida: Taking Markoff’s Vision Across the Nation

Mickey Markoff’s innovative approach to event production was first showcased in Chicago, where he introduced the concept of private-public sponsorships at the Chicago Air and Water Show. This strategy proved pivotal, enhancing the event’s scale and quality by securing essential corporate and governmental support. Recognizing the potential to replicate this success in a new locale, Markoff brought his expertise to South Florida. Here, he transformed the traditional air and sea shows into significant events with broad appeal and robust sponsorship. In the earlier years of the show’s success, McDonald’s was the main sponsor. The McDonald’s Air and Sea Show featured several impressive aircraft in the ‘Heritage Flight’, the F-15 Eagle, P-51 Mustang, A-10 Warthog, and more. At the McDonald’s Air and Sea Show, each of these aircraft in flight helped to pay tribute to our military of all who were lost, injured, or otherwise fought in support of our nation. Footage from Fleet Week showcases many feats of military technology, including a Stearman Aerobatic Plane demo, that helped to inspire new aviation advances. The B-52 Stratofortress featured during the 2022 Hyundai Air and Sea Show, another long-range jet. The jet has been in operation by the United States Air Force for over 50 years! In the last several years, Hyundai has featured as the sponsor, marking their significant dedication to honoring our nation’s heroes on a grand scale.

The shift from McDonald’s to Hyundai as the main sponsors represented more than a mere change of names; it signified a strategic deepening of the show’s commitment to the military and its veterans. These sponsorships under Markoff’s stewardship were not just financial endorsements but partnerships that aligned with the show’s mission to pay tribute to military service. Hyundai’s involvement brought new energy and investment, enabling the show to expand its scope and incorporate more advanced technology in its displays. This evolution of sponsorships has been crucial in scaling the event’s profile, enhancing its operational capabilities, and more effectively reaching a wider audience. During the pandemic, Hyundai helped to honor not only those heores fighting on the frontlines, but also those heroes in the community such as healthcare providers and first responders. Hyundai provided new cars to community heroes, providing a further testament to their commitment to giving back to the community. These partnerships illustrate how strategic corporate relationships can amplify the impact of major public events, turning them into national symbols of pride and remembrance.

Iconic Aircraft Over the Years

Over the years, the Air and Sea Show has featured an impressive array of military aircraft, each representing different eras of aviation history and technological advancement. Iconic aircraft like the P-51 Mustang and the F-14 Tomcat have been crowd favorites, providing a living history lesson on the evolution of air combat. The P-51 Mustang was one of the iconic fighters in the Second World War. With an impressive range, it was able to escort heavy bomber formations all the way to Berlin in back, providing the US with a significant strategic advantage. Featuring it in the skies at the McDonald’s Air and Sea Show’s Heritage Flight paid homage to aviators both present and past, and the legacy of military innovation.

The F-14 Tomcat, known for its variable-sweep wing design, epitomizes the technological leaps made during the Cold War and beyond. Each appearance of these aircraft at the show not only thrills the audience but also educates them on the significant advancements in aerospace technology and military strategy.

The B-2 Stealth Bomber and Beyond

A key highlight in recent years at the Air and Sea Show has been the inclusion of the B-2 Stealth Bomber, a marvel of modern military technology known for its low-observable stealth technology capable of penetrating dense anti-aircraft defenses to deliver both conventional and nuclear payloads. The presence of the B-2 Stealth Bomber at the show not only draws significant crowds but also exemplifies the cutting-edge advancements that the U.S. military continues to develop. The bomber’s design, which reduces radar cross-section and infrared signatures, represents the forefront of aerospace engineering and strategic capability, providing a tangible showcase of contemporary military prowess and innovation. The B2 Stealth Bomber featured in the 2023 Hyundai Air and Sea Show, and was even the source of some misinformation. The demonstration at the show was so authentic that event attendees thought there was a real military engagement underway during the show, rather than an educational demo.

As technology evolves, so too does the Air and Sea Show, with Mickey Markoff’s vision firmly aligned with showcasing the future of military aviation. The show has introduced the latest developments in aviation technology, including next-generation fighter jets. VR flight simulators are also on sight at the event, offering a first-hand glimpse into some of the action for attendees. Drone shows have featured prominently in former shows, and 3D mapping will also feature in the 2024 Air and Sea Show with projections across Ocean Drive in Miami Beach. The inclusion of these technologies not only educates the public about military advancements but also underscores the importance of continuous innovation within the armed forces.

Beyond the thrills and spectacle, the Air and Sea Show serves as a potent tool for military recruitment and public education about military capabilities and readiness. Mickey Markoff has placed a strong emphasis on the educational aspects of the show, integrating interactive exhibits, veteran speaking engagements, and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) activities to engage and inspire the next generation. These initiatives highlight the diverse career paths within the military and aerospace sectors, encouraging young attendees to consider futures in science and technology, bolstered by real-world applications they witness at the show.

Under Mickey Markoff ‘s leadership, the Air and Sea Show has grown into more than just an annual event; it has become a tradition that embodies the spirit of American innovation and respect for military service. As we look toward future shows, we can expect continued advancements in the types of aircraft and technology displayed, alongside an enduring commitment to educating the public and honoring those who serve. With each passing year, the show not only celebrates military achievements but also fosters a deeper appreciation for the roles that military personnel play in securing our national security.

The Air and Sea Show, with its dynamic blend of historical reverence and forward-looking innovation, remains a pivotal event that reflects the best of American spirit and technological prowess, all masterfully orchestrated through the visionary efforts of Mickey Markoff. As technology and warfare evolve, so too will the show, ensuring that each year offers a fresh perspective on the capabilities and courage of the armed forces.

Originally published at on March 9, 2024.