LAKELAND, Fla. — This year marks the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. In Lakeland, those who served are being remembered through the sky.
Air Force Veteran Steve Salmirs, also known as Sky King, performs a very detailed safety inspection before climbing into a World War II SNJ aircraft, affectionately called The Texan.
"They're iconic, 1941, you are looking at almost 80 years old, they are kept in great shape by our great mechanics," said Salmirs.
The Geico Skytypers have six of these vintage planes in their fleet, performing around 15 air shows a year. Salmirs has been taking off with them since 1996.
"And the maneuvers that we do during our air show reflect the greatest generation again, what they did in World War II when they were flying and fighting," said Salmirs.
Salmirs will be the first to tell you that it takes a real maverick to operate a Texan, which were primarily used as a training aircraft during the war.
"You can't see anything when you are sitting in the airplane in front of you. You have to look to either side," said Salmirs.
He said the best part of the job is the response he receives from those World War II vets, who remember what it was like to soar in a warbird.
"Some of them cry, it's great feedback, some of them go up and put their hands on the side, some of them tell us their stories," said Salmirs.
When you're flying in a piece of history, Salmirs said it's much more than an air show — it's an aerial tribute.
"It looks like we are getting ready to go out on a bombing mission in World War II, it's very, very humbling," said Salmirs.