European Airshows 2011
– Al Ain Aerobatic Show
– Turkish Air Force 100th Anniversary Airshow, Izmir
– Paris Air Show, Le Bourget
– MAKS 2011, Moscow
– BIAF 2011, Plovdiv, Bulgaria
– Luchtmachtdagen 2011, Leeuwarden, The Netherlands
– International Sanicole Airshow, Belgium
– Festa al Cel Barcelona
Rare and spectacular displays from 7 European events and one in the Middle East. Over 60 aircraft types and 24 teams.
We began the year actually in the middle east rather than Europe but such an unusual and varied show deserves inclusion here. It was much more than the “Aerobatic Show” billed.
Dubai’s wealth attracted some long-distance displays including from the USA; getting Team Viper’s 4 vintage Hawker Hunters was a feat and story in itself. The UAE Air Force flew their Hawks, F-16’s and Mirage 2000’s including a spectacular solo Mirage 2000 display. National team support came from the Saudi Hawks and Turkish Stars and the aerobatic competition was complemented by Hannes Arch’s imaginative “Rhythm & Air” with music from Noisia, ballet dancing from Karina Sarkissova, principal ballet dancer of the Vienna State Opera.
The best airshow of 2011 was probably The Turkish Air Force 100th anniversary celebrations. The event attracted no fewer than 8 national aerobatic teams including the USAF Thunderbirds and the rarely seen Team Iskra from Poland and Wings of Storm from Croatia. The leaders of several of the teams flew a unique formation of their dis-similar types especially for the media. Even more rare, the China Pakistan joint venture JF-17 Thunder and a display by a Pakistani F-16. The inventory flypast included the venerable F4 Phantom and the home team Turkish Stars were joined by a new display, Solo Turk F-16.
Paris always presents the latest technology and there is no bigger contrast than the electric powered Cri-Cri and Airbus A380. The latter in Korean Airlines markings delivered a breath-taking display. The Eurocopter X3 demonstrated a new and purposeful shape and is aimed at high speed and already a new world record holder. Breitlings Lockheed Constellation did the same over 60 years ago and will forever be one of the most beautiful aircraft ever flown, Russian civil was strongly represented and the Be-200 gave a water-bombing demonstation.
Star by far of the MAKS show in Moscow was the new Sukhoi T-50, prototype of the new PAK FA stealth fighter. We are indebted to Wings of Russia for footage of not only the solo aircraft performing a spirited routine but both prototypes in formation arriving at the show,
The Bulgarian International Air Festival delivered some vintage Russian military types namely the Mig-21 Fishbed, Su-25 Frogfoot and Mi-17 helicopter. The Bulgarian Air Force was also celebrating 100 years and more modern front line types on display included the Mig-29, PC-9 and C-27. All of these took part in a choreographed role demonstration. Contenders for Bulgarian business in future were the Saab Gripen, Eurofighter and astonishing Mig OVT.
The annual “Air Force Day” in The Netherlands is set to become a bi-annual event after this one at Leeuwarden. A big Dutch effort was supplemented by even more from NATO allies notably Finnish F-18C Hornet, Italian Eurofighter and Polish Mig-29. Rare solo displays included Austrian PC-7, Italain MB-339 and French Alphajet. An F-16 trio with flares came courtesy of Turkey, Belgium and The Netherlands; more flares from the Dutch Apache and explosions aplenty during the airfield attack with Cougars, Apaches, Chinook and C-130. 6 Hunters in formation provided the nostalgia.
The small club airfield at Sanicole belies the huge event now staged there, now expanded by an evening show. The Yak-52s of Iacarii Acrobati lit up the night sky with flares and pyrotechnics and the Belgian F-16, performing in absolute darkness, added its reheat. The most impressive spectacle was the extraordinary display by the USAF Golden Knights parachute team displaying canopy relative work and flying a huge Belgian flag. The day show was just as exciting with a Pearl Harbor re-enactment, several unique formations and rare appearances like the Mi-24 Hind helicopter.
The Festa al Cel Barcelona at the seafront was an ideal location for an SA330 Puma to demonstrate Air Sea Rescue and a Canadair CL-215 to demonstrate water-bombing having collected its ‘ordnance’ by skimming the water surface. The Spanair A320 appearnce proved timely – the carrier has since gone bust – and Europe’s jet teams were out in force with the local Patrulla Aguilla supported by La Patrouille France, La Patrouille Suisse and the Breitling jet Team.