Tag Archives: Aero L-39 Albatros

Nigerian Air Force Attack on Boko Haram Terrorists Leads to more than 100 Civilian Casualties.

Over 100 Civilians Killed in Accidental Nigerian Airstrike

Media and intelligence reports indicate that a Nigerian Air Force aircraft, likely either a Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet or an Aero L-39 Albatross light trainer/attack jet has been involved in a fratricide incident with “over 100 dead” according to first information.

The incident occurred Tuesday Jan. 17, when an airstrike by an undisclosed number and type of Nigerian military aircraft, likely only one aircraft, mistakenly targeted a “refugee camp” along the Nigerian-Cameroon border.

Reports indicate that aid workers have also been wounded in the attack. The border area is on the eastern edge of Nigeria in central Africa. According to a report by the BBC, “The Red Cross says six of its workers are confirmed dead.” The BBC report also cited casualty numbers lower than other news outlets, with a reported “50 killed and over 100 wounded”. The international aid agency Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) or “Doctors Without Borders” was named as the source for the casualty reports but did not specifically name MSF volunteers as victims in the incident. Médecins Sans Frontières staff and physicians have been involved in a number of fratricide or “friendly fire” incidents in the region during the last decade.

While no official reports have been released other than statements of regret from Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari over the incident, Nigerian Army spokesman Major-General Lucky Irabor told media the jet’s pilot mistakenly believed he was attacking insurgents.

Nigeria’s tactical aircraft are currently inventoried as the Alpha Jet and the Aero L-39, two light jet trainer/attack aircraft that usually lack modern, sophisticated precision targeting and navigation equipment. While Nigeria also fields a version of the MiG-21 built in China called the Chengdu F-7 Airguard, that aircraft has limited air-to-ground precision targeting capability with unguided rockets and bombs.

The original target for the airstrike was reported as Boko Haram terrorists, said Major-General Lucky Irabor, theater commander for counterinsurgency operations in northeast Nigeria. Major-General Irabor added that, “It was too early to say if a tactical error was made” according to a statement he made to the The Telegraph.

Major General Lucky Irabor (credit: The Telegraph)

Airstrikes in the region are a near-daily occurrence. With a large displaced refugee population in the area incidents of fratricide have been recorded before. This incident is remarkable not only for the tragic number of victims but also as the first time Nigeria has accepted some level of responsibility for the incident. It further emphasizes the risks of operating attack aircraft lacking precision targeting capabilities in close proximity to civilian populations.

Image credit: Kenneth Iwelumo

 

Ultimate Aviation Gift? A Ride With The Baltic Bees Jet Team

What holiday gift do you get the aviation fan that has everything? A ride with an aerobatic jet team!

The Latvian aerobatic jet demonstration team, The Baltic Bees are an impressive private jet team, operating six L-39’s flown by pilots with combined civilian and military jet experience including two pilots with time in MiG-21’s and one pilot named “Rob” who, according to their website, lists “U.S. Air Force Academy” as his education.

The team started in 2008 and added aircraft until they reached their current six-ship formation. A review of their official videos show they maintain some impressively precise close-formation aerobatics and sensational low altitude maneuvers along with dramatic opposing passes seen by the top military jet teams.

Even the dark-blue and yellow striped livery of the aircraft is well conceived for visibility during most demonstration weather conditions and makes for good photography from the ground.

What makes the Baltic Bees particularly interesting these days is the fact that they sell a 20-minute aerobatic ride in their Aero-Vodochody L-39C Albatross single engine, subsonic light-attack/trainer jets for about €1,500.00 Euros (1,550 USD or  1,261.00 GBP.)

The package includes a 40-minute ground school, and then you’ll suit-up, strap-in and go for a ride with the jet team.

According to the team’s website, “[The] Flight starts with simple maneuvers with increasing difficulties during the flight. You will be given opportunity to fly the airplane (emphasis added) under supervision of our pilot-instructor.”

The charmingly novel description of the flight program on their little website leaves the impression that the program may be somewhat… “open-ended” and, for a few extra dollars, pounds or euros perhaps you may be able to push the envelope a little more if you have the stomach for it, safety allowing, of course.

The site goes on to say they offer a video of your flight, clearly a must-have for such an occasion, and that, “Photos by the airplane before and after are free!”

The offer is surprisingly reasonable considering getting a ride with any jet demonstration team as a media observer, VIP or even paid guest is extremely difficult. In the U.S. the civilian jet demonstration team The Patriots, also operating the Aero L-39, show no such specific offer on their website.

The Breitling Jet Team of Dijon, France, another private jet demo team sponsored by the aviation specialty watchmaker Breitling and also flying the popular Aero L-39 offers no such “pay to fly” program.

The Breitling team does provide media and celebrity rides for publicity and brand promotion.

During their recent 2016 U.S. airshow tour it was tricky for media to arrange flights in advance with the Breitling team.

Traditionally only mainstream media personalities, sports or entertainment stars and local VIP’s could score a coveted ride with large military jet teams like the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and U.S. Navy Blue Angels. When you consider it costs up to $24,400 USD per hour to fly a Blue Angels F/A-18 according to IHS Jane’s Defense, albeit in a much different type of aircraft, the $1,500 USD ride with the Baltic Bees seems like an incredible bargain.

Prospective passengers with the Baltic Bees are invited to fly with them from their base at Jūrmala airport about 60 kilometers from the capital city of Riga, Latvia on the picturesque Gulf of Riga. If you’re interested you can contact the team on their website at www.balticbees.com.

And, if you book a flight, tell them The Aviationist sent you!

Image credit: Filip Modrzejewski / Foto Poork

 

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Stunning Air-to-Air photographs of the Latvian Baltic Bees Aerobatic Display Team

The Baltic Bees Jet Team is an aerobatic team which took part in several events in Poland this year. Here are some amazing air-to-air shots of the team, taken in connection with the Poznan Aerofestival.

The Latvian Baltic Bees team flies six L-39 Albatros jets, capable of reaching speeds close to 900 kilometers per hour, with 22 meters per second climb rate.

The aircraft used by the team are painted in a characteristic blue-yellow-striped color scheme, with a silhouette of a bee, painted under the fuselage. What is interesting, the team offer aerobatic flights for “civilians”: they provide a chance to fly a quasi combat aircraft (with the instructor pilot) to people who have always dreamed of flying a fighter jet.

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The Baltic Bees provides these services as one of a few companies in Europe.

Filip Modrzejewski, editor-in-chief of the Foto Poork website, accompanied the Latvian pilots last year, during their transfer from Jurmala (close to Riga) to Poznan. The team flew to Poland in order to take part in the Aerofestival air show, taking place at the Ławica airport in Poznan.

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The whole cruise, in a “Diamond Trail” formation, took place at FL250. Filip was tasked with taking photos of the team, flying in the jet No. 5, piloted by Valery Sobolev, as this was the best position for him to take good shots – all aircraft were visible during the climb, or during a low-pass. In case of air-to-air photo-shoots, good communication is the key – thanks to that it is possible to achieve good photographic position.

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Notably, next year’s edition of Aerofestival has been already scheduled on May 28 and 29, 2016. At the moment, the details related to the planned highlights remain unknown. We will – most certainly – attend the event and provide you with a report.

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The photos in this post include some shots shot on the ground.

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All Images – Credit: Filip Modrzejewski / Foto Poork.

 

Highlights of the Poznan Aerofestival, the second largest Polish air show this year

We have attended the Poznan Aerofestival event, which is the second largest air show organized in Poland this year.

Poznan Aerofestival took place within the premises of the Poznan Ławica airport which is an active, civilian airport with numerous operations performed on a daily basis, on Jun. 12 – 14.

Expectations were great, since the Aerofestival has been advertised as one of the largest international air shows taking place in Poland.

The program included numerous attractions, including displays by aerobatic teams, such as Baltic Bees Jet Team, Turkish Stars or The Flying Bulls. Solo aerobatic displays were provided by well-known pilots, including Jurgis Kairys, Artur Kielak or Łukasz Czepiela.Finally, the icing on the cake was provided by some WW2 warbirds, such as the Supermarine Spitfire, Yak-3 F-4U Corsair or Mustang.

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Some of the highlights included the displays performed by the Turkish Stars, flying the Canadair NF-5 Freedom Fighters and the Baltic Bees, flying the Aero L-39 Albatros. The show also featured an incredible display of the Red Bull Helicopters – Bo-105 and TAH-1 Cobra, carrying out stunts which are not often seen performed by rotorcraft.

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Another interesting display was the one of the Norwegian Air Force Historical Squadron, that showcased the De Havilland Vampire FB.52 and T.55 vintage fighters.

The Italian Pioneer Team, a civil aerobatic team. flying four Pioneer 330 aircraft painted in white, blue and red colors, was also a highlight of the display: obviously the Italians were not as spectacular as the Turkish stars, however, their display discipline has shown the Poznan audience all the magic related to formation flying.

Notably – the Pioneer team’s display features flares which is quite unusual for a civilian display team.

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One of the most spectacular displays was performed by Artur Kielak, flying the XA-41 aerobatic aircraft.

Polish Air Force’s participation in the event was quite modest. This concerns mainly the F-16 display, that was limited to a high-level pass in a four-ship formation. However, the demo team is still rumored to debut in Radom, Poland’s largest airshow planned in September.

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Besides the high-pass performed by the core of the Polish fighter force, the Polish Air Force showcased Casa C-295M transport aircraft and PZL SW-4 Puszczyk training helicopters within the static display.

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What’s interesting, the show also featured aircraft of the RAF within the static display. The British sent Tornado and Hawk jets, along with the pilots who came virtually straight from Afghanistan and Iraq deployments to Poznan. Talking to the experienced pilots was a great opportunity for the audience to learn about combat flying, even in a short conversation.

However, mainly as a consequence of the presence of an active civilian airport, the event was not flawless.

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On Saturday, the displays were not conducted according to the schedule – officially because of the flights redirected to Ławica from Berlin, due to thunderstorms. This is probably not a relevant cause, since only 3 additional operations did happen – and more than 50% of the flying display programme was cut. For example, Boeing Stearman’s or Cessna O2’s displays were canceled due to the traffic, even though the aircraft had already taken off.

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It is a pity that the planned displays of the historical aircraft did not happen – including the Yak-3 and the Supermarine Spitfire, both of which departed on Sunday, conducting only a low-pass over the runway, instead of performing the whole display.

Additionally lack or erroneous information provided by the show speaker contributed to the feeling of dissatisfaction on the side of the audience.

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On the other hand, we may say that the organizer learns quickly – organization on Sunday was way better than on Saturday.

When it comes to organization, the Aeropact company surely passed the exam within the scope of clarity of information – numerous volunteers working during the event did everything to guide the audience around. The area of the Ławica airport was well-marked and the layout was quite well-organized. The spotter’s zone, located right in front of the runway, provided an opportunity to capture some interesting photographs. Thanks to our cooperation with the Fotopoork portal we have a chance to present shots from a variety of perspectives – taken in a variety of locations within the Ławica airport.

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Overall, we may say that the show was pleasant to attend. We must remember that it is the airshow debut of the Aeropact company. We do deeply hope that the next year’s Aerofestival is going to be better and that the organizers are going to do their homework, fixing the organizational issues, especially those related to the heavy airliner traffic. The fact that organization of the show got better after the Saturday chaos is a good sign. That means that the organizers have certainly drawn conclusions on a daily basis, and hopefully this would have an impact on the next year’s edition.

We must stress the fact that having more than one international aviation event in a year, within the territory of Poland is a novelty and it is also a very good move, since Radom is not reachable for everyone – attending the Radom show, for many people in Poland, constitutes a serious trip, with many hours spent solely on reaching the location. Thus, when it comes to the airshows, situation in Poland is certainly getting better, and the Polish air show offer is getting more interesting not only for those who live in Poland, but also for the visitors coming from abroad.

Image credit: Foto Poork, Jacek Siminski

 

This may be the first video to show an ISIS jet in flight in Syria

A video, filmed in central Syria today allegedly shows the first ISIS jet in flight.

In the last few days, several media outlets reported the news that the Islamic State has started combat operations using “Mig” fighter jets from an airbase in Syria.

Indeed, in 2014, ISIS has captured two airbases in central Syria, Tabqa and Kshesh, where Islamic State fighters have seized some Syrian Arab Air Force airplanes. Among these aircraft, several Mig-21s and L-39s, some of those, if not airworthy, were probably at least in pretty good shape.

Photos of IS fighters posing next to intact L-39s at Kshesh, about 70 kilometers to the east of Aleppo, have been published on several websites and social media: some of them show the combat trainers in near operational conditions.

Obviously, the mere fact that some aircraft, with some missing parts were captured by ISIS, does not mean they now have an Air Force. Still, their capability to bring a few of those “Migs” to flight conditions should not be underestimated: with the help of the Iraqi personnel formerly serving with the Iraqi Air Force the three planes were reportedly brought back to operational status at Kshesh. Most probably piloted by Iraqi, IS supporters or mercenaries.

On Oct. 18, a video reportedly filmed near Kshesh emerged. It shows a jet landing at the airbase under IS control in central Syria.

Although it’s not easy to guess the type of aircraft, it may be an L-39.

As said, the fact that some aircraft have been brought to operational status is far from being surprising. What’s weird is that U.S. aircraft involved in Operation Inherent Resolve (as the U.S.-led campaign against ISIS was dubbed) have not yet targeted Kshesh airbase to wipe out the first three aircraft of the quite basic IS Air Force…

Top image is a file photo of a Syrian Arab Air Force L-39 during an air strike over Aleppo.