After reading some news dealing with the presumed imminent return to flight of an airworthy Italian F-104 (obviously hoaxes related to the April Fool’s Day), I decided to publish the following postcard made with a picture I took more or less in this period, 7 years ago, in 2003. The image, a scan from a 35mm colour slide, depicts an F-104S ASA-M of the 10° Gruppo landing on runway 06 at Grazzanise airbase. It is “Photoshop free” (frame aside, of course): a genuine photograph of the F-104 in a day in which many Starfighter-related hoaxes are spreading through the Web.
In the last days I had the opportunity to watch the last two DVDs dedicated to the F-104 produced by Pro-Wing International; those filmed in October 2004 that focus on the very last days of the F-104 at Grazzanise, the airbase where the (operative) career of the Starfighter ended on Oct. 31, 2004. Respectively titled “F-104EVER: the last STAR fighter” and ““THE LEGEND: Eternal Star”, the two DVDs represent the two episodes of an extremely interesting movie produced by Luc Delestinne, the famous aviation film maker and producer whose Pilot’s View® mini-cameras among the few ones in the world to be “flight-safety approved”, meaning that they can be even attached to the pilot’s helmets or masks to provide some of the most dramatic in-flight views ever seen. In the last period, while preparing my latest book on the F-104, I’ve re-examined all the material about the “Zipper” I’ve collected during the years. After reviewing all the videos ever produced on this subject I think Delestinne’s last work is a masterpiece as the movie not only provides footage of the real life at the base, preflight checks, engine start-up (from both pilot’s and crew’s perspective) but, through the use HD cameras and micro-cameras, it allows the viewer to discover the pilot’s point of view and to experience the thrill of taking off, flying and landing (even in emergency…) with the “Spillone”, of piloting the famous special coloured 9-99 or of performing aerobatic manoeuvers in formation with another Starfighter. I think the following trailer gives an interesting preview of the contents of the DVDs (noteworthy, the following Youtube video refers to the entire F-104 collection produced by Pro-Wing that couples the above mentioned movies with “The Slivers: Stars & Fighters”, that deals with the famous Belgian Air Force Starfighter team with historical footage of the close formation team):
During my recent visit to Pratica di Mare, I noticed that many of the aircraft that attended the static display of the 87th Anniversary of the Aeronautica Militare, were “zapped” with a small gecko (or something like that) with the number “14°”. Since the aircraft were parked in the 14° Stormo apron my guess is that most of the visitors were zapped by the personnel of the locally-based Wing, but I’m still looking for someone that is able to confirm this hypothesis and to explain to which unit that symbol belongs to.
Aircraft zapped were:
MM7014/RS-01 Tornado IDS
“This is not the time to stand still. This is the time to build, with flexible far-sightedness, the new Air Force’s architecture so that it is integrated and not absorbed in the new joint context that has a strong European and International connotation”: these were some of the words that Gen. Giuseppe Bernardis, Chief of Staff of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force, ItAF) addressed to President of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano in his speech during the ceremony for the 87th Anniversary of the ItAF, held on Mar. 26, 2010, at Pratica di Mare airbase. Bernardis explained that over the past ten years the size of the Air Force has been cut in half in terms of personnel and material but it has not lost its capabilities or efficiency, as the ItAF has invested and continue to invest in both the quality of the equipment and, above all, in the training of the personnel.
At the end of ceremony, that saw the usual flypast of the “Frecce Tricolori”, the chief of State and Bernardis, along with the President of the Chamber of Deputies (Italian House of Commons), Gianfranco Fini, the Minister of Defence, Ignazio La Russa, and Defence Chief of Staff, Gen. Vincenzo Camporini, visited the exhibition installed inside the 14° Stormo hangar that was organised in four thematic areas: airspace defense, international operations, rescue activities and logistic support in national and international field. The exhibition had the purpose to underline the concept of a “Constantly Modern” armed force. An interesting static display was installed in the 14° Stormo apron where a large selection of the ItAF aircraft were parked: F-2000A and B, AMX-T, Tornado IDS, C-130J, HH-3F, AB-212, F-16B, SF-260EA, P-180AM, A-319CJ, MB-339CD and A. Below a selection of the pictures taken by me and Giovanni Maduli during the event.
Giovanni Maduli, who is a frequent visitor of Decimomannu airbase, just sent me the following pictures he took in the last week showing the Italian and German aircraft deployed in Sardinia for training purposes. Currently, as many as 12 Eurofighter Typhoon belonging to both the 4° and 36° Stormo of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force) can be seen in the pictures, plus a number of German Tornados, involved in air-to-ground firing activities. Note that the first two images were taken in Sept. 2009