It almost happened by sheer coincidence but I’m extremely proud that the one you are currently reading not only is the traditional 2010 yearly debrief, but it is also my 500th blog post. More than 700.000 unique visitors from every place of the world have read my posts in the last 3,5 years, leaving 1.157 comments and browsing through thousands pictures for some millions page views: an important achievement that I’m glad to share with my large and loyal community of readers. Thank you all for reading my articles (not only on the website but also on “traditional” magazines) and for supporting my work. 2011 holds the usual professional analysis of the most important aviation and defense news and topics and in-depth reports from airshows and exercises plus some interesting surprises. So stay tuned and Happy New Year!
As of tradition, the annual debrief can’t be introduced with different words from those I used last year: “It’s only when you get to the end of the year that you get the full picture of what has happened in the previous 12 months. Images collected during worlwide travels, flights and base visits, used to illustrate the most different stories dealing with the World of Aviation, provide a means to get a snapshop on the most important topics discussed on this site […]”. So, once again after 2008 and 2009 editions, pictures taken by me and by the site’s official photographer Giovanni Maduli during the last year will guide us along some of the most important things we have happened in the world of Aviation.
January 2010 started with the news of an Information Management issue affecting US drones operations in Afghanistan (a problem that could be solved by means of a telestrator and other TV tools used to “enrich” NFL games) and with the report from Gate XXI at Rome – Urbe airport, a trade fair that was announced as the first International exhibition organized in Italy dealing with the aerospace industry, “from ultralight aircraft to satellite development” but failed to live up with the general public expectations. As I wrote, there were a few booths to exhibit airport, aerospace and satellite equipment and just a few airplanes, helicopters and ultralight aircraft were on display on the apron in front of the Corpo Forestale dello Stato hangar. Towards the end of the month, I prepared the first of a series of reports from Decimomannu airbase (probably the most active Italian airbase) while in February I published a detailed article about the Italian Civil Protection (and the Government Aviation) after its chief, Guido Bertolaso (recently retired), described the international earthquake relief effort in Haiti as ”pathetic” and blamed the lack of central coordination among the various relief agencies operating in the island. After another visit to Decimomannu airbase, during the firing campaign of the Italian Eurofighter Typhoons of the 4° and 36° Stormo of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force) and a German Tornados detachment, I had the opportunity to report from the ceremony for the 87th Anniversary of the ItAF at Pratica di Mare airbase that was attended by the President of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano, the President of the Chamber of Deputies (Italian House of Commons), Gianfranco Fini, the Minister of Defence, Ignazio La Russa, the Defence Chief of Staff, Gen. Vincenzo Camporini, and the ItAF Chief of Staff Gen. Giuseppe Bernardis. The exhibition was made of two sections: one, installed inside the 14° Stormo hangar, was organised in four thematic areas (airspace defense, international operations, rescue activities and logistic support in national and international field) with the purpose to underline the concept of a “Constantly Modern” armed force. The other one was a static display with a large selection of aircraft in the ItAF inventory: 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. The most interesting event in April was the one held in Cervia by the 5° Stormo to give farewell to the F-16. During the year (in June) the locally-based 23° Gruppo released its remaining “Vipers” to the 18° Gruppo based in Trapani, that will be the last Italian squadron to fly with the F-16, while Cervia became the home base of the 15° Stormo, coming from Pratica di Mare airbase with its HH-3Fs. Dubbed “Con la Diana sul petto”, the F-16 farewell was particularly interesting because a special colour and a special tail Vipers were prepared and displayed in a sort of mini-airshow that was scheduled to take place both on April 16 and 17, 2010 (although the display on the 17th had to be cancelled because of the volcanic ash of the Eyjafjallajkull that interested the Northern Italian airspace). The “full special” was the example MM7244, sporting a large “Viper” to homage the nickname of the aircraft (an aircraft that was later repainted grey as this picture shows), while the MM7236 had a special tail with the Diana the Hunter in two different versions on the two faces of the tail. Along with many other special colours, the “Viper Special” and the “Diana Special” took part, from May 3 to May 13, 2010, from Decimomannu airbase, in Sardinia, to the STAREX 2010, a multinational exercise attended by 50 aircraft: Italian F-2000s, AMXs, Tornado ECRs, Tornado IDS, F-16s, HH-3Fs, AB.212s and MB-339CDs of the 61° Stormo (that became famous for sporting the F-2000 kill markings). In May, we attended the Frosinone airshow that celebrated the 50th anniversary of the 72° Stormo, the helicopter school of the Italian Air Force. The airshow was also the season premiere for the Frecce Tricolori display team at their 50th airshow season, that performed also during a “private” event, the Finmeccanica seniores (held in 2010 at Pratica di Mare airbase), organised each year by Finmeccanica to give prizes to all its workers with 30, 40 and 45 years of experience in the company. In June, I started commenting the controversial news about the Lockheed F-35 Lightning II, one of the hot topics of the year. Heat and noise concerns came first, then it was the time to analyse the plans of one of the competitors, the F-18E/F, with the Super Hornet roadmap unvelied by Boeing at Farnborough 2010. In November, the F-35B and the STOVL debate began, as a consequence of the British Strategic Defence and Security Review issued in October, that scrapped the STOVL concept by switching the UK F-35 requirement to the C conventional carrier variant and scrapping the British Harrier fleet. In the following weeks, I frequently analysed the uncertain future of the F-35 and explained how the STOVL version of the aircraft should be saved from cut, provided that Lockheed Martin will be able to solve the heating management issues. The JSF was again in my posts following the British Harrier last flight that raised the UK problem of having aircraft carrier with no more aircraft to equip them to ensure a maritime strike force; following the interest of the readers in the F-35 I also decided to translate in English an article I published in 2006 following my experience on-board the JSF Cockpit Demonstrator, an experience that gave me a taste of how the the F-35 flies and fights. After recalling the F-35 saga, let’s return to July, when I published a highly appreciated analysis of the remains of the Sicilian WWII airports (some of which I had the opportunity to watch from above, on board an ItAF SIAI 208M of the 37° Stormo) and a piece, posted a few weeks later, about the famous Nervi Hangars. August saw the return to Decimomannu for the last ever German Air Force F-4F Phantoms detachment. The “Rhinos”, that arrived on Aug. 2 from Wittmund (visited in October by Giovanni Maduli as reported in the post Wittmund – home of the last GAF Phantoms) and operated from Deci until mid September, were also joined by 2 A-4s of the BAE Systems (former Israeli Air Force Skyhawk that replaced the F-100Fs in 2002) employed for target-towing during gunnery practice. September was the month of the Frecce Tricolori’s 50th Anniversary airshow in Rivolto, the most important Italian aviation event of 2010, attended by about 450.000 people and by 600 media representatives. Some of the most important aerobatic teams joined the Frecce to celebrate the important achievement (raising the question Who are the best aerobatic team?): the Red Arrows, the Patrouille de France, the Patrulla Aguila, the Patrouille Suisse and the Jordanian Falcons. For the first time, the airshow was attended also by the Croatian Krila Oluje Team and by the Polish Team Iskry. Some solos displayed too: along with the MB.339CD, the Tornado, the C-27J, the AMX and the F-2000 of the Reparto Sperimentale Volo, and also the Alenia Aermacchi M.346 “Master”. Having attended both the rehearsals (on Sept. 10) and the two days of display, this site provided an unparalleled coverage of the Rivolto airshow, whose complete photogallery is available here. My involvement in the Frecce’s 50th anniversary was direct, with some TV and radio interviews, as I’m also the author of the book “Frecce Tricolori – un volo lungo 50 anni”, published in September 2010, by the DeAgostini (one of the most important Italian publishing houses) with the contribution of Aviator Edizioni, the official publication of the Italian Air Force for the 50th Anniversary of the Frecce Tricolori. The book, in Italian and English text, is a spectacular hardcovered photographic album of 128 pages, measuring 44×30 cm, containing +220 images, that celebrates the fifty operational seasons of the Pattuglia Acrobatica Nazionale (Italian Aerobatic Display Team) with chapters unveiling all the “secrets” of the Frecce Tricolori, with information capable of satisfying even the most discriminating taste. The Frecce one was my second 2010 book, being “Italian Starfighters”, dedicated to the F-104 and announced for the first time on this site in March, my first book of the year.
The report about the Rivolto airshow was just the first of series provided by contributors from all around the world: thanks to the pictures and report provided by Ed Armstrong, I reported about the RAAF Williamtown airshow, then about the famous Axalp airshow in the Swiss Alps, attended this year by Simone Bovi, and finally, about the Wings over Atlanta airshow, at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, thanks to Moreno Aguiari. In October, I visited the interesting Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace, at Le Bourget, Paris, with its remarkable collection of item spanning some 500 years, from the 16th century to the present days. For sure, two of the highlights of the Museum are the Concordes: the prototype 001 “F-WTSS”, that made its maiden flight on Mar. 2, 1969, piloted by André Turcat and Jacques Guignard and was retired from service after 397 test flights and 812 flight hours (255 supersonic ones); and the Concorde F-BTSD Sierra Delta, one of the last of such type to fly with Air France, that was retired to the Museum on Jun. 14, 2003, 13 days before the last flight of the Fox Charlie (F-BVFC) the last Air France Concorde that landed in Toulouse on Jun. 27, 2003. In November a series of posts provided the full coverage of the Armed Forces Day celebrations in Italy with the traditional Circus Maximus exhibition in Rome (arrivals and departures of the various aircraft included) and a visit on board the Cavour aircraft carrier in the Civitavecchia harbour. In mid November, I flew to Decimomannu again with Giovanni Maduli to report from the Vega 2010 (VEX 10), an exercise that saw the partecipation of the Israeli Air Force with some extremely interesting aircraft: F-15Ds, F-16Bs and also an intriguing Gulfstream G550 CAEW (Conformal Airborne Early Warning), quite unusual visitors in Europe. Needless to say, the Israeli attendance to the VEX 10 exercise attracted the interest of aircraft enthusiasts and spotters who were delighted to see some of the most advanced and rare Israeli hardware at work during their stay in Decimomannu airbase. A gallery of 300 divided into Part 1 and Part 2 can be found at Lowpassage.com. November brought us the n-th Qantas in-flight emergency, an uncontained engine failure affecting one of the new Airbus A380 flying from Singapore to Sydney, immediately followed by another engine failure experienced by a B747-400ER “VH-OJD” flying from Singapore to Sydney. December “hosted” many of the above mentioned articles about the F-35 and the Harrier retirement.
Throughout the whole year, besides keeping the Newstand page updated with my works, I continued posting the various episodes of Airspace Violations edited by Simone Bovi, updated the ItAF Museum page, with information and pictures about the latest additions to Vigna di Valle, and redesigned the picture gallery at Lowpassage.com to improve the user experience. I also wrote new articles for the Information Security section, among which, one of the most read ones detailed the latest information and curiosities about Stuxnet virus brought to us by the ICT Security expert Paolo Passeri.
Obviously, this was just a summary of the year 2010 through the articles and pictures published on this site. To read what’s behind each image the best way is to go to the “Archive of the previous month” menu on the right hand coloumn and select a desired month, to access all the posts written in that month. Otherwise, another extremely quick way is to use the search box located on top of the right hand coloumn, type a desired word (for example: “airplane”, “F-2000” or “Rivolto airshow”) and then scroll down as soon as the new page containing all the article appears.