Don't do this at home: the Argentinean pilots braveness dispute

Following is the list of the most interesting consequences of my recent blog posts about the Argentine Air Force IA-63 Pampa crazy flyby and about the Argentinean A-4AR’s tank disintegration:

  1. both posts generated comments in a sort of never ending quarrel between those who believe the Argentinean pilots are brave and perform such maneuvers because they are among the best pilots in the world, and those who believe that the Pampa flyby and similar one are only clownish stunts that could be extremely dangerous.
  2. since I’m among those who consider “poor airmanship” such improvised air shows, there’s someone who believes I don’t have a high opinion of the Argentine Air Force and Argentinean pilots
  3. I’m receiving many more links to videos of similar maneuvers; most of the them about Argentinean aircraft.

Dealing with Pt. 1, I’ve already said that I don’t think the Pampa “low passage” had anything to do with braveness or skill. I don’t even think that there’s a particular need for current military crews to train flying that low. There are many videos of French Mirage F1 flying in Chad at ultra low level, but they don’t seem to fly as low as the Argentine Pampa.

Dealing with Pt.2, I simply sustain that THAT (or THOSE) pilots involved in the maneuvers can be blamed, not all the Argentine Air Force that I deeply respect and that I would like one day or another to be able to know more in-depth and to write about – if they invite me to fly with them for a special report I’ll be more than happy to accept! :-).

Dealing with the videos, I’ve been pointed to a couple that show how risky improvised air shows can be, even when they don’t imply difficult maneuvers. The problem is that in Aviation, “Improvised” things are usually “Dangerous” things….

The following video shows an accident that occurred in 2001 to a T-34 Mentor at the Escuela de Aviación Militar de la Fuerza Aérea Argentina of Cordoba. The formation leader misjudged the position of the left wingman who hit the control tower. The left wingman was watching the leader (as it always happens in formation flying…do you remember what happened to the Blue Angels?) and could not see the left wingtip hitting the tower.

Since not all the videos I receive deal with the Argentine Air Force, here’s one that has been circulating for a while showing a French Rafale almost crashing into the sea during a quite unusual air display next to a ship. I don’t know if it was a pre-planned display or not, and if the aircraft was flown by a qualified display pilot. Still, the plane went too low because of a pilot error (maybe induced by the environment).

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. French crews in Chad don’t fly that low ? Look at this : – there is plenty of low-flying in Chad that looks like dangerous but properly planned flying as part of good training, but there is also a nice share of nutty stuff… Mediterranean machismo is alive and well in all our countries ! That reminds me about a senior engineer at Dassault telling me about a Greek officer landing his Mirage 2000 with pieces of olive branches stuck into the leading edges (nice peace dove…) and someone at ACIG recounting the tale of a drunk Serbian pilot in Congo performing an unplanned extreme low-level pass over a parade, clipping a lamp post and crashing into the parade… Stupid low-level stunts are everywhere !

  2. Professional pilots adhere to international standards for safe airmanship.

    Why is this statement even remotely controversial?

    • Agreed. What’s really insidious is that a person doesn’t generally try this kind of thing their first time out. They get confident over time, push the edge a bit, get away with it, push it a little more next time, get away with it again, push the edge a little more…repeat. Then one day, they go just a little too far and tragedy results. The 2010 C-17 crash in Alaska is a good example:

      The C-17 crash also has some pretty eerie parallels to the 1994 B-52 crash at Fairchild AFB, which also occurred during an airshow practice.

Comments are closed.