Author Archives: Jacek Siminski

NATO Days 2018 in Ostrava – How Centenaries Should be Done

All the most interesting “hardware” we have seen at Ostrava Air Show 2018.

On Sep. 14 – Sep. 16 we attended the NATO Days event organized in the vicinity of the Czech city of Ostrava. This year marked the 28th edition of this show which is said to be the most important of the Eastern European defense and security events. The annual show is organized at the Leoš Janáček Ostrava Airport and 2018 also marked the centenary of Czechoslovakian independence. The show, this year, was attended by 220,000 visitors.

This author regularly attends this event, and it should be said, since several years Ostrava is the place to go. The atmosphere, food court, rich static and dynamic programs altogether constitute factors that attract numerous visitors, coming from both the Czech Republic, as well as from all around Europe.

To commemorate the dignified anniversary of the Czechoslovakian independence, the show ended, on both days, with a symbolic drop of poppies carried by the OV-10 Bronco aircraft, being a part of the exceptional historical flypast.

The symbolic airdrop of poppies from the OV-10 Bronco. (All images: Author).

More than 40 dynamic displays took place during the event, but we, as The Aviationist, would like to focus on the highlights of the flying portion of the event. It is a tradition for Ostrava to have a special partner nation associated with the show. This year, this role was assumed by the United States. Hopes were very high, given the closeness of the Ample Strike exercise (involving the US bombers), however, the Americans only sent its equipment to the static display – including, as usually, the B-52 bomber.

One of the interesting highlights came in a form of the Croatian Wings of Storm aerobatic team, who had their Ostravian debut this year. Another national aerobatic team performing in Ostrava was the White-Red Sparks group, brought in by the Polish Air Force. Germany and Poland also showcased their land forces within the showground. The showground also involved numerous historical elements, provided by the Silesian Museum, including depiction of the Skoda brand history.

Close up of “Vador” in the cockpit of the Belgian F-16 during his demo.

Furthermore, given the fact that Czech Republic is looking towards acquisition of a new helicopter platform for their military, the Americans have additionally brought the UH-1 Venom helicopter to Ostrava, which was also displayed on within the static exhibition area. The fact that this helicopter was showcased is significant, as it shares 80% of its parts with the AH-1Z Viper platform. This creates an interesting set of relations, as Prague and Bucharest would like to acquire the armed variant of the Venom, while Viper is offered to Poland and Romania, as a part of attack helicopter tender procedure. All of the above is interwoven by the fact that the US-based company would like to fuse logistics between the users, creating a Central European maintenance base.

Czech Gripen.

We were in Ostrava starting from Friday, hoping that the weather would permit us to witness rehearsals and arrivals. However, heavy rain at the Mošnov airport made it impossible to carry out most of the flying scheduled on Friday. During the weekend, however, the weather was good, and humid air ensured some spectacular phenomena form during the dynamic displays.

The program on Saturday was opened by a Polish F-16, followed by an Eurofighter Typhoon from Spain. Then the Slovak VIP Airbus made a flypast over the airfield. After several ground displays the sky was taken over by a Slovenian PC-9M, and then a historical flypast took place, with the OV-10 Bronco dropping the poppies. This was followed by a spectacular display of the Vador Force Belgian Air Component F-16 display team.

The Special Tiger-colored Eurofighter Typhoon of the Spanish Air Force.

Also, notably, the Czechs have managed to bring a Spitfire to the Ostrava show. This element was undoubtedly missing from the Polish counterpart in Radom. The Czechs have proven that not only is it possible to attract the US forces to contribute to the show (even though they were only present within the static), but it is also feasible to properly honor own heritage during the event.

The Supermarine Spitfire.

Further attractions included a Danish F-16 and Finnish Hornet, both staging a spectacular dynamic display. The Finnish Hornet demo has to be one of the author’s favorites this year – in Ostrava the spectacular nature of the display was further enhanced with the jet dispensing large quantities of flares.

Alongside Spitfire, the Czech organizer has also addressed the Warsaw Pact era within the display, as we could have witnessed a MiG-15 jet in the air, alongside the flamboyant Mi-24/35 demo show. Traditionally for Ostrava, we’ve also seen the Swedish Air Force Historic Flight team take part in the event. This year, involving: Lansen, Viggen and Draken.

The Saab Viggen.

The Saab Draken.

The Polish Air Force participated in the NATO Days with its ASAR W-3 Sokół platform and the service has also sent its White-Red Sparks aerobatic team to Czech Republic. Slovaks, who are also a neighbor of the Czechs, have sent their Fulcrums to Ostrava, to perform a formation flypast, maneuvering over the airfield. For many Poles this has been one of a rare occasions to witness Fulcrum in the air, since the jets have now been grounded since July. The rumors, however, suggest that the Polish MiG-29s are going to be back in the air soon enough – fingers crossed here. The last two displays were performed by the French Armee de’l Air Rafale demo team and by the RAF Typhoon demo team.

The Rafale demo.

Then, a Czech Mi-24 performed a spectacular routine over the airfield. The dynamic/aviation portion of the show was brought to a closure by a “Nordic Flypast” involving the jets of the Swedish Air Force Historic Flight, Finnish Hornet and Danish F-16 – and this atypical formation also made several passes over Mosnov, also dispensing flares and performing some spectacular breaks.

The Swedish Air Force Historic Flight escorted by the Finnish AF F/A-18 and the Danish AF F-16.

Summing it up, NATO Days in Ostrava lived up to the expectations, and had it not been for poor weather on Friday, the event would have been almost perfect. It is also a significant benchmark set for the organizers of the airshows all around Europe. Since the Ostrava show was a Czechosolvakian centenary event, this forces one to draw a comparison to RIAT or Radom Air Show this year which have been mildly disappointing, given the special occasion. For instance, the Czechs have managed to have a Spitfire perform a dynamic display during their show, whereas in Poland no warbird as such, very much associated with the history of the Polish military aviation, was presented in the air.

The Finnish Air Force Hornet during its display routine.

The Polish Air Force F-16 Tiger Demo.

If one wanted to complain, we could say that one would expect the Special Partner Nation to send some hardware into the air. Despite the high hopes, no surprises appeared in the Czech Republic last weekend. A-10 demo team, or F-22 Raptor dynamic display were among the hopeful wishes that have been circulated around social media prior to the show. Maybe the organizers could use these as a suggestion for the next edition?

Regardless of the above, if you live in Europe and the last air shows of August and early September still leave you hungry for more, Ostrava is definitely a place to go and it cannot be recommended highly enough. The general conclusion, after being slightly disappointed with the Polish and British centenaries this year, is that there’s still some hope that the air shows may still be very good and leave one with a positive impression. The NATO Days event set the bar high.

 

Radom Air Show – Polish Air Force’s Centenary – A Birthday without the Main Guest?

Radom Air Show 2018 report.

Last week, on Aug. 25. and 26., the Polish Air Force celebrated its 100th Anniversary, during a special Centenary edition of the Radom Air Show. Even though the occasion was quite spectacular, the event left somewhat a bittersweet taste with the audience. The Polish Air Force, the celebrant who had his 100th birthday organized in Radom, was not fully present at the show. Due to the richness of the programme, the airshow had its flying organized from two airfields: whilst most of the display aircraft were taking off from Radom, some of the flying machines had to use a nearby airbase in Dęblin (home of the Polish Air Force Academy, which is the main pilot training facility of the Polish Air Force)

Most of the Polish fighter force – the MiG-29 and Su-22 fighter aircraft – have been grounded, hence they did not participate in the flying portion of the show. This is quite significant – Su-22s have been in service with the Police Air Force for 35 years, and the MiG-29 has been the prime fighter of the service  for almost 3 decades. Neither were present in the static display.

The Polish AIr Force F-16.

When it comes to the Polish presence, the honor of the service had to be saved by the aerobatic teams: Team Orlik and Team Biało-Czerwone Iskry – both of them staged a usual breathtaking performance in the air, with the Orlik Team making a double appearance, one with a regular program, and the second one in formation with the Harvard trainer aircraft, commemorating their being used as a historic training platform by the Polish pilots in the old days.

Team Iskra.

The fast jet community of the Polish Air Force was underrepresented, solely by the F-16 Tiger Demo Team stationed at the Poznan-Krzesiny airbase. M-346 Master trainers, known under the name ‘Bielik’ in Poland (white-tailed eagle), which also are the latest acquisition of the service, also made an appearance at the event, performing a formation flypast. Finally, the Polish Aviation Museum from Cracow brought the only surviving example of the P.11C pre-war fighter aircraft to Radom. The vintage airframe has had its engine restored and, being a highlight of the Polish portion of the show, performed a taxi run in front of the audience.

P.11C (Image credit: Michał Wajnchold).

The special treats, in case of the Centenary-related portion of the show, also included a formation flypast involving a PLL LOT Polish Airlines 737 and the White-Red Sparks aerobatic team.

LOT B737 and the White-Red Sparks aerobatic team.

The civil participants included aerobatic teams such as Cellfast Flying Team, 3AT3/Fundacja Biało-Czerwone Skrzydła formation flying team or Żelazny aerobatic teams. The program also included displays made by autogyros or a night display of paraglider team featuring pyro elements, closed the display on Saturday. Artur Kielak, on the other hand, performed his always stunning solo display routine.

The list of foreign participants of the show was quite rich. However, despite the rumors, the F-22 Raptors, the participation of those was very much hoped for in Radom, did not attend the show. The organizers announced that the United States would be involved in the event. Apart from a C-130 Hercules in the static display, no signs of American presence could be noted in Radom. NATO sent its E-3A Sentry AWACS platform to Dęblin and this aircraft made a flypast over the Radom field during the show.

However, certain highlights still appeared in Radom, with the Pakistani JF-17 Thunder being one of the most important and rare points of the flying display. This jet, whose roots go back to the times of the MiG-21, uses a single RD-33 engine, which is evident when we look at its back. It is surely a rarity in the European skies, and it has been a nice addition to the flying program. The Pakistan Air Force has quite significant historic connections to the Polish Air Force who virtually established the Pakistani service following the WWII.

The quite rare for the European airshows JF-17 Thunder.

Foreign aerobatic teams that showcased their display in Radom included the Baltic Bees Jet Team, Croatian Wings of Storm, Finnish Midnight Hawks, Patrouille Suisse, Frecce Tricolori, and Royal Jordanian Falcons. Here one should refer to the Swiss team, as the soloist of this group has inspired a round of applause around the Skaryszewska street ( spotting location south of the airport) breaking the sound barrier slightly and causing a sonic boom, accidentally on Saturday. Frecce Tricolori’s show announcer, also made the audience love her – she actually was performing the whole commentary in Polish.

The Frecce Tricolori display team.

When it comes to the remaining soloists, the Radom show also included displays of F-16 demo teams, including Belgian, Greek and Turkish solo displays. Out of the three, the Belgian display flown by ‘Vador’ is undoubtedly the most spectacular one and, in the author’s opinion – the best one of the showcased.

Belgian F-16 solo display team.

Czech Air Force has presented a very interesting role demo display involving its Mi-171 and Mi-24 helicopters, demonstrating a CSAR operation. Poland’s southern neighbours also brought their Gripen solo display to Poland, with the jet wearing the Czech Air Force’s centenary livery.

Czech Mi-24 Hind.

The RAF sent its Typhoon demo display to Radom. Considering the upcoming Polish Harpia programme, Radom has been a perfect arena to showcase the products that could be potentially offered. Within the static display Lockheed had its stand deployed, with F-16 and F-35 mock-ups and an F-16 simulator. Typhoon and Gripen were both a part of the flying display. Additionally, Leonardo brought its M-346FA aircraft to Radom, which was showcased on the stand of the Italian company that is also responsible for marketing the Typhoon in Poland.

The RAF Typhoon during its display routine.

A separate paragraph needs to be devoted to the Ukrainian Air Force’s involvement in the show. First, the Ukrainians came with a rarity to Radom – the Su-25UB Frogfoot jet that was displayed in the static display. Secondly, they also brought the classic Su-27 Flanker to Poland, this time in a two-seater variant (Su-27UB). It has to be said that the Ukrainian display in Radom has been much better than the one we have witnessed in the UK during the Royal International Air Tattoo, and it seemed that the pilot handled the aircraft much better. During the rehearsals on Friday the Ukrainian crew even performed tailslides.

Ukrainian Air Force Su-27UB.

Ukrainian Su-25 Frogfoot.

When it comes to the vintage flying gear, Red Bull has brought its display to Radom, including Corsair, Mitchell, Trojan and Alpha Jets.

Red Bull formation.

When it comes to the weather mentioned above – we need to admit – it was not perfect. Low cloud cover and rain on the weekend made the Air Show less pleasant, also leading to cancellation of several displays on Sunday. We also attended the show on Thursday and Friday, during which all of the rehearsals took place, hence some ‘sunny shots’ in our report. This, however, is force majeure that lays beyond the organizer’s scope of influence.

Czech Gripen.

What could have been done to make the show more attractive?

Maybe the Polish Air Force could think of including more role demos in the display schedule. For instance, the Polish 25th Air Cavalry Brigade has a role demo prepared, which is quite spectacular for the audience. A question remains as to why it was not included in the Radom programme. Also, the presence of the Celebrant was quite limited – not only because of the grounding of the Fitters and Fulcrums (role demo and solo displays), but also due to the fact that most of the attention was paid to the foreign participants. Obviously, the organizers are limited by time and daylight, thus it is hard to assess whether any compromise could have been reached within that regard, for instance considering the number of the aerobatic teams involved in the show. Also, the Polish rotary-winged helicopters were not flying in Radom at all, which is also a pity – they were only showcased in the static display. Considering Radom was a centenary event for the Polish aviation per se, this may also be viewed as a certain omission. Another factor which was somewhat omitted was the Polish Air Force’s history and heritage. Apart from the P11.C taxing, no historic aircraft with direct and obvious connection to the service were presented (such as Spitfire, for instance, considering the Polish involvement in the Battle of Britain).

It also should be noted that the static display also featured numerous assets of the Polish land forces, including the latest artillery platforms (Rak self-propelled mortars and Krab self-propelled howitzers or air defence systems, such as radars).

Images: Jacek Siminski/The Aviationist

All The Highlights of the Spectacular Aerobaltic 2018 Air Show in Gdynia, Poland.

Many interesting warbirds have taken part in the Polish airshow.

Last year the Polish Aeropact company organized the first edition of a beach air show, known under the name Aerobaltic in Gdynia. The show took place at the main city beach in Gdynia, Poland, and was generally received as a major success, with daytime and evening/night flying program. This year, on the other hand, the organizers decided to expand and divide the event into two parts: the daytime program was organized at the Gdynia Kossakowo/Babie Doły airport, while the evening/night portion of the flying took place at the beach, similarly to last year.

The Babie Doły flying program evoked a lot of hope, as this year’s edition of the event was to include the military jets too. And so it did. TS-11 Iskra jet trainer, privately owned by the White-Red Wings foundation took part in the show. Another highlight – undoubtedly – came in a form of the Swedish Air Force Historic Flight team that brought some unique airframes to Gdynia. It was the first time that this Author saw the Lansen, single-seater Draken or twin-seater Viggen jets in the air, all constituting a somewhat special point of the flying program. The Swedish participation was also complemented by a flying display performed by J29 Tunnan – a very exotic Saab’s design dating back to the 1950s – the “Ikea Air Force’s” display was thus presented in all of its glory.

The Saab J29F Tunnan.

The Saab 32 Lansen of the Swedish Air Force Historic Flight team.

The Saab Draken.

The legendary Saab Viggen.

Baltic Bees jet team was another of the jet-powered points of the flying program.

One of the L-39 of the Baltic Bees team.

Another highlight of the Babie Doły portion of the show came in a form of the Orlik Team of the Polish Air Force. To commemorate the Polish Air Force’s centenary, the team has prepared a special program this year, with the display involving Canadian Harvard trainers that were, back in the day, used as the trainer platform by the Polish aviators. The coordination and level of precision achieved between the aircraft involved in the program is undoubtedly a sight to behold. The Polish Air Force’s MiG-29 display was also scheduled for Aerobaltic, unfortunately the jets have been grounded, along with the Su-22s, at least until September, or longer. The Polish Navy, meanwhile, also presented the W-3WARM SAR helicopter in a role demo display. The Jordanian Air Force, on the other hand, had the Royal Jordanian Falcons participate in the Gdynia show, and the group also showcased a high-precision display on their Extras.

W-3WARM SAR helicopter in a role demo display.

The “civil” participants included aerobatic pilots, such as Maciej Pospieszyński or Stijn De Jaeghre, or the only Polish participant of the Red Bull Air Race series: Łukasz Czepiela. Red Bull’s Czech ‘The Flying Bulls’ team also took part in the show. 57-my team flying autogyros and Sydney Charles Display Team flying the Grob motor-gliders were also performing their programs at Babie Doły. Artur Kielak, another of the show’s participants, has prepared an interesting flying program with a Polish privately owned Yak-3U – with numerous crossings and interesting formation shifts. Swiss P3 Flyers team has also been a rarity, and it was really nice to witness the vintage trainers in the air over Gdynia Babie Doły.

Swiss P3 Flyers team.

Aerobaltic air show would not have been complete, had it not been for the sunset/night portion of the show at the beach, from which the event originated in the first place. The evening/night program was to some extent identical to the daytime one (Kielak/Yak-3U flown by Mateusz Strama), however most of the highlights for the evening/night show were different. And most of them utilized pyro element making the evening show even more spectacular, offering a lot of unique photo opportunities. Johan Gustafsson and Sydney Charles Display Team were the highlights of the night show, with their pyro display being especially rich.

The night part of the show is always breathtaking.

Overall though, the night show was not as good as the one during the first edition of the event. Maybe it would also be a good idea to have some of the jet-powered aircraft perform at the beach over the water, which could possibly produce some spectacular effects such as vapor cones. In general, the event bears a significant potential, and we should only hope that the Aeropact company which is the organizer of the show would not let it go to a waste. Fingers crossed, and we highly recommend attending this show next year!

All images: Jacek Siminski

U.S. F-22 Raptors Deploy to Poland To Take Part in the Armed Forces Day Parade Over Warsaw

U.S. Air Force F-22 deployed to Poland.

Five jets USAF F-22s have arrived at Powidz Airbase, Poland, this week.

On Aug. 15, along with a C-130J that acted as a camera-ship, four stealth aircraft celebrated the 100th Anniversary of Polish Independence and Armed Forces Day by participating in a multi-aircraft flyover in Warsaw (most probably, the fifth F-22 was a spare aircraft). The jets made a forward hop to Powidz from Spangdahlem, where they have been deployed recently to participate in a number of exercises in the region.

The USAF F-22s are deployed to Europe for theater familiarization and to conduct interoperability training with NATO aircraft. (All images: Jacek Siminski).

According to unofficial information Raptors would also be engaged in some training sorties and possibly engagements, with the Polish F-16 jets.

The rumor suggesting that the American fighters would be involved in the Polish Air Force’s centenary in Radom next week has been denied by one of the officials involved in organization of the show we’ve been speaking to; however the Poles are still hoping that USAF Europe will make a contribution, in a form of 5th Gen. jets, at the event in Radom.

Close up view of one of the Raptors deployed to Poland.

We’re attending the Radom Air Show next week and we’re going to provide you with a relevant report. We also had our photo contributors at the Warsaw event, so we’re hoping to provide you with a report on the Polish Armed Forces Day too.

RIAT 2018: a Big Success or a Letdown?

The Royal International Air Tattoo 2018 at RAF Fairford, UK.

RIAT 2018: a benchmark of an airshow, with its diversity, the flying program, the static display. They all come together to form an unbeatable whole. It is the largest international air show in Europe, with high diversity of participants, both on the ground, as well as in the air. This year, the expectations were high, due to the RAF centenary. We attended the show and here’s what we have seen.

This year the show attracted a record breaking 185,000 people for the three day show as well as 302 aircraft from 43 air arms, representing 30 different nations.

For a person coming over from Eastern Europe, as in case of me, The Aviationist’s Polish contributor, the expectations were to see some of the finest western hardware in the air, including stealth aircraft or RAF demos that rarely visit Poland or Czech Republic, that are far more accessible in our part of Europe. The author was also hoping to see some USAF assets flying in the air, since the American military is somewhat reluctant in sending its jets and demos to the eastern part of Europe, Poland included. RIAT, considering its international profile, constitutes a diplomatic arena, similarly to other international aviation event. Often the flightline largely represents the diplomatic relations between the nations involved. For instance, RIAT’s static display featured Japanese assets that are really a rarity at the European air shows that are not focused on sales pitch.

When it comes to the flying display, it had some highlights.

First of the highlights was the F-35 Heritage Demo Team of the USAF. It was really something special to see the F-35 flying alongside a Mustang.

The USAF F-35 was among the highlights of RIAT 18.

On the occasion of the RAF centenary, it was decided that a Spitfire would join the formation. In general, some interesting formation flypasts took place in the sky during the weekend. This included a tribute to the Dambusters, with the formation paying tribute to the Squadron’s past, immediate past/present, and its future. The RAF decided to have a formation flypast in the sky, with the Lancaster bomber acting as the leader, and followed by the F-35 and the Tornado, both of which were/will be used by the unit in question.

F-35 Heritage Demo Team including a RAF Spitfire.

Another highlight of the show came in a form of a flypast on Saturday: RAF Fairford was visited by a B-2 bomber (Spirit of New York) that made a pass over the airfield being accompanied by two F-15 Eagles. The aircraft came to the UK direct from Whiteman Air Force Base, its homebase in Missouri.

When it came to the dynamic portion of the show, one could say that it was somewhat “standard” for an Air Tattoo. We’ve seen most of the RAF assets, including the Typhoon demo team, or the Red Arrows in the air. When it comes to the Commonwealth nations, Canada has sent its Hornet demo to the UK, in its new paint scheme. Other display teams included Frecce Tricolori, Royal Jordanian Falcons or the Couteau Delta Tactical Display.

The “Alona” (Big Wing), the last spectacular maneuver of the Frecce Tricolori display team.

Mirage 2000s of the Couteau Delta Tactical Display.

Staying with the word “tactical”, one should note that many of the displays honored this type of a routine, instead of showcasing the full, maybe sometimes unnecessary capabilities of the aircraft. This was visible most clearly in case of the C-27 Spartan demo of the Italian Air Force, as it no longer included the infamous loop or knife-edge pass – this was a major disappointment. One should say that it looked quite modest, when compared to the Airbus A400M display, featuring a maneuver involving a 120 degrees bank angle. The Atlas was being flown by an Airbus test pilot and wore the RAF100 livery. It was suggested that the plane flying was the last one to be received by the RAF.

The RAF A400 performed an impressive display.

Typhoon demo of Aeronautica Militare was brilliant as usual, on the other hand, with the pilot being able to fully display the jet’s capabilities.

Italian Air Force Typhoon close up.

Couteau Delta team, replacing the famous Ramex Delta formation, also flew a brilliant display with numerous tactical maneuvers and the jets flying in extremely tight formations.

Moreover, the French also sent their Rafale duo team, representing the Marine Nationale and simulating carrier ops routines, as well as their Rafale Solo display.

The amazing French Air Force Rafale.

Four F-16 demos also displayed at RIAT, all being different in character. The Polish Air Force Tiger Demo Team exhibited its new display routine, including numerous moments when vapor cones were forming on the aircraft. Interestingly, the Polish F-16 also made a short landing with the landing parachute being deployed – which was a unique element of the routine. Greek F-16 of the Zeus demo team also flew an interesting routine with numerous high-g maneuvers involved. The Belgian Air Component demo team, with its new pilot, callsign “Vador”, also did a good show. Notably, the Belgian jet, during the current airshow season, is going to have its horizontal stabilizer repainted, to match with the show where it performs – in case of RIAT we could have seen RAF100 livery on that control surface. And last, but not least, Solo Turk closed the list of the F-16 demos, with its display being quite spectacular, especially on Sunday, when the Turkish Falcon was scheduled to fly in the morning.

Solo Turk F-16 creating its own “cloud system”.

Even though the weather was very hot, there was still some humidity left in the air then, which made it possible for the jet to break through the air and show off some vapor. Swiss Air Force was another of participants, sending its PC-7 team flying a formation with its Hornet Solo. Speaking of Hornets, alongside the Swiss and Canadian demos, the Finns also showcased their flying program. The show announcer mentioned the fact that the latter two nations had their flight control software updated in the jet, which enhanced their AoA performance – yet again, it needs to be said that the three Hornet demos were very different, even though the airframe was the same. If the author was to point to the one he liked the most, then the Finnish pilot would win, for his low level flying, while the Canadian Hornet had the most interesting livery. Notably, the Canadian demo jet was flying in its special colors on Friday and Saturday, while on Sunday the RCAF used a spare jet, wearing a regular, gray color scheme. A major highlight also came in a form of a British F-35B performing a hover in front of the crowd. Helicopter demo teams included the RAF Chinook Display team, as well as the Finnish NH90. US CV-22B Osprey also made a dynamic display at RIAT.

UK’s F-35B during the display at RIAT.

The locals also showcased some of their vintage flying hardware, including the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, now involving a Spitfire, Mustang, DC-3 (C-47) and a Lancaster. The big planes, referred to as the “bombers” by the show announcer, flew some close formations and even did a break. This was an interesting and new sight to see, compared with the previously employed display routines. Historical displays also included The Great War Display Team, the show of which was very reminiscent of the one presented by the Pterodactyl Flight group we admired during the Poznan Air Show event this year.

One should also say that the expectations of the British citizens are inverted – meaning that they come to RIAT to see the eastern designs in their sky. Here, they have every right to be disappointed. Poland, which is almost a “permanent” presence at RIAT, highly valued for its MiG-29 Fulcrum or Su-22 Fitter demos, did not send any of those aircraft to the UK. The Fulcrum was not even scheduled to go to the UK. This is partially caused by the fact, as the unofficial info suggests, that both fleets have been grounded now, due to the K-36 ejection seat maintenance issues (both the Fitter, as well as the Fulcrum use these seats) and suspected faulty operation, following the recent fatal crash of the Fulcrum. Moreover, the MiG-21 LanceR demo team of the Romanian Air Force suffered from a crash just one week before RIAT, which also rendered the participation of that jet in the British event impossible.

It is interesting though, that Poland was not willing (did not ever confirm that) to send its MiG-29 to the British show, given the Minsk Mazowiecki Fulcrum squadron’s heritage and links to the RAF Squadron 303. Seeing a Fulcrum fly in a formation with the Hurricane (as it happened in Cosford), Spitfire or the Mustang would really have been something. The East was represented by the ‘beast’ – the Ukrainian Su-27 Flanker demo, which really was a highlight for the British audience, not so much for the Eastern Europeans, who, comparing the Ukrainian demo to the routines flown by the Russians, could have been mildly disappointed. Also, as flares are prohibited at the RIAT due to safety concerns (weapon storage areas), this element was cut – both from the Flanker display, as well as from any display routine – which further diminished the wow factor entailed by the Sukhoi’s jet.

The Ukrainain Air Force Su-27.

Here we come to a matter which seemed to kill the special character of the RAF100 RIAT – the historic connections with the Commonwealth nations or the allies were not really honored during the show. Someone was expecting something really special. Except for Canada and Australia, the connections with Singapore, Malaysia, India, South Africa and other nations who were colonially associated with the UK did not show in spite of many spotters and aviation enthusiasts “prayers”. This is a field that could be potentially explored to make the show even more interesting – for instance, the presence of Indian Su-30MKI aircraft would have made RIAT more exotic, even though the JASDF (Japan Air Self Defense Force) Kawasaki C-2 at its first Air Tattoo was a big thing.

This is largely a “what if” portion of the text, however, especially for those more used to the RIAT; given the occasion of the Centenary, one is tempted to ask questions, as to why the show was not much more spectacular considered the important anniversary the show celebrated.

Ukrainian Flanker.

So, for an Eastern European, the RIAT this year was – in essence – just another RIAT; the best airshow in the Continent with all of its spectacular character involved. Whilst hoping for something really special, the author of this report, was not disappointed with his visit at all.

Meanwhile, the British opinions may vary, as the show did not differ in its character from what we have been witnessing in the past, giving us all a bittersweet feeling in the end – the next chance to organize a spectacular show would not be here in 50 years, probably, since we would need to wait for another “round” anniversary.

The Red Arrows display team.

Addressing the question in the title, one should say that the answer depends on the point of view one takes – whether it is British or a European one, it might differ significantly.

All images: The Aviationist’s Jacek Siminski