Category Archives: Airshows

Here Are Some Cool Air-to-Air Shots Of The Saudi Special Colored Aircraft During The National Day Celebrations

Take a look at these photographs of the five RSAF (Royal Saudi Air Force) jet in special livery for the 88th National Day Celebrations.

As already revealed in a previous post, on Sept. 23, 2018, Saudi Arabia celebrated the 88th Saudi National Day with five special colored aircraft: an F-15C belonging to the 13th Sqn; an F-15S from the 92nd Sqn; a Tornado from the 7th Sqn; a Eurofighter Typhoon from the 10th Sqn; and an A330 MRTT (Multi-Role Tanker Transport) belonging to the 24th Sqn.

The five “Greens” performed flyovers alongside the Saudi Hawks display team in three cities Jeddah, Riyadh and Dhahran and, with the help of our friend we are able to share some really impressive shots of the special painted aircraft in flight.

As you can see, the special colored MRTT, one of the 6 MRTT tankers operated by the RSAF, trailed the four fast jets and refueled these even though they are equipped with different IFR (In-Flight Refueling) systems: the MRTT is equipped with both the ARBS (advanced Air Refueling Boom System), used to refuel the F-15s, and a pair of underwing hose-and-drogue refueling pods suitable for use with the Saudis’ Tornado IDS and Eurofighter Typhoon jets.

Over the city of Riyadh on Sept. 24. (Image credit: Fahad Rihan)

Air to air refueling on the way to Taif on Sept. 22. (Image credit: Rami Al Omrani).

Over the Red Sea, Jeddah, with the Saudi Hawks team, Sept. 23. (Image credit: Rami Al Omrani).

Over Jeddah. Sept. 23. (Image credit: Rami Al Omrani).

Off Jeddah Corniche flying in formation with the Saudi Hawks and Al Fursan team on Sept. 23. (Image credit: Rami Al Omrani).

The following one is a bonus shot, not taken in flight, still interesting and worth publishing:

Taxiing at King Fahad AFB, Taif, on Sept. 22. (Image credit: Fahad Rihan).

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.

 

“Don’t Touch!”: Spectators Gently “Pet” Italian F-35A Lightning II at Belgian Air Show

Spectators Are Not Allowed to Touch F-35 Jets, But Some in Belgium Got a Lucky Chance.

If you are among the millions of people to see a Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter at an airshow since its first public appearance at Joint Base Andrews in the U.S. in 2011, you know there is always tight security surrounding the airplane. A rope cordon is normally patrolled by armed security guards to keep people at a distance from the exotic fifth-generation fighter.

But spectators at the 2018 Belgian Air Force Days airshow at Kleine-Brogel Air Base in northeastern Belgium got a treat when a new Italian F-35A belonging to the 13th Gruppo (Squadron) of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force), MM7359/32-09, was being towed so close to the crowd line that the right wing actually protruded over the orange spectator fencing. This gave some quick-thinking spectators the opportunity to briefly and gently touch the aircraft to see what it felt like and be able to say they were among the first civilians at an airshow to touch the mysterious, stealthy plane.

Aviation photographer Stewart Jack was in the right place at the right time and caught a quick video of spectators reaching up and gently touching the plane. From the behavior of the people seen in Stewart’s video, it seems like they have an understanding of how special the moment was.

“The aircraft was being towed in to the static display for the Airshow on Saturday morning. We were all queuing up to gain access to the Friends of the Air Force section when it got just a bit too close for everyone waiting. The child on his dad’s shoulders was over the moon that he managed to get a glimpse of it so close up, let along touch it,” Stewart Jack told the Aviationist.com in an interview on Facebook about his video.

The Italian F-35 arriving at Kleine Brogel on Sept. 7. It was the first time the Lightning II aircraft visited Belgium. Image credit: Alessandro Fucito.

Each person along the taxiway touches the F-35A gently and only for a moment, as if to just be able to say they did, or feel some connection with the sensational aircraft. For aircraft enthusiasts and plane spotters around the world it is the equivalent of shaking hands with your favorite pop music or movie star along the runway at a big event.

Normal security for the F-35 has included fencing and guards along with covered intakes to prevent photos directly into the intakes. (Photo: Tom Demerly/TheAviationist.)

We’ve asked several military security personnel and public affairs representatives at airshows why security around the F-35 is so tight.

“As part of its new technology the plane has sensors and equipment on the outside that shouldn’t be handled unless you are trained [how to do it] and have a reason,” One F-35A maintenance airman told us at Nellis AFB last year when asked why there is such tight security around the plane.

Moreover, the LO (Low Observability) coating is one of the aircraft’s most delicate components and for this reason any “contact” with the haze paint of the stealth aircraft by unauthorized people should be avoided, in order to prevent scratches and damages.

The Italian Air Force F-35A in static display at Belgian Air Force Days. (Image credit: Alessandro Fucito).

“Please do not shoot photos directly into the intake or under the aircraft,” one armed Air Force Security Policeman told us recently at an F-35A static display at Selfridge ANGB in Michigan.

“We just don’t need people close to the airplane. It’s a security risk and people get better pictures outside the rope anyway,” a media representative for the U.S. Air Force told us recently at the Thunder Over Michigan airshow where two USAF F-35A Lightning IIs were on static display. Even when media is allowed inside the rope cordon for an interview they are briefed to not approach too close to the plane or attempt to touch it as we learned while taping an F-35A pilot interview two weeks ago in Michigan.

Normally the F-35 is moved well away from crowds, especially when taxiing as with this aircraft last year at Nellis AFB. (Photo: Tom Demerly/TheAviationist.)

Security for the newest and most advanced combat aircraft in the world is clearly the primary reason why spectators are not allowed to touch and walk very close to F-35s at airshows. And like anything that is forbidden or somehow rare and exotic, this has only made people more interested in getting close to the jet. But in reality, the barriers around the aircraft and the prohibition on touching it are as much about common sense with an advanced and expensive piece of equipment as it is about security. But for the people Stewart Jack managed to catch on video touching the beautiful aircraft with a sense of awe, it was certainly a unique moment.

Spectators at Kleine-Brogel Air Base get a rare and not entirely authorized chance to see what an F-35A actually feels like. (Photo: Stewart Jack)

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