Category Archives: Giornata Azzurra

A "near miss" wildlife strike

People usually thinks that aircraft are subject to “bird strikes” collisions between airborne animals (usually birds) with flying aircraft. However, until the aircraft is on the ground, taxiing or rolling for take off, it is at risk of collisions with dogs, cats, hare, kangaroos, etc. (hence called “wildlife strikes”) that cross aprons, runways and taxiways with the same possible catastrophic results of a bird strike.
A “near miss” (that is an unplanned event that did not result in injury, or damage although having the potential to do so) wildlife strike involving a rabbit occurred during the recent airshow held in Rivolto to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Frecce Tricolori. As the interesting picture below, taken by Giovanni Maduli shows, on Saturday Sept. 11, while the first section of five Alenia Aermacchi MB.339A/PANs of the Pattuglia Acrobatica Nazionale (Italian Aerobatic Team) was taking off for the last display of the day, a hare crossed the runway 06 not far from the aircraft number 1, flown by the leader of the Frecce Tricolori. Fortunately, the animal was fast enough to complete the crossing without being hit by any of the five aircraft, but this exclusive picture reminds us that strike hazard for both military and civilian aviation does not only come from flying animals but also from the ones on the ground living in the vicinity of airports.

The Pagani Zonda Tricolore and the MV Agusta F4: the guest stars of the Rivolto airshow

The various display teams and solos that attended the 50th Anniversary of the Frecce Tricolori airshow, were not the only stars of the two day event (Sept. 11 and 12, 2010). The VIP area hosted two special guests: the Pagani Zonda Tricolore and the MV Agusta F4, both celebrating the 50th season of the Italian display team. The Pagani limited-edition Zonda Tricolore has a tub made from a carbon fibre and titanium weave, while the body is pure carbon fibre; the blue-lacquer finish and the Italian-flag stripes recall the colour scheme of the MB.339A/PAN of the Frecce Tricolori. List price: 1.3 million Euro.
To celebrate the 50th Anniversary, MV Agusta dressed its most powerful and prestigious of its creations, the new F4, in the colours of the sky and of the Italian flag, producing 11 unique motorcycles in “Frecce Tricolori” livery. The eleven examples were prepared with special components in noble materials such as carbonfibre and titanium, are numbered exactly as the eleven aerobatic aircraft (10 flying + 1 of the Commander), and are inspired by their distinctive graphics. A small silver plate on the steering head indicates the number and id of the aircraft to which each of the bikes is associated.

Who are the best aerobatic team?

As I have already explained in my previous post about the airshow held in Rivolto on Sept. 11 and 12, 2010, to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Frecce Tricolori, in the last weeks I was interviewed many times by both newspapers and TVs.

What I’ve noticed is that the majority of the journalist that interviewed me about my book (the official ItAF book for the Frecce’s 50th Anniversary), asked me the same question: “are the Frecce the best aerobatic team?”

It is extremely difficult to answer impartially to this question. Patriotism is something that can influence the pick, so what I answered each time I was asked this question is something that can’t be denied: the Frecce Tricolori can claim a certain number of records that have never been matched by any other aerobatic team in the world.

First of all its size: the Italian aerobatic team is the only one to fly with 10 aircraft.

Another singularity which makes the PAN unique is the fact that the whole display is executed in sight of the public. Separations, transformations and rejoins are always performed in front of the spectators, a circumstance which requires absolute preciseness in all phases of the display.

By the way: another record accomplished by the Frecce Tricolori is the fact that they separate into two formations (one flight of 5 and another of 4 aircraft) which then fly an opposition pass and subsequently rejoin in less than two minutes. Rejoin time is a factor that can influence deeply a flying display. For instance, many noticed that, after taking off from Rivolto, the Red Arrows were out of sight of the public for many (too many…) minutes before rejoining and performing the entry passage. I don’t know what exactly happened (maybe they experienced some kind of failure) but the “dead time” from take off to the first manouevre (“Big Battle to Short Diamond loop and twist”) . Will get back to the Red Arrows display later.

One more peculiarity of the PAN is the Downward Bomb Burst, a manoeuvre which has been part of the Pattuglia’s tradition since its creation, having been part of the Italian Air Force heritage for 80 years now. It is a manoeuvre in which the aircraft, starting from a high altitude and in formation, dive towards the ground and then separate into 9 individual elements which depart in different directions, finally returning for an opposition pass, at three different levels, over the same point. This is a very spectacular and complex manoeuvre, which no one else is capable of reproducing, especially due to the difficulty in opposition passing and rejoining in the very short time frames required for a display.

The other record of the Frecce Tricolori is tied to the Solo’s Lomçovak. This is a display which is typically executed by propeller aircraft, and foresees a “standing roll” followed by a vertical spin, reverse and subsequent aircraft pitch down. Such a manoeuvre is usually “outside the flight envelope” for most jet aircraft, but the PAN’s Solo pilot can execute it in complete safety, thanks to the outstanding handling capabilities of the MB 339.

That said, in my opinion the Frecce display is the most difficult and technical. Each manouevre is followed by another one, in a flying programme that is extremely “fluid” and “continuos” with no dead spaces (as you can always watch the 9 ship formation, or the solo’s display).

Red Arrows and Patrouille de France displays are impressive too: they have lots of different formations and manouevres, some of which are extremely spectacular (like  wingmen fly from one side of the formation to the other one). But formation is not as tight as the Italian “diamond”, manouevres (often) involve a lower number of aircraft (as the Reds’ Gypo Break or the Heart that the Frecce perform with two sections 5+4) and rejoining time is not as strict as for the Italian team and you can clearly notice the remaining aircraft flying nearby trying to rejoin with other “isolated” elements. Their display is like a series of beautiful manouevres that doesn’t look like a single choreography.

On the other hand, the Frecce display is (more or less) the same from decades. A new manouevre appears in the programme every 7 – 8 years. This make their display technical and interesting (especially for the competent observer) but monolithic, while the Reds or Bleus ones, are (maybe) slightly less difficult, but (maybe) slightly more “aggressive” and breathtaking.

The Swiss Patrouille Suisse (flying with the powerful F-5), the Spanish Patrulla Aguila and the Croatian Krila Oluje Team (whose display would be more impressive with the use of smokes) are quickly improving. Anyway, this is just my opinion, as the answer to the “who are the best aerobatic display team” question is still an open debate.






Frecce Tricolori’s 50th Anniversary airshow

I recently visited Rivolto airbase, in NE Italy, during the rehearsals (Sept. 10) and the airshow (Sept. 11 and 12) that was held at the Frecce Tricolori homebase to celebrate the 50th Anniversary (actually the 50th airshow season) of the Pattuglia Acrobatica Nazionale (Italian Aerobatic Team). The airshow, that represented the 10° Raduno Piloti Pattuglie Acrobatiche (Aerobatic Team Pilot Reunion), was attended by about 450.000 people and by 600 media representatives. The flying programme saw the display of some of the most important aerobatic teams: the Red Arrows, the Patrouille de France, the Patrulla Aguila, the Patrouille Suisse and the Jordanian Falcons. The airshow was attended also for the first time 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, also the Alenia Aermacchi M.346 “Master” that will be delivered to the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force, ItAF) during the next year. Interestingly, the F-2000 had the 4° Stormo badge on the right hand side of the tail and the RSV one on the other one.

The flying display was broadcasted live on the Internet and on TV by the RAI (Italian State TV). After being inteview Live from Rainews24:

I had the honour to be invited to talk about the official ItAF book for the 50th Anniversary of the Frecce (read here: http://cencio4.wordpress.com/2010/08/02/frecce-tricolori/) during the Azzurro Tricolore live television show broadcasted by Rai Uno (Channel 1):

On the same subject I was also interviewed by Carlo Gallucci for the TG5:

Here are some interesting pictures I took during the three days spent in Rivolto.








Getting ready for the Frecce's 50th Anniversary airshow

The following images I took at sunset of Sept. 10 (just a few hours ago) show the MB.339s of the Frecce Tricolori lined up at Rivolto airbase for the night preceeding the 50th Anniversary airshow (10° Raduno Piloti Pattuglie Acrobatiche, Aerobatic Team Pilot Reunion).