Tag Archives: airshow

“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)

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

Here Are The Highlights of ILA Berlin 2018 Air Show

Rich static display and modest dynamic program for an airshow with many interesting “themes”.

Last weekend we attended the ILA Air Show held at the Berlin Schönefeld airport. The event, one of the largest aerospace trade exhibitions held in Germany, was organized by the German Aerospace Industries Association (BDLI) and Messe Berlin GmbH.

Volker Thum, Chief Executive of the BDLI, reported outstanding results: “This ILA was the ’best ILA ever‘. We have continued to develop the world’s oldest aviation and space exhibition with conspicuous success, making it our industry’s leading trade show for innovation.”

The dynamic displays in Germany are somewhat limited by the strict regulations pertaining to, i.e. the minimum altitudes and display envelope limits, which partially resulted from the Frecce Tricolori crash at the Ramstein Air Base, back in 1988. Therefore, ILA is not really a place where you go to admire the dynamic displays in their full glory. However, the static display in Berlin was one of the most impressive one could ever witness.

The Antonov An-225 Mriya was definitely one of the show’s highlights. The Antonov Design Bureau decided to send the giant aircraft to Berlin, and it was displayed on the static. Compared to any other airframe, the Mriya is simply enormous. Even the A380 which is the largest commercial airliner in existence looked small, compared to the Ukrainian airlifter.

The giant An-225

Antonov’s presence at ILA stemmed from the fact that the company decided to declare its willingness to increase its involvement in the NATO SALIS (Strategic Airlift International Solution) program. It was in April this year when Volga-Dnepr airlines, the only (alongside Antonov) operator of the An-124 heavy airlifters, resigned from its involvement in the program. The Russians will cease rendering of the services for NATO as of Jan. 2019, reportedly due to restructuring; however it is also very plausible that decisions made are a response to the increased pressure caused by the sanctions imposed on Russia by the West. Antonov declared, during the ILA event, that it could increase its SALIS engagement to replace the Russian operator with its fleet of An-124, An-22 and An-225 aircraft (only a single example of the latter one exists).

The static display also featured Airbus Beluga, placed alongside the Airbus’s largest passenger aircraft, the A380. The particular airliner displayed in Berlin was the 100th airframe delivered to the Emirates airline. Even though Beluga is not larger than the A380, its appearance and size are definitely a sight to behold.

Airbus A350 during its dynamic display at ILA.

Airbus, Leonardo and Dassault consortium also premiered the EUROMALE UAV, the first unmanned aerial system (UAS) designed for flight in non-segregated airspace. The airframe is a twin-turboprop with pusher-propeller design employed.

Another prevalent theme that somehow influenced the Berlin exhibition is the German Tornado strike aircraft replacement. The static display was rich in modern fighter aircraft. The Germans are looking to replace their Tornados, in strike and electronic warfare variants (IDS and ECR respectively). Luftwaffe currently operates 90 of these jets, and the replacement process is to begin in 2025. Alongside Germany, Finland (H-X program) and Poland (Harpia program) are also looking forward to modernize their air forces.

The GAF Typhoon taking off for its display.

Germany and France are also working on a joint next generation fighter program – FCAS – with the jet expected to be introduced into service in 2040. The program involves Airbus and Dassault. Notably, both companies are currently offering advanced 4th generation designs: Eurofighter and Rafale. However, given the scope of technological development and industrial effort required to create the 5th generation jet, the project’s joint nature is a natural way to go. Also, considering the timeline for introducing the new aircraft, some intermediary measure would be required to fill in the capability gap that would occur, once the Tornadoes are withdrawn. This is the main reason why the Germans are still considering procurement of 4+ or 5th generation fighters in the meantime.

Airbus, during the ILA event, declared that the company is ready to make the Typhoon nuclear capable. Nonetheless, some voices suggest that instead of acquiring more Eurofighters, the Germans could make some steps towards purchasing the fifth generation F-35 aircraft. The static display also featured F-15 Eagle and F/A-18F Super Hornet. To meet the Luftwaffe’s electronic warfare requirement, Boeing could also offer its EA-18G Growler jet. One should note that Luftwaffe is expressly claiming that the F-35 would be the best fit for the replacement program. Two such aircraft were displayed in the static area. It should also be noted that an F-35/Typhoon combo has also already been selected by some nations as the way to go, including the RAF or the Italian Aeronautica Militare. It is evident that the jets are complementary, with the F-35 acting primarily as the sensor and situational awareness asset (using its stealth and net-centric properties), while the Typhoon may be acting as the missile carrier, adding to the performance of the missiles. Given the Typhoon’s thrust-to-weight ratio, and integration with the Meteor BVR AAM, the jet is a perfect platform that enhances the kinetic performance of the already very capable air-to-air effector.

The F-35 was not flying during the German show.

All of the aforesaid aircraft were displayed within the static area. Unfortunately, and disappointingly, the F-35 was not flying during the German show, despite its expected and rumored presence in the air. Notably, the F-35, while flying to make it debut in Germany also made the longest nonstop flight – 11 hours and 10 aerial refueling operations.

Tornados and Eurofighters were flying during ILA. Moreover, “Ghost Tiger” livery Typhoon had its premiere during the show in Berlin, with a quite impressive dynamic display. The very same jet will be displayed during the NATO Tiger Meet happening in Poznan this month (needless to say, we will be attending this event as well).

The Germans are also looking forward to replace their CH-53G heavy lift helicopters. The proposed replacements include the CH-53K King Stallion that made its debut during the ILA Show. However, on Saturday, when we attended the event, neither could it be seen flying, nor was it present in the static display area. Another proposal that Luftwaffe may look at is the CH-47 Chinook. This capable airframe was brought to Germany by the RAF and it was wearing the RAF centenary livery. Its transport capabilities and agility (impressive, given its size) were also presented during the dynamic display.

Berlin is working, in collaboration with France, on acquiring a new MPA platform. This could also have been witnessed in the static display, with Lockheed P-3, Boeing P-8 and CASA C295 MPA all showcased on the show’s ground. Kawasaki P-1 was a highlight of the German show. Not only was this jet presented on the ground, but also performed an impressive dynamic display. The Japanese design is undoubtedly a rare sight on any European air show. Roadmap for the said project is expected to be unveiled later this year.

The Japanese Kawasaki P-1 was among the highlights of ILA 2018.

Another highlight of the dynamic display that could not have been overlooked was the Il-2 Sturmovik aircraft brought to Berlin by the Russians. The venerable WWII fighter/bomber performed a dynamic display over the ILA 2018 grounds. Many of the people attending the show have seen the aircraft for the first time ever. It is said that only two flying examples exist. We have already seen the famous Russian airframe fly last year, during the MAKS 2017 event, when it was premiered. Vintage aircraft also included Yak-3 and CAC13 Boomerang as well – both were flying a dynamic display. We could also see a Bell 47 that flew with the MASH series soundtrack in the background.

Airbus showcased its A350 airliner in the air. The Luftwaffe staged several role displays (interception/scramble, with Pilatus turboprop acting as the intruder, CSAR operation, MEDEVAC operation), as well as an air parade, featuring the German aircraft in a variety of formations and configurations, including a great number of helicopters ranging from H145 with CH-53 Stallion to finish with.

Furthermore, Red Bull also showcased its aircraft in the air, including the DC-6, silver P-38 Lightning, the T-28 Trojan with its special smoke trails (the smoke generators in case of this aircraft are mounted in the wingtips which makes the smoke swirl and form rings in the sky) and the Alpha Jet that made a joint formation flight.

Dynamic display was also performed by the Spanish team Patrulla Aguilla that showcased its formation flying skills in the German sky. Their display was one of the highlights of the German event, as the Spanish team was the only large formation aerobatic group that attended the show in Berlin.

Overall, the show was impressive, especially when it comes to the static display and it was a good warm-up before the proper air show season begins in May. Anyway, it is going to be very interesting to watch and follow the developments in the European fighter aircraft programs. The competition and choices expected to be made between 4+ and 5th generation aircraft will undoubtedly be tough, in case of the European nations that would be facing such a challenge: Finland, Poland and Germany.

Images: Jacek Siminski and Michał Prokurat

PS We’ve also met the Sturmovik during its return trip at the Poznan International Airport, as it made a refuelling stop there! Thanks for organization of the visit go to Witold Łożyński and the Ławica airport staff!

Report: 2017 Aviation Nation Air and Space Expo Celebrates USAF 70th Anniversary at Nellis AFB

Expo Showcases USAF Heritage, Capabilities and Breaking Barriers in Military Aviation.

It is the premiere U.S. Air Force air show: the Aviation Nation Air and Space Expo at Nellis AFB outside Las Vegas, Nevada. This year’s Aviation Nation Air & Space Expo celebrates the 70th Anniversary of the U.S. Air Force with displays and demonstrations rarely seen at any other air show. The theme of the show is “Breaking Barriers” and showcases advances that have crossed gender and race in the U.S. Air Force.

Nellis Air Force Base is adjacent to the sprawling Nellis Range farther north. The range covers a total of 4,500 square miles. It is home of the Nevada Test and Training Range, Nevada National Security Site, Tonopah Test Range, Groom Range, Tikaboo Valley and the fabled “Area 51”. To the southwest is “Star Wars Canyon”, one of the premiere low-flying training areas in the world. It is one of the few places where lucky aviation photographers can photograph real world, low-level flight training- if they’re lucky.

Part of what differentiates Aviation Nation from other air expos and air shows around the world are the unique Air Force units that live at Nellis, and those units’ capability to demonstrate the air force mission better than anyone. While Aviation Nation only covers two days of the year, the capabilities and missions demonstrated during the expo are lived every day by the officers and airmen of Nellis.

One of the most unique and dynamic demonstrations at Aviation Nation is the USAF Warfighter Demo, a combined air and ground demo that showcases the unique Aggressor units and their capability to simulate opposing forces and tactics. The demo also highlights Air Force air superiority capabilities, close air support and Combat Search and Rescue missions and capabilities.

For the first time at an airshow the Lockheed F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter demonstrated its role in both close air support and also air superiority in a single mission. The F-35A flew in the Warfighter Demo alongside the A-10C Thunderbolt II. The demo reinforced the role of F-35A as a complementary asset to the A-10C, and an aircraft that can use its advanced capability to fill the role of the A-10C in addition to performing the air dominance mission.

The demo began with a simulated attack on Nellis Air Force Base performed by F-16s of the 64th Aggressor Squadron. F-15 Eagles on ready alert responded by taking off to contest the aggressors. A pair of F-35A Lighting IIs arrived and the Aggressors were quickly routed by the F-35s and F-15s.

A pair of F-15 Eagles leap off the runway at Nellis AFB during the Air Combat Demo. (All photos: Tom Demerly/TheAviationist)

Following the air combat phase of the demonstration a simulated rescue of a downed airman featured HH-60G rescue helicopters and A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft providing close air support. The new component of the close air support demonstration was seeing the F-35As transition from their air superiority role in the first demo to the air support operation in the second phase of the demo, providing simulated close air support along with the A-10Cs during the rescue demo. The message in the demo was clear, the F-35A can perform the close air support mission. While this was only a demonstration, it did provide at least the visual insight that the F-35A can do close air support (CAS). The demo showed the low altitude, close support capability of the F-35A alongside the A-10C for the first time at Aviation Nation.

A pair of F-35As performed close air support (CAS) alongside A-10s in the Air Combat Demo.

Highlights of the veteran, military and media day at Aviation Nation on Friday, November 10, 2017 included a surprise visit by USAF Air Combat Command Commander, General James M. “Mike” Holmes. General Holmes inspected a specially painted F-15 Eagle honoring the city of Las Vegas in the wake of the tragic mass shooting on October 1, 2017.

General James M. “Mike” Holmes, Commander, Air Combat Command (right) inspects the special livery F-15 Eagle.

General James M. “Mike” Holmes with members of the team responsible for the special F-15 and surprise F-16.

There was the surprise unveiling of an F-16 Fighting Falcon (shown in the top image) also painted in a new, commemorative livery honoring Las Vegas and the memory of victims lost and survivors recovering from the October 1st mass shooting.

The Aviation Nation Air and Space Expo takes place this weekend, Saturday, November 11 and Sunday, November 12, 2017 at Nellis AFB outside Las Vegas, Nevada. Admission is free to the public.

Here Are The Highlights Of Radom Air Show 2017 In Poland

Some Cool Photographs Of The Most Interesting Jets.

On Aug. 26 and 27, we attended the Radom International Air Show. Held biennially in Poland, the show has sparked a lot of controversy this year, due to the fact that the current MoD leadership in Warsaw has been changing its decisions concerning the organization of the event a couple of times. Nonetheless, ultimately, the Radom Air Show was organized, however the line-up was somewhat modest when compared to the previous editions. This may also have been caused by the fact that, on the very same dates, Slovakia organized the Slovak International Air Fest event at Sliac.

When it comes to the international dimension of the show, we could only witness a very modest set of dynamic displays. Among them, the one of the Romanian Air Force MiG-21 LanceR a type of fighter that is slowly approaching the end of its service in the military, and is being gradually replaced by second-hand F-16s.

The RoAF LanceR

The Ukrainian Su-27 Flanker aircraft seemed to be the star of the show, nonetheless the display routine presented by the pilot is “on the reserved side”, meaning that the maneuvers are being performed with a significant safety margin. Having attended MAKS a month before, the Flanker’s show was definitely not a highlight of the Radom event for us.

Austria sent its SAAB 105, Italy its M-346 Master which staged a good show, along with Typhoon for static. The Luftwaffe also sent its Eurofighter Typhoon for static display. Eurofighter GmbH is trying to pitch its fighter jet as a potential offer in the Harpia program, the goal of which would be to find a replacement of the MiG-29 and Su-22 jets used by the Polish Air Force.

The Leonardo M-346 during its aerial display.

The Polish Air Force showed off almost all of its assets in the dynamic display.

This included both of the Polish Aerobatic Teams – Orlik Team (flying the Orlik turboprop trainers) and White-Red Sparks (flying the TS-11 Iskra jets). MiG-29 demo also performed a dynamic display. The F-16 Tiger Demo Team’s displays were quite spectacular too; however on Sunday the jet  suffered from a systems failure, which forced Major “Zippity” Duda to interrupt the show.

The F-16 Tiger Demo Team releasing flares.

The Polish Su-22 role demo team staged an interesting, somewhat unique performance in Radom, as the Fitter is a rare sight to be seen in the international air show scene.

The Polish Air Force Su-22 Fitter role demo during their display.

One of the Fitters rolling inverted.

Finally, the Xtreme Sky Force Aerobatic Team, with Artur Kielak flying the XA-41/42 aircraft and Jacek Stolarek flying the MiG-29 (a unique, civil-military combo, the only team of this profile in Europe), performed an interesting display, portraying the differences between the two airframes.

The Xtreme Sky Force Aerobatic Team.

The United States sent two aircraft for the Radom show – the B-1B and the B-52. Both bombers performed solely two flypasts over the runway at the Radom Air Base. The runway itself is said to be too short to accommodate airframes this large.

The Buff takes part to the airshow with a low pass.

The civilian highlights of the show included a performance by the Latvian Baltic Bees Jet Team, very common on the European Air Show Scene, as well as participation of the Red Bull’s Austrian Flying Bulls – here the B-25 and the T-28 Trojan were, undoubtedly, the stars and highlights of the civilian portion of the Radom Show. Other aircraft presented included Bo-105 helicopters, aerobatic pilots flying Extras, civilian-owned TS-11 trainer and aerobatic teams, such as Cellfast, 3AT3 or the Żelazny Team.

This year’s edition of the Radom Air Show was very modest, however the rumor is that next year the Polish Air Force is to organize a 100. Anniversary Event. The location is still unknown, as the former leadership of the MoD pinpointed Poznan as a place where the potential show should be held – after all the Polish aviation was born there.

 

The Polish Fulcrum during its solo display.