Tag: Airshow

Beyond the Airshow: Zeltweg Was The ‘Field Of Battle’ For Industries And International Powers

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Beyond the Airshow: Zeltweg Was The ‘Field Of Battle’ For Industries And International Powers
The Chinese Y-20 was among the highlights of the Airpower 2022 at Zeltweg (Image credit: Hilgo Schigt). In the boxes, other interesting aircraft that took part in the flying displays (Image credit: Luca Ocretti and Hilgo Schigt).

The first weekend of September was a very special one in Austria as Zeltweg hosted for the tenth time Airpower, one of the biggest air shows in Europe. But this year’s edition was much more than “just” a great airshow.

Zeltweg Airpower does not need presentations: if you are into military aviation you have probably already heard about (or even attended) it. The program was rich: more than 200 military and civilian aircraft reached the Hinterstoisser military airfield and took part in the static and flying display. The attendance of the public was also huge ith a total of approximately 300,000 spectators who enjoyed the air show on Friday, Sept. 2 and Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022.

Before trying to present you all highlights from the two day show, let’s focus on two special guests, one from China and the other from the U.S., both representing the desire of the two nations to steal the scene at one of the Europe’s largest airshows.

China vs U.S.A.

There is no doubt, the most exotic visitor to this year’s Airpower was the Chinese Y-20 cargo plane. The arrival of the aircraft was announced on Aug. 25. This was the first visit of this type of plane at an air show in Europe, and the second visit to the Old Continent ever (check our story on the mission to Serbia earlier this year here).

The four engine aircraft can carry up to 66 tons of cargo and has a ferry range of more than 10.000 km. The MTOW is 220t, the giant of the skies was the biggest aircraft on display and attracted a lot of visitors. The crew was communicative, although not everyone understood English. They said that they were not assigned to the Belgrade mission and that were happy to represent the plane and China at Airpower. They also enjoyed the flight display.

Since Austria is a neutral country, the airshow was a perfect occasion for China to show off its capabilities also in Europe. And maybe because of that, the air show had also another somewhat “surprising” visitor: a U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress strategic bomber, that made a flyby (or a “show of force” as someone called it) on Friday afternoon that we could also call as a “show of power” at Airpower. The aircraft was one of the BUFFs with the 23rd Bomb Squadron deployed to RAF Fairford for a BTF (Bomber Task Force).

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The B-52H during the flyby. (Image credit: Luca Ocretti)

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The B-52H during the flyby. (Image credit: Luca Ocretti)

Business is Business

Although Airpower is not a trade show it is still a great occasion for the defense companies to showcase their products.

Leonardo displayed not only the AW169M (one of the two at the air show also in flight) but in the static display area also the M-346 advanced trainer. The company thinks that the aircraft is the perfect replacement of the SA-105s which were phased out from the Austrian Air Force in December 2020.

Aero Vodochody introduced the L-39NG (already ordered by the armed forces of Czech Republic, Ghana, Hungary and Vietnam) and signed a MoU with the Austrian company Airborne Technologies regarding a joint development and integration of reconnaissance systems for the L-39NG. The representatives of Aero Vodochody are also discussing with several other Austrian companies to get them involved in the manufacturing of the trainer, as well as in the maintenance and support.

The Austrian company CEA Design showcased their turboprop training aircraft P01, which made its first flight less than oner year ago in December 2021. The aircraft is powered by an Ivchenko Progress 750hp turbine and is equipped with 0/0 ejection seats. Time will tell if the indigenous P01 could be a potential substitute of the aging PC-7 fleet.

Let’s not forget even the Austrian drama with Eurofighter. The country wanted to replace the Typhoons with a cheaper alternative. Indonesia offered to purchase the entire fleet of 15 aircraft in 2020, but then, this year, ordered 42 Rafale from France and 36 F-15 Eagle from the US. The Austrian Typhoons are still flying and it is not clear if they will be early retired or not.

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The Austrian Eurofighter (Image credit: Hilgo Schigt)

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The Austrian Eurofighter (Image credit: Hilgo Schigt)

The flight displays of a Hungarian and a Swedish Gripen were also a nice advertisement for SAAB, that exhibited also a Gripen with the text “100% Biofuel” on its tail.

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The Saab Gripen (Image credit: Luca Ocretti)

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The Swedish Saab JAS-39 Gripen (Image credit: Luca Ocretti)

Embraer promoted its C-390 Millennium. The airlifter was parked in the static display area. The Brazilian producer already won in Portugal, Hungary and the Netherlands. The Millennium seems a perfect replacement for the older versions of the C-130 Hercules and three of them are operated also by the Austrian Air Force. Airbus presence in that segment was significant too, with a Spanish C-295, the tail of which figured a special painting celebrating the achievement of 500,000 flight hours of the type, and an A400M of the German Luftwaffe, which was also open for visits of the numerous public.

The Austrian Armed Forces with their partner Red Bull.

The grand opening on Friday morning saw the arrival of nine Alouette III helicopters, each one carrying the flag of one of the nine Austrian autonomous states (Länder). The helicopters hovered in front of the public for several minutes, while the speakers played the symphony “Vibes in the Sky” of the Austrian composer Tristan Schulze. This was a world’s first premiere and the nine helicopters were not the only participants in the choreography, since also a Eurofighter Typhoon and three Pilatus PC-6s performed their part in it, joined by a special guest at the end.

Since Austria was also home of many prominent composers (let’s mention just Mozart and Strauss, because the list is too long), the performance was representative of Austria’s rich culture and history.

The Typhoon that flew over the airbase wore the stunning special livery “Austrian Tigers”, an artwork made by the talented Austrian aviation artist Chris Erhart, author of various special liveries for many aircraft (among them also the one covering the central Alouette III of the nine ship formation).

Three PC-6s then stole the scene and dropped water and fire retardant to recreate the Austrian flag in the sky. The remaining Alouettes (some of them had already left) finished hovering in front of the public to leave space to a single AW169M of the Italian Army. That was a particularly touching moment, considering that the old Alouettes will be soon replaced by 18 AW169M, the first of which should be delivered at the end of this year.

During the two days the Typhoons made several more appearances during the flight displays, flying also in couple while intercepting an Austrian C-130K Hercules. The country bought three of them in 2002 from the RAF and since then they were upgraded in 2013-2015. A formation of four PC-7 Turbo Trainers and three Diamon DA40 showed the skills of Zeltweg’s flying school. In the static display area it was another Alouette III with a special livery dedicated to the 50 years of this helicopter type in Austrian service. Not far from the Alouette there were the other helicopter types in service with the Armed Forces: an AB-212, an OH-58 Kiowa, a Sikorsky S-70 Black Hawk and, as well, an EC135 of the Police and another one of OAMTC.

The Flying Bulls attended in forces, with almost the entirety of their fleet present in Zeltweg. The spectators admired the various spectacular maneuvers of their aerobatic planes, the world premiere of the “Red Bull Aerobatic Triple”, featuring planes, helicopters and wingsuit pilots in one incredible stunt, not to forget the crazy exhibitions of the BO105C, the impressive flight of the AH-1F Cobra, the warbirds formations with a B-25J “Mitchell”, a P-38 “Lightning”, an F-4U “Corsair” and two Alpha Jets, and many other amazing presentations that included also two L13 Blanik saiplanes and a flyby of their DC-6B, that has a particularly interesting history, since it was used as personal plane of Marshall Josip Broz Tito, long time president of Yugoslavia and later even of Zambia’s president Kenneth Kaunda. Most of their aircraft were also on static display, parked close to the public zone.

Flying program and static display

Let’s now take a quick and not complete look to the aircraft that performed a flight display that went on uninterrupted from 9 AM till 5 PM. Apart from the performances that we have already mentioned, there were even more spectacular exhibitions.

The military aerobatic teams were represented by the Swiss Patrouille Suisse and their F-5s with their high speed maneuvers and the use of flares, the Croatian Krila Oluje with their five PC-9M and the ten-ship formation of the Frecce Tricolori with their MB339A/PAN that, as always, enchanted the crowd of enthusiasts. Special mention also to the five ship civil team Skytexter team that wrote the “Welcome to Airpower 2022” sign in the sky.

The Belgian Air Force sent its F-16AM in the “Dream Viper” livery, created by a collaboration of the Commander Steven De Vries (who is also the demo pilot of the Belgian Solo Display team) and Nico De Boeck. The livery was first presented in June and the exhibition of De Vries was one of the most spectacular at Airpower.

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Belgian Air Force F-16 demo. (Image credit: Luca Ocretti)

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Belgian Air Force F-16 demo. (Image credit: Luca Ocretti)

Belgium sent also the A109 demo team with the helicopter in a special color scheme. “Razzle Blades” is a creation of the Dutch artist Jeroen van Veenendaal. The exhibition was particularly acclaimed by the numerous spotters that managed to take some cool shots of the A109 while it was launching flares.

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A109 demo team (Image credit: Hilgo Schigt)

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A109 demo team (Image credit: Hilgo Schigt)

Another particularly loud and fast show was made by the Greek F-16 Demo team “Zeus”: the F-16C Block 52+ reached a top speed of 0,94 Mach and performed aerobatic maneuvers that exposed the pilot to acceleration forces of up to 9.5G.

A mixed formation flight lead by the Austrian Eurofighter Typhoon “Austrian Tigers”, a German Typhoon and a Tornado, a Hungarian JAS-39 Gripen and an Alpha Jet of the Flying bulls took to the sky while a Czech Mi-35 Hind was hovering in front of the public, celebrating a mini Tiger Meet, as the aircraft had all paintings dedicated to this majestic animal. Two other aircraft in the static display wear stunning tiger liveries too: an Italian Typhoon and a Turkish F-16, while a Polish F-16D was partly covered with some tiger plushes.

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“Tiger” formation (Image credit: Hilgo Schigt)

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“Tiger” formation (Image credit: Hilgo Schigt)

Coming back to the flight displays, it was possible to see also the replica of a Messerschmitt ME-262. Some more jet warbirds took the sky in front of the public: a MiG-15, a Swedish two-seater JAS-35 Draken, a Soko Galeb, owned by the Galeb flying club from Belgrade, that flew also in formation with the before mentioned Draken.

The Croatian MiG-21UM Mongol B is also almost a warbird. The country will replace their 12 MiGs with the same amount of Rafales in the next years, so this was one of the last occasions to see a Croatian Fishbed at an air show. The neighboring Slovenia sent two PC-9M Hudournik trainers, one of them performed also a flying display.

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Croatian MiG-21UM Mongol B (Image credit: Luca Ocretti)

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Croatian MiG-21UM Mongol B (Image credit: Luca Ocretti)

The rotorcrafts were also an important part of the flying display.

Apart from the aircraft already mentioned, it was possible to admire the solo display of a German Eurocopter Tiger. Quite impressive, but we prefer the “dancing” pair of Tigers at Le Bourget, almost ten years ago. The Czech did something similar, presenting their Mi-35 and a Mi-171Sh, while the Hungarians presented another Hind.

After presenting most of the flying program it is now time to take another quick look to the aircraft in static display not already mentioned. Among them, a Polish SU-22, a Dutch F-16AM, a private L-29 Delfin, a Slovak L-39 Albatros, a Czech L-159, a Turkish F-4 Phantom II with the special livery “Tribute to old Phantom Phighters” (written with PH).

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The Polish Su-22 (Image credit: Hilgo Schigt)

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The Polish Su-22 (Image credit: Hilgo Schigt)

Among the “old” beauties on display let’s mention the magnificent DH.89 Dragon Rapide, a Beech 18, an ex Luftwaffe P-149D, a DC-3 of the businessman and TV celebrity Michael Manousakis and much more. Heli Austria displayed a Super Puma with a bambi bucket while the German Armed Forces sent a Sea Lynx and an NH90 helicopter.

Overall, the visitors could admire more than 200 aircraft: the Airpower is one of the most important air shows and everything there is just massive. As already noted when reporting about RIAT 22 at RAF Fairford, Zeltweg proved to be not only an event for planespotters, avgeeks and families, but also a venue for the industry to present their products.

About Aljoša Jarc
Passionate about aviation from a lifetime, contributor of the Slovenian aviation website sierra5.net. Occasionally writer for blogbeforeflight.net, exyuaviation.com and other media.
About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.

NATO Days in Ostrava 2021: Things Getting Back to Normal?

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The Saab Viggen was one of the highlights of Ostrava airshow. (All images: Author, unless otherwise stated)

Ostrava Show Brought Things Closer to Pre-COVID Normal.

Last weekend (Sep. 17 – 19) we attended the NATO Days event in Ostrava. It seems that after a year of pandemic, the air show audience community may have some hope that things would get back to normal. And the Ostrava show has been proof of that. There were several interesting highlights and, although the NATO Days is an event that focuses on defense and security in general, we will put the spotlight on the aviation domain.

First, comes the static display.

This year it featured two premieres that are marking the direction of future development of military aviation. The first one was the MQ-9 Reaper drone. As, Zbyněk Pavlačík, the Chairman of the Jagello 2000 foundation, standing behind the show in Ostrava said: “The MQ-9 Reaper drone is the imaginary icing on the cake of this year’s NATO Days. Its participation is also possible thanks to the ongoing Ample Strike exercise, in which Reaper is involved. This is a unique matter, but it is necessary to consider that due to logistical demands on Sunday noon will start preparation for Monday’s departure in a C-5 aircraft.”

The MQ-9 in static display (Image credit: Darek Ziniewicz)

The drone was presented in the static display, alongside the aforesaid C-5. Even though the drone could have been witnessed in the media over the years – for instance during the military operations in Iraq or Afghanistan – air show appearances have been somewhat rare. The NATO Days organizers claim that it has been the first appearance that the Reaper has made in mainland Europe (previously it had also attended RIAT).

Another highlight of the static display was the Italian Air Force F-35A. Somewhat common is what can be said about both the Reape and the F-35: these aircraft (UAVs and the F-35) are becoming more and more proliferated, and what seems unusual now is bound to become a new normal in the future.

The Italian Air Force F-35A being moved to the static display
Close up on the Italian Air Force F-35A. (Image credit: Darek Ziniewicz)

The static display also featured helicopters that are to be procured by the Czech Republic – Bell’s Venom/Super Cobra combo. These aircraft have become Ostrava show’s regulars, for a few years now. A Czech Mi-35 wearing a special color scheme was also showcased in the static display!

Until the arrival of the 5th generation aircraft, the European air forces used to operate a broad range of aircraft: F/A-18s, F-16s, Mirages, F-4s and so on. This contributed to the spice and variety at large international air shows, such as RIAT, Radom Air Show in Poland, NATO Days in Ostrava, or ILA Berlin. These days, it seems that, given the broad proliferation of the F-35, the era of aviation events gathering many different, colourful type is quickly becoming a thing of the past. The only solution that could be potentially adopted here is the drive to bring back the historical aircraft to the flight line – such as the Norwegian F-104 or the Viggen. And the latter roared in the sky over the Leoš Janáček Airport in Ostrava this year.

The overall grey F-35s are going to monopolize the airshow scene in the future.

When it comes to the Ostravian F-35’s presence, it was said by the commander of the Czech Air Force, that the service very much appreciates the fact that the Czech event has been selected as the place for its Central-European military air show debut. It “proves the prestige of this event”, said Major General Petr Mikulenka, Commander of the Czech Air Force. Zbyněk Pavlačík also said that the organizers strived to “arrange the fly-over of Italian F-35 aircraft for last year’s NATO Days when they were relocating to Iceland Air Policing at the time of the event, but unfortunately we did not succeed due to the need for additional refueling. Our event will still be the third place in the nearby region where these aircraft will be presented – after the Berlin ILA in 2018 and Zeltweg in 2019″. Notably, this year Lockheed Martin partnered with the event and the Italian Air Force also brought its AW139 to Mošnov Airport.

Another highlight of the static display was the CF-18 Hornet of the Royal Canadian Air Force. RCAF brought its two-seater to Ostrava.

In the air, the debut of the new L-39NG trainer aircraft, developed by the Czech Aero Vodochody company, captured the attendees attention. The pilots who performed during the show – Vladimír Továrek and Vytautas Požela – received display certification just a few weeks before NATO Days. The aircraft presented throughout its full envelope, really shone on Sunday when the sun came out and illuminated the airframe beautifully. Notably, the L-39NG was presented in the static display two years ago. 

L-39NG

Speaking of fourth-generation aircraft, worth of mentions are the two F-16 acts – by the Turkish (Solo Turk) and Hellenic Air Force (Zeus). We could come to a conclusion that these two were a competition, or a get-together of conflicted NATO allies. The Viper is always a spectacular sight to see, and both display routines are incredible. However, if the author was to indicate a preference of his own, he would need to say that the Turkish display is more entertaining.

Solo Turk demo.

Another interesting highlight was related to the fact that this year’s edition of NATO Days was organized with Sweden acting as the special partner nation. The Swedish aircraft on dynamic display included the famous Swedish Air Force Historic Flight’s inventory – J32 Lansen, SK35C Draken, AJS37 Viggen, as well as JAS 39 Gripens flown by all of the European users (Sweden, Hungary, Czech Republic). Saab also partnered up with Jagello 2000. Here we can go back and revisit our remark on the historical aircraft participation – the Swedish Air Force Historic Flight, without any doubt, does this right, presenting the aeronautical thought behind the Swedish Cold War jets in all of its glory.

Hungarian Gripen demo

The Swedish displays do highlight the special capabilities of the individual designs – for instance, the Viggen’s routine includes an act where the aircraft lands on the runway, uses its thrust reverser to go backward, and then it takes off in the opposite direction – a rare, and unique sight that is not a common element of any air show routine. Notably: the announcements that had been made before the show were mentioning the Saab J29 Tunnan to participate in the display schedule. The ‘flying barrel’, as the Swedes call it, did not make it to Ostrava, and SwAFHF displayed the Lansen instead.

A-109 Solo Display Team Razzle Blades was one of the rotary-wing highlights of the show, presenting an interesting display program, with a lot of flares. It seems, especially after the Gdynia Aerobaltic and Leszno Antidotum shows this year, that the European forces have refined their helicopter displays at the air shows. Or it could be that helicopter acts are becoming more common. The other helicopter teams that we have witnessed in Ostrava were the Czech Mi-35/Mi-171 demo (that also performed in Gdynia), and the Czech W-3 Sokol MEDEVAC demo (also – we’ve seen it in Gdynia), both being top class acts. The helicopters were also represented by the Swiss Super Puma Display team, with its signature, massive flares drop that left everybody in awe, and was, undoubtedly, a highlight that lot of the aviation photographers attending the show were waiting for. Finally, the Slovak Air Force also demonstrated its newly acquired UH-60M Black Hawk in what was quite an engaging, and interesting display.

Slovak UH-60M Black Hawk

On Sunday, all of the helicopters taking part in the show performed a joint flypast, closing the weekend program.

Helicopter joint flypast

NATO Days event is organized jointly with the Czech Air Force Days. This meant the local hosts were also represented quite broadly. Apart from the L-39NG and the helicopter displays, another interesting highlight was the CAS demo flown by the two-ship formation of L-159 ALCAs of the Czech 21st Tactical Air Force Base. One of the jets participating was wearing the standard, gray camo, while the other wore a special, spectacular green pixelated special paint scheme. A great sight to behold.

L-159 ALCA

The Luftwaffe, meanwhile, brought in the heavy metal, with its A400M demo display. The aircraft is very spectacular, with its four mighty engines and incredible performance. The aircraft, despite its massive appearance and heaviness, is nimble and agile. It also exhibits good short-field performance – all of which was shown during the weekend displays.

A400M demo display

Another highlight came in a form of the C-47 Dakota of the Battle of Britain memorial flight. The aircraft wore the Normandy invasion stripes on its wings. Lastly, the Slovenian PC-9 display pilot performed a well-executed demo, showcasing great agility and aircraft handling, during its routine.

DC-3 arriving for static.

There were also some surprises during the event. On Sunday the audience could witness a joint jump of Czech and Israeli paratroopers from a Czech CASA transport aircraft. The jump involved instructors of airborne training of ACR units and paratroopers of the Israeli Defense Forces.

Another two surprises were the Austrian Eurofighter’s and Slovak MiG-29s appearances – the aircraft, despite being announced as a flypast in the display program, performed a modest show of their agility. Given the harsh weather, these routines also entailed interesting vapor effects – since we experienced high humidity and intermittent rain during the weekend.

Slovak Fulcrum during its appearance at NATO Days

Overall, after the Ostrava Show, we can conclude that the air show scene in Europe is slowly and gradually coming back to normal, following the COVID-19 pandemic. Although we cannot be sure whether the 2022 air show season will be closer to what we consider normal, we do have our fingers crossed for that to happen. Also, eastern European air shows are becoming more and more attractive year after year. Hopefully, they will ultimately gain a greater footprint, in the European, and global, airshow calendar, so that they can compete on par with bigger events, such as RIAT (Royal International Air Tattoo).

The NATO Days event steps beyond what’s perceived as a traditional airshow (with some attention paid to the land forces, and military matters in general), nonetheless, the air displays associated with the Ostrava show alone make it a worthwhile destination for any avid military aviation fanatic.

Super Puma dropping flares

One last note: to enter the showgrounds one had to present a valid COVID-19 vaccination certificate. This seems to have become a common part of our current reality, nonetheless, the show was as normal as it could have been.

More images by the author can be found here.

Standing contributor for TheAviationist. Aviation photojournalist. Co-Founder of DefensePhoto.com. Expert in linguistics, Cold War discourse, Cold War history and policy and media communications.

We Attended Maribor Aeros 2021 Air Show In Slovenia. And Here’s Our Report.

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Some images of the air displays at Aeros 2021. All images: Author except the Gripen shot (credit: Luca Ocretti).

Everything you need to know about Aeros 2021 – South European show and Exhibition, in Slovenia.

Aeros 2021 airshow was held in Maribor, Slovenia, on Aug. 15, 2021. The flight program started at noon with the presentation of various RC models and continued with general aviation and military aircraft. The meeting was also the first international appearance of Frecce Tricolori since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

This was also the team’s first public exhibition this year, if we exclude flyovers. The excitement for their performance was, because of this, even higher both for the public and the Frecce Tricolori team. The ten-ship formation landed at Maribor airport in the morning on Friday, August 13, and performed a spectacular training flight on Saturday afternoon.

Frecce Tricolori’s Scintilla maneuver. (All images: Author, unless otherwise stated).

Five of the MB339s showed their special tail arts, dedicated to the five Italian Air Force aerobatic teams that represented Italy before Frecce Tricolori were established. The team is celebrating their 60th birthday this year. The public was thrilled by the many acrobatic figures they performed.

The Frecce Tricolori (Image credit: Luca Ocretti)

The soloist, Pony 10 – Maj. Massimiliano Salvatore, surprised the spectators with a low “volo folle” (crazy flight) and other precise maneuvers. The exhibition was scheduled to close the air show but, because of deteriorating weather conditions, it was anticipated, so tgat the team could perform at their fullest. The speaker of Frecce Tricolori, Maj. Riccardo Chiapolino, presented the entire programme in Slovenian language and thanked SSO and SKGZ, two leading organisations of the Slovenian minority in Italy, for the help that provided him to perform the task (and considering how difficult is the Slovenian language Riccardo performed just great). Frecce Tricolori traditionally painted the biggest Italian flag in the world also over Maribor, while accompanied by Pavarotti’s recording of Puccini’s aria Nessun dorma and confirmed, once again, that are one of Italy’s best ambassadors.

The Czech Air Force took part in Aeros 2021 with the Alca Display team, consisting in two Aero L-159 Alca aircraft. One of them is a stunning artwork – a special color dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the introduction of the Alca in the Air Force. The livery was first presented at Ostrava NATO days last year. The aircraft is painted in the camouflage of the Pandur II APC used in the Czech Army, to symbolize the CAS (Close Air Support) role of the L-159. On the right part of the tail there is an artistic representation of František Peřina, a Czech fighter ace during WW2 and patron of the 212. Tactical Squadron that operates the Alcas, and his Spitfire, while the left part of the tail celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Alcas in the Air Force. The special color was flown by Captain David “Dave” Byrtus, the other Alca by Captain Aleš Seidl.

Alca Display team

The team showed to the public a dynamic programme, flying the jets to their limits. The display itself is really interesting, hopefully they will be present at many other air shows in the future. The team is really proud to represent their nation and the locally designed and manufactured L-159, the successor of the L-39 Albatros, that unfortunately did not equalize the sales of the predecessor. The pilots particularly enjoyed the exhibition in Maribor as they said that the area around the airport is similar to their home base in Čáslav, that hosts also the Gripens. Usually they also drop flares during their exhibitions, but unfortunately this was not the case. That’s, on the other hand, a good reason to go watch them another time in another place.

Top Gun-style mirror maneuver! (Image credit: Luca Ocretti)

The Slovenian Army (Slovenska Vojska) showed the majority of the aircraft types in the fleet. At the static display area it was possible to see the Zlin 143, a Bell 206, a Bell 412 and a Pilatus PC-9M with the weapon systems that could be mounted on it. A Pilatus PC-6 dropped some parachutists and performed a nice low pass over the airport, before landing on the runway.

Slovenian PC-9M.

The Bell 412 showcased an operation of the Military Police (Vojaška Policija), the Bell 206 also performed a brief flight presentation. The same Bell 412 and the same crew that was flying it at Aeros helped the Slovenian firefighters to put out a wildfire in the Karst region on August 17. A Pilatus PC-9M was used to simulate a CAS mission, supporting a Valuk APC (a license built Pandur 6X6). The air show was closed by the exhibition of a Pilatus PC-9M Hudournik (Swift) flown by Andrej Fiorelli, winner of the Sir Douglas Bader Trophy for the best individual flight display at the Royal International Air Tattoo in 2017. Fiorelli left everyone speechless, as he mastered the plane, flying his aerobatic display in harsh weather conditions with wind gusts. Unfortunately the light was not suitable anymore for photos and many people were already running to their cars to avoid a storm that at the end did not arrive.

Slovenian B-412EP.

The Slovenian Police flew a simulated police operation with its Leonardo AW169 and used the winch to evacuate an injured person. The pilots said that they are really satisfied with the AW169 as it is a modern and efficient helicopter. The Ministry of the Interior recently announced the purchase of another one. Leonardo was also selected by the Ministry of Defence to supply a C-27J Spartan II. Let’s hope that they will fly it at some air shows too…

Slovenian Police AW169.

The Hungarian Air Force Saab JAS-39C Gripen flew directly from Kecskemét AB and after performing over Maribor airport for Aeros 2021 returned to its base. Mate Majerik, the Hungarian demo pilot, delighted the crowd with a programme full of spectacular maneuvers and the use of flares. It was also the loudest display of the day, but no one complained about that.

JAS-39 Gripen (Image credit: Luca Ocretti)

The civilian displays at Aeros 2021 were also interesting, from some Cessnas of the local aeroclub to gliders, and I will mention just some of them. Jozef Pivarči took off with his Aero L-29 Delfin. The aircraft was first delivered to the Soviet Air Force in 1971 and was bought from another private owner in 2019. Pivarči flew as a military pilot also on the MiG-21 before continuing his career in civil aviation. Benjamin “Bendžo” Ličar, a legend among Slovenian flight instructors that started flying back in 1972, presented an aerobatic programme with a Zlin Z-526. Ličar is a well known star of local airshows and, among other achievements, he flew under Solkan’s bridge, the world’s longest single stone arch bridge, in four occasions. Zoltán Veres, one of the best known Hungarian pilots and Guinness record holder (in 2007 he executed 408 continuous rolls) delighted the crowd with some crazy low flying and high g maneuvers. Nejc Faganelj, Pipistrel’s test pilot, demonstrated that also ULs can do aerobatics when he skillfully flew the Pipistrel Virus SW121. Not agile but a classic beauty, the Ryan PT-22 owned by Dietmar Grosz, that attracted admiring glances when he slowly flew some low passes over the runway.

L-29 Delfin.

The flight program was various and high quality. Aeros was one of the few events of 2021 that was not cancelled and, as mentioned, it was also the first international appearance or the first exhibition after the pandemic for many participants. The mix between RC planes, general aviation, civil and military performances created an afternoon for different tastes, but the real avgeek enjoyed them all. The static display was all about general aviation and the aircraft in use by the Slovenian Army. Several companies and small businesses came to present their products too. The challenging times did not stop the organizers, so the public and performers were all just too happy to be back at an air show. Hopefully the event will become a regular meeting point for the aviation lovers and professionals of this part of Europe.

Passionate about aviation from a lifetime, contributor of the Slovenian aviation website sierra5.net. Occasionally writer for blogbeforeflight.net, exyuaviation.com and other media.

Thunder Over Michigan Introduces New ‘Matinee’ Style Drive-In Air Show

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Humid conditions at Willow Run Airport for Thunder Over Michigan made for excellent vapor cones during high speeds passes. (All images: TheAviationist/Tom Demerly)

Thunder Over Michigan: New Show Format That Combines Two Air Shows Per Day Gets Strong Reviews.

Under the gun, behind the eight ball and facing the resurgence of a 14-month global pandemic along with massive airport reconstruction at Willow Run Airport, Thunder Over Michigan director Kevin Walsh couldn’t focus on the movie he was trying to watch with his daughters at the beginning of a troubled 2021.

Pressures from the global COVID-19 pandemic had devastated the air show industry, cancelling air shows worldwide. At the height of the pandemic in 2020, over 95 separate airshow dates had been cancelled in the U.S. Then, just as air shows began to re-emerge from the crisis in early summer of 2021, a third wave of new cases from the Delta variant was spiking among non-vaccinated across the United States.

But even before the emergence of the Delta variant, a massive $10 million reconstruction program began at Willow Run Airport, where Thunder Over Michigan takes place. The airport renovation involved the decoupling of Runways 23L and 27, reconstruction of Runway 9/27 and the construction of a new Taxiway A parallel to Runway 5R/23L. Every part of the airport was affected.

The construction project lead Kevin Walsh to say that restructuring the format for Thunder Over Michigan was, “Not really related to COVID anymore. If you take a look around here, there’s an immense amount of construction going on.”

In addition to switching to a drive-in format, Thunder Over Michigan also introduced a two-show per day format. (All images: TheAviationist/Tom Demerly)

“The only thing I could think about was how to get the air show back. How to put on a safe show that everyone would enjoy”, Walsh told TheAviationist.com at Thunder Over Michigan.

Thunder Over Michigan director Kevin Walsh.

But only eight months after his distracted movie night, Walsh walked into spontaneous applause from volunteers, production workers, aircrews and media who gave him a standing ovation at Thunder Over Michigan during the crew dinner inside a giant aircraft hangar at Willow Run Airport. Against a global pandemic and massive construction project, against all odds, Thunder Over Michigan was back, and with a new format that airshow attendees were already giving strong reviews.

Walsh had beaten the odds and not just prevailed, he may have actually advanced the entire air show industry with his new “matinee” two-show-per-day, drive-in air show format. The new format at Thunder Over Michigan featured one show in the morning, and another show with nearly identical schedule in the afternoon.

One airshow attendee at Thunder Over Michigan told The Aviationist: “This [new, shorter format] is way better. I have a barbecue this afternoon and we’re headed out on the boat later. I’ll be home by 2 p.m. and still have the rest of my day”.

While there was some grumbling about prices for Thunder Over Michigan on social media, the overwhelming response to the new two-show per day format with drive-in viewership was strong among the general audience.

“One thing I realized is that airshow audiences have changed,” Walsh said on Saturday night at Thunder Over Michigan. “The way we consume media has changed. People want smaller bites.”

The crowd at Thunder Over Michigan was wowed by Sunday’s low altitude, high-speed pass by Blue Angel #5.

Walsh described the revelation he had about the new format for Thunder Over Michigan, “I went out for a run after trying to watch a movie with my daughters and couldn’t think about anything except how to make the show better, how to make this work. Then it occurred to me, maybe we need to make air shows more like a movie. Much shorter, maybe just 3-4 hours. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could put on a show in the morning and another in the afternoon?”

Walsh’s intuition proved insightful. Not only did all four performances at Thunder Over Michigan, two on Saturday and two on Sunday, sell out, but every person TheAviationist spoke to in person over the two-day show told us the new show format was an improvement over traditional all-day airshows.

Thunder Over Michigan 2021 also benefitted from the addition of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels to the schedule only weeks before the show. The show originally had a strong list of attractions that included the USAF Thunderbirds, air show announcer Rob Reider, a mass-flight of B-25 Mitchells, the A-10 Demo Team, the F-35A Demo Team, the U.S. Navy E/F-18 Rhino Demo Team and others. But when the Blue Angels came on board only weeks before the show, ticket sales accelerated until the event eventually sold out all four shows.

Thunder Over Michigan became the second show this year to host both of the major U.S. jet demonstration teams, the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds.

At a meet and greet event at The Henry Ford on Saturday night in Dearborn, Michigan, Blue Angel #1, Commanding officer, Commander Brian C. Kesselring told The Aviationist: “We called the Thunderbirds a few weeks ago and told them, hey, we have an open weekend now, can we fly with you guys?” Despite the obstacles of the pandemic and the airport reconstruction, the planets had aligned for Kevin Walsh and Thunder Over Michigan.

Even though the USAF F-35A Demo Team staged at nearby Selfridge Air National Guard Base, their flight demonstrations at Willow Run Airport for Thunder Over Michigan proved to be thrilling.

Even the one thing that no air show director or air boss can control, the weather, cooperated in the final days before the show. TheAviationist.com asked Kevin Walsh, “Have you seen a weather forecast for this weekend?”

Walsh told us, “I never look at the weather forecast. It’s bad luck”. As it happened, the weather in the days before the show and on Saturday and Sunday when a sold-out crowd packed the airfield, dodged a series of severe storms and left Thunder Over Michigan with only the thunder from jets, but none from severe weather. Walsh had beaten a global pandemic, a massive airport reconstruction, and the weather forecast to host a successful two-day, four-show Thunder Over Michigan Airshow that other air show directors will no doubt be looking at for ideas in the coming months.

“Mitchell Madness”, the theme for show, inspired B-25 fans from around the country and created many new ones with its massive fly-over reminiscent of the famous Doolittle Raid.

Tom Demerly is a feature writer, journalist, photographer and editorialist who has written articles that are published around the world on TheAviationist.com, TACAIRNET.com, Outside magazine, Business Insider, We Are The Mighty, The Dearborn Press & Guide, National Interest, Russia’s government media outlet Sputnik, and many other publications. Demerly studied journalism at Henry Ford College in Dearborn, Michigan. Tom Demerly served in an intelligence gathering unit as a member of the U.S. Army and Michigan National Guard. His military experience includes being Honor Graduate from the U.S. Army Infantry School at Ft. Benning, Georgia (Cycle C-6-1) and as a Scout Observer in a reconnaissance unit, Company “F”, 425th INF (RANGER/AIRBORNE), Long Range Surveillance Unit (LRSU). Demerly is an experienced parachutist, holds advanced SCUBA certifications, has climbed the highest mountains on three continents and visited all seven continents and has flown several types of light aircraft.

The World War II Weekend Air Show Is BACK! And Here’s Our Report.

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B-17G “Yankee Lady” coming in for a landing. (All images credit: Author)

The World War II Weekend is one of the best air shows on the American East Coast.

Organized by the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum, the 30th annual World War II Weekend air show was a stunning success. After being cancelled last year, due to COVID, the June 4-5-6, 2021 show was a sign of normalcy returning. Held on the East Coast of the United States in Reading, Pennsylvania, this air show consists solely of warbirds from the Second World War, as well as a large contingent of WWII reenactors on the ground.

The show is rather unique, in that it is solely composed of warbirds from the Second World War. No fast movers, no helicopters. The only comparable shows, that I know of, would be: the Planes of Fame Air Show in Chino, California and shows held at the Imperial War Museum Duxford in the United Kingdom.

World War II Weekend Air Show
Sherman tank with supporting infantry makes its way through the crowd.

Not only is the show visually stimulating, but also the sounds of various aircraft are music to one’s ears. The deep throated roar of radial engines was contrasted by the ripping/tearing sound of inline Merlin powered aircraft.

SBD Dauntless and TBM Avenger wait out the storm.

The weather cooperated for the most part with blue skies during the show’s busiest days on Saturday and Sunday. On Friday there was an intense and localized downpour which brought the show to a halt and sent people running for cover. Still, once the rain cleared, it provided for some nice photography.

Nakajima A6M2 Model 21 Zero makes a photo pass.

It was a thrill seeing a Japanese Zero, in this case a Nakajima A6M2 Model 21 Zero, for the first time. Owned by Ellenville LLC, this rare Zero is powered by a Pratt & Whitney R-1830 engine. The company also flew their FG-1D Corsair as well as a P-51D Mustang.

Member of the WWII Airborne Demonstration Team prepares for the day’s jump.

The WWII Airborne Demonstration Team drops on Saturday and Sunday gave the public a small glimpse of what our airborne troops experienced. The Team is part of The Parachute School, which trains individuals in WWII military style static line parachuting. Both days the Team jumped from a C-46 Commando in two sticks of six men and women. Their authentic attention to detail in their uniforms and parachuting skills were most impressive.

Seeing and hearing heavy four engine bombers is always stunning to experience. The Yankee Air Museum brought their B-17G Flying Fortress “Yankee Lady”. Plus, the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) flew in their star attraction, the B-29 Superfortress “Fifi”. Both bombers performed during the show as well as flew rides for lucky passengers.

World War II Weekend Air Show
SBD Dauntless dive bomber shows off her bomb load.

The CAF always provides numerous warbirds from various units for the World War II Weekend Airshow. Airbase Georgia, the CAF unit based near Atlanta, contributed their P-51D Mustang, SBD-5 Dauntless, FG-1D Corsair, and a very rare P-63A-6 Kingcobra. The TBM-3E Avenger “Doris Mae”, from the CAF Capital Wing, conducted rides and took part in the missing man formation.

Even though the show had fewer warbirds, as compared to past years, it was an impressive event with mostly good weather. World War II Weekend Airshow is definitely a bucket list air show for aviation aficionados. It normally takes place on or around the anniversary of the D-Day, in early June. I recommend you place it on your air show calendar for 2022.

World War II Weekend Air Show
Weather begins to clear after drenching the B-25 Mitchell “Panchito”.

Randy Jennings is the proud son of combat WWII Mustang pilot, Warner Jennings. From birth, he has been obsessed by all things aviation; past, present and future. As a photojournalist, he has covered aviation events in the United States and Europe. He lives in the Washington DC region with his beautiful wife and rambunctious daughter.

You Really Have To Watch This Incredible Footage Of The Aircraft Arriving At RNAS Yeovilton For D-Day 50th Anniversary

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A screenshot from the YouTube video embedded in the article (Credit: Airshow World YT channel).

RNAS Yeovilton hosted about 70 aircraft involved in an epic flypast. This amazing video shows some of the participating aircraft landing at the base from the perimeter fence.

In 1994, Royal Navy Air Station Yeovilton, in Somerset, UK, gathered an impressive number of military aircraft from 12 nations that joined a massive flypast to celebrate the 50th anniversary of D-Day.

Along with RAF Tornados and Royal Navy Sea Harriers, other extremely interesting types took part in the celebration, including Royal Australian Air Force F-111s; Czech MiG-23s and MiG-29; French Mirage 2000s and Super Etendards, Greek F-4E Phantoms; Belgian, Dutch and Norwegian F-16s; Canadian CF-188s; Slovak MiG-29s; U.S. Air Force F-15Cs and U.S. Navy F-14 Tomcats; as well as a plethora of supporting and visiting birds.

Local and foreign aviation enthusiasts flooded the fields around the base to watch, photograph and film the aircraft descending into RNAS Yeovilton, enjoying the proximity of the spotting points on the perimeter fence to the runway’s threshold.

Wanna get an idea? Then, look at the following video that has been recently restored and posted to YouTube by Airshow World (H/T to Davide Pizzo for sharing this!). While quality is not even comparable to the one you can obtain today with a commercial smartphone, the clip is simply stunning as it provides a look back at an era of aircraft types, high-visibility insignias, camouflages and paint schemes never to be repeated again.

There are so many amazing (and unfortunately retired) aircraft approaching Yeovilton in the video that is difficult to pick a favorite one. I like the smoky arrival of the F-4s or the Sea Harriers lined up on final approach as a formation of RAF Tornados and Fleet Air Arm Sea Harriers FA2s and a pair of Harrier T4Ns approach the break. In the end, I must admit that the stylish overhead break performed by the four F-14 Tomcats returning from the flypast in diamond formation, with the outer jets breaking left and right first, to be followed by the leader and rear aircraft, is probably the part that I liked the most. Epic!

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

Zigermeet Airshow: Swiss Flying Precision, From Better Times

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A very unusual picture for 2020: remember the days when we all could just pack into one place without a care in the world? Well, this photo is from Zigermeet 2019, a very well-attended airshow.

A year ago, no one would ever have thought what changes COVID-19 would force upon us in 2020. The airshow industry was hit very hard, with nearly all American airshows being canceled, and only a handful able to adapt to a drive-in style which allowed for ample social distancing. And it sure will be interesting to see how the 2021 airshow season will look like. What will the new normal be? Maybe more of the drive-in style shows? Time will tell. But it will definitely be a while before we are back to the “good old days” of massive crowds all packed together.

Speaking of airshows, since I have not been able to attend a single airshow this year, let’s look back at an airshow I attended during my vacation in Switzerland last summer.

What exactly is the Zigermeet? It is the name of an airshow in Switzerland. Ziger is a byproduct from the process of making cheese. And meet, as in meeting or get together. The Ziger comes from the area of the Glarus Region in Switzerland, which is approximately a 65km or 40 mile drive south east of Zurich. The town of Mollis has an airport and that is where the Zigermeet 2019 airshow was held on August 16-17, 2019.

Many years ago the first Zigermeet airshow was a very small event,  more like of a get together/fly-in of aviation enthusiasts. But over the years, the show kept growing, and with 2019 the Zigermeet became the largest airshow in Switzerland. Friday was considered a training day, with about 10,000 attendees, and Saturday was the main event day with 20,000 attendees.

I happened to be vacationing in Switzerland the second half of August, and I had reserved one day, Aug. 17, to attend the Zigermeet 2019. There are several businesses located at the airport, among them the Kopter Group which was recently acquired by Leonardo, who is in development of a new single engine turbine helicopter called the SH09. Swiss Air Ambulance Operator REGA also has a base at the Mollis airport, and proudly showed off their new Airbus EC-145 Helicopter and their new ambulance jet from Bombardier, the Challenger 650.

The Swiss government was in the middle of the evaluation process for a new fighter jet acquisition in order to completely retire the aging F-5 Tiger fleet and lessen the use of the F-18s the Swiss Air Force currently operates. The current contenders are Airbus with its Eurofighter, Dassault with the Rafale, Lockheed Martin with the F-35 Lighting II, and Boeing with the F-18 Super Hornet. There had been be a fifth contender, Saab with the Gripen E, but during the beginning of the testing process Saab was asked to withdraw because the evaluation committee felt the Gripen E was not mission ready yet. Nevertheless, Saab had a big presence at the Zigermeet with an aerial display of the Gripen and the older Viggen, a visitor pavilion, as well as a VIP area for invited guests.

Airbus, Dassault, and Saab all presented their respective jets and had visitor pavilions and handed out plenty of swag to the masses. Lockheed Martin also had a pavilion and handed out fliers. There were F-35 pilots who talked with interested airshow goers, but for whatever disappointing reason, Lockheed Martin decided to showcase only a mock-up of a F-35 Lightning II and did not bother to bring in an actual aircraft and perform an aerial display. Boeing had a massive tent that was set up for a big catered event, but that was by invitation only. The Super Hornet was also not in attendance; not even a mock-up.

The flight displays through out the day were fantastic, as mentioned above the Eurofighter, Gripen and Viggen, and the Rafale showed off their capabilities. But there were also show teams like the Baltic Bees with their L-39 jets from Latvia, and, of course, the Patrouile Suisse flying the F-5. I personally also always like seeing helicopter demos, and the Swiss Air Force showed off the Super Puma and Czech Air Force had a fantastic aerial display with one of their Mil-Mi 24 Hinds.

Of course the Swiss Air Force was also present with the F/A 18 solo demo, the Patrouille Suisse, and the Super Puma helicopter demo.

But with all the fast jets and unbelievable acrobatic displays, what stopped me in my tracks happened during the lunch hour, when Christian Moullec from France flew his powered glider with his geese over the airfield. There was just something so serene and peaceful watching this man with his machine interacting with his birds. Simple yet spectacular!

Christian Moullec with his geese in formation flight. Simply spectacular!

Comparing European airshows to airshows in North America, it feels that such events in Europe have a much more relaxed atmosphere. I really appreciated seeing the single ship demos from European jet manufacturers which we normally don’t get to see here in North America. If you happen to vacation over in Europe and can combine that with a visit to an airshow, I can highly recommend it.

The next Zigermeet is slated for 2022. If you like to see some more stunning images from the airshow, check out the gallery from the official airshow website.