NARRATIVE & IMAGES BY MARK ROURKE
INTERNATIONAL AIR SHOW 2015, LUQA, MALTA
Every September at Malta International Airport (Luqa), the International Air Show is held, and Pixelsnipers visited the island in 2015 to see how this show is building a strong reputation as a ‘must go’ for aviation enthusiasts around Europe.
The Malta Aviation Society have been the organisers for the show since it first appeared on the airshow calendar in 1993, when it was originally held over
Marsamxetto Harbour. It now has over 200 volunteers working together to make what is now one of the biggest outdoor events in Malta, as well as its most
The ‘Home’ Team
As expected, the Armed Forces of Malta played a significant part in the proceedings at the show, with the Air Wing showing off its wares to great effect. Based at Luqa, the Air Wing is headed by Lieutenant Colonel Clinton O’Neil and is assisted in its various roles by the Italian Military Mission . The Air Wing is split into four distinct units, the Fixed Wing Flight, Rotary Wing Flight, Rescue Section and Support Squadron.
The Rotary Wing Flight (RWF) got the honour of opening the show with one of its Sud Aviation SA.316B Alouette III’s with the Maltese Flag draped below the helicopter in a spectacular flypast. The unit has has five Alouttes altogether, the first three where left behind by the Libyan Government in 1980 and were later donated to the Maltese Government in 1991. They started flying in 1992 after a major overhaul. with the two others being sourced from the Royal Netherlands Air Force.
The RWF has various roles within the Armed Forces of Malta which include offshore casusalty evacuation, air ambulance and assistance to other Government agencies. A lot of its work in public view is with the transfer of patients between the islands two main hospitals.
Complementing the Alouette III’s are two Agusta Westland AW.139 medium lift helicopters, which are the most modern and latest type in the inventory of the Armed Forces of Malta. A third helicopter was ordered earlier this year, which will take up the slack from the withdrawal of the two Italian Air Force Agusta-Bell AB-212 currently stationed at Luqa. The AW.139 is fitted with state-of-the-art equipment which include a high definition FLIR (Forward Looking Infra-Red) System, Search/Weather radar, Satellite communication system, 4 axis autopilot in SAR (Search And Rescue) modes and a 4 bag flotation system to name just a few.
The purchase of the helicopters for the Armed Forces of Malta was in part assisted by the European Borders Fund and Internal Security Fund. The AW.139 in the air display at Luqa did so in pairs formations with one of the Fixed Wing Flight’s (FWF) Beech 200MPA (Maritime Patrol Aircraft).
The FWF handles all the aircraft operations for the Armed Forces of Malta which include coastal and offshore patrolling and fishery protection. An important role now hitting headlines around the globe is the work tracking and recording migrants, but this is something the FWF has been doing for some time, and has used this experience to assist in the great influx of refugees now heading across the Mediterranean Sea for sanctuary in Europe.
The FWF utilises two aircraft types to fulfil these roles with two Britten Norman BN.2B-26 Islanders first delivered in December 1995 and the aforementioned Beech 200’s of which the first was delivered in February 2011. Both aircraft were seen on the ground, as well as in the air at the air show.
Currently grounded are the four Scottish Aviation Bulldogs T.1’s purchased form RAF stocks. There were five, but serial number AS 0020 (ex RAF XX691) was written off on the 5th July 2007 with no loss of life, the hulk of this aircraft is still stored on the military side of the International Airport. Famously the four aircraft are named ‘Faith’, ‘Hope’, ‘Charity’ and ‘Desperation’, the first three as a mark of respect to the three Gloster Gladiators that defended Malta in the early stages of World War Two.
As stated, the Italian Military Mission are also based at Luqa, and both of its Agusta Bell AB-212 (Called HH-212 by the Italian Air Force) took part in the show, one in the static and the other with a SAR (Search And Rescue) demonstration. After more than 40 years based on the islands this unit will wind down in 2016, so this was the last time visitors to the show will probably witness these birds in action. The unit is now seen as surplus to the requirements of the Maltese Government because the island now has sufficient SAR coverage with the introduction of the AW.139’s, though cost cutting by the Italian Government has been suggested.
The mission first appeared on the island in 1973 and after a brief 1979 until 1981 it has been ever present. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the two governments in 1988 outlined the current technical assistance required from Malta by the Italians. The AB-212’s were included in this MoU for their strong ability to conduct long range SAR operations as the helicopter can carry three stretchers and medical personnel as well as the crew.
Fifteen different Armed Services from across the globe attended the show, with an eclectic mix of aircraft. In the static park for instance could be seen two Hellenic Air Force Dassault Mirage 20005EG’s from 331 MPK based at Tanagra, a Hongdu K8-E Karakorum and Lockheed C-130H from the Egyptian Air Force and the aircraft which made the longest journey (Albeit it is currently deployed to nearby Sigonella on Sicily), a Lockheed P-3C Orion of VP-9 from the United States Navy normally based at Kaneohe Bay in Hawaii.
Fast jet action in the air display was provided the Belgian Air Force with the specially marked General Dynamics F-16AM from 349 Squadron. Malta International Airshow 2015 also boasted two aerobatic teams from Poland and Switzerland, the former being the ‘Team Orlik’ with their PZL-130TC Orliks and the latter with the originally titled ‘PC-7’ team equipped with Pilatis NCPC-7 trainers.
Pixelsnipers had a hand in the first air display held at an overseas air show by the Hellenic Air Force Beechcraft T-6A Texan team – after meeting the team at Kalamata just ten days earlier, some phone calls and e mails followed to organise their attendance that resulted in the Daedalus Team performing a flawless and spectacular show for an international audience for the first time. This was a real coup for the show and the organisers who put in so much effort to ensure this display took place. The display routine was flown by Konstantinos Pechlivanis, who thoroughly enjoyed the display and participation in this airshow.
Other highlights in the static park included a Lockheed CP-140M Aurora from the Royal Canadian Air Force, a Romanian Air Force Alenia C-27J, a Ramstein based C-130J from the United States Air Forces Europe, and the largest aircraft on show, a Boeing E-3A Sentry from the NATO Airborne Early Warning Force stationed at Geilenkirchen in Germany.
As well as a Piaggio P-180 Avanti in the static park the Italian Military demonstrated the Agusta Westland AW-149 in the air display. Making up the rest of the aircraft on show was a Polish Air Force Casa C.295M, a Polish Navy M-28-1TD and Belgian Air Force Lockheed C-130H Hercules.
A long time contributer to the Malta Show has always been the United Kingdom, which has a huge historical relationship with Malta and its people, and this year was no different.
The Royal Air Force (RAF) supplied a Beech BE200GT from 45(R) Squadron from RAF Cranwell and two Eurofighter Typhoon’s, a two seat T.3 as well as a single seat FGR.4, from No.1(F) Squadron from RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland for the display on the ground. In the air the Royal Navy (RN) ‘Wildcats’ team wowed the crowd with their two Agusta Westland Wildcat HMA.2’s from 825 NAS (Naval Air Squadron). The Fleet Air Arm also had an 814 NAS EH Industries Merlin HM.2 and Beech Avenger T.1 from 750 NAS in the static.
Also on the military side of Luqa, which now houses the Armed Forces of Malta Air Wing, is RAF English Electric Canberra T.4 WT483 which acts as a gate guard, a tribute to when the Royal Air Force had a permanent presence on the island.
An added bonus and massive tick in the box to the organisers of the show was the chance to do a ‘night shoot’ of available aircraft once the sun had gone down. This is really appreciated by the aviation photography community and is something air shows across the United Kingdom and Europe could learn from.
The chance to shoot, under the floodlights, of rarely seen aircraft is a massive bonus to attending the show at Malta and will mean an even larger attendance for the next show in September 2016.
Pixelsnipers wishes to thank Paul Spiteri Lucas and Brian Pace, as well as all the volunteers from the Malta Aviation Society for their assistance in making sure the visit achieved its goals and more. GRAZZI!
Aircraft at the show:
ARMED FORCES OF MALTA
AW.139 AS1428 AIR WING FLIGHTLINE
BEECH 200 AS1126 AIR WING FLIGHTLINE
BN.2B-26 ISLANDER AS9516 STORED ON BASE
BN.2T ISLANDER AS9819 AIR WING FLIGHTLINE
BULDDOG T.1 AS0020 WRECK EX RAF XX691 ON BASE
SA-316B ALOUETTE III AS9211 AIR WING FLYING ONLY
SA-316B ALOUETTE III AS9212 AIR WING FLIGHTLINE
BELGIAN AIR FORCE
C-130H CH-07 20 SMD, 15 WING STATIC
F-16AM FA-123 349 SMD FLYING APRON
F-16AM FA-136 349 SMD FLYING APRON
ROYAL CANADIAN AIR FORCE
CP-140M 140105 14 WING STATIC
EGYPTIAN AIR FORCE
C-130H-30 1294, SU-BKT 16 SQN STATIC
K-8E KARAKORUM 6332, 2 SILVER STARS STATIC
HELLENIC AIR FORCE
MIRAGE 2000-5EG 551 331 MPK, 114 PM STATIC
MIRAGE 2000-5EG 552 331 MPK, 114 PM STATIC
T-6A 023 354 MEA, 120 PEA FLYING APRON
T-6A 038 354 MEA, 120 PEA STATIC
ITALIAN AIR FORCE
AW-149 CSX81890 TEST WING FLYING APRON
HH-212 MM81163, 9-63 9 STORMO FLYING ONLY
HH-212 MM81212 9 STORMO FLIGHTLINE
P-180 AVANTI MM62161 RSV STATIC
E-3A LX-N90444 NAEW&F STATIC
POLISH AIR FORCE
CASA C.295M 025 13.eltr STATIC
PZL-130TC 029 TEAM ORLIK FLYING ONLY
PZL-130TC 030 TEAM ORLIK FLYING ONLY
PZL-130TC 032 TEAM ORLIK FLYING ONLY
PZL-130TC 040 TEAM ORLIK FLYING ONLY
PZL-130TC 042 TEAM ORLIK FLYING ONLY
PZL-130TC 043 TEAM ORLIK FLYING ONLY
PZL-130TC 048 TEAM ORLIK FLYING ONLY
PZL-130TC 049 TEAM ORLIK FLYING ONLY
M-28-1TD 1117 28.el STATIC
ROMANIAN AIR FORCE
C-27J 2707 ESC 902 STATIC
ROYAL AIR FORCE
BEECH BE200GT ZK459, X 45(R) SQN STATIC
CANBERRA T.4 WT483, 83 LUQA GATE GUARD
TYPHOON T.3 ZK383, FY 1(F) SQN STATIC
TYPHOON FGR.4 ZK327, FR 1(F) SQN STATIC
AVENGER T.1 ZZ501 750 NAS STATIC
MERLIN HM.2 ZH857 814 NAS STATIC
WILDCAT HMA.2 ZZ380 825 NAS/WILDCATS FLYING APRON
WILDCAT HMA.2 ZZ396 825 NAS/WILDCATS FLYING APRON
SWISS AIR FORCE
NCPC-7 A-912 PC-7 TEAM FLYING ONLY
NCPC-7 A-915 PC-7 TEAM FLYING ONLY
NCPC-7 A-925 PC-7 TEAM FLYING ONLY
NCPC-7 A-927 PC-7 TEAM FLYING ONLY
NCPC-7 A-929 PC-7 TEAM FLYING ONLY
NCPC-7 A-930 PC-7 TEAM FLYING ONLY
NCPC-7 A-931 PC-7 TEAM FLYING ONLY
NCPC-7 A-934 PC-7 TEAM FLYING ONLY
NCPC-7 A-935 PC-7 TEAM FLYING ONLY
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
BOEING 747-412F A6-GGP DUBAI AIR WING AIRPORT
UNITED STATES AIR FORCE
C-130J 04-3142, RS 37 AS, 86 AW STATIC
UNITED STATES NAVY
P-3C ORION 163003, 003 VP-9 STATIC