NARRATIVE & IMAGES BY THE PIXELSNIPERS TEAM & CONTRIBUTORS
2016 was quite a year for airshows all over the world, with many events taking place from January through to December. This article is brought to you by members of our team from all over the world, and includes some of the highlights and lesser seen and/or promoted shows. This team consists of Paul Spiteri Lucas from Malta, Frank Vorwerk from Germany, Jeff Chang from Taiwan, and the UK based Pixelsnipers team.
JANUARY – THAILAND CHILDREN’S DAY – PAUL SPITERI LUCAS
On the second Saturday in January each year the Thai military take part in ‘Childrens Day’, a day set aside for the children of Thailand in much the same way as we in the west have Father and Mother days. Most military Thai establishments open on this day for the public to explore what the military does, as a way if introducing the young generation to maybe a career in the armed forces. The year 2016 fell on January 9th. It is a unique opportunity to photograph a good chunk of this Country’s aircraft. I planned to be at Don Muang, Bangkok for the main Royal Thai Air Force display, after that we drove to the nearby Royal Thai Police Helicopter base and then we had around a three hour drive to the Royal Thai Naval Base of U-Tapoa,
Don Muang – On static were practically all types of Aircraft from the Royal Thai Air Force and also aircraft from the Tango Squadron at Don Muang. Tango Squadron is a group of Volunteers that keeps up and restores old aircraft that are no longer in service. The Air Display started off with a flypast by three Fairchild AU-23A Peacemakers, followed then by a Saab JAS-39C Gripen solo display which was fin itself followed by a dog fight between a Northrop F-5E Tiger II being intercepted by two General Dynamics F-16A Fighting Falcon’s. This was capped off by a duo of Aero L-39ZAs doing a display. This routine was repeated in the afternoon.
Rham Intra Royal Thai Police Base – The static display only consisted of two aircraft, a Bell 206 Long Ranger and a Bell-412, a day before we managed to see also a Eurocopter EC155. No flying display’s where held here.
U-Tapoa Royal Thai Navy Base – Nearly all types in service with the Royal Thai Navy where present in static display. We missed some of the Air display’s since we arrived late but managed to get a Para drop from two Dornier Do.228 and a couple of Fly bys, by 2 Sikorsky S-70B and an MH-60S Knighthawk in Formation together.
FEBRUARY – ANDERSEN AFB OPEN HOUSE 2016 – MARK ROURKE
On the tropical island of Guam in the Pacific Ocean, the huge Andersen Air Force Base (AFB) belonging to the United States Air Force (USAF), opened its doors for the public on Saturday February 20th. As this was in the middle of the Cope North exercise taking place at Andersen more aircraft than the permanently deployed Boeing B-52H Stratofortress and Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers could be viewed.
On static, aircraft from the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), Japanese Air Self Defence Force (JASDF) could be seen alongside aviation assets from the USA including the Air Force, Navy and Army. Though no air display, various aircraft took to the skies and performed fly-bys and overshoots as well as operational movements, which included a Republic Of Korea CASA CN.235 transport.
Crews from the deployed aircraft were on hand to talk with the public in what was a well received event., with added attractions from the various ground based units deployed to Guam.
APRIL – SALON INTERNATIONAL, MARRAKECH, MOROCCO – MARK ROURKE
In the desert heat of Marrakech in Morocco the bi-annual Salon International took place from April 27th though April 30th.. The four day event was to showcase aviation industry in North Africa and to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Royal Moroccan Air Force (RMAF)
Unfortunately less RMAF assets were seen as the organisers took a more international attitude to the air display which saw the aerobatics teams from Spain, Italy, the United Arab Emirates and Morocco take centre stage though the display was opened with a RMAF Boeing CH-47D Chinook and Two SA.330F Pumas flying the flag plus four Lockheed Martin F-16C Fighting Falcons doing a formation flypast and break.
The static had some gems such as a UAEAF Bell 407GXP alongside the Moroccan, USA and European aircraft .Not just military aircraft were on show though as companies such as Raytheon, Gulfstream, Embraer and Cessna had a presence alongside other manufacturers of aircraft and aircraft equipment.
MAY – REPUBLIC OF SINGAPORE AIRSHOW – MARK ROURKE
On the weekend of May21st-22nd Peya Lebar Air Base on Singapore opened for the public to show the modern Republic Of Singapore (RSAF) in all its glory. Every type of aircraft had an appearance in the static or in the air which included a realistic scenario exercise repeated twice a day.
To escape the heat the public were invited into an air conditioned hangar to see all aspects of the RSAF does for this small country in Asia.
Pilots and ground crews were on hand to explain the roles and methods used by the RSAF at home and abroad and were invited to sit in various aircraft as diverse as the Boeing F-15SG Strike Eagle to the Boeing AH-64D Apache.
Flights were arranged online for the spectators to fly around Singapore in RSAF Lockheed C-130H Hercules, Boeing CH-47SD Chinook and Fokker F.50s all throughout the show.
More details can be read in the full report here.
JUNE – BELGIAN AIR FORCE DAYS – MARK ROURKE
Each year the Belgian Air Force (BAF) opens one of its bases under the Air Days banner to show the public what it does. On June 26th and 27th it was Florennes turn to display the workings and operations of the BAF.
With historic and modern aircraft on show the air days were a plethora of aviation history and greatly appreciated by the crowds.
It was not just Belgium on display though, with the Turkish Air Force two McDonnell Douglas F—4E Phantoms perhaps the highlight of the static park.
The nations of Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, NATO, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, United Kingdom, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden. Switzerland and the USA made this a truly multi-national show
JUNE – BERLIN ILA 2016 – MARK ROURKE
The huge expanse of the yet to fully open Schonefeld Airport in Berlin was the venue for the 2016 ILA ( Internationale Luft- und Raumfahrtausstellung) air show.
A show with a nod towards the similar shows at Paris and Farnborough, it is supported by the German Military to a great capacity, with many flypasts and role demos.
Highlights included Iron Maiden front man Bruce Dickinson flying ‘Ed Force One’, an Air Atalanta Icelandic specially marked Boeing 747-428, on the first day. There was numerous military visitors from the UK, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Poland, Portugal and a healthy mix from the USA which included a US Army Boeing CH-47F Chinook, the helicopter in direct competition to the Sikorsky CH-53K for the replacement of Germanys CH-53 Stallions.
The German military forces certainly impressed in the air but also with some excellent ground displays which included a fully functioning field hospital with all the operating theatres and equipment you would expect therein.
JULY – FARNBOROUGH – BEN ROURKE
The bi-annual show at Farnborough has turned into a money making machine as the worlds most successful trade show. Highlights included the debut of the Brazillain KC-390 transport aircraft plus the normal gatherings from Airbus and Boeing. The more detailed report can be read here.
JULY – ROYAL INTERNATIONAL AIR TATTOO 2016 – GRAHAM BRIGHT
With the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II making its UK debut the company funded no less than six of these Joint Strike Fighters to the proceedings at the world’s largest military airshow, the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT)
From July 5th until July 11th the Gloucestershire super base was a hive of activity with the hundreds of aircraft arriving, displaying, supporting and departing.
For the full report, see our more detailed article here.
JULY – ERIC “WINKLE” BROWN MEMORIAL, RNAS YEOVILTON
The Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton was the setting in July 2016 to remember a true legend of aviation – Eric “Winkle” Brown. The announcement of the passing of Captain Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown CBE, DSC, AFC, Hon FRAeS, RN back in February 2016 was a shock to all those who had known him through his distinguished and swashbuckling life. Read more about the day’s events and the man himself on our report here.
JULY – YEOVILTON AIR DAY 2016, RNAS YEOVILTON
The Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton opened its arms to the public in July for the annual naval airshow. This year marked the 75th anniversary of the attack on the German battleship Bismarck by Royal Navy Swordfish Torpedo bombers. 2016 also was the very last occasion that the venerable Westland Lynx HMA8 would take part in a Yeovilton air day.
Welcoming many foreign participants to the South Somerset airfield, the highlight for many in the flying display was the awesome Rafale M pair from 12F Flottilla home based at BAN Landivisiau in Brittany. Their ‘Role-Demo’ was an exquisite display of raw power and grace which thrilled the thousands of airshow spectators. Making a welcome return to the Yeovilton Air Day was Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress, ‘Sally B’, which had not displayed here for many, many years.
Another stand-out display was performed by the worlds only airworthy deHavilland Sea Vixen FAW.2, XP924. Operated by Naval Aviation Ltd, and funded by the Fly Navy Heritage Trust, the aircraft is now based at its ‘spiritual’ home of Yeovilton, where all the navy’s Sea Vixen were based while in active service. At the hands of Cdr Simon Hargreaves OBE RNR the aircraft was displayed with real panache and was another example of superb airmanship.
On the ground the static was a little ‘light’ compared to the 2015 airshow, but still had one or two interesting types. A big attraction was the Boeing C-17A Globemaster III from the USAF, which had flown in from Charleston AFB the previous day. The crew members were absolutely superb, very friendly while allowing many hundreds of people a rare ‘walk-through’ of the aircraft. The aircraft and its personnel were awarded the ‘best static’ display for air day 2016. Other static aircraft included a pair of F-16AM/BM Fighting Falcon from Leeuwarden based 322 Squadron; the ‘Polly Parrots’. Alongside was a single F-16BM from the Belgian Air Force and a Tornado IDS (with its supporting Transall C-160D) from the German Air Force.
Air Day 2016 also featured some very good aerobatic display teams which included the RAF Red Arrows (whose display this year was vastly improved from the previous few years) and Team Orlik from the Polish Air Force who were making their air show debut at Yeovilton. The other significant event on air day was the launching of the new ‘brand’ from the Fly Navy Heritage Trust (FNHT). ‘Navy Wings’ will bring together the FNHT historic naval aircraft and independently owned naval aircraft under one ‘umbrella’. It is hoped that going forward this new partnership will flourish and expand the exposure given to former significant naval aircraft.
Yeovilton Air Day always finishes with the now legendary ‘Commando Assault’. This features a demonstration of a littoral naval assault against an opposing ‘enemy’. Featuring numerous helicopters, fast-jets, armoured vehicles and the Royal Marines, scattered with numerous explosions and flare releases, this demo is a thrilling spectacle. This year the demo featured six Agusta Westland Merlin HC3s from Commando Helicopter Force (CHF) who have now replaced the much-missed Westland Sea King HC4.
With the arrival of HMS Queen Elizabeth into HMNB Portsmouth next year, you can expect Yeovilton Air Day 2017 to another spectacular event.
AUGUST – FLYGPVALEN 60TH ANNIVERSARY SHOW, MALMEN, SWEDEN – GRAHAM BRIGHT
The Swedish Air Force 60th anniversary was celebrated in style at Malmsett (Malmen) airfield in Linkoping on the weekend of August 26th-27th. With a high diversity of current and past Swedish military types on show it was a mecca for photographers and number crunchers alike. A high number of rotary wing assets such as the Sikorsky UH-60M known as the Hkp 16 in Swedish service and Agusta A109 ( Hkp 15) were very much in evidence.
Of course for the purists the chance to see the SAAB fighters from the past was the main highlight, with plenty of noise from the Draken, Viggen and Tunnan!
More can be read in the full report here.
AUGUST – HUA LIEN AFB OPEN HOUSE 2016 – JEFF CHANG
Hua Lien Air Force Base (HUN/RCYU) is located at Hua Lien city, Eastern Taiwan and is the home for 5th TFW (401st TFW). The Wing operations are carried out by the General Dynamics F-16A/B and veteran Northrop RF-5E and F-5F Tiger IIs.
The base hosted an open house on 13th August 2016 which included flying displays from the ROCAF (Republic of China Air Force) main fighter force F-16s, Dassault Mirage 2000 and AIDC F-CK-1 Ching Kuo, the latter being built only in Taiwan. Each performed an impressive solo demonstration. The Mirage is normally based at Hsinchu with the 2nd Tactical Fighter Wing (499th TFW), the F-16 from the 4th TFW (455th TFW) from Chaiyi and the F-CK-1 came from Ching-Chuan-Kang, home of the 3rd TFW (427th TFW). Each solo demo was launched and recovered form their own base.
The ROCAF aerobatic display team, the Thunder Tigers wowed the crowds as they flew several manoeuvres in their AIDC AT-3 jet trainers. A very full static display was enjoyed with most types in the ROCAF inventory, as well as from the Navy and Army were put on show. This included the latest Lockheed P-3C Orion, serial number 3311 and the aircraft it replaced attending its possibly last outing, the venerable Grumman S-2T Tracker, aircraft 2212 having this honour.
Hua Lien open house is known for its great scenery in a most picturesque part of Taiwan, with a mountainous background and the chance to get to the runway than other bases.
SEPTEMBER – MALTA INTERNATIONAL AIRSHOW 2016 – PAUL SPITERI LUCAS
The 2016 Malta International Airshow saw some drastic changes to the event, the main one being the flying display was moved to SmartCity Malta (sea side venue) while the static display was still held at Park 4, Malta International Airport (Old RAF Luqa). The authorities imposed the change in venue on the organisers and this resulted in a huge challenge, also getting the show a short line up of participants due to the fact that discussions on support from authorities where still ongoing late in planning stages.
Static Display – The static display composed of the latest Armed Forces of Malta AW139 delivered just days before the event, the AFM (Armed Forces Malta) Beech Be200 King Air MPA aircraft, French Navy Dassault Falcon F50, Polish AF CASA C-295M and Polish Navy PZL M-28 Bryza, an RAF B200 King Air, Royal Navy Avenger T.1 and for the first time in Malta the show managed to attract a Ukrainian AF Il-76 Candid and also a US Navy P-8A Poseidon though the latter was on static on Saturday only. The latest addition was a Portuguese AF C-295MPA on static display on Sunday only.
Flying Display – The presence of both the Polish C-295M and Ukrainian Il-76 was in support of the main flying display acts. Poland was represented for the first time in the Island with Team Iskry while also for the first time Malta witnessed the powerful Ukrainian Su-27 Flanker Solo display. A last minute cancellation that was a big blow for the event was Polish AF Su-22 fitter Demo display. A second US Navy P-8A Poseidon performed for the first time ever in Europe in a flying display in front of the crowds in SmartCity Malta on Saturday. Other acts in the flying Display programme were an AFM Alouette III, the AFM duo display performed by the AW139 and Be200 King air, a SAR (Search and Rescue) demo performed by the Italian Military Mission in Malta AB-212, which had to be the final participation in the event since the AB-212’s where now removed from the Island. Two more displays augmented the flying display, these where Italian Solo Display ‘The Silver Chicken’ a Cap-21DS aerobatic aircraft and formation flying from ‘The Pioneer Team in their Pioneer 330 aircraft.The Sunday display had to be called off due to bad weather hitting the island marking the first time ever in 24 years that a flying display was called off in Malta.
Overall with the late addition of the Ukrainian AF the event still proved that Malta attracts some nice piece of hardware. We will now be looking forward for 2017 for the 25th edition of the Malta International Airshow.
OCTOBER – BELIGIAN INTERNNATIONAL SEARCH & RESCUE MEET 2016 – PAUL SPITERI LUCAS
The 2016 International Search and Rescue meet was held in Koksijde AB, Belgium, late cancellations of some of the best aircraft that where going to participate left the spotters a bit sad although the organisers did their best to mark the 40th anniversary of loyal service from the Westland Sea King in Belgian AF in style, along with the 45 years of the Alouette III in service.
The late cancellations where the Spanish AF Super Puma, French NH-90 Caiman and EC725 Caracal, Royal Norwegian AF Sea King, Dutch NH-90, Latvian AF Mi-17I and Portuguese AF EH-101 Merlin. Participants where Austrian AF Alouette III, German AF Sea King, Belgian AF Nh-90, Sea king and Alouette III and a late addition was the Belgian Federal Police MD900.
Static Display – Static display was comprised of two assets, a Belgian AF Sea King and the Belgian federal Police MD900.
Flying Display – The Belgian Federal Police MD900 performed a couple of displays while the International SAR Meet participants taxied just in front of the spotters and also made some maneuvers before leaving for their exercise. On the return from the exercise most assets came back to the area where the spotters were for further photography but the Belgian NH-90 and Sea King performed a SAR demo for all the spotters present. Weather was great as you can witness from the photography.
NOVEMBER – TSOU YING NAVY PORT OPEN HOUSE, TAIWAN – JEFF CHANG
Tsou Ying Navy port is located at the south of Taiwan Kao-Hsiung City, it’s the main port in the south for the frigates, submarines, and the heli-pad called “Shenyin Base”. Home for the 701 Air Group and 702 Air Group, equipped with S-70C(M)-1 / S-70C(M)-2 and H500ASW/ H500MD,it’s the main base for them, when they’re not on ship. Due to facility sensitiveness of the port, not like the airforce base that have a grey area for spotting, it’s illegal to take any picture around the base if not permited.
The main subject for the open house is Navy equipment, so most of the displayed equipment is about ship, however Navy still arrange ASW helicopters formation flyby, and static displayed of the navy/army helicopters. Since 500MD ASW is pretty rare and about to retired, it’s a pretty good opportunity to take picture of them.
Formation flight was done by 3 S70 (2305,2310,2326) and 3 500MD(6907,6908,6911) once in the morning and once in the afternoon.
Static display list : S70C x 3 (2301,2317,2320), UH60 X 1(918), AH64 X 1(819), 500MD ASW X 1 (6914)
DECEMBER – CELLE FLY OUT, GERMANY – FRANK VORWERK
The Fly-Out of the Bolkow BO-105PAH in Celle. This is where it all began and this is where it has ended for German Army BO-105 operations after 43 years.
The BO105 history in the Bundeswehr began with the BO-105C model , which was delivered to Celle for the HFlgVersStff (HFVS) 910 on April the 26th, 1973. The next variant for the Bundeswehr started with 100 BO105M’s (VBH) for liaison and utility. From 1979, the delivery of 212 BO105P’s antitank helicopter versions (PAH) had started. All these BO105 helicopters were operated by 17 different units and Squadrons throughout Germany. The first 2 BO105 PAH of 56 in total for the newly formed Heeresfliegerregiment 16 where delivered on the 2nd of April 1979. The unit itself was fully operational by October the 24th, 1980. The unit’s last aircraft was delivered on March the 15th, 1984. During the years of operations, the HFlgRgt 16 had lost 3 BO105 PAH during its active years. The 16th was than disbanded due to reformation issues during 2002.
In October the 19th, 2016 the host unit TE 900 (Teileinheit 900), which formed in July 2015, held a family and spotters day to give those interested an opportunity to visit this Historic Base at Wietzenbruch by Celle. Unfortunately, the flying display of a 7-ship formation was a complete wash out with rain from the beginning until the end of the flying display. Flying operations by TE 900 had ended in a military ceremony on December the 13th, 2016. The ceremony included the very last flight with an 18 ship formation. The unit had 20 BO105P’s as 100% operational. Two of which were held on standby in case of an emergency to make sure the scheduled 18 ship formation took place. Since 1979 all 212 BO105PAH’s clocked up a total of 1.372454,76 flying hours up until retirement on December the 13th, 2016.
The Bo-hikaner – The frame # 6162 (87+62) was nick named The last Bo-hikaner and was repainted into a Stars of Memory paint scheme during May 2016. This HFlgWaS Falcon was painted to commemorate this aircraft type in service with the German Heeresflieger (Army Aviation). The 15 Stars of Memory on its tail boom show all the former BO105M & P bases by its ICAO codes – as of *ETHC (Celle) *ETHB (Bückeburg) *ETHR (Roth) *ETHF (Fritzlar) *ETHL (Laupheim) *ETHN (Niederstetten) *ETHM (Mendig) *EDSN (Neuhausen ob Eck) *ETHI (Itzehoe) *ETSL (Landsberg am Lech) *EDPS (Feldkirchen-Mitterhartshausen) *ETHE (Rheine Bendlage) *ETHT (Cottbus) *ETSH (Holzdorf) *LFMC (Le Luc).
History of ETHC as one of the oldest active military airfields in Germany – This airfield was first in use by the Deutsche Wehrmacht from 1933 till 1945. After the war in 1945and up until 1957 the base was in use by the RAF and was also one of the airfields used for the air-bridge of West Berlin. It was returned by 1957 to the German Bundeswehr .