Category Archives: Airshow news

Urgent call for donations to rescue Catalina stranded on Loch Ness

INVERNESS | The operators UK’s only flying PBY-5 Catalina are asking for £20,000 to rescue their aircraft from Loch Ness, after it became stranded due to engine problems.

This wasn’t your everyday Shout on Loch Ness…!!!More details will follow tomorrow, but all the crew from the…

Posted by RNLI Loch Ness on Saturday, 17 October 2020

The aircraft had been operating from the lake while conducting filming work and renewing its crew’s water pilot ratings. However, on Saturday 17th October, a failed starter motor meant the aircraft was unable to depart. While waiting to be towed ashore by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, another boat collided with the Catalina, smashing one of its blister windows.

The crew were rescued unharmed, and the aircraft towed to Urquhart Bay, where it was hoped it could be repaired and flown to its base at Duxford or to Inverness for further work. However, the aircraft’s operators have since determined that it will cost thousands of pounds to rescue the plane.

A GoFundMe campaign says the aircraft must be extracted from the Loch in order for the damaged engine to be replaced, before being returned to the water for the flight home. “Otherwise she will be at the mercy of the harsh Scottish winter on a Loch rather than her usual cosy hanger in Duxford. The damage this could do to the aircraft could be irreparable,” the fundraiser says.

Costs include transporting the replacement engine from Duxford to Loch Ness, hiring a crane to lift the aircraft into and out of the water, and hiring a second crane to replace the engine. Plane Sailing, who operate the aircraft, said the logistics involved would be “massive”.

The aircraft, registered G-PBYA and known affectionately as “Miss Pick-up”, is a former fire-bomber turned airshow performer, which was most recently displayed at Duxford’s final Showcase Day of the year earlier in the month. The Catalina is an amphibious aircraft, designed to be able to take off and land from water.

Two units to field French Air Force’s Rafale Tactical Display in 2021

MONT DE MARSAN | The French Air & Space Force will field a pair of teams as part of the Rafale Tactical Display in 2021, flying under the names Requin Mike and Bravo Vautour.

Photo: Peter Lawrence

The Rafale Tactical Display, designed to demonstrate the Rafale’s combat ability, was founded in 2019, replacing the previous Couteau Delta tactical display, flying the Mirage 2000D. Although previewed at NATO Tiger Meet at Mont-de-Marsan that year, the Rafale Tactical Display was due to make its public airshow debut in 2020.

Displays were to be fielded by 30 Squadron at Mont-de-Marsan or 30 Squadron at Saint Dizier, depending on availability, with 30 Squadron’s team operating under the name Rogues Victor and 4 Squadron flying as Requin Mike.

Although 2020’s show season was cancelled, the Rafale Tactical Display is now on track to make its public debut in 2021, with both units still slated to field demonstration teams. Saint Dizier’s team will fly a pair of Rafale Cs, and will again be called Requin Mike – a name paying tribute to a past St. Dizier tactical demonstration team, Raffin Mike, flying the Jaguar. Meanwile, Mont-de-Marsan’s team has been renamed Bravo Vautour, flying two Rafale Bs fitted with an assortment of external fuel tanks. The name refers to the Sud Aviation Vautour, which served with the French Air Force in the 1960s.

Both teams were validated by the Chief of Staff of the Air Force at Salon-de-Provence in July 2020. They will perform alongside the French Air Force’s other display teams: the Patrouille de France, Rafale C solo display, Alpha Jet solo display and A400M tactical display – as well as the air arm’s competition aerobatics team, the Equipe de Voltige. They also join the French Navy’s Rafale M tactical display teams, which come from Flotille 11 and Flotille 12.

The Rafale Tactical Display continues the French Air Force’s long tradition of staging acclaimed two-ship tactical demonstrations, taking the baton from Couteau Delta and Ramex Delta on the Mirage 2000D and Mirage 2000N respectively, Raffin Mike on the Jaguar A and Voltige Victor on the Mirage F1.

Airshow China 2020 cancelled, re-instated, then cancelled again

ZHUHAI | The China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition, the Chinese aviation industry’s biggest showcase event, has been indefinitely postponed because of the coronavirus.

Photo: Tom Wittevrongel

The major trade event was due to be held on the 10th-15th October 2020 at Jinwan Airport in Zhuhai, with organisers previously confident that the show would go ahead. However, on September 9th, the Reuters news agency quoted an official spokesperson saying the event had been cancelled. Shortly afterwards, a second spokesperson said the show would be going ahead, and pressured media organisations into deleting stories about the cancellation.

Organisers said the decision was taken “after careful consideration regarding the health of our guests and exhibitors” – although, in practice, China’s continuing ban on international visitors would have been a major obstacle to the show taking place.

They added that they were “fully confident” that the 13th edition of Airshow China will “take place soon.”

While the airshow attracts over 400 aerospace companies to participate in its trade exhibition, Airshow China is best-known for its flying displays – often the only occasion during which China can showcase its burgeoning aerospace and defence industries to an international audience. The event is also of huge domestic significence, attracting up to half a million spectators and being featured heavily on TV news.

This year’s show was due to feature the People’s Liberation Army Air Force’s main aerobatic team, August 1st, as well as Airshow China regular participants, the Russian Knights. China’s two 5th generation fighters were also keenly awaited participants: the Chengdu J-20 Mighty Dragon and the Shenyang FC-31, the latter still in the flight testing phase of its development.

More details on Red Bull Air Race successor series, due to start in Q4 2021

LONDON | The much-loved Red Bull Air Race, discontinued in 2019, is set to return to the sporting calendar next year, with familiar names expected to take part.

The World Championship Air Race, first teased as a successor to the Red Bull Air Race in late 2019, was originally aiming to hold its first race later this year. However, following months of silence amid the coronavirus pandemic, some began to wonder if the plan to ressurect the global air racing series had fallen victim to the pandemic.

Relatively recent updates to WCAR’s website show that the idea is very much alive, with the first series now expected to start in the fourth quarter of 2021. “Once confidence levels are high enough to commit to exact dates for live events, we will announce full details of the WCAR race calendar,” the website says.

The sport will take place at a mix of new and old air race locations, including land and water tracks. Organisers are also hoping to incorporate a broader festival into the event format. Back in March 2020, organisers predicted a 10-race season, taking place in four continents.

Currently, all fourteen race teams that competed in the 2019 Red Bull Air Race World Championship Masterclass level have registered their interest in competing in the new series, along with new teams emerging from the Challenger Class. Many other familiar names will be returning to provide support and advice, with former RBAR Operations Managar Willie Cruickshank taking the position of Series Director. Former British racers Paul Bonhomme, Steve Jones and Nigel Lamb are also involved, as well as RBAR’s Technical Director Jim Reed and Race Director Jim DiMatteo.

The new series will be split into three tiers of competition: the top tier will be the AeroGP1, involving twelve race teams, with the second tier being AeroGT, a feeder competition involving three teams of up and coming pilots competing in a Le Mans-style relay format. Initially, these competitions will use the same highly-modified raceplanes as the Red Bull Air Race, WCAR hope they will be using sustainable biofuels by 2022, and will be converted to fully-electric power in the future. The aircraft will race around Red Bull Air Race style tracks marked by inflatable pylons.

The third tier will vocus on personal VTOL transport technologies, starting with “jet pack” vehicles in its first series. It is again hoped that this will shift to eletric-powered technology in the future.

WCAR has been recognised by the FAI as the official successor to the Red Bull Air Race, and has been granted an exclusive license to promote track-based air racing for the next 15 years.

Danish Airshow 2021 will not take place due to coronavirus uncertainty

KARUP | The Danish Airshow will not be held in 2021 because the organisers are reluctant to organise an event amid the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic, it was announced today.

In a Facebook post, the organisers acknowledged that the situation may have improved by the show’s intended date of Sunday 20th June. However, as this is far from certain, they said that they have chosen not to press ahead with planning work for the show, which was due to begin around now.

The airshow, which is the largest in Denmark and is organised in collaboration with the Royal Danish Air Force, was expected to attract around 130,000 spectators to Karup Air Base next year. 2020’s show, slated to be held at Karup on the 14th June, was also cancelled.

Three major airshows in 2021 have already been cancelled as a result of the pandemic: the Danish Airshow, the Langkawi International Maritime & Aerospace Exhibition in Malaysia, scheduled for March, and the Rygge Airshow in Norway, scheduled for June. Like the Danish Airshow, the Rygge Airshow was also cancelled because organisers did not wish to press ahead with preparations for the event when the situation next summer is unknown. Meanwhile, the Australian International Airshow has also been delayed from March to November 2021, to maximise the event’s chances of going ahead.

Most epidimologists agree that life in Europe is unlikely to return to normal until summer 2021 at the earliest, due to a combination of seasonal changes and the challenges of approving and distributing a vaccine. However, it is hoped that, as airshow organisers have ample time to plan alternative event formats, and a vaccine could be widely available before the next airshow season, many airshows could still proceed safely.

Patrouille Suisse resume flying activities today for first time since spring 2020

EMMEN | The Patrouille Suisse are today embarking on a month-long training course, marking the resumption of their flying activities for the first time since the spring.

The team will conduct training flights between one and three times per day at locations around northern and central Switzerland, on the weeks starting on the 12th October, 19th October and 2nd of November. While the team will operate from their base at Emmen, practices will take place over Emmen, Schrattenfluh, Wangen-Lachen, Bellechasse and Payerne. The full training schedule can be found here.

Unlike many aerobatic teams, the Swiss Air Force’s Patrouille Suisse is composed of full-time fighter pilots, who serve with the team in addition to their regular duties. A short period of intensive training typically takes place each spring, shortly before the start of the airshow season. However, this year’s training was delayed until August as the coronavirus pandemic took hold in Europe, and was later set back even further.

The Patrouille Suisse’s October-November training course will conclude long after the planned conclusion of the team’s 2020 display season. There are currently no public appearances scheduled, although training flights will often be accessible to the public. Spotters have been asked to adhere to health guidelines while attending the practice displays.

The Patrouille Suisse are the only official western European aerobatic team to fly an in-service front-line fighter: the F-5E Tiger II. However, the team’s long-term future is considered by some to be insecure, because the type is soon due for retirement. The Swiss government is planning on procuring 30-40 new F-35As, F/A-18 Super Hornets, Dassault Rafales or Eurofighter Typhoons to replace their 34 “Legacy” F/A-18C/D Hornets and 36 F-5E/F Tiger IIs by 2030, but the order may not be sufficient to replace the six F-5Es permanently assigned to the Patrouille Suisse.

UK aviation museums and restoration groups get share of £1.6bn recovery fund

LONDON | Organisations helping to keep British aviation heritage alive will get hundreds of thousands of pounds in government funding to help them recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

Almost £1.6 billion pounds has been allocated to help museums, heritage sites and entertainment venues struggling because of restrictions imposed to slow the spread of the disease. Over 400 organisations will benefit from £67 million pounds in grants from the Culture Recovery Fund, which is being administered by Historic England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Taking the largest sum in the aviation sector is the Shuttleworth Collection, which will recieve more than £620,000. The museum is home to a large collection of airworthy aircraft and historic vehicles, many of which are the last working examples of their kind. They also host bi-monthly airshows through the summer months – a key source of revenue – but a combination of poor weather and virus restrictions has meant that only four have gone ahead this year, leaving the museum critically short of income at the end of the airshow season.

A further £280,000 has been awarded to Navy Wings, a civilian organisation tasked with restoring and maintaining a number of ex-Royal Navy aircraft, such as Sea Vixen G-CVIX and Sea Fury FB.11 VR930.

Commodore Jock Alexander OBE, Chief Executive of Navy Wings, said the funding was a “lifeline” after a year with no airshows, which has seen the organisation temporarily ground their aircraft and lose “thousands of pounds of income”.

The Lincolnshire Bomber Command Centre were “thrilled” to be awarded over £420,000 and the Boscomb Down Aviation Collection recieved £28,000, while £12,000 and £11,000 went to the Biggin Hill Memorial Museum and the Nimrod Preservation Group respectively.

MAKS gunning for Korea’s Black Eagles – but US has power to veto visit

MOSCOW | The MAKS International Aviation & Space Salon in Russia has invited the Republic of Korea Air Force’s Black Eagles to perform at next July airshow, but the USA has the power to block the T-50 being displayed in Russia.

The airshow’s director, Alexander Levin, met in September with the Republic of Korea’s Air Attache to Russia, during which the team’s participation in next year’s airshow was discussed, according to a press release from MAKS. An official request has been send to the RoKAF’s high command in the last few days, various Russian media outlets have reported.

Formed in 1953, Black Eagles currently fly eight T-50B Golden Eagles, supersonic advanced jet trainers and light attack aircraft produced by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI). Making their overseas debut during a high-profile UK tour in 2012, the team have since performed both in Singapore and Malaysia, and are recognised as one of the world’s premier aerobatic display teams.

However, such a visit could be blocked by the US government under the Arms Export Control Act, which was used to stop the Black Eagles performing at Airshow China in 2014, just days before the team were due to leave Korea. The act, which prohibits the export or demonstration of American military technology in “enemy states”, applies to the T-50 thanks to its General Electrics engines, and development support provided to KAI by Lockheed Martin. Instead of staging their dynamic air display, Black Eagles pilots attended Airshow China without their aircraft, meeting spectators and signing autographs.

The majority of the Black Eagles’ overseas appearances so far have been motivated by KAI’s desire to export the T-50, which could concern the US government. KAI – who have part-funded some previous Black Eagles tours – could also be less willing to take part, given there are few, if any, potential T-50 customers in the region. The T-50 would also be flying head-to-head with Russia’s own Yak-130 at MAKS 2021, which competes in the same marketplace as the T-50, but has seen more export success.

The Black Eagles’ sole trip to Europe so far was the result of years of planning negotiations, and saw the team’s jets being partially dismantled and transported to the UK by air. Speaking to This is Flight in 2014, the then-commander of the Black Eagles said it was the team’s ambition to undertake a second tour to Europe, this time ferry-flying the T-50s across Russia. The team’s trips to southeast Asia have been conducted in this manner, with fuel stops in Taiwan.

It has also been speculated that the Black Eagles are considering a wider tour in July 2021, which could include MAKS and the Royal International Air Tattoo in the UK. While the Royal International Air Tattoo typically invite the RoKAF to participate, the dates of the two shows – seperated by only two days – would make such a tour practically impossible.

Despite many obsticles, MAKS has a history of attracting rare aerobatic teams, and became the first and only European show to host the Chinese Air Force’s flagship August 1st display team in 2013. Like the T-50, the J-10 fighters operated by August 1st had a low chance of scoring export orders in the region.

Surya Kiran debut new smokewinders at Indian Air Force Day 2020

NEW DELHI | The aerobatic team of the Indian Air Force, Surya Kiran, have re-introduced smoke to their performance for the first time since upgrading to the BAE Hawk Mk.132.

Photo: Indian Air Force

Two of the team’s jets were streaming white smoke today (Thursday 8th October) while performing at the Air Force Day parade, the team’s traditional season opener, at Hindon Air Force Station near New Delhi.

This is a milestone for the nine-ship team, who were well-known for painting the sky with the Indian tricolour using their Kiran Mk.II jets until they were temporarily disbanded in 2011. Reformed in 2015 on the BAE Hawk Mk.132, the team have been unable to produce smoke since then. Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd., who produce Hawks under license in India, was tasked with modifying Surya Kiran’s BAE Systems-built jets, but have faced technical problems, reportedly caused by the challenges of completing domestic modifications to a foreign-built aircraft.

Hawks used by the Red Arrows and the Saudi Hawks, meanwhile, were fitted with smoke systems in the UK by BAE Systems, while the Midnight Hawks opted to shirk modifications by using smokewinders.

Traditional smoke systems, such as those of the Red Arrows and Surya Kiran’s retired Kiran Mk.II jets, require a smoke tank to be fitted to the outside of the aircraft. Desil contained within the tank, sometimes mixed with coloured dye, is then injected into the aircraft’s hot exhaust, where it is vapourised. Smokewinders, meanwhile, are self-contained smoke generators which can be fitted to weapon hard-points before each display.

Photo: Indian Air Force

So far, only the number eight and nine jets have used smokewinders during the display, producing only white smoke trails. It is not clear whether smokewinders are to be used by the team perminently, or if they are an interim solution pending the addition of a conventional smoke system to the aircraft. Either way, it seems we can expect the use of smoke to be expanded in the coming display seasons, as the team plan for all nine aircraft to produce coloured smoke in the near future.

The use of smoke is not only aesthetically pleasing for spectators, but also improves flight safety by helping pilots gauge wind conditions and spot other aircraft during more dynamic manoeuvres.

Duxford Battle of Britain airshow cancelled, Headcorn still on, amid crackdown on gatherings

DUXFORD | This month’s Battle of Britain Airshow at Duxford has been cancelled in a surprise announcement, although AeroLegends’ show at Headcorn is still going ahead.

The Imperial War Museum said it had taken the decision to protect “the safety of our visitors and loval community,” saying it would be “irresponsible” to host the event. The show, scheduled for the 18th-20th September, was due to feature the Red Arrows, a balbo of Spitfires and dozens of other historic aircraft, and would have been the largest British airshow of 2020.

Changes to the law announced on Tuesday 8th September amid a spike in coronavirus cases will ban most gatherings of six or more people, and give police new powers to break up gatherings and issue fines. Until now, gatherings of up to six people had been permitted outdoors, although police had no power to stop gatherings unless they exceeded 30 people. Outdoor events which had been deemed Covid-secure were permitted to go ahead, including a mix of drive-in and conventional air displays. The law will come into force on Monday 14th September, with fines starting at £100 and increasing to as much as £2,300 for repeat offenders.

However, the rules will not apply to some Covid-secure settings, including as hospitality venues, and in the wake of the announcement, the Imperial War Museum said they expected the airshow would still go ahead. Tickets are also still on sale for the museum’s Showcase Day on the 10th October.

Another conventional air display, the Weston Park Model Airshow on the 17th-18th October, also plans to go ahead. They said: “We are still waiting to hear the full details however it would appear this does not change anything other than a maximum of six can group together.”

They added that they understand the cap of six people applies only to events which are not deemed Covid-secure.

The Aero Legends Battle of Britain Airshow in Kent is also still going ahead on the 25th-27th September.

The Shuttleworth Collection’s three remaining drive-in shows are less likely to be affected, as they do not count as a public gathering as long as visitors remain in their assigned viewing areas.