Category Archives: Airshow News Military

Operational pause lifted on RCAF CT-114 Tutors following pair of crashes

Canada’s fleet of ageing CT-114 Tutors, used by the Snowbirds aerobatic team, have been cleared to resume operations following a pair of fatal accidents in 2019 and 2020.

In a statement, the Royal Canadian Air Force said that Brigadier-General Denis O’Reilly, Commander of the 2nd Canadian Air Division, lifted the operational pause on Monday 24th August, following “a thorough technical and operational risk analysis that has outlined a series of risk mitigation measures.”

The Snowbirds, who are the primary users of the CT-114, have already cancelled their 2020 airshow season, but with the operational pause lifted, they will be able to gradually return to flying operations, the RCAF said. Aircraft currently stranded in Kamloops, BC, are expected to return to their base at Moose Jaw over the next few weeks.

The CT-114 Tutor fleet has been grounded since May, following a fatal accident at Kamloops shortly after take-off. Captain Jenn Casey, the Snowbird’s Public Affairs Officer, was killed in the accident. The pilot was able to eject, but sustained serious injuries.

In October 2019, another of the team’s aircraft crashed shortly before a show in Atlanta, GA. The pilot ejected and survived with minor injuries, but investigators were unable to determine the exact cause of the accident. However, a report found that the pilot’s ejection seat did not deploy correctly. Early indications suggest an ejection seat fault could have also played a part in May’s accident.

Testing in 2016 determined that the parachutes used in the Tutor’s ejection seats should be upgraded, but this has not yet taken place. However, the Snowbirds did thoroughly inspect their existing ejection seat systems.

The Snowbirds’ Tutors are not expected to be replaced until at least 2030. They are due to recieve upgrades from 2022 to help extend their service lives, costing between $50 and $100 million, including new ejection seats, upgraded avionics and modernized communication and navigation equipment.

Blue Angels Homecoming Airshow: Blue Angels’ final event of 2020 cancelled

PENSACOLA | The last remaining airshow on the US Navy Blue Angels‘ 2020 schedule, the team’s homecoming event at NAS Pensacola, FL, has been cancelled.

Scheduled for the 16th-17th October at the team’s Florida base, the Blue Angels Homecoming Airshow is traditionally the last event of the Blue Angels’ schedule each year. This year’s show was to be even more significant as it was expected to be the team’s final display using the F/A-18C/D “Legacy” Hornet, and was scheduled to take place several weeks earlier than usual to allow the Blue Angels an extended training period as pilots and engineers transition to the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.

The airshow was also due to feature a performance by the USAF’s F-22A Raptor Demo Team, alongside several civilian performers.

Airshow organisers said it was with “great regret” that the airshow had been cancelled, and said they had considered “all possible options.” Capt. Tim Kinsella, commanding officer of NAS Pensacola, said: “We know how important the Air Show is to the community and the Navy, but after considering every possibility, we felt that in this challenging COVID-19 environment that this was the most responsible course of action to protect the health and safety of the community and our NAS Pensacola personnel.”

The Blue Angels were due to fly at 27 airshows in the United States and one in Canada this year, but now all events have been cancelled, mostly due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with the US being the hardest-hit country as of August 2019. Instead, the team participated in flyovers to thank medical workers and to mark Independence Day, but despite regular practices, there has not yet been an opportunity for the team to perform their full display profile for the public this year. This makes it increasingly likely that the Blue Angels have already performed with the “Legacy” Hornet for the final time.

The next Blue Angels Homecoming Airshow will take place on the 5th-6th November 2021, and will celebrate the team’s 75th anniversary.

Patrouille de France 2020 airshow schedule

SALON-DE-PROVENCE | The Patrouille de France will make a belated start to their 2020 airshow season next month, with demonstrations at up to eight public events planned this year.

The French Air Force team are not currently due to fly any shows outside France, but have a number of domestic events scheduled, subject to local restrictions. The team will also fly at military events not open to the general public.

Already this year, the Patrouille de France have participated in flypasts over Paris and London with the Red Arrows in June, visited Normandy to mark the 76th anniversary of D-Day and participated in July’s annual Bastille Day parade. They have more recently performed flypasts across the country as a tribute to healthcare workers.

The Patrouille de France have worked up a full display routine for 2020, which includes new manoeuvres not flown for several seasons.

Date Show Location
Aug 15 France Meeting Aérien Toulon, France
Aug 30 France Fête de l’Air Alpe d’Huez, France
Sep 6 France La Bataille Aérienne de France: Meeting Aérien Cambrai – Niergnies, France
Sep 12-13 France Villaroche Air Legend Melun, France
Sep 20 France Tour de France (flypast only) Paris, France
Sep 27 France Meeting Plage Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France
Oct 3-4 France Cervolix Clermont – Ferrand, France
Oct 10-11 France Meeting Aérien de Ste-Maxime: Free Flight World Masters Sainte-Maxime, France
Oct 17-18 France Meeting Aérien La Ferté Alais: Les Temps de Hélices Cerny – La Ferté Alais

What will the Red Arrows’ shortened 2020 display routine look like?

SCAMPTON | The RAF Red Arrows were awarded their Public Display Authority for 2020 today (Wednesday 8th July), but this year’s display routine will be a little different to usual.

With the majority of airshows cancelled, several RAF display teams suspended and the Red Arrows abandoning their annual training spring exercise in Cyprus, it seemed possible a few months ago that we might not be seeing the acclaimed aerobatic team display at all this year.

However, following a three-and-a-half week gap in their training, the Red Arrows resumed flying activities at their RAF Scampton base on April 15th, and have been working up a reduced display routine here in the UK, performing practice sorties at Scampton, Syerston and Donna Nook. This led them to achieve their Public Display Authority (PDA), their permission to perform in front of the public, around six weeks later than usual.

The 2020 display routine follows a largely familiar format, although is slightly shorter than in other years. The display will start with around seven minutes of nine-ship formation aerobatics, which in the case of the full display will include two loops and one barrel roll (down from a more typical two barrel rolls in recent seasons). This will be followed by the ever-popular Tornado, which has this year been upgraded to feature Reds 1-5 leading in line abreast, creating a Tango-eqsue formation.

The second half of this year’s full, flat and rolling shows all begin with the Detonator this year, a manoeuvre that typically features only the flat and rolling displays. This will be followed by some of the Red Arrows’ trademark opposition manoeuvres, including the Gypo Pass, Carosel and Goose, and the crowd favourite Heart. A new, flatter version of the Heart, known as the Rolling Heart, will allow the Red Arrows’ famed sky art to be flown in the rolling display for the first time.

Two manoeuvres have been dropped from the display at this point; typically Reds 1-5, 8 and 9 join up for a formation manoeuvre such as the Vertical Break, followed by an opposition pass by the Synchro Pair. Instead, the display will skip straight to a series of manoeuvres by Enid and Gypo, which will include the Python (replaced by the Slalom in the flat display), the Mirror Pass, the Rollbacks and the Gypo Break.

A new manoeuvre known as Crossbow – an opposition pass that combines the Opposition Barrel Rolls with Vice-Versa – will serve as the penultimate manoeuvre, before the display is concluded with the Vixen Break. Despite a shorter duration, and greater commonality between the full, flat and rolling display routines, the inclusion of several new or upgraded manoeuvres, as well as the retention of most crowd favourite manoeuvres, means fans will still enjoy a fresh and exciting performance.

However, the Red Arrows were seen practicing several manoeuvres before the lockdown which are no longer to be featured in this year’s display, including the Vertical Break, and a manoeuvre that appeared similar to the Twizzles, in which five or seven aircraft peel out of formation to execute synchronised barrel rolls. It has not been featured in a Red Arrows display for well over a decade. Until March, the Red Arrows were also seen practicing the Wall arrival part of the Red Arrows’ show in 2016 and 2017, but their final show instead sees them arriving in a more traditional Nine Arrow formation.

Already this year, the Red Arrows have performed three high-profile flypasts, marking VE Day in London and Armed Forces Day in Scarborough, as well as flying over London and Paris with the Patrouille de France on the 18th June. The Red Arrows said achieving PDA would allow them “to respond fully, with preparation completed, to any future national tasking across the UK,” although with most airshows cancelled and others still in doubt, it is not yet clear where and when the public will be able to see them in action.

At the time of writing, only three major UK airshows remain this season: the Jersey and Guernsey air displays, and the Duxford Battle of Britain Airshow, all in September. There are also a smattering of smaller events planned, and at least one foreign airshow has also told This is Flight reporters that they are in talks with the team. It is also possible that the Reds could participate in one-off aerial displays on their own around the country.

Red 10 Sqn Ldr Adam Collins said the team is “ready to display as soon as restrictions allow.”

Iran sets up bizarre aerobatic team with knock-off jets, paint scheme and logo

TEHRAN | The Iranian Air Force today took delivery of three indiginous HESA Kowsar fighters, seemingly destined for a new aerobatic team.


A newly-delivered Kowsar at the delivery ceremony today. Photo: Iran_Newsroom.

The Iranian Defence Ministry handed the three aircraft to the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF) in a ceremony on Thursday 25th June, at which the specially-painted planes performed formation manoeuvres and flypasts.

Iran’s most recent official aerobatic team, Golden Crown, flew eight Northrop F-5Es up until the Imperial Iranian Air Force was dissolved in 1979. In recent years, Iran has harboured ambitions to create a new team, with the commander of the IRIAF stating in February this year that he hoped a three-ship Kowsar display would be ready in time for the Army Day parade in April. Although the deadline has been missed, the special paint schemes, along with the matching pilot helmets and routine of formation flybys, would suggest that the three jets delivered today are intended for aerial displays.

The Kowsar is an Iranian-built derivative of the Northrop F-5F, which made its first flight in 2018 and is claimed to be a 4th generation fighter. However, one of the Kowsars delivered today is a 43-year-old modified F-5F, still wearing Northrop decals on the ejection seat, despite Iran insisting that the Kowsar is entirely indiginously produced.

 File:RoKAF Black Eagles Singapore Airshow 2014.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
Almost identical: The new Iranian jets (left) and the Black Eagles (right). Photos: Iran_Newsroom and Alert5 (via Wikimedia Commons)

Aside from the knock-off F-5s, airshow enthusiasts will note several more bizarre elements of the new team. The paint scheme is remarkably similar to the design applied to the underside of the Republic of Korea Air Force’s Black Eagles team, even mirroring several minor details of the Black Eagles’ design such as the number and position of the Black Eagles’ styalised trailing edge feathers.

Footage broadcast on Iranian television also shows the pilots wearing matching helmets, which very closely mirror the helmet design and logo used by the Italian aerobatic team, Frecce Tricolori. Again, even some minor details of the design have seemingly been copied, including the rough design and placement of the Frecce’s trademark three arrows.

 Aquile trentine nella storia delle « Frecce » - Storia delle ...
Spot the difference: The logo on the Iranian pilot’s helmet (left) is remarkably close to that of the Frecce Tricolori (right). Photos: @Iran_Newsroom and Frecce Tricolori.

While most teams strive to create an individual, recognisable brand and identity, Iran has a history of copying foreign aerobatic teams’ paint schemes. While flying the F-84G Thunderjet, the Golden Crowns’ paint scheme shared more than a passing similarity to that of the Thunderbirds. Upon graduating to the F-5A Freedom Fighter, and later the F-5E Tiger II, Golden Crown adopted a new scheme that was almost identical to that of the Thunderbirds, who were by this point flying the T-38 Talon.

6 Imperial Iranian Air Force F-5Es in an arobatic exhibit.jpg File:20141026 T-38 Talon Alliance Air Show 2014-7.jpg - Wikimedia ...
One image shows the Thunderbirds, one shows Golden Crown. It’s hard to tell which is which. Photos: Wikimedia Commons and Will Schlitzer (via Wikimedia Commons).

More recently, three HESA Saeqeh jets (modified F-5s, like the Kowsar) were painted in a near-replica of the US Navy Blue Angels’ paint scheme during test flights and flybys in 2007. The IRIAF even copied the Blue Angels’ famed cursive typeface, replacing the American team’s name with the words “Air Force”.

Unlike Golden Crown, neither the Blue Angels-livered Saeqehs nor the newly-delivered Kowsars appear to be fitted with smoke systems, on the basis of photos of the aircrafts’ tailpipes.

File:A HESA Saeqeh of IRIAF.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
A laughable likeness: Iranian jets (right) in a Blue Angels (left) colour scheme. Photos: Shahram Sharifi (via Wikimedia Commons) and David Leadingham (thisisflight.net).

It is extremely unlikely the aerobatic team will be seen outside Iran in the foreseeable future, but it’s probable that formation displays will be seen at domestic events such as military parades and the Iran Airshow in Kish. Iran’s claim that the fighters were domestically-produced will make the team a powerful propaganda tool, and senior officials have already declared today’s delivery as a sign of increasing strength in the face of international sanctions.

However, why the nation has, for over half a century, felt the need to repeatedly copy a selection of existing, seemingly-unrelated teams from around the world, rather than developing its own unique team identity, remains a mystery.

Red Arrows will move to Waddington after closure of RAF Scampton

LINCOLN |The RAF Red Arrows’ new base will be RAF Waddington, less than 10 miles south of their current base at Scampton, the Ministry of Defence has confirmed.

RAF Scampton, which is expected to close in around 2022, has been the home of the Red Arrows since 1983, with a brief move to RAF Cranwell between 1995 and 2000. However, they continued to use the airspace over Scampton for training. Although Scampton is expected to be sold off for redevelopment, the Red Arrows will continue to use its airspace for training after their move.

Waddington is one of five front-line RAF bases, home to the UK’s Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) fleet. This includes aircraft such as the E-3D Sentry, RC-135 Rivet Joint and Sentinel R1. Waddington was previously named as the Red Arrows’ new home in 2008, but the move was cancelled several years later.

The closure of RAF Scampton was announced in 2018 as part of a major cost-cutting exercise. Two other RAF bases were considered as potential new Red Arrows bases: RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire and RAF Wittering in Cambridgeshire, however there was a strong local movement in Lincoln to keep the Red Arrows nearby.

The Ministry of Defence said it would look at ways to preserve Scampton’s “rich history”. During the second world war, Scampton was home to the infamous 617 Squadron, who staged the daring Dambusters raid in 1943. It was later a base for Vulcan bombers.

Australian International Airshow is first 2021 show to be postponed by coronavirus

AVALON | The Australian International Airshow has become the first 2021 airshow facing postponement due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Photo: William Reid

Organisers are worried the show, originally scheduled for the 23rd-28th February, will face logistical problems and uncertainty about international travel, which they said would cause “unacceptable risk” to the trade portion of their event if the show were not to be rescheduled. Instead, organisers are considering holding the show in November 2021, with precise dates to be confirmed shortly.

With the show’s public days due to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Royal Australian Air Force, it is important that the show goes ahead before the end of 2021, with the anniversary itself taking place on the 31st March. The Australian International Airshow is expected to be the largest airshow celebrating the anniversary.

The Royal Australian Air Force aways provide a strong mix of displays, featuring aircraft such as the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, F-35A Lightning, KC-30 MRTT, C-17A Globemaster, BAE Hawk 127, C-27 Spartan and others, although their participation at the 2021 show is expected to be particularly spectacular. It is also likely to feature the first Avalon performance of The Roulettes in their brand new Pilatus PC-21s.

Royal International Air Tattoo cancelled amid coronavirus outbreak

FAIRFORD | This year’s Royal International Air Tattoo, known as the world’s largest military airshow, has been cancelled due to the coronavirus, the first July airshow to be hit by the disease.

The airshow had been due to take place from the 17th-19th July at RAF Fairford, with performers such as the Patrouille Suisse, Royal Danish Air Force F-16AM and US Air Force F-16C expected to take part in the flying display.

The airshow organisers said: “This decision has not been taken lightly and a significant amount of work sits behind this course of action.  The crisis, which is worsening by the day, and the implications of which are becoming more profound, has led us to conclude that the most prudent course of action is to cease any further planning to deliver this significant event.

“The Air Tattoo is reliant on the support of a wide range of stakeholders, not least the participation of international air arms, medical professionals, military security teams and our Emergency Services, many of whom are delivering a fundamental contribution to fighting this crisis. We believe delivery of our event would distract them from this.

“At the heart of this difficult decision is our firm belief that staging the Air Tattoo this year would not only run counter to the current Government advice but would also be beyond what we could reasonably ask of our supporters. We recognise that our decision will have a negative financial impact on our valued suppliers and traders, on the local economy that benefits so much from the large influx of people who arrive in the area for one week in July, as well as on our parent charity. For this we apologise.”

Although dozens of airshows have already been cancelled globally due to the coronavirus, the Royal International Air Tattoo 2020 is the only one so far beyond mid-June to be scrapped. However, given its reliance on international air arms, the event is particularly vulnerable to global pandemics.

It is the third UK airshow to be officially cancelled, after the Midlands Air Festival and Duxford Air Festival were pulled from the calendar earlier in the week. Schools are to close to most pupils today, and 1.4 million Britons with underlying health conditions are being advised to self-isolate for 12 weeks, starting over the weekend. Follow the latest news as the outbreak continuis to affect the airshow industry on our coronavirus live blog.

The next Royal International Air Tattoo will be held on the 16th-18th July 2021, and will celebrate the show’s 50th anniversary. Remember if you want to re-live previous Air Tattoos, our 90-minute documentary on RIAT 2018 is available on our website!

Belgian Air Force Agusta A109BA solo display dates 2020

The Belgian Air Force’s Agusta A109BA solo display can be seen at the following events this year.

Date Show Location Country
May 16-17 France Portes Ouvertes BA116 Luxeuil Saint-Sauveur France
Jul 11/td> United Kingdom Royal Navy International Air Day Yeovilton UK
Jul 21-23/td> France Meeting Aérien International Albert – Picardie France
Sep 11 Belgium Sanicole Sunset Airshow Hechtel Belgium
Sep 13 Belgium Sanicole International Airshow Hechtel Belgium
Sep 19-20 Italy 60th Anniversary of the Frecce Tricolori Rivolto Italy