Category Archives: Airshow News World

LIMA ’19 will be Flanker heaven – but other jets will star too

LANGKAWI | The Langkawi International Maritime & Aerospace Exhibition is just a few days away, and rehearsals for the air displays are  in full swing.

An RMAF Su-30MKM Flanker-H performs a solo display at LIMA ’15. Photo: Tom Wittevrongel

Yesterday the Royal Malasian Air Force surprised fans with stunning images of eight Su-30MKM Flanker-H jets flying in formation over Butterworth in preparation for the show. This is significently more than the six first promised for this year’s show or the two that participated in the opening ceremony in 2017. Photos also show an Airbus A400M flanked by six PC-7s rehearsing a flypast.

Also due to fly in the opening ceremony are two more A400Ms, three EC-725s, two S-61 Nuris, four F/A-18Ds and five Hawk 108/208 trainers. Two of the Hawks are expected to wear special tail schemes to celebrate 25 years of service with the RMAF.

Additionally, the F/A-18D and Su-30MKM will perform flare-filled solo routines on each day of the show.

The suspension of the Multi-Role Combat Aircraft programme has seen fewer jets take part in the flying display (the Gripen and Rafale are usually sure bets) but Malaysia’s upcoming Light Combat Aircraft programme will welcome two new additions to the display. India will contribute the HAL Tejas while Russia will display the Yak-130 in both the flying and static displays. A further rare display performer will be a Pakistan Navy Harbin Z9 helicopter.

Two national aerobatic teams will also wow the crowds. Both are LIMA regulars: Indonesia’s Jupiter Aerobatic Team have flown at almost every edition of the show with their six KT-1B Woongbis, and the Russian Knights will return flying the Su-30SM Flanker-C.

The Jupiter Aerobatic Team perform a graceful display rarely seen at major airshows. Photo: Adam Landau

The only civilian flying display performer will be UK aerobatic ace Mark Jefferies, who will fly an Extra 300L owned by Aerotree in the colours of the locally-based Krisakti Aerobatic Team.

The United States is to be a major contributor to the show, bolstering the static lineup with two F/A-18F Super Hornets, a P-8A Poseidon, KC-135R Stratotanker and C-17A Globemaster III. Two B-25H Stratofortresses will also perform a flypast.

The impressive static display lineup at the 2015 show. Photo: Tom Wittevrongel

There will be plenty of revolutionary drone technology in the static display this year. An in-service United States Air Force MQ-9 Predator will be joined by a Turkish Aerospace Industries ANKA and a Chengdu Wing Loong from China.

Airliners at the show will include an Embraer E190-E2, Airbus A319 and Airbus A321neo. The latter comes from AirAsia Malaysia, who had been due to bring three of the type together for a flypast, but this did not come to fruition.

The Langkawi International Maritime & Aerospace Exhibition will be held on the 26th-30th March 2019. Static and aerial displays will take place at MIEC, Langkawi International Airport, with maritime displays at Resort World Langkawi.

New colours for Saudi Hawks

RIYADH | The national aerobatic team of Saudi Arabia debuted an all new colour scheme at the Saudi International Airshow yesterday.

The seven-ship team, flying the BAE Hawk, were seen painted in a striking green livery with stylised white feather patterns in keeping with the team’s name. Previously the jets had worn a simple green scheme with a white stripe down the side of each fuselage – very similar to the design used by their mentors, the Red Arrows (see below).

The Saudi Hawks performing in their old scheme in the United Kingdom in 2011. Photo: Jim Lucas

The inaugural Saudi International Airshow is being held for the first time this month, featuring a range of Royal Saudi Air Force jets.

The RSAF previously painted a number of jets (a Typhoon, Tornado, two F-15s and an A330 MRTT) in a similar design to the one now worn by the Saudi Hawks for Saudi National Day last September.

Two killed in Guatemala T-28 air display crash

ESCUINTLA | A vintage plane crashed during an air display in Guatemala on Sunday 10th March, killing the pilot and his passenger.

The T-28 Trojan was performing a display at the National Automobile Championships at Los Volcanes Autodrome at the time of the crash. Amateur video shows the aircraft performing extreme low-level passes over the crowd and racetrack. He later failed to pull out of an aerobatic manoeuvre in time, hitting trees and disappearing from view. The plane was close to crashing into stands full of spectators.

The plane was being flown by Rodrigo Ibargüen, a local airshow pilot who was injured in similar accidents in 2015 and 2017. An engineer, Pablo Guillén, was also on board the plane and died in the accident.

One dies as Surya Kiran jets crash at Aero India

YELAHANKA | A pilot has died after two jets of the Indian national aerobatic team, Surya Kiran, crashed on Tuesday 19th February.

The team, who fly the BAE Hawk Mk.132, were practicing for Aero India at Yelahanka AFS. They were taking part in the show for the first time as a full 9-ship display since they were temporarily disbanded in 2011.

The two jets involved were performing the mirror pass  – the penultimate manoeuvre of the show – when they collided and crashed immediately afterwards, at about 11:50 local time.

Local news website  The News Minute said that the deceased pilot has been identified as Wing Commander Sahil Gandhi, who flew in the #7 position. They said 2IC Wing Commander Vijay Shelke and Squadron Leader Tejeshwar Singh, flying in the other jet, managed to eject. One was only slightly injured, while the other suffered fractured legs. At least one civilian on the ground was also hurt.

The Surya Kiran Aerobatic Team was founded in 1996 flying nine HAL Kiran  Mk.IIs. They previously suffered fatal accidents in 2006 and 2009, before being temporarily disbanded in 2011 due to their ageing fleet. The team was reformed in 2015 on the Hawk, initially flying with four jets before increasing to six and finally debuting with nine planes in October 2018. This is their first accident since transitioning to the new jet.

Aero India takes place at Yelahanka AFS, near Bangalore, on the 20th-24th February. It also features the Indian Air Force’s Sarang aerobatic team, the Yakovlevs from the UK and a number of solo demonstrations, including the IAF Tejas LCA and the Rafale C from France.

Magnificent Muroya takes double Abu Dhabi victory

ABU DHABI | Yoshi Muroya won the opening round of the Red Bull Air Race in Abu Dhabi today by the narrowest of margins, taking the win by just 0.003 seconds.

Photo: Joerg Mitter / Red Bull Content Pool

The 2017 world champion performed spectacularly all week, excelling in Free Practice, flying fastest in Qualifying and taking the victory on Race Day. Under the new format, this earned him the maximum 28 points available over the weekend.

Martin Sonka, the reigning world champion, showed his credentials by coming second, finishing a split second behind his Japanese rival. Michael Goulian finished third both in the race and in Qualifying, meaning he now sits just one point behind Sonka.

Photo: Naim Chidiac / Red Bull Content Pool

Nicolas Ivanoff was both the luckiest and unluckiest pilot of the day. After posting the slowest time of the field in Qualifying, he lost his Round of 14 heat against Yoshi Muroya, but made it through to the next round as the fastest loser. He then beat Kirby Chambliss in the Round of 8, but could not race in the Final 4 as his plane’s engine refused to start. The Frenchman, who won in Abu Dhabi in 2016, had to settle for fourth place.

The pilots battled challenging winds on race day which made gates 7 and 14 much harder than in the Free Practice and Qualifying sessions. Half of pilots picked up penalties in the Round of 8, including Kirby Chambliss, who was caught for climbing in gate 10 and ended with the slowest time of the round. Mika Brageot, who finished in seventh, incurred two penalties; one for insufficient smoke and one for exceeding 11G.

Photo: Joerg Mitter / Red Bull Content Pool

Almost two-thirds of the field picked up penalties in the Round of 14, including Cristian Bolton, who opted for a Safety Climb-Out when he exceeded 12G after gate 6 and was then unable to get his wings level for gate 7. As a result, the Chilean finished in 14th place.

Later, Matt Hall picked up a two-second Incorrect Level penalty at gate 7, which should have given Britain’s Ben Murphy a clear passage to the Round of 8. Instead, the British pilot exceeded 11G and then hit the outside pylon at gate 7. The combined four seconds of penalty knocked Murphy out of the round; he finished in 13th overall. He later said that an alternator failure had distracted him from what should have been an easy run.

Photo: Andreas Schaad / Red Bull Content Pool

Matthias Dolderer was another big name to bow out early. Visibly furious with himself for his Incorrect Level penalty at gate 14, the 2016 world champion ended the day in 11th place. Pete McLeod also had a frustrating week; his 9th place finish (caused by yet another penalty at gate 7) belied his fantastic runner-up performace in Qualifying. However, McLeod was not given the two points usually awarded to the Qualifying runner-up because he his magnito settings accidentally exceeded the regulations.

Muroya therefore starts the season with a spectacular six point lead over his closest rival, but Goulian and Sonka have proved that they are hungry to repeat last year’s success.

RACE RESULTS

Race finish Pilot Country Race points Final time Penalties Quali finish
1 Yoshi MUROYA USA 25 0:53.780 1
2 Martin SONKA CZE 22 0:53.783 4
3 Michael GOULIAN USA 20 0:54.009 3
4 Nicolas IVANOFF FRA 18 DNS N/A 14
5 Matt HALL AUS 14 0:54.760 8
6 Juan VELARDE ESP 13 0:55.221 +2 6
7 Mika BRAGEOT FRA 12 0:56.263 +2 5
8 Kirby CHAMBLISS USA 11 0:56.341 +2 13
9 Pete MCLEOD CAN 5 0:55.196 +2 2
10 Petr KOPFSTEIN CZE 4 0:55.816 +2 12
11 Matthias DOLDERER GER 3 0:56.443 +2 10
12 Francois LE VOT FRA 2 0:58.109 +2 9
13 Ben MURPHY GBR 1 0:58.638 +4 7
14 Cristian BOLTON CHI 0 DNF +3 11

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Position Pilot Team Country Total points Change
1 Yoshi MUROYA Team Falken JPN 28 =
2 Martin SONKA Red Bull Team Sonka CZE 22 =
3 Michael GOULIAN Team Goulian USA 21 =
4 Nicolas IVANOFF Team Hamilton FRA 18 =
5 Matt HALL Matt Hall Racing AUS 14 =
6 Juan VELARDE Team Velarde ESP 13 =
7 Mika BRAGEOT #11RACING Team Eyetime FRA 12 =
8 Kirby CHAMBLISS Team Chambliss USA 11 =
9 Pete MCLEOD Cashback World Racing CAN 5 =
10 Petr KOPFSTEIN Team Spielberg CZE 4 =
11 Matthias DOLDERER Matthias Dolderer Racing GER 3 =
12 Francois LE VOT FLV Racing Team 12 FRA 2 =
13 Ben MURPHY The Blades Racing Team GBR 1 =
14 Cristian BOLTON Cristian Bolton Racing CHI 0 =

 

Red Bull Air Race 2019 tour calendar released

SALZBURG  | The Red Bull Air Race will be heading to new venues this year, with races expected across Europe, North America and Asia.

The race season will begin in Abu Dhabi in February for the traditional season opener before spending the next few months in Europe. This will be followed by two races in Asia and one in Saudi Arabia.

The location for the second date of the tour has not been decided, but an NBN news report last week said the series would feature a new venue “over the Mediterranean”.

A second unconfirmed venue is planned in Asia, however in previous years, events marked “Asia; TBC” on the Red Bull Air Race’s preliminary schedule have in fact been relocated to Europe. A number of Asian cities are known to have expressed interest in hosting the air race, including Singapore and Hong Kong, while Putrajaya in Malaysia hosted a one-off race in 2014.

Notably, the air race will not land in Budapest this year. While originally scheduled for July, the Mayor of Budapest refused to grant the organisers permission to hold the event. Instead, it will be staged at a new venue on the shore of Lake Balaton.

Some fans have criticised the air race organisers for the late release of their schedule, which was published just ten days before the first race and is still incomplete.

Dates Location
Feb 8-9 The Corniche, Abu Dhabi, UAE
TBC Europe; TBC
Jun 15-16 Kazanka River, Kazan, Russia
Jul 13-14 Zamárdi, Lake Balaton, Hungary
Sep 7-8 Makuhari Beach, Chiba, Japan
TBC Asia; TBC
Oct 19-20 Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Indianapolis, IN, USA
Nov 8-9 Saudi Arabia

Sri Lanka Air Force debuts first-ever aerobatic team

CHINA BAY | The Sri Lanka Air Force’s first ever aerobatic team, the Blue Eagles, staged their first ever performance on Friday 11th January.

The display featured five specially-painted Nanchang PT-6 training aircraft, and was piloted by Qualified Training Instructors from the No. 1 Flying Training Wing. The aircraft performed a number of formation manoeuvres, breaks and solo aerobatics.

The air arm also staged flypasts featuring the IAI Kfir, Chengdu F-7 and Hongdu JL-8, as well as a parachute display and Mil Mi-7 role demonstration.

In the past, the Sri Lanka Air Force have staged basic formation aerobatic displays with the PT-6 and Hongdu JL-8, but this is the first time they have set up a fully-fledged aerobatic team.

The Sri Lanka Air Force operates a fleet of six PT-6s, a Chinese basic trainer aircraft developed in the 1950s. The aircraft is used by other aerobatic teams including the People’s Liberation Army Air Force’s ‘Sky Wing’ team and the Desert Rats, a civilian team from the United States.

Where will the Red Bull Air Race land this year?

SALZBURG | The Red Bull Air Race are yet to announce their 2019 calendar, but with the first race just two weeks away, the first details are already emerging.

An NBN News report about Australian racer Matt Hall this morning said that there will be two new race locations on the calendar this year “over the Mediterranean and in the Middle East”.

Of the remaining races, two have already been confirmed by Red Bull: the opening round will take place in Abu Dhabi on Friday 8th-Saturday 9th February, with Chiba in Japan hosting a race in early September.

City officials in Budapest have confirmed the event will return to the Hungarian capital on Saturday 13th and Sunday 14th July. This is despite the city’s mayor pledging to ban the event last summer after locals complained of noise disturbance and road closures.

With three venues confirmed and two new ones on the way, that means around three existing host cities are likely to see the Red Bull Air Race return to their skies this year. This will include the Russian city of Kazan, which is currently two years into its three year contract. The Kazan round is likely to be in early June.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indiana, USA, completed their three-year contract to host the race last year, but IMS bosses are said to be pleased with crowd sizes and said in October that they were keen to negotiate a new deal. The IMS website suggests they are planning to host a race this year, but no date is given.

Probably off the cards is the city of Porto in Portugal. Around 850,000 turned out to watch the race in Porto in 2017, but the championship didn’t return to the city last year. Porto’s mayor told local media in December 2018 that, while the matter would not be closed until later this month, he did not expect the series to return to Porto in 2019.

Austria is also not expected to host a race next year, while Cannes, France, will take a break from hosting the event, which will return to the French Riviera in 2020.

The UK is one country not to have hosted the Red Bull Air Race in two years, with many British fans hoping the series will return in 2019. Four years ago, Red Bull told YM Liverpool that it was not in talks with any UK venues while it’s three year contract with Ascot Racecourse (2014-2016) remained in place. London, Longleat and Kemble have all hosted the series in the past, and campaigners in Folkestone have also called for the event to be brought to their town. Perhaps with a British pilot back in the Masterclass, the Red Bull Air Race will return to the UK once again?

A number of potential venues keen to host the tour appear not to be on the calendar for 2019. Challenger Class pilot Kenny Chiang told the South China Morning Post last year that the “wheels were in motion” to bring the competition to Hong Kong (although he admitted this could still be some way off) and Singaporean media reported that Red Bull twice tried to bring the event to the southeast Asian city state in 2010 and 2014, but according to NBN News, no races are planned in this region in 2019.

It is obvious that the Red Bull Air Race are keen to expand their presence in Asia; the 2014 season finale was originally scheduled to be hosted in China before it was moved to Austria, and as recently as 2018 a further planned stop in an unspecified Asian venue was dropped from the schedule.

Another venue for consideration in future years is Lake Macquarie in New South Wales, Australia. Matt Hall told This is Flight in 2015 that he would love to bring the event to his Belmont base. The local council made a bid to host the race in 2016, but this ultimately fell through when the state tourism authority decided not to back the move, believing it was not worth the money.

The Red Bull Air Race has held eight races per year in recent seasons, but target an eventual fifteen races per year.

We can expect the release of their preliminary 2019 calendar in the very near future – we’ll have all the latest here on This is Flight once it has been announced.

Black Eagles preparing for LIMA ’19, says air force chief

LANGKAWI | The Black Eagles are one of at least two aerobatic teams preparing to perform at this year’s Langkawi International Maritime & Aerospace Exhibition, a senior official has said.

Photo: Adam Landau

General Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Hj Affendi bin Buang, the chief of the Royal Malaysian Air Force, told local newspaper Sinar Harian that the Black Eagles and Jupiter Aerobatic Team were both planning to attend the show. However, he said preparations are still ongoing and their participation will not be confirmed until the end of the month.

Indonesia’s Jupiter Aerobatic Team had already announced their intention to perform at the event, but the Black Eagles were widely expected not to participate again so soon after their Malaysian debut in 2017.

The Black Eagles fly eight T-50B Golden Eagles, and are the national aerobatic team of the Republic of Korea. As well as LIMA 2017, they have performed at two editions of the Singapore Airshow and the Waddington Airshow in the UK. Their spectacular routine also saw them pick up two of the most coveted awards at the Royal International Air Tattoo 2012.

Photo: Tom Wittevrongel

General Buang also confirmed that the Royal Malaysian Air Force will stage Sukhoi Su-30MKM and F/A-18D Hornet solo displays, the Sinar Harian said, as well as a spectacular opening ceremony sequence, which will see large numbers of jets and helicopters performing a spectacular one-off aerial display for a small number of invited guests.

While barely mentioned in the Malaysian press, the Indian Air Force are also expecting to participate in the show with the Tejas LCA in the flying and static display. India plans to exhibit at least one single-seat combat jet and one twin-seat trainer aircraft.

Some commentators have speculated that the Pakistan Air Force, who fly the JF-17 Thunder, may also feel obligated to bring their jet to the show. The JF-17 is the Tejas’ main rival for a lucrative export order to Malaysia – but the Tejas is widely believed to be the frontrunner.

The hunt for a new Light Combat Aircraft for the RMAF has not yet officially been approved by the Malaysian government. The RMAF’s Multi-Role Combat Aircraft programme, which has been running for some years, has also been put on hold, meaning that regular LIMA participants such as the Dassault Rafale C and JAS-39C Gripen are unlikely to appear in the flying display.

LIMA is one of the largest airshows in Asia and is set to be held on the 26th-30th March 2019. The organisers have not yet confirmed which aircraft will be participating in the event.

LCA Tejas to join LIMA ’19 flying display for first time

LANGKAWI | The Tejas Light Combat Aircraft will be on display at this year’s Langkawi International Maritime & Aerospace Exhibition.

With the Royal Malaysian Air Force now considering purchasing 30 Tejas jets (it previously favoured the Sino-Pakistani JF-17 Thunder), the Malay government has already requested the Indian-built jet attends the show this March. According to Indian media, the Indian Air Force will be showing off the Tejas in the show’s aerial display.

The Tejas has already been displayed at several events in India, including Aero India and Air Force Day. It has also performed abroad at the Bahrain Airshow 2016.