Category Archives: Airshow News World

Turkish Stars NF-5 in fatal accident at Konya

KONYA | A Northrop NF-5 Freedom Fighter of the Turkish Stars aerobatic team was involved in a fatal accident today, Wednesday 7th April.

The jet crashed during a training flight at the team’s home base, Konya, according to local news reports. Images of the accident show debris spread across a wide area. Team pilot Burak Gençcelep, 38, was killed in the accident, the cause of which is being investigated.

The Turkish Stars were formed in 1992 and display with eight ex-Royal Netherlands Air Force NF-5A/B Freedom Fighters. They are based at Konya alongside the Yüzbaşı Turkish Air Force’s other demonstration team, SoloTurk.

Today’s accident is only the second fatal crash in the team’s history, with the first occuring in 2012.

Yealands Classic Fighters Airshow postponed from April to September

OMAKA | The Yealands Classic Fighters Airshow has been postponed for the first time in its history, with organisers blaming uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Classic Fighters Airshow is one of New Zealand’s largest aviation events, and is famous worldwide for its unmatched warbird displays and battle re-enactments. Scheduled for the 2nd-4th April 2021, this year’s show was due to feature a race between early aircraft, cars and bicycles, WWI fighters, WWII aircraft such as the Anson, Yak-3, Fw190, Spitfire and V1 flying bomb, and representitives of the modern Royal New Zealand Air Force.

However, the event has now been delayed to the 3rd-5th September. Classic Fighters Airshow Director Graham Orphan said, “This is the first time we have ever altered the dates of the show and it is not something we do lightly, but this time the writing was on the wall. We have accepted that it would be irresponsible to risk both the ongoing viability of Classic Fighters and the health of our community.”

Since the start of the pandemic, New Zealand has only recorded 2,400 cases of coronavirus and 26 deaths, and the country had virtually eradicated the disease by May 2020. However, snap lockdowns and restrictions can be introduced overnight when cases emerge. Last month, the final day of Wings Over Wairarapa had to be cancelled after a single unexplained case of coronavirus emerged in Auckland, around 400km away.

A statement promised that “all elements” planned for the April show will be part of the rescheduled event, and tickets already purchased will be valid for the new date.

Sri Lanka Air Force to hold first international airshow in decades to mark 70th anniversary

COLOMBO | Sri Lanka’s first international airshow for 20 years will take place in Galle Face next week, marking the 70th anniversary of the country’s air force (SLAF).

Photo: Indian Air Force

A celebration on the day of the anniversary will be held at SLAF Base Katunayake on the 2nd of March, followed by a major flyinf display over Colombo’s prestigious Galle Face Beach from Wednesday 3rd-Friday 5th March, starting at 5pm each day.

Three Indian Air Force teams are due to display over Galle Face: the Surya Kiran aerobatic team, flying nine BAE Hawk Mk.132s, will be performing in the country for the first time since 2001, while the Sarang helicopter aerobatic team and the HAL Tejas Light Combat Aircraft will be making their Sri Lanka air display debuts.

The Indian Navy has also dispatched the Dornier Do228 to participate in the festivities, as Sri Lanka mulls purchasing the type for maritime patrol duties. SLAF pilots and observers will fly along with the Indian Navy crews.

The SLAF will stage a flypast as part of the show, due to feature the Chengdu F-7, Bell 212, Bell 412, Mil Mi-17, Cessna 152, King Air B200 and Xian MA60. Promotional images also show a Nanchang CJ-6 in the colours of Sri Lanka’s first official aerobatic team, the Blue Eagles, which was created in early 2019. A total of 24 SLAF aircraft are due to participate.

The event in Galle Face appears to replace the SLAF’s traditional annual Air Tattoo, held each March at SLAF Base Hingurakgoda. The Air Tattoo is Sri Lanka’s only regular public airshow, and typically features parachute displays, role demonstrations and flypasts.

The SLAF operates a small but eclectic mix of ageing Soviet, American, Israeli and Chinese aircraft, with only three jets (one second-hand IAI Kfir and three Chengdu F-7s) currently in its front line fighter fleet. The HAL Tejas LCA was once considered an option to replace these venerable jets, but in 2018, Sri Lanka instead opted to restore five retired Kfir airframes, which will serve for at least another 15 years once they are returned to service. Three more SLAF Kfirs have been written off in accidents, including two lost during an air display practice in 2011.

Snap coronavirus restrictions halt final day of Wings over Wairarapa

MASTERTON | The final day of Wings over Wairarapa has been cancelled at the last minute with coronavirus restrictions, including a snap lockdown, due to be introduced in New Zealand tomorrow.

The emergence of an unexplained coronavirus case in Auckland has triggered a seven-day lockdown in the city and a temporary tightening of restrictions nationwide, including a ban on large public gatherings.

The restrictions, which come into force at 6am on Sunday 27th February, have forced Wings over Wairarapa to cancel the final day of their airshow with just a few hours’ notice.

“Our team is absolutely gutted, especially after an amazing day today, but your health and safety, and the health and safety of our volunteers, crew and pilots is paramount,” organisers said. “The Wings team will be touching base with all ticket holders for Sunday’s airshow regarding refunds.”

Wings over Wairarapa is one of New Zealand’s largest regular airshows, held biannually, and due to run from the 26th-28th February 2021. This year’s show has been headlined by a US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress. It also included air race demonstrations, WWI and WWII combat re-enactments and performances from the Roaring 40s and Red Star aerobatic teams.

Recording only 2,300 cases of coronavirus and 26 deaths since the start of the pandemic, New Zealand has been largely free of coronavirus since the middle of last year, with social distancing rules scrapped and public events allowed to take place as normal. However, the emergence of isolated cases has prompted occasional short, strict lockdowns to be imposed to stop the disease from re-emerging.

Authorities said the patient, who is not currently suffering any symptoms, has been potentially infectious for almost a week, during which they have visited several public venues. They have been unable to confirm how they first became infected.

World Championship Air Race partners with air sports governing body

LONDON | The governing body of air sports, the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), has formally agreed to partner with the fledgling World Championship Air Race (WCAR), with racing to begin in 2022.

More than a year after rumours began circulating, WCAR and the FAI this month announced the official successor to the much-loved Red Bull Air Race (RBAR) series, which ended in 2019. Racing is due to resume in the first quarter of 2022.

WCAR series director Willie Cruickshank, who previously served as RBAR’s head of aviation and sport, said: “We are delighted to announce this exciting new agreement between the FAI and World Championship Air Race to bring city-centre air-racing back to the public.”

“World Championship Air Race now has the commitment from the best race pilots in the world, flying the best aircraft, under the exclusive jurisdiction of the world governing body, putting us in a very strong position as we build towards Season 1 which we plan to debut in early 2022.

The FAI have granted WCAR with exclusive staging rights for manned air-gated air racing for at least the next 15 years. They will also provide safety oversight and governence for the new series.

RBAR pilots including Cristian Bolton, Juan Velarde, Mika Brageot, Kevin Coleman and Matt Hall took to social media to celebrate the announcement. Yoshi Muroya’s race team said they were in talks with WCAR and will announce their official participation when possible, while Matthias Dolderer posted: “Time to retire from retirement!”

Ben Murphy said: “The fastest motorsport on the planet is back & we’re excited to see the return of a new series! Since our 4th place finish in the RBAR 2019, we’ve been desperate for a chance to get back in the track & climb higher. We hope that chance comes in 2022.

Many RBAR competitors and organisers are expected to take part in the new series, with Jimbo Reid, Paul Bonhomme, Jim Dimatteo and Nigel Lamb all confirmed as members of the advisory board.

Initially, WCAR will have two tiers of competition: Aero/GP1, consisting of 12 race pilots, will be similar to RBAR’s Masterclass series, and Aero/GT will serve as a feeder competition, with less experienced pilots competing in three teams. Competitors will fly raceplanes familiar to fans of RBAR, such as the Edge 540 and MXS-R, but organisers hope these will run on sustainable, low-emission fuel in future seasons.

By the fifth season, WCAR plan to add two further tiers: VTOL/J, for jet-powered Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) aircraft, and VTOL/E for electric VTOL aircraft.

They will also establish the WCAR Academy, helping to introduce new talent to the sport. The academy will be headquartered in the UK, with training facilities across the world.

Another major aim of WCAR is to expand the event to include side acts and live music performances. In advance of each race, an Aviation Tech Village will be established in each host city, to promote careers in the aviation industry.

Late last year, the sport got a boost from Greenpro, a capital investment company from Malaysia. Greenpro said the new series will be flying into cities around the world, with races planned in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Australia, India, China, South Africa, United Kingdom and France. WCAR say they are “in discussions with lots of potential locations,” and plan to announce the first locations for season one in “the coming months.”

Postponed edition of Airshow China likely to take place before November 2021

ZHUHAI | The 13th edition of the China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition (Airshow China) will be held in 2021, organisers say, three months after postponing the event indefinitely.

Photo: Tom Wittevrongel

Originally scheduled for November 2020, Airshow China was postponed in October due to the coronavirus pandemic, but organisers are now planning on holding the event this year, according to the Chinese state-backed newspaper The Global Times.

Mayor of Zhuhai, Yao Yisheng, announced the plan to host the airshow in 2021 at a government meeting on Tuesday 2nd February, with long-term exhibitors telling The Global Times that the event could take place “some months earlier” than usual.

Typically held biannually, Airshow China is the Chinese aerospace and defence industry’s main showcase event. Recent editions have featured China’s first two fifth-generation fighters, the Chengdu J-20 and Shenyang FC-31, both of which are featured on the 2021 poster, as well as the Y-20 transport plane and formation displays from the Chengdu J-10 and Hongdu JL-8. International participants have included the Airbus A380, Russian Knights, Pakistan Air Force JF-17, Al Fursan, Sukhoi Su-35 and the RAF Red Arrows.

Surya Kiran and Sarang aerobatic teams join up for historic combined display

BENGALURU | The two official aerobatic teams of the Indian Air Force have opened Aero India 2021 with a historic 13-aircraft performance.

Photo: Indian Air Force

Said to be the first time that a a helicopter aerobatic team and jet aerobatic team have delivered a joint show, the two teams came together as part of the Aero India opening ceremony on Wednesday 3rd February.

Up to 15,000 trade visitors and 3,000 members of the public were able to watch the performance, which saw the four HAL Dhruv helicopters of Sarang performing their usual polished airshow routine while the nine BAE Hawk Mk.132s of Surya Kiran orbited the airshow high above, demonstrating a series of challenging formation shapes.

The two teams ended the show with some more sophisticated joint manoeuvres, including a synchronised opposition pass and a “double heart”, with two aircraft of each team drawing a heart in the sky at the same time.

It was also Surya Kiran’s first appearance at Aero India with smoke since upgrading to the Hawk in 2015. Two of the team’s jets are currently fitted with underwing smokewinders, but all nine aircraft are expected to produce smoke in the future.

The joint display was one of several history-making moments during Aero India 2021, which also saw the US Air Force participate with a B-1B Lancer for the first time, performing a flyby in formation with India’s first fourth-generation fighter, the HAL Tejas. Local company Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. also staged flyby representing the country’s self-sufficiency in fixed-wing military aircraft, featuring the HTT-40 turbo-trainer, the Tejas, the Advanced Hawk-i (the company’s own development of the BAE Hawk) and HAL’s troubled advanced jet trainer, the HJT-36 Sitara.

Aero India runs until the 5th February at Yelahanka AFS, and is the first major trade airshow held in almost a year. Most participants are taking part virtually, because of the coronavirus pandemic, while those who do attend in person must wear masks and provide proof of a recent negative coronavirus test.

Five graphs that chart the creeping cancellation of the 2021 airshow season

With over 30 airshow cancellations already official in 2021, we’ve been crunching the numbers to try and establish which shows have been cancelling first, where they are located, and why they have felt the need to pull the plug.

So far, the United States has had by far the highest number of cancellations, although this is to be expected given the United States has more airshows than any other country, and a relatively early start to the airshow season.

The United Kingdom has already seen two postponements from June to September, with more likely to follow. In a small country with a large number of airshows, emergency services, events companies, airshow professionals and vital resources such as fencing could be so thinly spread in the second half of the season that non-coronavirus cancellations follow.

A month-by-month analysis reveals some surprises. Despite the spring being a busy time for United States airshows, which currently face a pandemic which is raging out of control, April ties with June as the months with the most North American airshow cancellations. Even more surprisingly, only a single postponement is registered for the busy month of May, even as events in the safer months of August and September begin pulling the plug.

The pattern is much more predictable in Europe, where June – the first busy month of the airshow season – sees the bulk of the cancellations, and late-season shows continue to cling to a realistic chance of proceeding as planned.

Globally, it is military-run and trade-oriented airshows that have been the most likely to cancel so far this year. This is hardly surprising, as exposing active service members to large public crowds has obvious drawbacks. Military airshows in Europe also face additional complications, as they generally rely heavily on international contributions from neighbouring air forces, which may well be restricted.

Trade airshows have also been hard hit, with almost every trade show scheduled before July having been cancelled. This is because these events rely on very large volumes international visitors, and the relaxation of international travel restrictions cannot be guaranteed.

This is broadly in line with what we saw in 2020, when not a single trade airshow and just one military-run public airshow was held in western Europe and North America beyond April. The vast majority of airshows that went ahead were small, civilian airshows, with a small handful of larger events taking place in US states with particularly relaxed restrictions.

There does not seem to be a pattern to how early airshows are cancelled because of coronavirus, but the figures are interesting nonetheless. So far, some airshows have been cancelled up to a year early, while the shortest notice given is approximately six weeks. The majority of lost or delayed airshows have been cancelled or postponed with five months’ notice or more. Trade airshows have generally given the most notice of their cancellation, as these events require the most forward planning on the part of exhibitors and visitors.

European airshows have on average been cancelled much earlier than North American ones as it stands, but this is probably because the European airshow season starts later in the year and there hasn’t yet been a chance for last-minute cancellations. Expect these figures to change as the airshow season draws closer, as some last-minute cancellations are overwhelmingly likely.

Many cancelled airshows announced the reason for this decision in statements and social media posts, and an analysis of these is particularly revealing, with strongly differing reasons for event cancellations depending on their region.

North American airshows – particularly military-run airshows – usually cite the safety of visitors and service members as the primary reason for cancellation, but only one European airshow has done so. Four North American airshows also listed current or anticipated coronavirus regulations as a primary reason for cancellation, compared to only one in Europe. Meanwhile, most European airshow cancellations have been due to uncertainty regarding the overall path of the pandemic, which is only cited twice in the United States.

This probably reflects two key factors: firstly, in the United States, there is a far greater confidence that the pandemic is almost at an end (as, indeed, there has been since spring 2020), compared to a growing fear on the other side of the Atlantic that the disease could rage out of control for many months to come. Secondly, the figures reflect the fact that North American airshows have so far been cancelled later on average than European airshows. Most of the European 2021 airshow cancellations we’ve seen have been triggered by organisers who don’t want to risk organising an event that may later have to be cancelled, whereas in recent weeks we have seen a spate of North American cancellations from organisers who tried to hold on until the bitter end. Plenty of European airshow organisers are currently taking the same gamble, so expect the number of European cancellations due to health risks or virus restrictions to rise in April, May and June.

This aviation brinkmanship will likely be exacerbated on both sides of the Atlantic by an apparent lack of socially-distant event formats in 2021. Although last year saw a number of new airshow formats being successfully trialled, airshow organisers have seemed reluctant to adopt them (only a single large drive-in airshow has currently been confirmed in North America this year, for example – down from over half a dozen in 2020).

Filtering the same data based on the type of show, rather than the region, also produces interesting patterns. Military airshows have, on average, cited a greater vatiety of reasons for cancellation than civilian-run airshows, and are eight times more likely than civilian-run airshows to list health risks as a reason for cancellation. Across the board, uncertainty is the biggest cause of airshow cancellations across all categories.

In the short term, we’re overwhelmingly likely to see a huge increase in airshow cancellations in the United States, which is currently battling an unprecedented 3,500-4,000 coronavirus deaths per day. There are still at least seven airshows planned to go ahead in April, and around 20 in May, many of which are clearly unlikely to proceed. We’re also likely to see more early-season European airshows at the same time.

It is still possible – although unlikely – that the pandemic is broadly under control by early summer, in which case much of the airshow season could proceed as planned. Certainly, it is overwhelmingly likely that the experience gained in 2020 will allow for a busier airshow season than we were able to enjoy last year. Exactly how the coming months will pan out, however, is impossible to predict.

For more information about how airshow organisers are dealing with coronavirus, including alternative, socially-responsible event format options, read our special report here. For more information about how this data was compiled, see below.

List of cancelled/postponed airshows accurate as of 28/01/20. Events that take place in multiple months are listed with the month during which the show starts.
Regions covered: North America (USA, Canada & Mexico), Europe (EEA & UK only), Pacific (Australia & New Zealand only). Airshows outside of these regions are often low-profile and low in quantity, making meaningful data collection impossible.
Some airshows may fall into more than one category (for example, military-run trade shows).

Definition of airshow postponements: Airshows once advertised as taking place at a specified date in 2021, now due to take place at a later date in 2021.Airshows may record between zero and two primary reasons for cancellation, depending on statements released at the time.
Definition of airshow cancellations: Airshows once advertised as taking place in 2021, which are no longer due to take place this year. This includes airshows postponed to 2022 and beyond.
Events not included: Very small airshows; air displays held as part of other events which are not standalone airshows; airshows which, contrary to tradition or expectation, were never officially confirmed to be going ahead in 2021; airshows which were clearly cancelled or postponed for other reasons not related to coronavirus.

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.