Category Archives: Airshow News World

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.

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.

 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.

When to catch the Republic of Singapore Air Force practicing for NDP

SINGAPORE | The RSAF have begun rehearsing their aerial display for National Day Parade, with further rehearsals scheduled roughly once per week until the 9th August.

NDP 2020 celebrates Singapore’s 55th year of independence, which would usually call for a larger-than-usual military parade and aerial display. However, the event is to be scaled back amid the coronavirus pandemic, with the size of the parade reduced by 90 per cent or more compared to last year.

Unlike most years, when displays are centered on Marina Bay or the Padang, events this year will be spread across the island. This will include the mobile column and an aerial display, with the latter featuring a five-ship formation of F-15SGs from 149 Squadron at Paya Lebar, as well as the traditional state flag flypast, featuring a Chinook and two Apaches. The Red Lions freefall team will also participate throughout the day, landing in the heartlands for the first time, although the precise location of the drop zones is not yet publicly known.

Prime Minister Ng Eng Hen said: “if Singaporeans cannot perform or come to the NDP, why not bring the NDP right to the homes of all Singaporeans across the island?

“SAF helicopters will fly our National Flag in the sky to the strain of Majulah Singapura sung by her citizens over many parts of Singapore. SAF planes will take to the air and fly past housing estates. Look out also for the Red Lions that will land in selected destinations in the heartlands.”

Rehearsals will take place most Saturdays until National Day Parade itself on the 9th August.

Date Time Event
Thursday 25th June 09:00-11:30 RSAF Internal Rehearsal
Saturday 4th July 09:00-11:30 Combined Rehearsal 1
Saturday 11th July 09:00-11:30 Combined Rehearsal 2
Saturday 18th July 09:00-11:30 Combined Rehearsal 3
Saturday 25th July 09:00-11:30 Combined Rehearsal 4
Saturday 1st August 09:00-11:30 Combined Rehearsal 5
Sunday 9th August 09:00-11:30 National Day Parade (morning segment)
Sunday 9th August 18:30-20:30 National Day Parade (evening segment)
Monday 10th August 09:00-11:30 National Day Parade (reserve slot)

The most intense aerial activity is likely to be between 10:30 and 11:00 during CR1, CR2, CR3, CR4 and the NDP morning segment.

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.

Jupiter Aerobatic Team turn back towards home after cancelling Singapore Airshow appearance

BATAM | Indonesia’s Jupiter Aerobatic Team made it within 30km of the Singapore Airshow before abruptly cancelling their visit and turning for home today.

Photo: Adam Landau

The team of six KT-1B Woongbis confirmed their participation in the prestigious show on Sunday 2nd February, flying to the event via the island of Batam, where they staged an aerial display. However, on Wednesday, the head of the Indonesian Air Force Information Service, Marsma Fajar Adriyanto, suddenly announced that the team would be turning back to their base in Yogyakarta.

Although no reason was given for the team’s cancellation, it could have been a move to protect the team from the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, with 18 cases confirmed in Singapore so far. Also on Wednesday, China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force announced that their crack aerobatic team, August 1st, would be attending the event, supported by a pair of Il-76 transport aircraft based near the city of Wuhan, where the outbreak began.

Photo: Tom Wittevrongel

The Republic of Korea’s own aerobatic team, the Black Eagles, had already cancelled their appearance at the show, again citing the coronavirus outbreak, and several exhibitors have pulled out.

Jupiter Aerobatic Team have twice flown at the Singapore Airshow; the team made their debut in 2014, but a diplomatic spat between Indonesia and Singapore saw the team abandon the event early. They returned in 2018, performing for the duration of the show.

The Singapore Airshow will be held on the 11th-16th February and will be open to the public on the final two days. For more information, read our guide to the Singapore Airshow.

US pilot and two spectators killed in Guatemala airshow crash

IZTAPA | An American airshow pilot and two spectators were killed during a practice flight for the LXV Anniversary Airshow in Iztapa, Guatemala, on Friday 24th January.

Steve Andelin was piloting a Zivko Edge 540T as part of Kirby Chambliss’ Red Bull-sponsored airshow act, according to local media. At least two spectators also died when the aircraft crashed in the showground area, and another was seriously injured. The aircraft wreckage came to rest in a nearby river.

A statement on the Team Chambliss Facebook page the day after the crash said: “It is with great sadness that Team Chambliss confirms that our friend and pilot, Steve Andelin, along with two spectators, lost their lives at a private air show in Guatemala on Friday, January 24th.

“Steve Andelin was flying a plane which carried Red Bull branding, owned by Kirby Chambliss. We are deeply shocked and extend our deepest sympathies to the families involved in this tragic accident.”

They asked the public not to circulate video footage of the accident, out of respect to those who lost their lives.

Mr Andelin was a test pilot for Zivko Aeronautics and an airline pilot. He had spent two years on the United States Aerobatic Team.

The Director General of Guatemala’s civil aviation regulator, Francis Argueta Aguirre, offered his deepest condolences to the friends and family of all those who lost their lives.

Blue Impulse told to “be ready” to participate in Olympic Games

MATSUSHIMA | The aerobatic team of the Japanese Air Self-Defence Force have been told to “be ready” to participate in this year’s Olympic Games, which are to be held in Tokyo.

On Friday 17th January, jets of the Blue Impulse began practicing drawing large rings in the sky over Higashi-Matsushima City, where the Olympic Torch is due to touch down on the 20th March.

The Air Self-Defence Force said it has not been decided whether Blue Impulse will participate in this year’s Games, but the team began practicing on Friday after the Olympic Organising Committee told them to prepare to participate in the torch arrival ceremony and other events.

Blue Impulse famously drew the Olympic rings during the opening ceremony of the 1964 Tokyo summer Games, with five F-86 Sabres drawing the interlocking rings with white smoke at a height of around 10,000 feet. They also performed a short demonstration with coloured smoke, matching the colours of the Olympic rings, at the opening ceremony of the 1998 winter Games in Nagano.

The team have generally refrained from using coloured smoke in recent years amid concerns that chemicals could stain the ground. However, the Japan Times reported last month that the Air Self-Defence Force has improved its smoke and that the team are expected to draw the Olympic rings in full colour at March’s arrival ceremony.

The Blue Angels are no stranger to major international sporting fixtures. In 2002, the team performed a display over the first match of the FIFA World Cup. In September 2019, the team drew a cherry blossom with white smoke to mark the start of the Rugby World Cup. Blue Impulse are also well-known for drawing patterns in the sky during their display, including a five-pointed star.

Based at Matsushima, Blue Impulse currently fly six Kawasaki T-4 intermediate jet trainers in a white and blue paint scheme.

XtremeAir XA-41 and XA-42 banned from flying aerobatics

HECKLINGTON | Aircraft from the XtremeAir XA-41/Sbach 300 and XA-42/Sbach 342 family have been banned from aerobatic manoeuvres by the aircraft’s manufacturer.

Photo: James Connolly

XtremeAir GmbH placed restrictions on the highly advanced aerobatic aircraft family in a Service Bulletin on Monday 23rd September, which said both the left and right hand diagonal struts of the engine mount had been found to have separated during a routine inspection of an XA-42. The bulletin bans all aerobatic manoeuvres with immediate effect and requires a placard reading “AEROBATIC MANOEUVRES PROHIBITED” to be placed in the cockpit, in view of the pilot.

The manufacturer also says a ten-minute visual inspection of the engine mount must be completed before each flight. This inspection was previously required only once every ten aerobatic flights.

EASA published an Emergency Airworthy Directive the following day, which said cracks had been found on the engine mount, which “could lead to in-flight detachment of the engine, possibly resulting in loss of control of the aeroplane”.

Photo: Jim Lucas

The XA-41 and XA-42 are popular with airshow and competition aerobatic pilots, and are also used by aerobatic teams including Team Xtreme from South Africa, the Flying Bulls of the Czech Republic and the UK’s Matadors Aerobatic Team.

The aircraft had already been under the spotlight after cracks were detected in the engine mount during a separate inspection last year.

Matt Hall is crowned World Champion in final Red Bull Air Race

CHIBA | Australian pilot Matt Hall finally achieved his dream of being the Red Bull Air Race World Champion as Yoshi Muroya enjoyed a third emphatic victory at his home race.

Three times the runner-up, Hall soared to victory by claiming third place at the final race of the season, just behind home hero Yoshi Muroya and Kirby Chambliss. Muroya had a challenging day, losing his Round of 14 heat against Ben Murphds by 0.015 seconds, but progressed as the fastest loser and won every subsequent heat he flew.

RACE RESULTS

Race finish Pilot Country Race points Final time Penalties Quali finish
1 Yoshi MUROYA JPN 25 0:58.630 5
2 Kirby CHAMBLISS AUS 22 0:59.601 14
3 Matt HALL USA 20 1:00.052 7
4 Pete MCLEOD CAN 18 1:04.028 +5 11
5 Nicolas IVANOFF FRA 14 0:59.096 13
6 Mika BRAGEOT FRA 13 0:59.731 +1 9
7 Francois LE VOT FRA 12 1:02.936 +5 3
8 Ben MURPHY GBR 11 1:04.248 +5 10
9 Michael GOULIAN USA 5 0:58.032 8
10 Juan VELARDE ESP 4 0:58.180 1
11 Cristian BOLTON CHI 3 0:58.252 12
12 Matthias DOLDERER GER 2 0:58.409 4
13 Martin SONKA CZE 1 00:58.808 +1 2
14 Petr KOPFSTEIN CZE 0 00:59.774 6

2018 world champion Martin Sonka lead the title chase into the final race, but was knocked out in the Round of 14 heat against Nicolas Ivanoff when he picked up a one second Over-G penalty. He ended the season in third place overall. Ben Murphy, the latest pilot to join the tour, stunned with a fourth-place finish in only his second season.

CHAMPIONSHIP RESULTS

Position Pilot Team Country Total points Change
1 Matt HALL Matt Hall Racing AUS 81
2 Yoshi MUROYA Team Falken JPN 80
3 Martin SONKA Red Bull Team Sonka CZE 68
4 Ben MURPHY The Blades Racing Team GBR 48 =
5 Kirby CHAMBLISS Team Chambliss USA 48
6 Pete MCLEOD Cashback World Racing CAN 48
7 Nicolas IVANOFF Team Hamilton FRA 47
8 Mika BRAGEOT #11RACING Team Eyetime FRA 44 =
9 Michael GOULIAN Team Goulian USA 42
10 Juan VELARDE Team Velarde ESP 39
11 Francois Le Vot FLV Racing Team 12 FRA 34
12 Cristian BOLTON Cristian Bolton Racing CHI 27
13 Petr Kopfstein Team Speilberg CZE 10 =
14 Matthias Dolderer Matthias Dolderer Racing GER 6 =

Earlier this year, Red Bull announced they would be ending their support for the series, which began in 2003, due to lower than expected interest. The race organisers shortened this year’s series from eight to four races, and announced the series would not return in 2020.

Red Bull pulls the plug on the Red Bull Air Race

The Red Bull Air Race will wrap up for good after an abbreviated 2019 season, it was announced today.

In a surprise announcement, the Air Race said that “Red Bull has decided not to continue the Red Bull Air Race World Championship beyond the 2019 season.”

They added: “The Red Bull Air Race provided sports entertainment of highest quality but did not attract the level of outside interest as many other Red Bull events across the world. Red Bull thanks the pilots, their teams, partners, the host cities as well as the Red Bull employees for all they have done to make these enjoyable and memorable events.”

Just four of the eight planned races will go ahead this year: the Abu Dhabi round, which has already been staged, Kazan, Russia June 15-16), Lake Balaton, Hungary (13-14 July) and Chiba, Japan (7-8 September). Planned races in the USA and Saudi Arabia have been dropped.

Confirming the American race had been cancelled, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway said they and their fans would be “disappointed” not to host the air race again. “We enjoyed watching the pilots navigate the unique course over the Indianapolis Motor Speedway grounds,” they said. “We were especially excited to see American pilot Michael Goulian celebrate a well-earned victory last year.”

Customers who have already purchased tickets will receive a refund.

Martin Sonka, the 2018 World Champion, was the first pilot to comment online, describing the announcement as “really sad news” and indicating he had only heard of the decision earlier that day.

In a statement, Matt Hall Racing said: “While disappointed that a sport, which had significant potential to succeed, will be no longer, Matt Hall Racing express their gratitude to Red Bull for the opportunity to compete at the top level of aviation for the past eight seasons.”

The unique motorsport, which began in 2003, sees a selection of elite pilot flying highly-modified raceplanes around a course of inflatable pylons. More than 90 races have taken place around the world, in locations as diverse as Longleat in the UK, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the USA and the Swan River in Perth, Australia.