Category Archives: Airshow News World

Special anniversary edition of Australian International Airshow cancelled

AVALON | The already-postponed Australian International Airshow 2021, which was due to mark the centenary of the Royal Australian Air Force, has been cancelled due to coronavirus concerns.

An RAAF F/A-18A Hornet at the Australian International Airshow 2015. Photo: William Reid

The hybrid trade and public event, held at Avalon Airport south of Melbourne, was originally due to take place in February, but was postponed to the 30th November-5th December 2021, with the latter three days being open to the public. It was to be one of the centrepiece events of the RAAF centenary, featuring one-off celebratory displays and flypasts, as well as a bumper line up of international participants.

However, the decision was taken on Tuesday 10th August to cancel the event for this year, with organisers citing “uncertainty created by the impacts of the Delta variant of Covid-19.” Australia, which contained the virus effectively through strict regionalised lockdowns in early 2020, is now experiencing a substantial third wave of the disease, with much of the population placed in lockdown once again.

A strict ban on international travel, put in place early last year, also remains in force, with travel unlikely to open up until at least 2022.

“Delivering such a highly complex, hallmark event in these challenging circumstances would involve risks of uncertainty for attendees, participants, industry and the Australian public,” said AMDA chief executive Ian Honnery.

“Therefore, in order to minimise uncertainty and disruption to attendees and participants, the difficult decision has been taken now that Airshow 2021 will not go ahead.”

The next edition of the show is planned for the 28 February-5 March 2023.

Saudi Hawks seemingly planning European tour next month

The Saudi Hawks are seeingly planning a European tour in late August – their first since 2019.

The Kecskemet Airshow in Hungary has announced the team for its 2021 show, due to be held on the 28th-29th August. It will be the team’s first visit to Hungary.

Although not officially announced, the website of Gdynia AeroBaltic in Poland also features images of the Saudi Hawks – the only team featured on their site which doesn’t yet appear in the official programme. The Hawks have also been included in promotional images on Facebook, alongside other acts that have been officially confirmed.

AeroBaltic’s organisers already have a relationship with the team, and hosted them at their most recent show in 2019. This year’s event is scheduled for the 21st-22nd August, just one week before Kecskemet.

If Gdynia was to host the Saudi Hawks, it would be the first time that three aerobatic teams flying the Hawk have performed at a single airshow; the Red Arrows and Midnight Hawks have already been announced.

The week after Kecskemet is Athens Flying Week – another show which the Saudi Hawks have visited in the past. However, there is no public indication yet that they are planning a return visit to Greece this year.

The team first visited Europe in 2011, and have returned several times since, displaying in countries such as Greece, Poland, the UK, Belgium and Austria. They currently fly seven BAE Hawk Mk.65s.

Royal Jordanian Falcons’ 2021 European tour cancelled

AQABA | For the second year running, the Royal Jordanian Falcons’ annual European tour has been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Photo: Adam Landau

The Jordanian national team, which uses a combination of civilian-owned Extra 330LXs and Royal Jordanian Air Force crew, is a common fixture on the European circuit, visiting the continent each year between June and September.

“For the second year in a row, and due to the international Covid-19 pandemic situation, we regret to inform our friends and fans that our 2021 European summer tour has now been cancelled,” the team said on Facebook. “We wish you all the best of health.”

In a mission to spread Jordanian goodwill, the Royal Jordanian Falcons usually fly at a mix of major airshows, such as the Royal International Air Tattoo and Athens Flying Week, as well as visiting smaller venues like the Shuttleworth Collection and Lens-Benifontaine. They are typically supported by a Royal Jordanian Air Force C-130.

In 2018, it was announced that the team would be heading to the United States on their first ever American tour. Later delayed until 2019 or 2020, the tour is yet to have taken place. It is unclear whether this remains a priority for the team after the coronavirus pandemic.

Complete list of pilots competing in World Championship Air Race Aero/GP1 series revealed

SYWELL | The World Championship Air Race – the successor to the Red Bull Air Race – has announced the complete line up of Aero/GP1 pilots due to take part in 2022’s debut season.

12 teams will compete in WCAR’s top tier of competition next year, with seven former Masterclass pilots taking to the track and five former Challengers. Between nine and twelve more pilots, all of whom are yet to be announced, will compete in the Aero/GT feeder series, including several who are new to the sport.

WHO WILL BE RACING IN AERO/GP1 NEXT YEAR?


May be an image of 1 person, standing, outdoors and textAustralia #95 MATT HALL   MATT HALL RACING

Reigning World Champion Matt Hall of Australia will be the pilot for Newcastle-based team Matt Hall Racing. A former Royal Australian Air Force fighter pilot, Hall joined the Red Bull Air Race in 2009, finishing third in his debut season. He was the championship runner-up in 2015, 2016 and 2018, and World Champion in 2019. He has accumulated seven wins and 25 podiums, making him the most successful pilot due to compete in Aero/GP1. The 49-year-old has hinted he will only spend one or two seasons as Matt Hall Racing’s pilot before shifting to the Team Principle role and hiring in a younger replacement.


May be an image of 1 person and textCzech Republic #8 MARTIN SONKA

Taking part in his first race in 2010, Martin Sonka, 43, is a well-known Czech competition aerobatics and airshow pilot. He also served for over a decade with the Czech Air Force, flying the L-159 ALCA and JAS-39 Gripen. As well as winning the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in 2018, Sonka has six race wins and 16 podiums to his name.


May be an image of 1 person, standing, aircraft, outdoors and text Japan #31 YOSHI MUROYA

The only Asian pilot ever to compete in the Masterclass, Muroya joined the Red Bull Air Race in 2009. It took several years for the Japanese pilot, now 48, to get into the groove, finishing near the bottom of the standings for his debut seasons. His first emotional win came at his home race in Chiba in 2016, and he took the World Championship title the following year. He came second in the 2019 standings, despite winning three out of the four races. In total, he has won eight races and finished on the podium at 14.


May be an image of 1 person, car and textUnited Kingdom #24 BEN MURPHY   THE BLADES RACING TEAM

Representing the United Kingdom will be the Blades Racing Team, with pilot Ben Murphy. Murphy, 45, is a former leader of the Royal Air Force Red Arrows who now flies as part of the Blades Display Team. Joining the Red Bull Air Race Challenger Class in 2016, he finished sixth overall in his first two seasons before graduating to the Masterclass for the 2018 season. He has since become the sport’s best-performing Challenger graduate, finishing fourth overall in 2019, with one podium finish to his name.

The Team Principle is another former Red Arrows leader, United Kingdom ANDY OFFER, who has served in this position since the team was formed at the start of the 2018 season.


May be an image of 1 person, motorcycle and text Canada #84 PETE MCLEOD

Pete McLeod, 37, is a professional aerobatic pilot who joined the Red Bull Air Race in 2009, making him the youngest competitor at the time. Despite having won one race and claimed 12 podiums, McLeod has typically finished each season towards the middle of the rankings. His best overall results saw him placed fourth in 2019 and third in 2017. Outside of the race, McLeod flies a variety of aircraft, including float planes, and is active on the North American airshow circuit.


May be an image of 1 person and text France #11 MIKAEL BRAGEOT   #11RACING TEAM

Mika Brageot, 33, is an acclaimed French aerobatic pilot who joined the Red Bull Air Race Challenger Class in 2014. Mentored by 2014 Masterclass World Champion Nigel Lamb, Brageot won the Challenger Class in 2015. In 2016, he joined the Masterclass, inheriting Lamb’s race team and aircraft. He has achieved one Masterclass podium and a career-best result of fourth in the 2018 standings. He is likely to be the only pilot competing in WCAR with an MXS-Racer, rather than an Edge 540.


May be an image of 1 personSpain #26 JUAN VELARDE

The final Masterclass pilot to join the series is Spain’s Juan Velarde, 46. An airshow pilot and A330 captain with Iberia, he joined the Challenger Class in 2014, where he finished eighth. Despite that, he graduated to the Masterclass the following year, and in 2016 began racing Paul Bonhomme’s triple-world-championship-winning Edge 540. He has accumulated two Masterclass podiums and has a career-best result of eighth in the end-of-season standings.


May be an image of 1 person, standing and text that says "HART HARTZELL FLORIAN BÉRGER AeroGP1 Pilot"Germany #62 FLORIAN BERGER   MATTHIAS DOLDERER RACING TEAM

A 32-year-old Lufthansa pilot flying the Airbus A320, Berger was taught to fly aerobatics at Matthias Dolderer’s flight school and joined the Red Bull Air Race Challenger Class in 2015. He is the most successful Challenger in history, winning the series three times (2016, 2017 and 2019) and coming second in 2018. He has nine race wins and 16 podiums from just 23 race starts.

May be an image of 1 person and textBerger will race for Matthias Dolderer Racing under team principle Germany MATTHIAS DOLDERER. Dolderer, also from Germany, joined the Red Bull Air Race in 2009. In 2016, he became the first Red Bull Air Race pilot in history to win the World Championship before the final race of the season. More recently, Dolderer seems to have struggled to match his 2016 successes, finishing towards the bottom of the standings in 2018 and 2019. Dolderer himself will not fly in WCAR.


May be an image of 1 person and textUnited States #48 KEVIN COLEMAN

Former Red Bull Air Race Challenger pilot Kevin Coleman will also move to Aero/GP1, and at the age of 30, he will be the youngest pilot in his class. A regular on the US airshow circuit, Coleman has received mentorship in the air race from fellow Texan Kirby Chambliss. Joining in 2016, Coleman finished third in his debut season, and third again in both 2018 and 2019. He has three wins and 12 podiums from 19 races.


May be an image of 1 person, standing and textFrance United Kingdom #33 MELANIE ASTLES

Melanie Astles will be the first woman to participate in the top-tier of the air race. Living in France, but born in the UK, Astles, 38, is the reigning British Unlimited Aerobatic Champion as of May 2021. She joined the Red Bull Air Race Challenger Class in 2016 and has since claimed five podiums, including one win. She was second overall in the 2019 standings.


May be an image of 1 person, standing and text Italy #32 DARIO COSTA

Dario Costa joined the Red Bull Air Race in 2013 as the sport’s Flight Operations Manager. A flight instructor and aerobatics pilot himself, the 40-year-old Italian qualified to compete in the Challenger Class in 2016, racing for the first time in 2018. He has since taken two podiums, including one win, from seven race starts, and his career best season result is fifth. Along with Patrick Davidson, he will be the least experienced race pilot in the Aero/GP1 category.


May be an image of 1 person and textSouth Africa #77 PATRICK DAVIDSON

Another relative newcomer to the sport, Davidson also joined the Red Bull Air Race Challenger Class in 2018 and has taken part in seven races. Despite not having won a single race, he has claimed four podiums and shares Costa’s career-best season result of fifth place. Davidson entered – and won – his first aerobatic competition at the age of just 12, and has been a prolific airshow and competition aerobatic pilot since adulthood.


WHO HAS MISSED OUT?

With the top tier of air racing shrinking from 14 to 12 athletes, and incorporating several new graduates from the Challenger Class, it is inevitable that there are some noticable omissions. Old versions of WCAR’s website stated in 2020 that all 14 existing Red Bull Air Race Masterclass teams had expressed an interest in competing in the new sport, and it is not known whether some of these teams later withdrew their interest or if they were rejected by WCAR at the pilot selection stage.

No longer racing are Americans Kirby Chambliss and Michael Goulian or Frenchman Nicholas Ivanoff, all of whom were rumoured to be close to retirement before the collapse of the Red Bull Air Race. All three had been with the sport for many years and had seemingly struggled to achieve consistent results in recent seasons, however Goulian put in an unusually strong performance in 2018, finishing the year ranked third.

Two up-and-coming Masterclass pilots have also been dropped. Czech racer Petr Kopfstein, who won the debut Challenger Cup series in 2014 and joined the Masterclass in 2016, will not race in WCAR, at least for 2022, despite having a career-best season result of fifth. Former World Aerobatic Champion Francois Le Vot, who joined the Challenger Class in 2014 and the Masterclass in 2015, has also not been retained. He had never finished a race season ranked higher than 11th.

Chilean pilot and former Halcones team leader Cristian Bolton, who, after three full Masterclass seasons, has never finished higher than 12th overall, has not been selected either.

Of the biggest surprises in the Aero/GP1 class is the absence of Swedish pilot Daniel Ryfa, one of the most successful Challenger pilots in history, second only to Berger. With eight race wins and 19 podiums to his name, he was four times the runner-up in the end-of-season standings. It would be hugely surprising to see much less experienced and less decorated Challengers like Davidson and Costa graduate to Aero/GP1 ahead of Ryfa, perhaps suggesting that the Swede has left the sport.

WHO ELSE COULD STILL PARTICIPATE IN WCAR NEXT YEAR?

There are still a minimum of nine and a maximum of twelve pilot places that remain unannounced, which will make up the Aero/GT class: a feeder competition for less experienced pilots, racing in a Le Mans-style relay format.

Many of those spots will likely be taken by the seven remaining pilots who made up the 2019 Challenger Class: Kenny Chiang, Sammy Mason, Luke Czepiela, Patrick Strasser, Baptiste Vignes, Vito Wyprachtiger and possibly also Daniel Ryfa. However, there will also have to be at least two entirely new faces – and possibly many more than that.

Series Director Willie Cruickshank told This is Flight in March that all WCAR applicants were holders of Red Bull Air Race licenses. This means other potential Aero/GT contenders will be pilots who had already qualified to take part in the Red Bull Air Race Challenger Class, but were either yet to race or bowed out before progressing to the Masterclass.

More news is on the way, including the identities of Aero/GT Team Principles, which will be announced soon. This could include well-known ex-Red Bull Air Race competitors.

WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR WCAR’S PILOT SELECTION?

Pilots were selected in March 2021 by a panel of officials and experts, such as former World Champion Paul Bonhomme and the Red Bull Air Race’s Head Judge, Steve Jones.

Of course, race officials will be looking at more than just results when considering who gets a place in WCAR’s opening season. Competition bosses likely considered the technical and financial viability of a pilot’s team, their safety culture, the potential longevity of their racing careers and their ability to bring fans to the sport, among many other factors.

However, WCAR will have less of a say in who races in their sport in the future, as pilots will ultimately be hired and fired by the various Team Principles during an annual transfer window. All Aero/GP1 pilots will have to be suitably qualified (a process now controlled by WCAR), but it may not be out of the question for a former Red Bull racer to be roped in to fly in future seasons, or for some of them to return as Team Principles themselves.

For more about WCAR, read our exclusive interview with Series Director Willie Cruickshank.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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.