Once is nothing, twice is coincidence, and three times is Sanicole!
Sunday 20th September 2015 was the third, and final, day of the aviation weekend at Sanicole airfield. After an amazing sunset show and the weather-crazy spotter day at Kleine Brogel Air Force Base the main event was promising the perfect aviation adventure. And there was no disappointment.
Sanicole is a small airfield just by the road between Leopoldsburg and Hechtel-Eksel, near to the large military facilities and just a few kilometres away from Kleine Brogel. There is no static display as used to be during the many airshows, because the spectators´ area is just a narrow, long strip between the trees and the runway. Almost all flying displays are flying from Kleine Brogel base, except some small aerobatics airplanes that are taking off directly from Sanicole runway.
On Sunday morning that narrow strip by the runway was really full-packed with the spectators. The crowd looked as the field of the orange and red dots and this was because of the Rafale and Eurofighter promotion stands, where the nice hostesses were giving out the red (Typhoon) and Orange (Rafale) baseball caps. Yes, Belgium is another country that is expecting to buy some new jest in the near future to replace their F-16 fleet. And even the F-35 seems to be the Belgian choice, the final decision was not made yet and other manufacturers are still trying to make their product to be the future Belgian fighter jet.
The prelude for the show was the presentation of the RC models; some of them really looked very nice and performed the interesting flying display.
The main programme has started with some aerobatics and the spectators could see Pitts S-2C Special, Stolp Starduster Too (with Jean-Marc d’Hulst echoing his Friday show), Sukhoi Su-26 and CAP 232. Then there was the time for the team aerobatics performed by Italian Pioneer Team, The Victors Formation Team and Red Devils from Belgium and Team Raven from UK.
Brendan O’Brien was trying to make up for his cancelled display on Friday, flying again his Piper J3 Cub packed with fireworks. This time all worked properly and the visitors of Sanicole Airshow could see the amazing pyrotechnic display. Even against the blue sky it was the great spectacle so this is a real pity that there was a technical failure that made his display during the Sunset Airshow not possible – but this is pyrotechnic and the safety always comes the first.
And now the spectators could see the peculiar pair of airplanes taking off from the Sanicole runway. It was Max Holste Broussard aircraft with a hump on its back – the electric powered Columbian Cri-Cri. This tiny aircraft and its pilot – Hugues Duval – became famous just a few months earlier with the very first successful attempt to cross the English Channel in an electric powered aircraft. The funny fact is that Duval did this just a few hours before another flight performed by the Airbus electric airplane. Spending more than €18 million on the project, the world´s second largest airplane manufacturer said that Duval´s flight would not count because Cri-Cri has to set off from the back of another airplane.
Cri-Cri successfully got airborne from the back of Max Holste Broussard and performed the flypast along the Sanicole runway. What is most catching the attention during the Cri-Cri flight is that one may see the propellers are rotating but there is no sound of the engine.
The aerobatics part of the airshow was underlined by the spectacular show performed by Rex and Melissa Pemberton. Those who attended the Sunset Airshow could see the aerobatics solo display by Melissa but now it had an extra addition: her husband has jumped off the Shorts SC.7 Skyvan wearing his wingsuit and started to fly across the sky marking his trace with a smoke trail. Melissa followed in her Zivko Edge 540 barrel rolling around Rex – the two smoke trails clearly visible against the blue sky. When Rex opened his parachute and touched the ground (and certainly performing some stunts with the parachute too) the spectators greeted him with the loud applause and cheers.
The historical aircraft section during the airshow presented the variety of the warbirds and other historical airplanes. Certainly one of the main highlights of the warbirds was Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation CAC-13 Boomerang – this one of the few still airworthy Boomerangs is not a 100% genuine aircraft, but was made based on T-6 using the original parts. And really looks nice!
The Royal Netherlands Air Force Historic Flight participated with North American TB-25N Mitchell and Supermarine Spitfire IX, the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight joined with Douglas Dakota III. Then there was Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina, North American T-28 Trojan, and Cessna O-2 Skymaster.
Finally, the last but not least, there was one historical aircraft that made the hearts beating much faster: Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation! Considered to be the most beautiful airliner ever built, „Connie“ performed the solo display and the formation flight with the six Northrop F-5E Tiger II of Patrouille Suisse. This was one of the greatest moments of the show when the sound of „Connie´s“ four piston engines roared over the Sanicole airfield. Super Constellation had to be also a part of the Friday airshow; unfortunately, the technical problems have grounded her at Kleine Brogel. Thanks to the maintenance and crew all was fixed and „Connie“ could take off on Saturday afternoon during the spotter day and also has joined the main show on Sunday.
The military aircraft section at 2015 Sanicole Airshow was another great aviation experience. There was solo display of Belgian F-16, Swiss McDonnell Douglas F/A-18C Hornet and French Dassault Rafale C. The pair of Polish Sukhoi Su-22M Fitter-K strike fighters was one of the most admired displays, being also the remembrance of the Cold War era aircraft development.
Four F-16s from Kleine Brogel 31st Squadron – the display formation knew as „Thundertigers“ – performed some formation passes and maneuvers. And there was also another surprise for all F-16s lovers – the pair of Portuguese Air Force F-16AM in a short flypast over the airfield.
The Belgian Air Force prepared a very special helicopter display – as the Westland Sea King Mk48 helicopters are currently replaced by the new NH Industries NH90 the simultaneous display of those two machines was presented. It was a unique possibility to see both helicopters performing side by side the same SAR display.
The Belgian Agusta A109BA and Dutch AH-64D Apache displays could be also seen at Sanicole. Especially the flare show of AH-64 was admired by the spectators, even if it was not as exciting as it was at Sunset Airshow, when performed in the dark.
The F-5Es from Patrouille Suisse were not only accompanying „Connie“, but certainly performing their display as well. They were one of two national military aerobatic display teams on Sunday – the final display of the 2015 Sanicole Airshow belonged to the Frecce Tricolori team and their traditional green-white-red smoke trails. Certainly the display was commented by Andrea Soro and again he was performing his great show.
When mentioning the commentators, the great pair from Sanicole must be mentioned – Chris Christiaens (Flemish) and Ric Peterson (English) were performing a great commentary during the entire show.
The 2015 edition of Sanicole Airshow was the great experience and the great show. Organized by the small aeroclub located near the small Belgian town this airshow is now one of the top European airshows, attracting the civilian and military aircrafts from all over the Europe and offering the visitors almost eight hours of flying displays. During the both airshows (Sanicole Sunset and Sanicole Airshow) the spectators could see four military national jet aerobatic display teams, modern military jets, warbirds and many other aerobatics displays. This airshow is an example that the hard work of the organization team is that matters in the airshow world, not the size of the airport.