What is the most beautiful time of the day? I bet that most of you would answer – the sunset! And what is needed to make the sunset the really perfect one? The airplanes!
Fortunately, this is not only the dream, the places where it all comes true exist and here is the one of them – Sanicole Airshow in Belgium.
The 5th edition of Sanicole Sunset Airshow took place on Friday, 18th September 2015, as the opening of the Sanicole aviation weekend, followed by the spotter day at Kleine Brogel Air Force Base the next day and the main airshow at Sanicole on Sunday, 20th September.
An evening airshow is always a unique event as it allows the visitors to watch the flying displays in the different light conditions, which are quickly changing during the show as the sun goes down. The usual effect was even increased this year due to the weather conditions. Starting with the blue sky and some clouds, the final displays of the airshow were performed in the rain, turning them into the „night airshow“. This, certainly, wasn´t bad – maybe just excluding the rain – the displays were amazing, allowing the spectators to take some really unique photos.
What the evening airshow offers to the spectators is mostly its special atmosphere. Depending on the light condition it could be romantic, mysterious or dramatic. The smoke trails are more impressive, the flares more breath-taking, the afterburners are clearly visible against the dark sky. Additionally, this also creates the possibility to use more visual effects during the display – more flares, pyrotechnics, LED lights and even fireworks.
The flying schedule of Sanicole Sunset Airshow included about three hours of the flying displays, starting with Stolp Starduster Too aerobatic biplane. Then there was the first aerobatic team – Patrouille de France with great performance enhanced by the dramatic-looking clouds in the background. The French aerobatic team was followed by Melissa Pemberton (Edge 540) freestyle aerobatic display – really breath-taking!
The light was almost perfect as the show continued with Swiss Air Force F/A-18C Hornet solo display and my favourite jet aerobatics team, the Red Arrows. The sky was already dark blue for the next solo displays: Belgian Air Force F-16 and Royal Netherlands Air Force AH-64 Apache. Flying at dusk meant afterburner and flares; especially the Apache crew was really generous with them, firing the flares almost during the entire display. The rain just brought more drama to the Apache show.
Between the displays of Belgian F-16 and Dutch Apache there was Italian Pioneer Team, flying four Alpi Pioneer 300 aircrafts. A few years ago, during SIAF 2013, someone has called them “Frecce Tricolori light” and this could be the right description. During the night show the flares and fireworks were added to their usual colourful smoke trails.
The final displays were the glider show by Johan Gustafsson and Brendan O’Brien pyrotechnic show. Gustafsson, a Swedish champion glider pilot, turned his SZD-59 Acro glider into the “flying Christmas tree”, equipped with many LED strips and wing mounted flares. Almost completely dark, rainy sky and his glider created the very unique show. The final display by Brendan O’Brien was cancelled, due to some problems with the pyrotechnic equipment mounted on the airplane. It was a pity, but this was clear that safety always comes first.
If I would be asked the question what could be the highlight of Sanicole this year, the answer would be easy – the airplane formations. Certainly most of them were shown during the main airshow on Sunday, but there was one special one during the Sunset Airshow too. It was the special formation of Belgian Air Force F-16 solo display aircraft followed by the leaders of Red Arrows, Patrouille de France, Frecce Tricolori and Patrouille Suisse that performed two passes on the Sanicole sky. A unique formation that doesn´t happen very often.
The 5th Sanicole Sunset Airshow was an impressive event with the spectacular flying displays and great atmosphere. This impression couldn´t be spoiled even by the rainy finale. It was the opener of the amazing aviation weekend in Belgium – the opener with many interesting displays that some airshows could only dream to follow.