The place where the Eurofighters meet – NATO Days 2016.

Some months have already passed since the 2016 edition of NATO Days, one of the closing events in the European airshow calendar, with many reports and articles being already released. Trying not to repeat the same news repeatedly, this this short back-looking article would just recall you the atmosphere of the show, with some photos and the short comment.

Frecce Tricolori – the spectators´ choice in the voting for the best flying display of NATO Days 2016.

The 2016 NATO Days were announced as going to be the another record-breaking edition, in the number of visitors. The programme was made in the way to attract plenty of spectators, promising them large numbers of interesting airplanes, military and police displays and many more side acts. Among them, the static display of the American strategic bombers (both B-52 and B-1B) was one of the most visitor-attracting presentation of the aviation section of the NATO Days, together with the flying display of Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets from all European air forces having this airplane in their inventory.

Saturday display in the rain – Swiss Air Force F/A-18C Hornet.

Unfortunately, the forecast for Saturday, the first day of the event, caused many people stayed at their homes, as there was nothing else than the heavy rain and low clouds that the weather offered. Only 45,000 determinate fans arrived to Ostrava-Mošnov airport on Saturday (per the official press release), the number that is considered low for NATO Days show. The Staurday visitors surely were not disappointed, as they still could watch most of the scheduled displays. The only issue was the spectators had to watch them in less comfortable conditions and I really admire those who lasted to the end of the Saturday programme.

Saturday display in the rain – Swedish Air Force Historic Flight, SK 37 Viggen.

Sunday weather was more promising, not only the rain was gone but, from time to time, there was even a blue sky over the airport area. And this automatically boosted the number of visitors on the second day to 85,000. The air was still wet, which resulted in the many spectacular visible traces of aerodynamics condensation during the flying displays. Probably the best of them could be seen during the show performed by L’Armée de l’air Rafale fighter.

When the airplane is making the clouds – L’Armée de l’air, Rafale Solo Display.

The flying displays were dominated by Eurofighter Typhoon demo teams from Germany, Italy, Austria, Great Britain and Spain, and that made the NATO Days the biggest ´Eurofighter meet´ in 2016. This was a unique opportunity to see during the single show the Eurofighters from all the European air forces using them. The only questionable point of the programme was the Spanish Eurofighter display scheduled to start at 9 a.m. on Sunday. The display itself was outstanding, the morning misty weather added almost the mystic atmosphere to the show, but… such an early hour caused just a few spectators followed it. This was very hard to reach the display area early enough to enjoy this display, especially for the visitors that travelled by public transport.

The display that was seen many times this season – Luftwaffe Eurofighter Typhoon in special anniversary painting.

That ´Eurofighter meet´ was also a foretaste of how the airshows could look like in the near future. After the many years of variety of airplane types, designs and size, now the era of unification is coming – Eurofighter, F-35 and Gripen are the types to dominate the sky soon (with the small addition of modernized F-16 and Rafale), as the classic ´cold war era´ designed jets are slowly retiring and vanishing from the air forces.

Mi-35, Czech Air Force during the Sunday show.

And this was with no doubts the reason why one of flying displays that attracted many of the aviation fans to Ostrava was the MiG-21 LanceR display. The Romanian Air Force is currently switching to F-16s and this was one of the last opportunities to see this legendary (even if strongly modernized) fighter jet in the sky.

The legend that is about to retire soon – MiG-21 LanceR, Romanian Air Force.

The spectators could also see one of the German Luftwaffe ´last Bohicans´ – the flying display of Bo 105 helicopter. This aircraft, legendary of its possibility to perform the aerobatics manoeuvres, including the inverted loop, was just retired from the Luftwaffe in December 2016.

Another remarkable display of historical airplanes was performed by the Swedish Air Force Historic Flight which was flying three solo performances with SAAB fighters – J 29 Tunnan, J 35 Draken and SK 37 Viggen.

Swedish Air Force Historic Flight  – SAAB  J 35 Draken.

If the best flying display of the 2016 NATO Days had to be chosen, my vote would go for Rafale and RAF Eurofighter. Both were interesting, dynamic and eye-catching, especially with those different vapour effects that could be seen during the Rafale display.

One of the best flying displays during the 2016 NATO Days – Eurofighter Typhoon, Royal Air Force.

Italian Eurofighter and Greek F-16 could be described as the most disappointing performances. Flown in far distance circles from the display area, partially boring and without that addition of the adrenaline we´re used to have during the fighter jet demo performance – that´s the common description for both above mentioned displays. And this was surprising as those teams usually performed very interesting shows in the previous years.

It´s hard to believe, but this design is 60 years old  – MiG-21 LanceR, Romanian Air Force.

This was certainly a pity, that during the NATO Days there was no flying display of any of the huge airplanes that arrived to Ostrava-Mošnov airport: B-1B, B-52 and German Luftwaffe Airbus A-400M could be seen only at the static display. This meant the only opportunity to watch them flying was to visit the airport during the participant arrivals / departures.

The crew close-up – Mi-35, Czech Air Force

The 2016 edition of NATO Days could be summed up by saying it was an interesting event, even if still having its usual limitations and issues. Certainly, taking under the consideration this is not a pure airshow but a complicated mix of displays of many different army and police forces, currently not limited to the NATO participating countries.

Sunday weather offered much better conditions – Swiss Air Force F/A-18C Hornet.

Even if the organizer´s usual run for breaking the record in number of visitors was this year halted by the weather conditions, the NATO Days are yet the biggest military open display event in the Central Europe. During the recent years, the organizers proved they can secure the participation of estimable number of the aircrafts, but there is still a room to make the flying displays more diverse in the future years.

One of two parachute teams participating the show – The RAF Falcons Parachute Display Team.