The year 2017 is now coming to an end and this is the best time for a short season summary, reviewing the airshows and other events attended during the year. This review is presenting a short list of the best (or the worst) event in each of the ten categories, all based solely on my personal experiences and the subjective point of view. This means you may feel free to disagree with my choice and the conclusions.
“Saudi Hawks” aerobatics team – Kleine-Brogel Spotterday 2017.
The best airshow of 2017: International Aviation and Space Salon MAKS-2017, Zhukovsky, Russian Federation.
There is no doubt about the winner in this general category. MAKS-2017 was one of the biggest aviation events of the season and took place between 18th and 23rd July (three days of the aviation and space trade fair and three days of the open public event, with the airshow). 452,300 participants, visitors and guests; 43,480 square meters of exhibition floor space; flying displays of 90 aircrafts (including 8 aerobatics teams) and 116 aircrafts on the static display – those are the basic numbers for MAKS-2017.
Su-34 – MAKS-2017.
The most visitor-attracting part of the static exhibition was the wide presentation of the current Russian military airpower, from the training aircrafts, helicopters and jet fighters to the heavy strategic bombers. The visitors of the MAKS-2017 could also see a variety of transport, passenger and utility airplanes, including Airbus A350 and Sukhoi Superjet. Some of the legendary aircrafts from the Soviet era could be seen at the historical section of the display – Tu-144, VM-T Atlant, Su-15 and many others.
There were several public premieres at MAKS-2017, including the 4++ generation MiG-35 fighter, Mi-171Sh-VN special operations helicopter, Mi-28NE attack helicopter or CR-10 jet trainer aircraft.
The overall organization of the International Aviation and Space Salon was very good, there were many fantastic photo opportunities during the event and several breath-taking flying displays.
Ka-32 – MAKS 2017.
Su-30S – MAKS-2017.
The best organized event: International Aviation and Space Salon MAKS-2017 / Tag der Bundeswehr at Penzing airbase, Germany – ex aequo.
A huge aviation fair with the airshow and the open day at the local airbase are the completely different events, regarding reason, scale and the place, but both were exceptional in their categories and that´s why they are worth mentioning here:
MAKS-2017 took place at the Zhukovsky airfield, 36 kilometres southeast of central Moscow. This meant a complicated and challenging logistics task, that was solved almost perfectly. The most of the MAKS-2017 visitors were carried to the event area from Moscow by the suburban trains. The additional 82 pairs of the trains were added to the usual schedule, then 552 shuttle buses secured the transfer from the train stations to the airfield.
Su-35S, Su-34 and pair of T-50 – MAKS-2017.
All the routes to the train platforms were clearly marked at the Moscow train stations, there were leaflets with the train schedule available, additional temporary train ticket sale points organized and numerous railway staff supporting the passengers. The transfer to the airfield and back was usually smooth, with short waiting time for the shuttle bus. More than 19,000 parking spaces were available at the airfield, for those visitors that preferred to travel by car.
The programme of the MAKS-2017 airshow went without any significant issues. The heavy shower on Friday caused the only break in the flying displays schedule, but it was continued shortly after the rain, and the closing time was postponed. In the result just one of the previously announced displays was cancelled. It should be also mentioned that there were enough food and drink providers at the event area, including the mobile selling points
The security was provided by 2,500 officers from the police, National Guard of the Russian Federation, and the Ministry of Emergency Situations – during the 2017 edition of International Aviation and Space Salon there were 0 emergencies and incidents reported.
Tu-95MS “Saratov” – MAKS-2017.
“Russian Knights” aerobatics team – MAKS-2017.
Tag der Bundeswehr is the annual open day event, organized at the several military facilities in Germany, including the air bases. Fliegerhorst Penzing, the home of the Lufttransportgeschwader 61, was one of the locations chosen for the 2017 edition.
Transall C-160 – Tag der BW, Penzing.
There was a spotter day organized two days before the open day and around 250 spotters had the unique possibility to watch the arrivals and rehearsals. The spotter days organized by Luftwaffe are usually perfect ones and it was the same in Penzing. The photo area was good located and there was a radio car there, transmitting the communication between the tower and the aircrafts. With several special photo opportunities, pilots performing amazing manoeuvres and helping staff at the spotting area, this was a fantastic spotter day at the Penzing airfield.
The open day took place on Saturday, 10th June and the organization of the event was great. Several parking areas were organized around the airfield, with the shuttle bus service for direct transfer to the airfield. The information about parking and the shuttle routes was available a few days before the event on the webpage, there were no significant traffic jams and the waiting time for the shuttle bus was short.
Panavia Tornado IDS – Tag der BW, Penzing.
At the event area most of the aircrafts on the static area were available for public, if one did not mind waiting in a really long line – the possibility to see the transport airplanes from the inside was really attracting thousands of visitors. The flying displays were interesting, divided in two sections: historical flight of the transport aircrafts and the combined flying display of the current Luftwaffe airplanes, performing the scenario of the supporting operation for the ground unit.
There was also a side programme for families and children, many food and drink providers, and – as it was a really hot day – free water was available for everyone. There were no security issues reported.
According to the organizers there were more than 51,000 visitors at the open day, a really huge number considering it was just one of the several Bundeswehr locations opened to public that day. It´s the pity that it was also the very last open day in Penzing, as the airbase was closed at the end of the year and LTG 61 was disbanded.
The long line of the open day visitors waiting to the Airbus A400M – Tag der BW, Penzing.
Transall C-160 painted in the special “60th Anniversary of LTG 61 livery” – Tag der BW, Penzing.
The best photo opportunity: Kleine-Brogel Spotterday, Kleine-Brogel airbase, Belgium.
The spotter day at the Kleine-Brogel is usually organized together with the Sanicole International Airshow, as the location is used as a base airfield for the aircrafts participating in the airshow. Among the European spotter days, the event at Kleine-Brogel airbase is probably the biggest one. And still could work as an example for anyone who wants to organize an aircraft-spotting event.
The photo areas at the airbase were perfectly located – close to the taxiway and at the crossing of taxiway and main runway. This gave the visitors not only the opportunity to take photos of the parked aircrafts but also to follow them during taxiing and take-off and landings.
“Saudi Hawks” aerobatics team – Kleine-Brogel Spotterday 2017.
One of the amazing opportunities that the spotter day offered was to follow the complete pre-flight and post-flight maintenance procedures, the aircrafts could be photographed from different positions, during taxiing, take-offs and landings. Usually during the spotter day there are additional aircrafts visiting the airfield, without landing at Kleine-Brogel, but performing a few flights over the airbase and offering the additional photo opportunities (for example there was a Piper formation in 2017, Spitfire and B-25 Mitchell in 2015). Sometimes there is also a possibility to meet the pilots and crews and talk to them.
Parking spaces were available directly at the airbase, no shuttle needed. Food and drink providers and official souvenir shops were available at the location.
MiG-29s, Polish Air Force – Kleine-Brogel Spotterday 2017.
F-18 Hornet, Finnish Air Force – Kleine-Brogel Spotterday 2017.
The best solo display: Rafale Solo Display, Capt. Jean-Guillaume „Marty“ Martinez, French Air Force.
Choosing the best solo performance for 2017 was not an easy task, as there were many good displays seen during the year. I must mention at least a few of them: Eurofighter 2000 in Penzing, T-50 at MAKS-2017 or SOLOTÜRK at Sanicole International Airshow.
And the winner in this category is Rafale Solo Display, for the display performed at the Sanicole Sunset and Sanicole International Airshow. Especially the show during the Sanicole Sunset was the remarkable one – this year, unfortunately, there was no sunset at Sanicole airfield and the weather was not cooperating. It was raining the whole day on Friday, and just when the Rafale display was scheduled the weather conditions were the worst ones: not only the bad light at the cloudy evening, but also the pouring rain and low clouds.
Rafale Solo Display – Sanicole Sunset airshow 2017.
Despite those weather conditions „Marty“ Martinez performed the outstanding display, putting the Rafale to its limits, flying low under the clouds and additionally using the vapour to create the amazing effects while turning the aircraft. No one was taking care about the rain anymore; the show was so fantastic.
Two days later, at the Sanicole International Airshow, the weather was much better – and again the Rafale demo was spectacular, even without the vapour effects. „Marty“ flown the Sunday display with just one afterburner, but this didn´t affected the quality of his performance.
Rafale Solo Display – Kleine-Brogel Spotterday 2017.
The best group display: Patrouille de France, French Air Force / Пилотажная группа “Русь” (Pilot group “Rus”), Vyazma aeroclub – ex aequo.
The Patrouille de France display was the closing the 40th anniversary edition of the Sanicole International Airshow and turned out to be one of the best performances during that airshow weekend. As usual, the pilots from the French aerobatics group showed their amazing skills, the programme was dynamic, attracting attention and flown without the breaks in the display.
Patrouille de France – Sanicole International Airshow 2017.
The aerobatics groups that are flying the L-39 Albatros are a common participant of the airshow events, both Baltic Bees and Breitling Jet Team could be seen every year at many airfields across the Europe. It seemed that there could be no surprise with the L-39 display, but Русь proved the opposite. Their display at MAKS-2017 was completely different from the other two groups, not only very dynamic but mainly bringing the freshness to the L-39 Albatros group aerobatics. And exactly that kind of freshness was the reason they won in this category.
Pilot group “Rus” – MAKS-2017.
The most various airshow: Sanicole Sunset / Sanicole International Airshow, Sanicole aeroclub, Belgium.
Sanicole Airshow is the two-day event organized at the Sanicole airfield, near Leopoldsburg in Belgium. The Friday means the spectacular evening show and then on Sunday the main airshow event follows. This year, as the Sanicole Airshow was celebrating its 40th anniversary, the expectations were high and the airshow attracted the record number of visitors.
SOLOTÜRK – Sanicole International Airshow 2017.
And I suppose no one of those 40,000 spectators who arrived to Sanicole was disappointed by the show. The whole-day programme on Sunday allowed them to see the flying displays of almost any type of the aircraft existing. Starting from amazing view of the microlight flying the formation with the flock of geese, through the gliders, general aviation airplanes, aerobatics specials or replica of the historical airplane to the fighter jets, military helicopters, transport airplane or the air tanker.
Participants from the 18 countries, biplanes and monoplanes, propeller and jet powered aircrafts, gliders and parachutes, solo and group aerobatics displays – that was the 40th Sanicole International Airshow. If you can visit just one airshow during the season and still want to see as much various aircrafts as possible, then Sanicole is the right choice.
Christian Moullec flying with a flock of geese – Sanicole International Airshow 2017.
KC-135 Stratotanker, USAF – Sanicole International Airshow 2017.
The best aeroclub organized event: Memorial Airshow, Roudnice n. Labem, Czech Republic.
Memorial Airshow is a biennial event organized at the Roudnice airfield, located 35 kilometres from Prague. The airshow is mostly focused on the warbirds and the historical airplanes, but, in the addition, the modern aerobatics or military aircrafts could also be seen there.
P-51 Mustang – Memorial Airshow 2017.
The programme of 2017 edition was following the usual concept of the airshow. Among the participating aircrafts the visitors could find Yak-9, P-51 Mustang, B-25 Mitchell, OV-10 Bronco or Lisunov Li-2. There was also a Mi-24/35 display, aerobatics solo and group performances, gliders and even the ATR-72 airliner. The grass runway of the Roudnice airfield offers the perfect background when taking photos of the warbirds and historical airplanes.
Most of the aircrafts performing the flying displays were also available at the static display, the visitors had the possibility to fly the sightseeing flights around the airfield, including the flight in the historical Li-2 airliner.
The Sanicole Airshow could be another winner in this category, as this is also the aeroclub organized event but there is a close cooperation with the Belgian Air Force and the Kleine-Brogel airbase there.
Lisunov Li-2 – Memorial Airshow 2017.
OV-10 Bronco – Memorial Airshow 2017.
The most exciting event: Red Bull Air Race, Lausitzring, Germany.
The Lausitzring race was next-to-last in the 2017 season calendar and the fight for the Air Race championship already entered its final stage. Yoshihide Muroya, Martin Šonka, Kirby Chambliss and Pete McLeod were fiercely fighting for the first place, before the Lausitz race any of them still had a chance to win the season. All depended on their performance in the last two races in the season – Lausitzring and Indianapolis.
Red Bull Air Race (Velarde / Chambliss) – Lausitzring 2017.
The top four pilots were separated by just 10 points and anything could happen. Every one of them performed his best at the race, but it was Muroya who won at the German track. Šonka was the third and it was clear that their duel during the Indianapolis race would be even more interesting (finally, Muroya won the last race and was the winner of the 2017 season with 74 points).
Not only the fight between the leading pilots was attracting the attention at Lausitzring, as all pilots were fighting for achieving the highest possible score at the end of the season. The duel between Mark Hall and Mikaël Brageot in the Round of 8 was one of the most exciting ones – Hall was the winner, being just 0,002 second faster than Brageot on the Air Race track.
The lost opportunity: Czech International Air Fest 2017, Hradec Králové, Czech Republic.
The airfield in Hradec Králové is offering the best conditions for watching the aviation events and perfect photo opportunity for all visitors of the airshow. This is just because this airfield is one of the few locations in the Central Europe where the sun is behind the spectators during the most time of the day.
Mi-24/35 and Mi-2, Czech Air Force, flying in close formation – CIAF 2017.
It´s a pity those exceptional conditions and the potential of the location are not tapped. During the last few years the airshow is facing a huge wave of criticism as the offer is not meeting the expectations, especially for the people who remember the golden age of CIAF airshow. The small number of the participants, most of the flying displays being the general aviation and ultralight airplanes and the usual last-minute cancellations are the main problems time and again raised by the visitors of the airshow and the aviation fans.
In terms of the flying displays the 2017 edition was slightly better than the few previous CIAFs. Unfortunately, this year there was almost no static display at all.
The light conditions were almost perfect – after the few rainy days, the first day of the airshow was cold and sunny, bringing amazing contrast, sharp-details photos and interesting clouds in the background. The dream conditions for any aviation event, and the opportunity for the CIAF airshow to be the best event of the year, but regrettably lost.
Su-27, Ukrainian Air Force – CIAF 2017.
Agusta A109, Belgian Air Force – CIAF 2017.
The biggest disappointment: Časlav Open Day, Časlav airbase, Czech Republic.
The open day event in Časlav is organized every second year, the previous editions were offering the interesting flying and static displays and attracted thousands to spend the day at the airbase (read our report from the 2015 edition here).
The 2015 edition opened the question about the future of the Open Day – it was clearly seen that the event is changing and many elements of the classic airshow formula were already implemented, including the entrance fee. This should not be a bad direction if followed in the right way, but unfortunately the 2017 edition was a huge step back, even comparing to the older years.
With the celebration of the 60th anniversary of establishing the aviation regiment at the Časlav airbase and additional 15th anniversary of operating the L-159 ALCA attack airplanes it was expected the 2017 open day event would be at least as interesting as the 10th anniversary of operating the Gripen jet fighter was two years ago.
The very unusual presentation of the aircraft on the static display – Časlav Open Day 2017.
Usually the airbase open day events relate to spotter days or similar additional photo opportunities and it used to be the same in Časlav – but not in 2017. There was not only no side event organized but also there even was no special photo area for press or spotters arranged during the Open Day. The aircrafts at the static display were squeezed against each other, placed close to the fence, there were many disturbing elements around and near the aircrafts (loudspeakers, garbage bins, mobile toilets) – the perfect conditions to ruin any photo. Sometimes, the loudspeakers were placed between the aircraft on the static display and the visitors’ area in the completely not understandable way. The flying display section was short and with only few participants.
There were not enough toilets for the visitors and the logistics questions were not solved in the right way. Just one shuttle train between the airbase and Časlav train station, working with the long intervals, was merely not enough for such event.
There was a lack of space at the airfield, so everything had to be squizeed – Časlav Open Day 2017.
Panavia Tornado IDS and the mobile toilet, loudspeakers and many othes stuff around – Časlav Open Day 2017.