Sanicole Sunset Airshow (September 14th, 2012)
The 36th edition of the Sanicole airshow, coupled with the 3rd sunset airshow, was another hit although the sunset airshow did see its activities downsized a bit because of a as result of a heavy shower.
The sunset airshow is limited airshow, both in time and in number of tickets available: it starts at 1800 hours and lasts just 2 hours until just after sunset.
The audience is limited to about 4000 people. It's a quite remarkable event, especially in clear skies where you get a beautiful colored sky as the sun slowly sets.
Unfortunately, just after the show got underway, the clouds started building up and the sun was hidden from view with a more darkened sky as a result.
As with the previous editions, the use of flares, fireworks, lights and afterburners are greatly encouraged by all participants as they add to the ambiance of the show.
Opening the 2012 sunset airshow was a Belgian military parachute team, Hayabusa. The compete all over the globe in skydiving and parachute competitions. Their drop-ship, a BAF C-130H Hercules also joined in the festivities as it treated the crowds at Sanicole with a high-speed low pass.
First modern military participant was the Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16AM Fighting Falcon. The “Orange Lion” had the privilege of performing its routine in an orange sky. Obviously the generous use of flares was not to be forgotten.
Frequent returning visitors to the Sanicole Airshows are the Royal Jordian Falcons display team in their 4 Extra-300 aircraft. It was the first time they performed their formation aerobatic routine in an evening setting.
The next routine was flown by Pierry Marmy in the Breitling sponsored Sukhoi Su-26. Pierry obtained his private pilot license at the age of 17 but limited his flying activities as a result of lack in funds. It wasn't until the age of 28 that he started taking up aerobatic flying, being taught by two swiss pilots Eric Müller and Christian Schweizer. He has been using the Su-26 for over 20 years now and has amassed some great successes with it, such as Swiss national aerobatic champion for a total of 7 times. He's also an annual participant of the European or World Aerobatic Championship.
Making a welcome an unique return visit to Belgium were the Canadian Armed Forces Parachute Display Team, the SkyHawks. They are Canada's only military parachute demonstration team. Over the last 41 years they have represented Canada and the Canadian Forces to over 75 million spectators worldwide under our signature Canadian flag parachutes.
The SkyHawks are based in Trenton, Ontario, at the Canadian Forces Land Advanced Warfare Centre, and consist out of both Regular and Reserve soldiers. The team members are from various occupations of the Army, Navy, and Air Force and bring a wide range of experience to their performances.
Their only performance in Europe this year is at both Sanicole airshows.
The Belgian Air Component was next in line with the Agusta A-109 Display Team, showcasing the agility of the helicopter and releasing a spectacular amount of flares whilst twisting and turning above the Sanicole skies.
Next up was the French Air Force Rafale C Solo Demo, which performed exclusively for the sunset airshow at Sanicole, or should we now say “evening airshow” as the sun was now nowhere to be seen and dark clouds started making their way over the airstrip. The Rafale did not use flares during its thundering routine, but the almost continuous use of its afterburners more than made up for it.
Displaying the Rafale is 41-year old Capitaine Michaël Brocard. Michaël has amassed over 3800 flying hours with the French Air Force, of which 1150 hours are in the Rafale. He joined the FAF in 1992 and piloted the Dassault Mirage 2000D and RDI before transitioning to the Rafale. He now operates with the 2/92 Aquitaine Sqn. based at Saint-Dizier.
As an added surprise, Capitaine Brocard joined up with the Breitling Jet Team after his solo display for a formation flypast and thus handing over the dark threatening Sanicole skies to them.
The Breitling Jet Team was not having a great weekend as just minutes after starting their display routine, they had to abort because of heavy showers and dark skies deteriorating their visibility very rapidly.
More bad luck for the team the next day as one of the aircraft suffered an engine failure on a transition flight from the Netherlands back to Belgium. The pilot had to eject, but not before making sure that the aircraft would come down in an unpopulated area.
In nearly black skies two British civilian display teams performed their evening routines. First up was Brendan O'Brien who created his own “Flying Circus”. It's a mix of barnstorming and innovation as well as some crazy flying. He flew his Piper J3 Cub equipped with various lights and pyrotechnic effects which came out just right against the dark skies.
O'Brien was followed by the SWIP Team who now had both aircraft in their own led lighting effects as well as some wingtip and ground based fireworks.
Traditionally, the Sunset Airshow was brought to a close by Major “Grat” Thys flying the BAF F-16AM Fighting Falcon Solo Display team. At this point, natural light was virtually non-existant which made taking pictures quite a challenge.
The impressive afterburner and flare effects made for a great curtain closing display of this 2013 Sanicole Sunset Airshow.