Sanicole Sunset Airshow (September 13th, 2013)
2013 already marked the 4th edition of the Sanicole Sunset airshow, one of the greatest airshows and best show atmospheres of Europe.
As with last year, the weather didn't completely grant us a great sunset background, but this didn't hamper the displays very much.
Opening the 4th edition were the RAF Falcons Parachute Display Team. The Falcons are based at Brize Norton as part of the No.1 Parachute Training School and are recognized as the UK's premier military parachute display team. The team comprises six and was formed in 1961.
They were followed by a private Jet Team: the Baltic Bees. They operate from Tukums airport in Latvia and fly five Aero L-39C Albatros aircraft. The L-39C is a 2-seat jet training aircraft, which is also used by another non-military display team, the Breitling Jet Team. The Baltic Bees were founded in 2008 and perform in shows across Europe.
One of Sanicole's major sponsors is Swiss Chronographers Breitling and as usual, they sent a couple of aircraft from their fleet over to display at Sanicole. First of the Breitling sponsored acts are also Sanicole Sunset Airshow regulars: the Breitling Wingwalkers.
The team is based in the UK (Rendcomb) and consists out of four Boeing Stearman aircraft painted in a nice white and orange paintscheme.
It is the only aerobatic wingwalking formation team in the world and they have been displaying all over the UK and Europe for over 28 years now. Each aircraft consists of a pilot and a wingwalker girl. The girls strap themselves on top of the wing before taxiing and take-off. Once in the air, the pilots perform a breathtaking sequence of acrobatic manoeuvres, including loopings, barrel rolls, stall turns and even inverted flight, all with the wingwalkers on top of the wing. During the display the girls demonstrate their skills by doing acrobatic manoeuvres while they are strapped to the top of the wings of the aircraft. The girls face speeds of up to 150mph and up to 4G of g-force. They even climb back into the cockpit when they have finished their display, all whilst the aircraft is still in the air.
The French Air Force sent over a Dassault Rafale C to display only at the Sunset Show. A very nice twist was that they sent over their special Tiger Paint aircraft to perform the high-energy demonstration. The cloud base was really coming down at this time, but the agile Rafale managed to put on a stunning flat show with the afterburners really standing out against the threatening skies.
The second Breitling sponsored participant was one which has been absent from the airshow circuit for a while now due to engine problems. This year was a warm welcome for Europe's only flying Lockheed Super Constellation. Breitling sponsored the restoration of a C-121C Super Constellation N73544 and it is currently registered in the Swiss Aircraft registry as HB-RSC, belonging to the Super Constellation Flyers Association.
The Belgian A-109BA Agusta was also a nice fit for the darkening skies as it was the first display featuring flares. The nimble helicopter always puts on a nice display and has been in service with the Belgian Air Force since 1992. The display aircraft wears special markings underlining the 20 years in service and the amount of 100.000 flight hours since 1992. The display is flown by Captain Filip “Shaggy” Peremans and Lieutenant Kevin “Que20” Beckers.
Time for some silence now with two Let L13 Blanix gliders belonging to the Red Bull Blanix Team. The team started out back in 2002 and regularly trains at their homebase Aigen/Ennstal. The L-13 Blanik is a two seater trainer glider manufactured by Let Kunovice since 1956 and is one of the most numerous built and widely used gliders in the world.
The low cloud base really posed a challenge to the team, but, equipped with pyrotechnics, they really managed to put on a fabulous display.
Another regular of the Sunset Airshow was up next: the Royal Netherlands Air Force AH-64D Apache solo display.
The RNLAF is the only Air Force in the world with a dedicated display of the AH-64 Apache helicopter (normally Apache demonstrations are only carried out by the manufacturer, Boeing).
The team consists of members of the 301 Squadron “Redskins” of the Defence Helicopter Command stationed at Gilze-Rijen airbase.
The 2013 display is a bit more compact then last year's display, making it also a bit more spectacular. Like in previous show seasons, the team continues to use flares to add to the spectacle. These flares, stored in so-called AMASE pods ( Apache Modular Survivability Equipment). These pods each contain three Northrop Grumman AAAR-54 sensors and two flareboxes. The goal of these pods is protection against heat seaking missiles (flares) as well as infrared guided missiles. The pods are attached to the helicopter at the very end of both wing stubs. The flares are used at certain points during the display to add an extra dimension to it, especially at dusk.
For the display, the Hellfire racks and rocket pods are removed from the helicopter in order to save weight and as a result, enabling the Apache to speed up faster in between the individual manoeuvres.
The aircraft itself, Q-17, can be seen in its original camouflage colours, but a special printing is added to pay tribute to the 100 years of Dutch military aviation. This printing can be removed quickly, so that the helicopter can be used for operational missions when required.
Pilot in command this year is still Major Roland “Wally” Blankenspoor, who had been flying with the RNLAF since 1997. He has logged about 3300 flight hours, of which 2750 are on the Apache.
First officer is Captain Harm “Kaas” Cazemier, who has been flying the Apache since 1998. It is his first season with the Apache solo display team.
Final military act of the evening display sequence was our very own 350th FS pilot Renault “Grat” Thys, throwing his F-16 Fighting Falcon around the Sanicole showgrounds in extreme conditions as a light rain started to further reduce visibility at that time.
The Belgian Air Force F-16 Solo Display Team is based back at Florennes for the second year of a new 2 or 3 season cycle (alternating between Florennes and Kleine Brogel). Pilot Renaud “Grat” Thys has over 1200 hours of flight experience in the F-16, flying his second display season in 2013.
Closing out the evening display were Sanicole regulars: the SWIP Display Team and the GliderFX Team.
Luckily the rain stopped at this point and the clouds lifted a bit so the crowds could fully enjoy both team's pyrotechnic filled displays.
Formed in 2010, the Twister Aerobatic Team have performed at events across Europe and the Middle East showcasing the highly efficient Silence Twister aircraft. The Team are very versatile performing daytime aerial ballets and unique, sparking evening displays with specially developed pyrotechnic effects streaming from the aircraft's wingtips. In 2011 the team engaged in a three year sponsorship deal with the Scottish Widows Investment Partnership (SWIP) and saw their aircraft repainted in the corporate colours of SWIP and registered G-SWIP and G-ZWIP. Team pilots are Peter Wells, Guy Westgate and Jon Gowdy.
The GliderFX is a 2011 addiation to the Swift Aerobatic Display Team and uses one of the most aerobatic gliders ever built, the 2-seat MDM1-Fox. In 2012 the added the ParaFX, a powered paraglider display which closed down the 2013 edition of the Sanicole Sunset Airshow.
A 2014 edition of the Sunset Airshow will be unlikely as the Sanicole Team are partnering up with the Kleine Brogel military base next year to provide us with the Belgian Air Force Days.