Words and photography Michael van der Mee , additional photographs Nico van Remmerden
On June 26th and 27th the Austrian Air Force and Red Bull - the Flying Bulls organized the "AirPower" airshow for the first time since 2005. Due to the conversion from the J-35Ö Draken to the EF2000 the Hinterstoisser airbase was seeing major reconstructions during the past few years.
During the Airshow the Austrian Air Force made its first ever public appearance of the controversial EF2000 Eurofighter that replaced the antique J-35 Draken from 2006 onwards. During the show the Eurofighter demonstrated an emergency scramble and interception of an "unidentified" aircraft. A Hercules simulated a violation of the Austrian airspace. Two Eurofighters intercepted it and forced it to land. During the operation, one Eurofighter took over the lead position while the second one covered the Hercules from behind. In real life operations this jet would of course be ready to open fire.
These intercepts are a routine operation which was carried out 77 times in 2008 alone, but until now never led to real forced landings by the EF2000s. Reasons for an alert take off can be multiple: in the case of military over flights the Überwachungsgeschwader make random checks to see if there has been the violation of an agreement, e.g. the interdiction of the carrying of arms. Civilian aircraft do often lose the radio contact due to technical problems or the pilot’s negligence. Then the EF2000s are sent out to check if everything is in order.
In a hostage relief demonstration the Austrian Air Force showed how Austrian citizens would be extracted with S-70 Blackhawks bringing in ground forces to secure the area and a C-130K Hercules actually extracting the hostages. During the operation the offensive very limited OH-58Bs were used to provide close air support.
As during the week of AirPower09 flooding and heavy rain battered on the Austrian regions of Styria and Lower Austria, the display of two S-70 helicopters salvaging fallen trees was one that was actually being done in real-time in the mentioned regions. A very impressive show of flying skills, as the trees can begin to move dangerous .If the pilots make hard turns the trees can begin to swing out of control resulting in both the tree as the helicopter crashing.
Life begins at 500 knots
As AirPower05 was one of the best shows in the recent years looking at the content of the airshow itself. The 2009 edition was the most successful one in terms of visitors. On the Friday a record amount of 100.000 visitors attended the show and with 50.000 expected overnights it was also a welcome boost to the weather plagued region. In total the show saw 280.000 visitors, a new record for the event.
One of the highlights of the show was the new F-16 of the RNLAF Solo Display Team. As seen on previous airshows this year, the new, striking orange livery with the Dutch Lion on top as wel as on the bottom, makes everybody loving it. Of course the routine as it is flown by Captain Ralph "Sheik" Aarts contributes to this in a positive way.
To speak in the words of the spirited commentator, life begins at 500 knots for the Turkish Stars. With his great comment on the show "sie commen from rechts" and "the most handsome pilots in the Turkish Air Force", the Turks showed they keep growing in their skills of aerobatic flying and can certainly match teams like the famous Patrouille de France and Red Arrows.
In term of the display teams the show had no complains. Next to the Turkish Stars, the Swiss Air Force attended with the Patrouille Suisse, the Polish Air Force with the not much seen Orlik Team and Breitling was displaying their L-39ZAs during the show.
With the Hungarian Air Force operational on the JAS39 Grippen since last year the solo display of the type was spirited. Sadly the Czech Air Force's Grippen solo had to be aborted due to technical problems that occurred on the fighter on Saturday. Flown in support with an An26 didn't help, so the Sunday display also had to be cancelled.
Of course the real highlights of the show were the Austrian Air Force planes and helicopters, not much seen outside Austria. The ageing Saab 105s showed their formation skills with a four ship and the premiere of the EF2000 during an airshow would hopefully get an international follow up.
Every day create your history
The other major sponsor of the airshow was Red Bull who has its Flying Bulls home on the Hinterstoisser airbase. An European premiere was there for the Flying Bulls' Lockheed P-38 Lightning who has joined the stables just recently.
For the historic aviation fans the AirPower09 had various nice contenders in store. The highlight were next to the P-38, the newly restored Me-109 "rote sieben" from the German Me-Air Consulting foundation that was seen in public for the first time since its 2005 taxiing incident resulting in an almost complete wreckage of the frame.
The oldest still flying Blériot XI together with the Fokker Dr-1 replica, both from Mikael Carlson and the Stearman of the Flying Bulls represented the early years in aviation history. From the World War II era the earlier mentioned Me-109 was there but also both the shiny B-25 Mitchell and P-38, the F-4U Corsair and the Yak-3 of the Yak Foundation gave acte the presence in the flying program. As for the flying displays I must admit that I've seen more spirited flying from the Flying Bulls before. The Yak-3 is clearly in it's learning curve how to display at airshows, as it was most of the time far away and stayed high in its display routine.
The Friends of the Aviadrome DC-2 from the Netherlands, the only airworthly DC-2 in the world, arrived on friday to join the program on the Saturday. Together with the Flying Bulls' DC-6B both represented the pre- and after World War II era of civil aviation.
The early jet period was covered by the Saab 105 of the Austrian Air Force, but also by the Hunter Verrein's Hunter F58 "Papirus" and the F58 in Patrouille Suisse colours. The latter flew after the paired display with the Papirus together with the Patrouille Suisse. It's size and design looks very large compared to the sleek and tiny F-5Es, a nice sight!
To conclude the article I look back at a nice airshow, but it didn't live up to the expectations, maybe this also has to do with the superb 2005 edition of AirPower. The two abosolute highlights in the flying program where both Italian; the EF2000 Typhoon and the C-27J Spartan of the RSV - Reparto Sperimentale Volo (the Italian Air Force's test unit). Both displays were breathtaking and used the maximum of the planes abilities.
As I've understood the AirPower09 was the last of its kind, hopefully the organization change their minds about it, the background and location is one of the most unique in Europe.
Due to the fact that all Air Forces have to live with ever ongoing cutbacks and/or maybe bad luck or bad planning, the same weekend as AirPower 2009 the French Air Force celebrated 100 years of Airshows at BA112 Reims-Champagne. This may have prevented participation of some Air Forces for either the static display or in the flying program. Taken this into account the organization succeeded in a nice overall international mix of Air Forces participating in the flying program.
The famous Red Bull collection was nice to see again and the eagerly awaited P-38 together with the Me-109 were real highlights. Somehow the Red Bull displays seemed a bit dull compared to other displays seen before on various other locations in Europe. The Fokker Dr1 and Thulin A were a not often seen contribution from the Swedish collector Mikael Carlson.
The weather was with a mix of sunshine, (low-) clouds and a small shower, reasonable. Even superb given in mind that it rained enormous the previous days and parts of Austria and even the provence Steiermark where Zeltweg is situated, were floaded.
In total AirPower 2009 gets a rating of 3 out of 5. It was a nice airshow, but didn't live up to the expectations with the 2005 edition as a reference.