50 Years Frecce Tricolori
Report by Remco Donselaar
Celebrating it's 50th year of existence, the Frecce Tricolori gathered almost all European aerobatic team's together at Rivolto Air Base, Italy at the weekend of September 11th and 12th. For the enthusiast of wonderfull formation flying it was the place to be and the Italian Air Force presented themselve with a variaty of displays, not often seen abroad.
On July 1st 1961, at Rivolto air base, the 313th Aerobatic Training Group was officially born. The establishment of an official national aerobatics team (Pattuglia Acrobatica Nazionale i.e. P.A.N.) stemmed from the decission of the militairy head quarters to concentrate the know how of demonstrating both the pilots and the aircrafts ability with the drive to make it perfect and at the same time to rationalize the employment of both human resources and aircraft.
Since the 30's of the last century aerobatic flying took a glance with Col. Rino Corso Fougier as founder. After WWII the Italian Air Force was represented by famous aerobatic teams as the Cavallino Rampante (Rampant Little Horse), Getti Tonanti (Thunder Planes) and Lanceri Neri (Black Lancers). These teams were al formed from different squadrons flying with different types of aircraft. The Diavoli Rossi (Red Devils) and Tigri Bianche (White Tigers) eventually delivered the pilots for the Frecce Tricolori.
Six Canadair CL-13 (F-86E) formed the first display of the Frecce Tricolori. This was extended to nine aircraft in October 1962 and in the same year the team emits both white and colored smoke. At the end of 1963 the, for aerobatic flying modified, Fiat G.91/PAN was introduced. In the 18 years that followed the team added a 10th aircraft as a solo, developped a high and low show and gained great popularity in Italy as well as overseas, rightfully placing themselves among the greatest aerobatic teams in the world.
This year's team is under command of Lt. Col. Marco Lant and team leader Cpt. Jan Slangen, call sign Pony 1. For the anniversary the aircraft wear a special logo and one aircraft received tail number '50'.
The Air Show
All ingredients were present for a successful air show weekend! A clear blue sky with temperatures rising up to 30 degrees and a breathtaking view on the south carnic alps was the setting when arriving at Rivolto Air Base. The program saw eight aerobatic teams and five Italian Air Force solo displays supplemented by a factory display of the M-346. It promised enough entertainment for the 450.000 spectators over the 2 days.
We attended at Sunday the 12th only and the program that day started rather late with a fly-by of an AB212 carrying the Italian Flag at 11 'o clock. Some VIP flights were executed just before and during the program, resulting in an additional Piaggio P-180 Avanti and Airbus A319, the latter not often seen in the air show circuit.
The morning program saw 3 aerobatic teams performing. It might be coincidence or not, but in the morning the geographical eastern located countries showed their excellent skills of aerobatic flying. It were the Wings of Storm, Team Iskra and the Royal Jordanian Falcons, the latter being the only non European based participants at Rivolto.
As the siesta is tradition in Italy, the show was interrupted by a pause of 1,5 hours. The afternoon program was more dynamic mainly because the aerobatic teams like the Patrouille the France and Patrouille Suisse are flying faster planes. The Red Arrows only made their appearance on Sunday. The Patrulla Aguila was flying with one aircraft decorated with a special tail memorizing the winning of the soccer World Championship this summer in favor of Holland.
The Reparto Sperimentale Volo (RSV) is the Flight Test unit of the Italian Air Force, based at Pratica di Mare near Rome. This unit traditionally provides the solo display pilots for various types in the inventory of the Italian Air Force. Most aircraft are in their own inventory, others are taken from operational squadrons. The solo displays, in particular those of the Tornado and Typhoon were a welcome addition to, and interruption of the aerobatic teams and not only sound wise! Most impressive demonstration however was given by the C-27J. This plane was flown like a modern fighter and the pilot showed all the different angles within its limits.
Last but not least it was up to the Frecce Tricolori to conclude their own party with their display which was among one of the best of the day! For photography however, the timing of their display was a bit disappointing as the sun had turned to the opposite of the runway resulting in lots of back lit shots.
The air show was well balanced with a fine mix of fast jet displays, a transport aircraft and off course the aerobatic teams. Except the M-346 display there were no displays of civil aircraft, a huge asset in my opinion. This setting, projected to the splendid weather conditions made it one of the most entertaining air shows I went to in recent years. It sure was the party of the Frecce Tricolori and the Italian Air Force were hoping for in advance. If we would only take the air show, it really deserved a near 5 star rating.
There were however a couple of things I would like to point out to be taken into account for the rating. The static saw a wide variety of aircraft and helicopters, representing the Italian Air Force. For us as foreigner it could have been a nice opportunity to photograph them. This only was impossible due to the fences standing very close or even under the aircraft. Another point were the huge queue for leaving the car park. Arriving at the car park 2 hours after the show it took us another 2 hours to reach the main road. It seems a problem a lot of air show organizers have to deal with but only a few of them have a proper solution.
This '50 years Frecce Tricolori' air show at Rivolto is presented with a 4 star rating!
Melissa and I would like to thank the PR team for their hospitality during the show and Fabrizio Pelliccia for the cooperation in advance.