The numbers speak for itself: with 290.000 visitors the Airpower Airshow at Zeltweg, Austria is clearly the biggest and may also well be the best Airshow in Europe. The 9.5 hours long lasting flight display alone was more than one good reason to go there for a day.
Where? Zeltweg, Austria
Already half an hour after the doors opened at 7am on Saturday it was more than difficult to find a nice spot in the front row, and if you did so it was better to stay there during the rest of the day. Not only because of the likeliness of loosing the spot, but moving around was also difficult as the showground was completely filled up with people from around 10am on. And it was interesting to see that not only big camera lenses dominated the front rows, but also at least ten lines of lawn chairs or picnic blanket.
The flight program went flawless and within time and started with a wake-up call by an Austrian Eurofighter at 9am and three Pilatus PC-6 Turbo Porter dropping water in the Austrian National colours red-white-red. Another participant in the opening ceremony was the DC-6 of the second big sponsor of the event, Red Bull.
Overall it has to be said the Austrian Bundesheer (the overall structure of Austrian Army & Air Force) did perform an immaculate job and demonstrated its capabilities at its best - in the flying program and in organizing such a huge event at the same time.
The flying included a formation flight of Alouette helicopters, a formation display of four Saab 105 and a solo display of the PC-7.
It cumulated in an air landing demonstration of the Army Aviation involving not less than 20 helicopters and 2 Hercules transport aircraft.
One of these Hercules was later on used for an interception demo with 2 Eurofighters, who themselves did fly a formation display. This formation display was a nice choreography and a first time to see two Eurofighters performing a display together in the air. And of course Austria's new fighter jet did also fly a solo display routine.
Austria's early military aviation was remembered with a Piper PA 18, Cessna L-19 Bird Dog and a Saab 91D Safir.
The big highlight must have been the Saudi Hawks, the display team of the Royal Saudi Air Force, which performed for the first time in Europe. Though their flying is not on par with most of the European display teams and lacked some nice photo opportunities, it was a sensation to see them in front of the Austrian mountain scenery. In addition to their presence there was also a Saudi Eurofighter Typhoon parked in the static display.
The Saudi Hawks were completed by many other display teams from around Europe. These were the Breitling Jet Team, the Turkish Stars, the Croatian Krila Oluje (Wings of Storm), the Patrouille Suisse and as the big final the once again very emotional Italian Frecce Tricolori.
The Red Bull's "Flying Bull" force was also in full swing during the week-end with individual presentations of their aircraft as well as a first – and maybe unique – fly-by of their whole fleet consisting of Douglas DC-6B, Chance Vought F4-4U Corsair, North American B-25J Mitchell, Lockheed P-38L Lightning, two Alpha Jets, Pilatus Porter PC-6, Boeing PT-17 Stearman, Bell Cobra TAH-1F, two BO-105 and an Extra 300. It is really amazing how many aircraft you can make airworthy by selling sweet tasting lemonade!
The fleet of the Flying Bulls did already present some aviation history, and this was completed by more participants. Representing the warbirds from the Second World War were a Bf109 and a Me 262, the world's first jet fighter. Following this evolution a MiG-15 (actually a license-build Lim-2) from Poland was on the list, whereas one of its Western counterparts, the Swedish Saab J29 Tunnan unfortunately could not come to Zeltweg due to technical problems.
WW I aviation was presented by a very spirited display of Mikael Carlson in his newly re-build Fokker Dr. 1 triplane.
Obviously "air power" was presented as well with many display of friendly Air Forces. This included presentation of three displays from the Czech Republic (JAS39 Gripen – the Tiger jet -, Mi-35 Hind and the L-159 ALCA), the Slovak MiG-29 and a A109 and F-16 from Belgium. As another airshow regular the orange Dutch F-16 was present as well just like the Swiss F/A-18 Hornet and the French Alpha Jet in special colours from the "Ecole de Chasse" at Tours. And once again amongst all these jets the Italian C-27J Spartan did not stand back with its amazing display.
Though the majority of aviation delights at this event might have been to normal for the airshow regular and enthusiast, this airshow at Zeltweg stood out with extraordinary organization and coordination and fascinated the masses. A new record in visitors proved that the area still had reserves in soaking up these numbers, and for sure it will be hard to outclass this again in 2013.
And: Airpower is just and remains a class of its own…
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