Where? Izmir, Turkey
In many places aviation Centennials are celebrated, and so did the Turkish Air Force. The official events already started in January, but cumulated for the public in the International air show, hosted at the 2nd Main Jet Base Command (Çigli/Izmir) on 04-05 June 2011. As Turkey is very secretive and restricted with everything regarding their military, it is no wonder that the spotterdays offered on the day before and after the event was soon fully booked with 1000 (!) enthusiasts wanting to attend.
The Air Show Türkiye-2011 was a distinguished activity among the centennial activities of the Turkish Air Force. Of course the main focus of the flight program was hoped to be based around the different aircraft of the Turkish Air Force, and the announced "Turkish Air Force Inventory Pass", which included Cougar helicopters, T-41, SF-260, T-37, KT-1, T-38, CN-235, C-160, C-130, KC-135, F-16, F4-E/2020, NF-5 2000 and T-34 promised to be an excellent opportunity of aircraft rarely seen in the sky. Amongst them the TuAF is one of the few remaining Air Forces to use the T-37 and T-38 trainer aircraft.
On Saturday the flying display began with a parachutists display and the "Inventory Flypast". This was the thing that most enthusiasts were looking for with numerous TuAF aircraft flying by. Just like every flypast this went by too fast, but the many different trainer and transport aircraft, a KC-135 as well as the fast jets made up for a marvellous sight in the sky.
The rest of the flying program went very smooth with only very little interrupts and lasted for eight hours until 6pm.
Preceding the jet aircraft solo displays was the F-16C "SOLOTÜRK" (Display Team Website) display, especially set-up by the TuAF to celebrate the centennial. As the display team's website states, "SOLOTURK is a new value presented by Turkish Air Force in its 100th Foundation Anniversary to Turkish Nation. The most important and significant symbols of our Republic, Turkish Nation and Turkish Air Force are included in the graphic design of SOLOTURK". And for sure the black / silver / golden design of the Fighting Falcon was stunning in the blue Izmir sky! "SOLO TÜRK" was set up to celebrate the anniversary of the Turkish Air Force and the display was flown by Maj. Murt Keles, who was celebrated just like a rock star by the crowd. The display did not only reflect the capabilities of the TuAF, but also the national pride with the golden Eagle and crescent markings, and the commentary during the display pushed the spectators even so much that they started running on the taxiway after the pilot did finish its display to salute him!
Similar, but not with the same outcome, was the display of the Turkish Stars. As an airshow regular this team is always a welcome sight around Europe with its NF-5 Tigers, but it was a special experience to see it performing in its home country and hearing the commentary in its native language.
Coming back to the international participants the start of the long line-up of display teams was up to the "Wings of Storm" from Croatia. The were later on followed by the Iskra team from Poland, the Italian Frecce Tricolori, the British Red Arrows, the Patrouille de France and the Spanish Patrulla Aguilla.
Another felicitator came even a longer way: the USAF Thunderbirds did pay a visit to Izmir on their 2011 European Tour and presented their performance to thousands of spectators, many of which might have never seen such a big airshow.
Of course the show did include also many solo display, the most exotic for sure were the participants from Pakistan. The Commander of the Pakistani AF did salute the friendship between the Turkish and Pakistani AF and to celebrate it did send a JF-17 and an F-16 solo display. At first the Sherdils solo display team was also planned but in the end did not participate due to "security concerns". Whereas the JF-17 routine is well known from the airshow at Zhuhai, the F-16 display was a real surprise and eagerly awaited - not only to see a rare Pakistani F-16 flying, but also to see how he does fly. After three days there it has to be stated that the display was very well planned and presented the aircraft very advantageous - though it did not include as many 'special effects' like other European Fighting Falcon displays like releasing flares or doing some nice topside passes.
As already mentioned the Belgian and Dutch F-16s did also fly to Izmir, which is no wonder as the Turkish AF is a regular participants at their national shows. Big participation was by the Italian Air Force that presented display of the AMX, Eurofighter Typhoon and the most impressive C-27J with the looping and barrel rolls.
Apart from that the mainly local spectators were entertained by the performances of the Tiger Saab from Austria and the rarely seen Romanian trainer aircraft IAR-99 "Soim".
The static display was also very interesting with at first the display along the shelter area of the "local heroes", the trainer aircraft of the Turkish Air Force, the Cessna 172 and KT-1 turboprop trainer and of course the T-37 "Tweety" and T-38 "Talon", both of which are unique to be operated by European, and even worldwide, Air Forces.
The followed another line-up of Turkish Air Force aircraft which was a "must see" for the aviation enthusiast. Not only did it include the venerable F-4E and RF-4E (in new camouflage" fighter jets, but also the most modern aircraft of the Turkish AF like the recently delivered first F-16D Bl.50 and the B737 "Wedgetail" AEW aircraft. This display way completed by transport aircraft (CN235, C-160, C-130), helicopters (UH-1 Huey, AH-1 Cobra, S-70 Seahawk, AS635 Cougar) and some more trainers.
Furthermore on the main ramps were the international visitors, dominated by many many transport aircraft, amongst the highlight in form of an Algerian C-130, but the Bulgarian C-27J attracted also a lot of attention. But these could be better photographed on the departure day.
Along the line of fighter jets were two German Eurofighters, the third Pakistani JF-17 that came to Izmir as well as two Jordanian F-16s and a Bulgarian MiG-29.
It has to be said the anniversary Airshow of the Turkish Air Force was an outstanding event, very well organized with no queues at the entrance or the parking place. Another good point apart from free entrance were the very reasonable prices for food and drinks (~0,5€ for a bottle of water), essential things to stand such a long day under the glazing sky. The show was also orientated to an international audience with English commentary and most helpful Air Force personnel. Regarding variety and hospitality it will be hard to beat this year.
The best part of it for the enthusiasts were the two special Spotterdays organized in the Friday before and the Monday after the show. These follow on the next pages.
In combination with the event two dedicated "Spotterdays" for aircraft enthusiasts were organized. With the major part of them coming from the Netherlands, Great Britain and Germany the local spotters were clearly a minority. This is no wonder as planespotting is a thing that is not really understood in Turkey, let alone taking photos of military aircraft, which will bring you into troubles really fast on regular operational days.
It was thus with great relief to see that the Turkish Air Force presented themselves very open-minded and offered excellent opportunities and access on both days before and after the show. To ease the life of the photographers for example a schedule with all the planned was handed out when entering the showground, so that no highlight was to be missed.
On Friday the whole showground has been accessible and made it possible to photograph nearly all the aircraft already parked on the ground without distracting barriers. Apart from that the highlight were for sure the Turkish F-16 Solo Display and the Pakistani F-16 and JF-17 performing their rehearsals in the best morning light.
Furthermore it was possible to get all the foreign aircraft flying in for the show itself as well as the supporting transport aircraft.
With a North-South-orientated runway it was no problem that the length of the stay was limited until approximately 2pm as the sun started to move into an unfavourable position around that time anyway.
The afternoon was thus spend along the road under the nice and most welcomed shadow of some trees taking photos of even more aircraft arriving for the show as well as some rehearsals.
Monday followed the same procedure as the day before the show with the exception that the ramp for the static display was active and thus not accessible. The numerous photographers thus lined-up all along the taxiway and waited eagerly for the things to come.
After the take-off of the Italian Eurofighter and AMX the next aircraft announced themselves by the characteristic whining of the J79-engine: both Turkish F-4E and RF-4E Phantoms, which were hard to photograph in the static display the previous days, taxied by in glorious morning light and took off. They were followed by both F-16s, which made the day after only one hour spend on the base already worthwhile.
Consecutively most off the other aircraft left as well and provided some nice photo opportunities along the taxiway and during take-off. And also just like during the previous day the sun started getting really hot already around half past nine, which caused that most of the photographers got a bit quite slow and were just happy sitting there and waiting for the aircraft to come. The one or the other movement or start-up sound of engines did cause some perturbation from time to time, but overall the whole scene was very relaxed.
The announcement of the supervisor that food was available around midday was welcomed by a warm applause, however most photographers remained in their place as the fear to miss something important was too big – and the opportunity given to take some pictures there was just priceless. Good business however was made by the people passing by and selling cold drinks.
Personally my spotterday was finished shortly after midday as it was time to catch the flight back home, but with most of the highlights already departed in the morning the farewell was not too difficult – especially with all the great memories and photos brought back home!
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- Category: 2011
- Published: 01 June 2011
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