ATHENS FLYING WEEK 2018
On the 22nd and 23rd of September, for the third consecutive year, Tanagra air base (home of the Greek Mirage 2000s), opened its gates to the public during the seventh Athens Flying Week. Despite the fact that the airshow is quite new to all Greeks, around 40.000 visitors attended and took the opportunity to witness this unique spectacle up close.
During the weekend, many participants, domestic but also foreign, were presented in this aviation fest. There were interesting attractions from all kinds covering almost every aspect of aviation. From front-line fighter jets, formation display teams and military helicopters to aerobatic planes, gliders, and even remote controlled aircraft. Overall the show was able to fulfil each and everyone’s desires in terms of preferences and interests.
Naturally, the Hellenic aircraft participation was the biggest one. The F-16 "Zeus" Demo Team (which also flew in formation with a Blue Air B737-800 on Sunday) and the T-6A "Daedalus" Demo Team (which also flew in formation with an Olympic Air ATR-42 on Saturday), performed exceptional displays on both days of the show. More interesting to witness was the simulated dogfight between a Μirage 2000 EGM from 332 Sq based in Tanagra and an F-16C Block 30 from 330 Sq based in Volos, taking place at low altitude over the field. These two aircraft performed one low pass with an Aegean Airlines A320 on Sunday. Two other special painted F-4Es belonging to 338th Squadron took off from Andravida AB to simulate a low altitude airfield attack and low passes over Tanagra AB. Just before their display all the above mentioned fighters, performed a low pass over the field.
Among other aerial means of the Hellenic Armed Forces there were the Apache "Pegasus" Demo Team and the Chinook from the Hellenic Army Aviation. The “Pegasus” demo team of the Hellenic Army Aviation, showing off the Apache’s agility, was another highlight of the show. The Hellenic Army Aviation also provided a one-off demonstration with a CH-47 Chinook deploying troops with parachutes. The Hellenic Navy’s S-70 Aegean Hawk was also present, providing a demonstration of a navy seal raid by fast rope. Thelast military helicopter was a rarely seen Super Puma which performed a CSAR mission.
Another notable participant was once again a Canadair CL-415 fire fighting aircraft which tried to reduce the high temperatures of the weekend by water bombing the runway of Tanagra.
The "Heavy Metal" participation list had another F-16 display, this time from Belgium. The Belgian Air Force provided the second F-16 solo display act with their new striking "Dark Falcon" piloted by Sr. Cpt. Stefan Darte nickname “VADOR” from the 1st SQN, 2nd Tactical Wing in Florennes. The Belgian Air Force is another great supporter of the AFW and its F-16 demo once again thrilled the crowds with its precise and perfectly executed flying display.
But the big surprise for this year’s AFW was the presence of not only one but two F/A-18 Hornets from the Swiss and Spanish Air Forces. This type of aircraft is not something that you see in every airshow and especially for the AFW, it was the first time. Both aircraft fascinated the crowds with their manoeuvrability and their high Alpha turns and passes. Before its display, the Swiss fighter flew a joint flyover formation with the PC-7 Team.
There were two turboprop Demo Teams in this year’s event. The first one was the Polish Aerobatic Team Orlik. The team receives its name from the aircraft it flies, the PZL-130 Orlik, a Polish single engine trainer. The second team was the Swiss PC-7 Team, which it also derives its name from the aircraft it uses, the famous PC-7 trainer.
The two previously attended acrobatic propeller aircraft were again present to perform unlimited aerobatics; the Italian “Silver Chicken” CAP 21DS and the “Dutch Rush” Su-26MX from the Netherlands. Both performed unique demonstrations impressing everybody. There was also a third civil participation, this time from Germany, with a Christen Eagle II. The sole civil helicopter, an EC-120B of a Greek transport company, performed some aerobatic manoeuvres with smoke pods.
The two famous champions in glider aerobatics, Johan Gustaffson and Luca Bertossio returned once again to perform their spectacular shows during daytime and nighttime.
In addition to the flight display, the public was able to admire two big surprises on the static display the first one was a pair of two extraordinary MV-22s at that time on deployment in Italy, which announced their participation just one week before the show. The second was the appearance of the new Italian trainer aircraft Leonardo M346.
Furthermore in the static we could see a large contribution from the Hellenic Air Force and Hellenic Army with all different assets in their inventory. The French Air Force sent the Alpha Jet to the AFW to take place in the static display. Furthermore a second Spanish Air Force F-18 and a Polish Air Force Casa could be seen.
What makes the Athens Flying Week special is the fact that it combines all the aspects of modern aviation. This year’s visitors could also get close to and admire frontline military jets turboprops and helicopters, in addition to airliners, gliders, parachutists and even radio controlled models.
Despite some initial concerns over the future of the AFW airshow, the Athens Flying Week continues and keeps on becoming bigger and stronger. The airshow continues to live up to the high standards set six years ago and raising them every year. We really wish we can keep on enjoying this unique aviation spectacle for many years to come. See you all again next year!
Text: George Karavantos / Dirk Geuns
Photography: George Karavantos / Dirk Geuns