Athens Flying Week 2019, Tanagra Airbase, Greece
Low Approach Aviation Photography attended the 8th edition of the AFW for the second time in row. In 2018 we saw some very interesting participators, so we flew back to Athens in 2019 with high expectations and hopefully this year again with some nice surprises in the static or flying display. This edition of the Athens Flying Week was again organized at Tanagra AFB, the home of the Hellenic Air Force Dassault Mirage 2000’s.
The airshow attracted more than 40000 spectators during the weekend. We attended AFW the whole weekend and came home with some stunning pictures. On the two show days, the program was almost the same except for a few minor differences.
We as Low Approach went to the AFW to see as much diversity of the air assets from all the Hellenic Armed Forces because we don’t see much of their airplanes here in Belgium. So to start we begin with what we saw of the Hellenic Armed Forces.
From the Hellenic Air Force we saw the demonstrations of the only two solo display teams as the General Dynamics F-16 Demo Team “Zeus” and “Daedalus” with the T-6A. The Greek F-16 aerobatic team Zeus was founded in February 2010, On November 7, 2010, the first official demonstration of the F-16 Demo Team Zeus was held during the HAF Open Day at Tanagra Air Base. The team consists of two display pilots and uses the F-16 (variant block 52+) configured with Conformal Fuel Tanks (CFT). Major George Papadakis, performed his final demonstration flight in front of the Athens Flying Week audience, he passed under the water arch formed by Tanagra AB's fire trucks before greeting the audience.
In September 2005, the T-6A Aircraft Demonstration Team “Daedalus” performed the first public air show at the airfield of Tanagra, during the International Air Show "Archangel". Since that day “Daedalus” performed at many airshows in Europe. At the AFW those two demoteams performed exceptional displays on both days of the show.
We saw three water bomb droppings two of them performed by the Hellenic Air Force as first the Canadair CL-415, this plane has firefighting tasks as main task, but can also be used in search and rescue missions. The CL-415’s belong to the 113 Combat Wing, 383 Squadron “Proteas”, and is based at Thessaloniki Air Force Base.
Another water dropping was made by the good old PZL M-18BS Dromader. The third water dropping was made by the Fire Department with their Eurocopter AS332L1 Super Puma and using the bambi-bucket.
Another Hellenic Air Force contribution was made by a Mirage 2000-5EG based at Tanagra, a F-16C Block 30 from 330SQN and based at Volos and two F-4E Phantoms of 338 Squadron to perform a formation flyby. After the flyby they split up and the two F-4E Phantoms from Andravida air base did simulate a low altitude airfield attack at Tanagra Airbase. After a couple of minutes the F-16C and the Mirage 2000-5EG showed up again to perform a simulated dogfight at low altitude. Also in the inventory of the Hellenic Air Force and delivered earlier in 2019, was the new basic trainer of the Airforce, the Tecnam P-2002JF, which has replaced the T-41D by now. One example performed a flyby on each day.
Another department of the Hellenic Armed Forces to show their air assets was the Hellenic Navy. The navy came with some special types to the airshow for the public. First we saw some formation flying with the two naval helicopters, the AB-212 ASW and the S-70B Aegean Hawk. After the formation flew a bit further away from the airbase we saw one of the Hellenic Navy upgraded P-3B Orion entering the circuit. First she performed a couple flybys before landing at Tanagra Airbase. After landing the two naval helicopters joined the Orion on the runway to salute the audience. After this the three Navy air assets left back to their own homebase. Also in the static display they showed two of their naval helicopters to the public.
Also the Hellenic Army Aviation participated in the AFW. The Apache "Pegasus" Demo team showed off the Apache’s agility and performed a nice demo. In the static display they showed one more of their apaches. This apache flew on the second day the demo. Another nice static participator from the army was the OH-58D Kiowa showed for the first time to the public. The Hellenic Army received these former U.S. Army helicopters earlier in 2019. As last contribution to the army in the static display we saw the Bell UH-1H "Iroquois" with 1° Tagma Elikopteron Aeroporias Stratou (1°TEAS) and 20 years markings.
Furthermore in the static display we saw some other air assets from the Hellenic Armed Forces such as the SA-319B Alouette III from the Hellenic Navy, another McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II, Dassault Mirage 2000-5EG, C-130H Hercules belonging to the 356 Squadron “Hercules”, which is based in Elefsis airport and two different T-6A TEXAN II could be noticed all from the Hellenic Air Force.
We also saw some interesting International participants. We start with our very own pride, the Belgian Air Force F-16 Solo Display Team flown by Senior Captain (Sr.Cpt) Stefan Darte “Vador”. The F-16 solo display again thrilled and pleased the crowd with its perfectly flown demonstration, something special during this years show was that the solo display at AFW was flown with the spare F-16 from “Vador” because the Dark Falcon had some issues. “Vador” brought the F-16 with D-Day 75 years commemoration markings as spare so this was a nice surprise for us.
Another solo display was performed by the Austrian Air Force Saab 105Ö with also special markings, this time in tiger colours. Another Air Force participant was Patrouille The France from the French Air Force, they performed their display only on Sunday because earlier in the same weekend they attended the NATO Days held at Ostrava ( Czech Republic ). The Royal Jordanian Falcons attended the AFW with their four special painted Extra 330LX aircraft.
In the static display more interesting international participants could be seen, the United States Air Force attended the show with one of their C-130J from 37th AS based at Ramstein. This C-130, serial 08-8601, is decorated with D-Day Invasion stripes applied for the 75th Anniversary of D-Day. The Italian Air Force attended the AFW with two aircraft in the static display, the Aermacchi MB-339CD and the Alenia Aermacchi T-346A. Also the Austrian Air Force sent a second Saab 105Ö for the static display beside the one that was already participating in the flying display.
During the weekend we could see a lot of civil aircraft in display, but also airplanes with some history, one of them were the Flying Bulls, they presented three different assets. Fixed wing aircraft that attended the show were the classic airliner Douglas DC-6 and the famous warbird Vought F-4U Corsair. They flew some nice formation passes for the crowd. The third Flying Bull came as the Bo-105C helicopter that flew a stunning display with some awesome actions. Also some unlimited solo aerobatics could be seen, from the Netherlands was the presence from Frank van Houten and from France Mika Brageot flying with the Extra 330. Another solo display was flown by the Italian “Silver Chicken” in the CAP21DS.
Like in 2018, the “Wizard” helicopter aerobatics attended the AFW again in 2019 in his EC-120B. What makes this display more special is the presence of the smoke pod. Again also some gliders joined the weekend, more specific Johan Gustaffson and Luca Bertossio brought their gliders to Tanagra Air Force Base to perform their display. The last very special thing we want to mention is about the 20th anniversary of Aegean Airlines, The company celebrated this moment with a unique spectacle as a formation flight with the DC-6 from the Flying Bulls and the Airbus A321 from the company. As Big Bang there was a final high-speed low pass by the A321 above a birthday cake.
To conclude we can tell that the Athens Flying Week is a very nice and well organized event with a program that offers something for everyone. Hopefully we can come back in the near future to Tanagra for another great edition.
Σας ευχαριστώ για αυτές τις υπέροχες μέρες και μέχρι την επόμενη φορά.
Tekst: Dirk Geuns
Photography: Andy Patzelt, Dirk Geuns