2011 European Airshows

SEP 20 2011
Airshows >> Europe: Hahnweide Oldtimer Fliegertreffen - Part 2

Saturday at the Hahnweide Oldtimer Fliegertreffen 2011...in one word – stunning!! I’m a terrible one for checking pre-airshow weather forecasts and, I must admit, was even more active than normal prior to our trip to Hahnweide. The forecasts I looked at this time indicated that 3 September would be the best of Team GAR’s five days in Germany and, as it turned out, it most definitely was.

After an excellent Thursday and an electric Friday, hopes were high that Saturday – the first ‘proper’ airshow day - would deliver even better content, but I think it’s fair to say it surpassed even our expectations, which were set pretty high!

Late on Friday night, we cunningly planned to skip the next morning’s breakfast and leave the hotel at 0600hrs, to take advantage of what we hoped would be a glorious morning sunrise. As Elliott, his brother Greg, Huw and I began our bleary-eyed journey to the airfield, we saw huge swathes of fog creeping in over the local terrain but, after we’d parked up and were walking (ok, fast-pacing it!) through the gates, the sun started to make gentle progress though the murk to produce some really ethereal and atmospheric light.

What we certainly hadn't expected was the level of access given to the public at this time of day - you could literally walk around the entire site, including across the runway to the far side, where the lighter aircraft types were parked along with the Czech An-2 Team, the lovely Lusinov Li-2 and some other gems.

Thus, for the next hour or so, Team GAR ran rampant across the airfield, with the fog slowly lifting off the countryside to reveal a crystal clear blue sky.

That sky remained for the majority of the day, while the temperature soared to well over 90 degrees Fahrenheit (E’s phone displayed it at 93 degrees at one point). There’s no escaping the fact that it’s been some time since we’ve had heat of that kind in the UK and I’m pretty certain that, in airshow terms, it’s been even longer! It was glorious to watch 90 per cent of the show in virtually cloudless skies but my god was it hot! By late afternoon, we were all willing what little bits of cloud had bubbled up to cover the sun and, ultimately, our wish was granted - phew!!

Anyway...back to the early morning photoshoot which, like so many aspects of the show, was unhurried and lacked the need for official regulation, bar the presence of a small number of high-viz-wearing marshalls, overseeing proceedings.

With all due respect to the UK’s airshows, can you even imagine the same kind of thing occurring here? Unrestricted photo opportunities, the chance to get up close to absolutely everything and, once we’d finished, an excellent (and well-priced) breakfast provided at one of the many top-class eating facilities there (apple cake and tea for me – splendid!).

Honestly, if we’d only turned up to shoot several hundred aircraft, softly surrounded by early morning mist, I think we’d have been happy with our lot, so the airshow that followed, lasting for almost nine hours, really was an indulgence!

The show itself started at 1100hrs with the T-28 Fennec and this, for me, produced one of our visit’s very few slightly concerning moments, with the routine flown a very long way out from the crowdline. Would every other performance be like this? Did the separation apply solely to aerobatics? Or was the T-28’s pilot simply being over-cautious, or flying in line with his usual preference?

Once we’d seen a few more displays, the general consensus veered most strongly towards the last point – apparently it wasn’t unusual for him to perform that bit further out and, while it was well-flown, the routine suffered from being exhibited at such a great distance.

Many of the displays that followed were much more effectively positioned, in a flying programme that was generally very well-paced, slickly-choreographed and that produced many, many highlights. I’m tempted to run through them all, in-depth, but if I did, this article might turn into something more approaching a book! So, I’ll pick out the absolute highlights but, even then, there’s still a fair number to cover.

The solo warbird routines really were of the very highest quality, none more so than Christophe Jacquard’s aerobatics in his Sea Fury FB.11, his elegantly-twisted smoke trails kept graphically intact by the almost completely still air. Eric Goujon’s sweeping Spitfire XIX performance was excellent, too, with dramatic approaches onto the display axis from many different angles.

Toni Eichorn surprised us all by flick-rolling his Red Bull-schemed T-6 several times during his routine: I’d been looking forward to seeing the usual Harvard duo but, with Walter Eichorn unable to attend, Toni’s solo possibly provided something even better.

Two contrasting routines showcased the power and punch of the mighty Yak-11, with Baptiste-Salis really giving his camouflaged example a vigorous workout.

It was particularly nice to see the ex-Tony Haig Thomas Grumman Avenger again, with it having left the UK for a new home in Switzerland some years ago. Now painted in an Aeronavale scheme it, too, was flown with vigour.

Daniel Koblet’s Morane D-3801’s been visiting the UK, for Flying Legends, almost as long as the Avenger’s been absent and, as we’ve come to expect, was displayed very elegantly.

However, there were two warbird pairings that pretty much set the Hahnweide skies alight (as if they weren’t hot enough already!). The first involved Manching stablemates Me109 G-4 ‘Black 7’ and the awesome Me-262, which carried out several flypasts prior to their own sequences. Klaus Plasa’s Me109 display was terrific and featured an inverted pass and a very photogenic gear-down run, while the Me-262 was flown quite sedately but, honestly, when the subject’s that good, who cares!

In both cases, the crowd were very appreciative and supplied generous rounds of applause and I genuinely think there was a sense of immense pride felt by much of the mainly-German audience: here before them, after all, were two of their nation’s most iconic aircraft designs. It’s fair to say that Team GAR’s emotions were running pretty high, too – you just can’t help but smile when aircraft of the Me-262’s calibre are performing in front of you!

The Flying Bulls' bare metal-schemed P-38 Lighting and B-25 Mitchell positively shimmered in the sun and, again, both were displayed relatively gently, but very effectively. From La Ferte Alais came P-51D Mustang Nooky Booky IV and the P-40 Warhawk, each giving very spirited performances, while the Bremgarten-based Yak-9 and Spitfire XVI TE184 also gave good accounts of themselves, in the hands of Andy Bickmore and Dan Griffith. These two formed part of a small gathering of British pilots that also included Peter Teichman, who displayed his P-51D Jumpin’ Jacques and Peter Holloway, in his Fieseler Storch.

Holloway’s Storch joined five others to make an unprecedented gaggle of six and while this couldn’t match the previous day’s Ju-52 sextet, it was still quite something to behold.

In between all this spine-tingling, fist-pumping warbird action, were less spectacular but no less delightful routines from lighter, 1930s-era types - think Staggerwing, several Stearman and a trio of Me108s, to name but three examples.

Post-war aircraft also featured prominently and if there’s a better ending to a routine than the Bronco’s reverse cuban, landing gear extending, followed immediately by its landing, I’ve yet to see it!

Additionally, there were several glider displays throughout the day, all of them extremely good and featuring types as diverse as the 1930s'-era Habicht and the much more modern MDM-1 Fox, as used to be flown by Guy Westgate here in the UK.

The Fox was one element of the locally-based Leki Aerobatic Team, whose fleet also includes several Extra 300s of various marks. One, a 300L, was used to tow the Fox, prior to giving its own deliciously high-energy gyroscopic performance.

Later on, a Leki Extra 300SC was also flown, alongside a scale model of the same aircraft. The pilot in both cases was the very accomplished Klaus Lenhart and while his solo efforts were nothing less than jaw-dropping, to see them mirrored by a model aircraft, their movements perfectly synchronised, was just extraordinary! The Extra 300SC model’s controller, for the record, was Albert Winter and we commented afterwards that here was a performance that would go down a treat in the UK: novel, entertaining and supremely-well flown.

Further unlimited-class solo aerobatics were supplied by Marc Mathis in a Zlin 526F and Wolfgang Dollach in his one-off Diablo, who gave a spectacular performance filled with memorable moments including a four-point stall turn, an eight-point loop and frequent bursts of rolls and flicks.

The Diablo’s exertions rounded off Saturday’s airshow which, although programmed to finish at 1800hrs, continued for almost two more hours! Thus, in pretty tasty evening light (a bank of cloud had rolled in by this point, but the sun still shone through where it could) we enjoyed the magnificent sight of the S-38 and Catalina linking up for some paired flypasts, the An-2 Team in impressively close-spaced vic and line-astern formations and, perhaps best of all, the Fokker DR1 looping high above the setting sun.

In between, a large number of participants departed, including Bucker Jungmann D-EIJL, which alarmingly experienced a heavy landing straight after takeoff. It came down just off site, so its final resting place wasn’t visible from our viewpoint, but thankfully it was later reported that its pilot hadn’t been seriously injured.

The final slice of airshow action finished at something like 1945hrs but that was by no means the end of the day. As covered by Elliott in his Hahnweide Part One feature, there was another fantastic light/music show, accompanied by much socialising and partying by spectators and participants alike.

One more aspect of the show I should mention is the commentator, who managed to be both informative and entertaining – a rare mix. True, we couldn’t understand most of what he said but when listened to in context with what was going on at the time, his words still kind of made sense. Top marks for the Anglicisms, too – I don’t think I’ll ever be able to watch a T-28 display again without thinking of “animal noises” and suchlike!!

We finally left Hahnweide at about 2300hrs, very sunburnt and pretty tired, but ready to recharge in preparation for Day Four! Over to Huw...

To our relief Sunday dawned a lot cloudier, a welcome change following the previous day’s blistering heat. In typical fashion, we got slightly lost on our way to the airfield, but through our British bulldog spirit (and with a little assistance from a satnav), we got there in the end!

In keeping with the show’s atmosphere we decided to take a more leisurely approach to the day after the monumental 16 hours plus we spent at the airfield on Saturday, with Elliott booking himself on two pleasure flights (in the Max Holste Broussard and Antonov An-2 respectively) during the display and the rest of us setting up camp at the opposite (western) end of the field to Saturday, closer to the pleasure flight enclosure.

From our angle on the far right of the airfield, we bargained that we would get more take-off shots against the forest backdrop, more aircraft set against the impressive castle Teck and generally a different angle on the day’s proceedings.

Unfortunately, early on in the day and after towing a glider up for a display, Klaus Lenhart’s Extra 330SC suffered engine difficulties and after running out of runway he had to land in a field of crops, with damage being minimal and Lenhart being unharmed. It is testament to the man that the incident was not more serious and, later in the afternoon, he took up his Extra 300L for an aerobatic display.

One of the most popular acts of the weekend was the Royal Jordanian Falcons, the team making its Hahnweide debut. Having watched their numerous practices and displays on the airshow days (five in total), I think we all struggled to see where some of the unduly harsh criticism that is levelled at them whenever they appear in the UK comes from.

Their display was tightly flown with some unusual and dynamic manoeuvres that evidently take a huge amount of skill to perform; take, for example, the vic-three formation half-cuban transitioned into an on-crowd break, or the box-four formation aileron roll as the team moves in unison on the leader’s command.

They may not be one of the big international teams who benefit from impactful high performance jet aircraft, but they’re certainly deserving of far more praise than they receive and they bring their own unique flamboyance to the proceedings with each display.

The first warbird display of the day was provided by Peter Teichman in his North American P-51D Mustang ‘Jumpin’ Jacques’, with the German crowd clearly enjoying his routine, before he set off back to North Weald in the afternoon.

Peter is a staunch supporter of Hahnweide, having brought his P-40 and Hurricane to previous Oldtimer meets and his participation was certainly welcomed by the Germans, judging by the reception he received following each of his Mustang displays. Having the castle as a backdrop reminded me of some of the aviation artist Robert Taylor’s paintings depicting Mustangs flying back through the Rhineland at low level on their way home from a mission, passing castles set atop hills. Very evocative, and a sight that we never grew tired of.

For the first time over the weekend the two modified AJBS Harvards took to the sky - one machine posing convincingly as Mitsubushi AM6 Zero and the other as a North American NA-68. Following the Zero's display Marc Mathis roared in with P-51D Mustang 'Nooky Booky IV', clearly seeing off the Japanese fighter!

Mathis would go on to fly the Mustang again later in the display alongside Jacques Habert in the P-40N. Another two warbirds to fly as a pair were the Avenger and Morane, with the somewhat tenuous link being the type’s French operational histories.

The Avenger in particular is a surprisingly agile performer, with plenty of high-angle wingovers and tight turns choreographed into its routine. This particular Avenger even has a replica torpedo strapped into the bomb bay, shown off to good effect in the underside passes and wingovers with the bomb doors open. It’s been way too long since we saw an Avenger in the UK, and with two now airworthy in Europe, the type’s return to British skies is long overdue.

After being accustomed to seeing Peter Holloway’s Focke-Wulf Fw-44 Stieglitz fly fairly sedately at Old Warden before it was sold, the aerobatic display that was put on by Ulrich Thüer at Hahnweide surprised me somewhat. The playfully elegant routine included manoeuvres such as Cuban eights, four point rolls, stall turns and an inverted pass.

Being somewhat ungainly looking, especially on the ground, I didn’t expect the F&W C-3605 Schlepp to change so completely once in the air. Its very agile and even graceful routine showed off the aircraft’s handling impeccably, looping on a 10 pence piece and all set to the quiet murmur of the Lycoming T-53-L-7 Turboprop engine.

In complete contrast, and really in keeping with the heart and soul of the ‘Oldtimer’ theme was the 1930s trio of Curtiss Wright Travelair 4000, Morane-Saulnier. M.S.317 and Ryan STA Special. It was aircraft such as these that really got me excited before the show and it was fantastic to see some of Europe’s vintage aviation gems, many of which I never knew existed.

Yet another highlight was provided by Mikael Carlson flying his Bleriot XI in a wonderful display full of close passes, tight banks, steep climbs and low-level passes as he waved enthusiastically from the exposed cockpit. Mikael’s Bleriot routines really have to be seen to be believed; this ancient machine of a bygone era dances in his hands beautifully.

There were plenty of departures throughout the day to keep the activity going, with some aircraft keeping low on takeoff to boot – the T-28, Stieglitz, Zlins and Harvards in particular kept it low until reaching the end of the runway.

There were two absolutely gorgeous polished metal aircraft visiting the show in the form of a Beech 18 and De Havilland Dh.104 Dove – just sublime! While they didn’t fly individual routines, it was still great to see them arrive and depart.

A surprise addition to the airshow was a Cessna Citation CJ3 from Homac Aviation at Stuttgart Airport, making numerous flypasts including a gear down, flaps down pass; something a bit different from the swathes of vintage aircraft. Also arriving from Stuttgart was the mighty Nord Noratlas, kicking off the heavy metal contingent of the flying programme with a vigorous display.

Following that the visiting AJBS Douglas DC-3 flew with the Hungarian Lisunov Li-2 in a sedate tail chase across the airfield providing the licence built model the real deal to be compared to. It was also nice to see the Catalina join up once again with the unique looking Sikorsky S-38, especially as they kept things much tighter than in their previous display.

By this time the poor weather had well and truly set in, with grey skies and a constant light rain, but this didn’t deter Christophe Jacquard and Eric Goujon from getting up in the Sea Fury and Spitfire respectively, each flying full aerobatic displays, much to our delight.

We had heard the commentator mentioning the Breitling Jet Team at various intervals throughout the day, so we suspected that they might make an appearance at some point and towards the end of the show they appeared for some formation flypasts, clearly in transit with the seven jets having external fuel tanks fitted.

The second surprise of the day – the Hahnweide organisers sure know how to deliver a top class airshow! Despite the numerous departures and pleasure flights throughout the day, the Air Traffic Control team managed to keep everything running smoothly with very few notable gaps; quite a coup, considering that Hahnweide played host to more than 300 aircraft over the weekend!

With a solo Zlin and the breathtaking Diobolo rounding off Sunday’s show, we headed back to the car in somewhat of a daze after four superb days at the airfield, each of us reflecting on our own numerous highlights and special moments.

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