Every two years the Royal Danish Air Force opens the gates to one of its bases, inviting the public in to see what happens on the other side of the fence. This year it was the turn of Karup, home of the RDAF’s rotary fleet, to host the Danish Air Show, and it took place on Sunday 22 June 2014. Dean West made the trip across the North Sea for GAR.
The Royal Danish Air Force led the proceedings at the show, with a particularly strong contingent from the based types. A formation of the home team’s assets, five T-17s, three Fennecs, two Merlins and a sole Lynx, opened the show, the first of many appearances by the Danish rotary aircraft, while the T-17s were once again seen over the Karup skies in the shape of Baby Blue, the Royal Danish Air Force display team.
In 2003 the Fennec and Lynx fleets were transferred to the Royal Danish Air Force from the Army and Navy respectively, and all three types were presented together in two role demonstrations. The first simulated the three helicopters working together to slow and halt a suspect vehicle, while the second saw each of the helicopters dropping off troops to capture ‘trespassers’ on to the active runway! The Merlin made yet another appearance with an all too rare solo display, rounding off a great contribution from the home based rotary machines.
Further RDAF solo displays came in the shape of a C-130J Hercules, which completed its routine by ejecting dozens of flares in the clear blue sky, while the F-16AM grabbed the attention of the crowd, particularly with the aircraft’s zoom climb in to the great blue yonder. A nine-ship of Skrydstrup based F-16s later overflew the airfield in a diamond formation before returning for a blink-and-you-miss-it airfield attack, with the aircraft arriving over the airfield from all angles. While it was great to see so many F-16s in the air at once it was a great shame that the spectacle didn’t last longer and more wasn’t made of the nine aircraft in the air.
International participation at the show was impressive, in part as a result of the RDAF’s search for a replacement for their F-16 fleet, and examples of all potential successors were present at the show, with an F-35 being the only aircraft that was present in mock-up form. A pair of F/A-18F Super Hornets had been tanked across from the USA by an Omega KDC-10 the week before the show and the crowd was treated to no less than two demonstrations on show day from a Boeing pilot. The type never fails to impress with a display packed with tight manoeuvres, which kept the aircraft almost within the airfield’s boundary, which seamlessly led in to the higher manoeuvres such as the Hornet trademark square loop. The EF2000, an example from the Luftwaffe, was demonstrated by an EADS pilot and this was easily one of the most impressive Typhoon displays that has been seen in Europe in the last few years, including a high-speed pass and an incredible zoom climb. The Royal Danish Air Force is also assessing the Gripen NG as a potential replacement for their F-16 fleet, but it was a Swedish Air Force Gripen C that was present in the flying display, making a considerable racket considering the small size of the fast jet. If I had to pick a replacement for the Danish F-16 fleet based on the candidates’ solo displays alone, the Super Hornet would win hands down!
A hugely welcome contribution to the flying display was from the Finnish Air Force with their F-18C Hornet solo, which would absolutely blow the socks off the majority of other European fast jet solos and certainly gave the Super Hornet a run for its money, while the Czechs contributed their L-159 ALCA solo display. The Estonian Air Force’s contribution to the show must also be applauded as they provided an An-2 and R44 – of which they only have two and four respectively – for static display, plus one of their two L-39s was present in the flying. The Albatros put on a much improved routine compared to that seen at RIAT 2013 which lasted a fairly long 15 minutes and sadly resulted in Joe Public losing interest for the second half of the aircraft’s performance.
The Royal Air Force was another strong contributor to the Danish Air Show, with two Typhoons and two Hawk T1s in the static display while a Sentry AEW1 made a rare appearance away from RAF Waddington with a sole missed approach. The Red Arrows, now in their landmark 50th display season, had the honour of closing the show and they did not disappoint with yet another highly dynamic routine which always had something going on in front of the engaged crowd. The Reds can certainly pack the punch that some of the other military display teams present at the show could not, such as the Belgian Red Devils, which was no doubt due to the fact they fly four small SF260s, while Team Iskry were once again uninspiring in their five TS-11 Iskras.
The very opposite of uninspiring was the all-too-rare demonstration of a German Army Bo-105 which did wonders in showing off the capabilities of the type, in a throwback to the popular displays of Charlie Zimmerman in the ’80s. The only frustration was that the special schemed helicopter remained fairly distant during the display, rather than coming to the closer display line utilised by the likes of the Danish helicopters.
It wasn’t all about the military aircraft either with notable flying participation coming in the shape of a Fouga Magister, L-29 and a smart three-ship of Chipmunks, while UK based Team Raven and Roskilde based RVator represented the aerobatic fraternity, with Team Raven named best civilian flying display.
Aircraft-wise the show was absolutely superb; a strong contingent of Danish military in the air which, alongside military flying displays from another ten nations, made for a strong flying display that not too many other European shows will be able to boast. The static, too, was strong and included gems such as a Serbian An-26 and two beautiful ex-RDAF Drakens, now lovingly cared for by Draken Team Karup.
Frustratingly, what spoiled the show for me somewhat was the two and a half hour queue to get out of the car park! With our flight from Billund (about an hour away) departing at 1925 we decided it’d be a good idea to leave the show at 1530, shortly before the Reds display in order to skip the worst of the traffic. However, tens of thousands of cars were all leaving from one car park in to just two lanes of traffic, which resulted in us sitting static in a queue until nearly 1800. Fortunately we got off base just in time, reaching the airport with minutes to spare before the gate closed for our departure. Without wanting to go too over the top, it was an extremely frustrating and stressful experience and is definitely something that should be taken in to account for visitors to any future Karup event.
The event was overall an enjoyable show, providing entertainment for both the family and enthusiasts alike and all at a bargain price too – free! I would certainly recommend the event should they look to run a Danish Air Show 2016.