The Malta International Airshow 2014 took place over the weekend of the 27 & 28 September and proved a fitting finale to the European airshow season. Kev Wills was there for GAR.
The event was the 22nd such staging of an airshow that is organised and run by the very capable and enthusiastic Malta Aviation Society. The airshow is one of the largest events staged in the Maltese Islands and is attended by tourists and locals alike.
This year’s show was especially popular, with over 40,000 visitors attending over its two days – nearly one tenth of the whole islands’ population. This huge attendance figure obviously caused the organising team several problems, with car parking spaces soon filling up, however, the team of 230 unpaid volunteers coped with all the issues admirably. It’s worth noting that many of the show’s volunteer team are very young, so top marks to them indeed. Another really important fact to acknowledge is that the airshow manages to dovetail into the continuous commercial operations of the busy Malta International Airport. Credit also then to the airshow team and airport officials that they go that extra mile to ensure smooth running and the integration of each other’s operations.
This year, frustratingly for the airshow organisers, they had to suffer several high profile, last minute cancellations from some star participants. The Turkish Stars display team was due to make its Malta début but cancelled their attendance 48 hours before the show, and the Belgian F-16 also withdrew due to tasking requirements; disappointing for the hard working team but thankfully, as they had got a such quality line up in place, the drop outs weren’t really missed too much in the event.
For the second year running AirX, a private jet hire company based in Malta, was the main sponsor of the airshow, while other smaller sponsors included Canon Cameras, whose crowd line exhibition stand gave budding photographers the opportunity to test their skills using some really high specification cameras and lenses during the flying displays.
There was a varied and exciting flying display line-up from several nations; Italian Freece Tricolori, Spanish Patrulla Aguila and the Royal Air Force’s Red Arrows thrilled the crowds, each painting the Maltese skies with their nation’s colours.
The Red Arrows ended their 50th display season with a spectacular flypast in formation with an Air Malta Airbus A320, while solo displays were expertly flown by Flt Lt Dave Kirby in the RAF Tucano and Capt Ondrej Spanko flying his L-159 ALCA, based at Caslav AB in the Czech Republic. Rotary types were represented by the local units: an Alouette III from the Malta Air Wing and an AB212 from the Malta Italian Military Mission. But stealing the show with a demonstration of noise, speed, agility and precision was Capt Julien “Teddy” Meister from 17 Staffel Swiss Air Force in his F/A-18C, the Hornet display being enhanced by the moist humid air creating some awesome vapour clouds over the wings.
Malta’s position in between Europe, North Africa and the Middle East presents the organisers with a reasonable chance of attracting some exotic types from air forces and countries that you wouldn’t normally see at European airshows. It takes years of hard work by the Malta Aviation Society, building relationships and gaining diplomatic trust, to be able to achieve their attendance at the airshow. This year, once again, visitors to the Malta International Airshow weren’t disappointed and were treated to some aviation exotica. Arriving on Thursday for the static display was an Egyptian Air Force K-8E Karakorum advanced training and ground attack aircraft, along with its C-130H Hercules support aircraft. The Egyptian Air Force personnel enthusiastically showed off their aircraft and its associated armament throughout the weekend and hopefully they will return in 2015 with one or two other types.
Visitors to the show on Sunday were treated to something arguably even more exotic than the K-8: a Gulfstream 550 AEW from No. 122 Sqn of the Israeli Defence Force. This rarely seen ELINT aircraft performed several overshoots followed by a full stop landing; then, the Gulfstream performed a very slow taxi past the airshow crowd before taking off and returning to its base at Nevatim.
As well as these exotic types, the static park was full with other varied and interesting aircraft. Dominating the static were two P-3 Orions, one from the US Navy’s VP-4 “The Skinny Dragons” which flew in from its European detachment at Sigonella and the other a German Navy example from MFG3, based at Nordholz AB in northern Germany. The German Air Force provided two Tornados from JBG33 at Buchel AB while the RAF sent a Tornado GR4 from XV(R) Sqn at RAF Lossiemouth, along with two No. 208 Sqn Hawks from RAF Valley and a No. 45(R) Sqn B200 King Air from RAF Cranwell. Also on show was a Belgian Air Component EMB135 from 21 Sm based at Melsbroek AB. Surprisingly, the EMB135 was the support aircraft for the Red Arrows, an example of how transport aircraft are shared in northern Europe; the Embraer being utilised by European Air Transport Command.
Other interesting aircraft on show were an additional Czech L-159 Alca, a Polish Navy M28B Bryza and an AW139 from the Guardia Costiera (Italian Coast Guard).
As usual the show was well supported by local aviation assets. Many of the flying clubs displayed their craft in and around the show ground.
The Malta Air Wing continued its full support of the show by displaying one example of every type in its inventory. On display were a Bulldog, BN2T Islander, B200 King Air MPV, Alouette III and its brand new AgustaWestland 139 Helicopter. In a nice touch that enabled enthusiasts and photographers to get a great view and uncluttered pictures of each type, the aircraft were pushed back on to the taxiway, where they were all started up and taxied off together – a fitting end to a fabulous show, and summed up in these words by a non-Maltese diplomat who has attended the show several times, when speaking to the president of the Malta Aviation society, Joe Ciliberti:
“The joyful atmosphere at your airshow continues to impress me year after year. It’s so amazing how you manage to bring all this together on a purely voluntary status.”
This reviewer concurs with such sentiment and if you haven’t been to Malta or the Malta International Airshow before, book your flight and don’t miss the next one in 2015 – you won’t be disappointed!
Malta International Airshow 2015 – Saturday and Sunday 26 & 27 September 2015.