Back in June, Aalborg Air Station hosted the 2018 Danish Airshow and Steven Coe was there to report for GAR. All photos by the author.
Given the impressive line-up and and low cost of travel options, I made a late decision to attend the 2018 Danish Airshow on Sunday 10th June at Aalborg Air Station in Northern Denmark.
The show runs every two years and rotates around the three main bases of Aalborg, Karup and Skydstrup. It is a one day show but the organisers had arranged a Spotters Package which allowed access for arrivals and rehearsals on the Saturday.
I missed out on this, but feedback from friends who did attend was that it was excellent; very reasonably priced, a great location near the runway with the sun behind and excellent hospitality from the hosts.
It is possible to fly direct to Aalborg but I elected to route Stansted to Aarhus and then drive the 120km north to Aalborg which was very straightforward and took about 90 minutes. Both airports are comparatively small, making the transition through them nice and easy.
The star of the show was the Norwegian CF-104D Starfighter which arrived on Saturday evening following its first public display at Sola in Norway. We hadn’t expected to reach Aalborg in time for its arrival but got lucky as it was late. It flew a couple of run and breaks but unfortunately the wind had changed just prior to arrival so it landed at the ‘wrong end’ for the gathered enthusiasts. Still, it was great to see (and hear!) it arrive safely.
The light on Saturday evening was superb and we got some lovely shots of the ex-Danish AF F-104 gate guard at the entrance to the base. Sadly, though, this was to be the end of the good weather and, after a month of sunshine, the forecast for the show day was heavy rain and clouds! On Sunday we headed for the show early and managed to get a look around the static park before the crowds arrived en masse.
After some early drizzle, there was a brief break in the weather and we got some reasonable light on some of the gems on display. Highlights were the Latvian Mi-8, Estonian R-44 and An-2; Lithuanian AS565 Panther, L-39C and C-27 – all reflecting Denmark’s strong relationship with the Baltic States. It was also great to see the NATO ‘Tiger’ AWACS, USN P-8, French Mirage 2000 and the Ukrainian IL-76 and Su-27 pair. Many of the static exhibits were open to the public, with long queues soon forming.
The home team was also well represented and there was an interesting selection of exhibits showcasing the role of the various elements of the Danish military. Of note was the F-16 display with armaments as well as one being used to show how the aircraft is stripped for maintenance. I was surprised to see how small the wing and tail surfaces are!
With Aalborg being home to the Transport Wing, the hangars were pretty spacious with one housing a C-130J and a range of displays illustrating its role within the Danish AF. One unusual item on display was a very large block of ice that had been flown in from Greenland! The Danish AF has a base there and a regular tasking is to provide supplies. By all accounts the ice was put to good use in G&Ts at the aftershow party!
Some of the flying items were positioned well for photographs, notably the F-104 which was very close to the crowd, offering great views during start up and taxi. The Greek and Danish F-16s were located on the opposite (civil) side of the airfield, so were not photographable other than during their displays.
This was a shame, especially as the Danish example had a specially painted tail for the show. The flying started at 10.00am with a para drop compromising British and Danish jumpers, some carrying the national flags. Sadly, by now the weather had clouded over and was set to deteriorate as the day progressed. That said, the moisture and dark skies created some interesting photographs where vapour, flares and afterburner were concerned!
With a low cloudbase and persistent rain, credit must go to the organisers and crews for putting on a show at all. Some items were lost to the weather – notably the Dutch KDC-10 refuelling demo with Danish F-16s – but most items did manage to display. The Ukrainian Su-27 missed his morning slot due to a technical issue but fortunately he was able to display towards the end of the day. Despite the weather, the flying was varied and excellent and a set-piece showcasing Danish AF assets was an early highlight.
Fast jets were well represented with Danish and Greek F-16s, Swiss and Finnish F-18s, Spanish Typhoon and the aforementioned Su-27. There was also a nice selection of classic jets – L-29 Delphin, Vampire, Venom, MiG-15 and of course the Starfighter which gave a very spirited performance in only its second public display and in some of the worst conditions of the day. The Vampire and Venom were sporting their new RAF markings for RAF100.
The Patrouille Swiss was the only jet display team present and they gave a fine performance in very poor conditions. Flares were used extensively by a range of acts – notably the Danish Merlin and Hercules which both delivered huge bursts at the end of their displays.
It is such a shame we don’t see more of this in the UK as it makes a big difference to the overall impact of the display. It should be noted that Aalborg is a shared military / civil airport so the displays were interrupted by scheduled departures and arrivals, although this did provide an opportunity to visit the extensive ground exhibitions.
Being a bi-annual, free event, and taking place only on one day, the crowd was large. The weather didn’t seem to deter visitors and it was estimated that around 130,000 people attended on the Sunday.
Inevitably, there were some long queues getting off the base but much of this was due to holiday traffic outside adding to congestion, and not the fault of the organisers who did their best to manage the situation.
Overall it was a great show despite the weather – excellent hosts, a varied static and flying display and some superb flying – I’ll certainly look to return in 2020 when the event takes place at Karup.
GAR would like to thank Steven Coe. All photos by the author.