Airplanista Magazine: Vincent Lambercy: Flying, Across the Pond: Air Show Season in the EU

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This digital aviation magazine content was originally published in the August, 2011 issue of Airplanista Magazine and can be viewed here.

There’s nothing comparable to Oshkosh in Europe. But throughout the good weather season, Europe offers a good variety of air shows. One of the earliest in the season is the European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition, or EBACE for short, taking place in Geneva. This is, however, not a free to attend event. EBACE is more a trade fair for business jets than an air show. Many aircraft are shown in the static display area, but there are no flight demonstrations, at least not over the airport. The next EBACE will take place from the 14th to the 16th of May, 2012.

One of the biggest air shows in Europe is in Farnborough, near London, which demonstrates that there actually is a good season for weather in England despite rumors. This air show is primarily oriented towards commercial and military aviation. Boeing, Airbus, Embraer and other manufacturers flex their muscles and fly their latest models there. But the real competition takes place “behind the scenes” and the winner is the one announcing the most sales by the end of the week. The next edition will take place from the 9th to the 15th of July, 2012. The 14th and the 15th will be open to the public, but the 9th to the 13th are reserved to trade and press visitors.

The Paris Air Show takes place every second year, alternating with Farnborough, thus proving that the Entente Cordiale between England and France still works. The Paris Air Show is held at Le Bourget airport, in the northeast of Paris. The rest of the year, this airport is used by business aviation. The first three days are reserved for aviation professionals but the show opens to the general public on the two last days. Just as in Farnborough, there are lots of static displays and flight demonstrations. The next show will be the 50th anniversary edition and will take place in 2013 at dates still to be published. By the way, a trip to Le Bourget is also the opportunity to visit the Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace - the Air and Space Museum. The entrance is free, and it is the home of many historical and recent aircraft.

The Aero Friedrichshafen is much more oriented towards General Aviation. Friedrichshafen is located on the northern shores of Lake Constance, in Germany, close to the Swiss and Austrian borders. The latest edition attracted 550 exhibitors in 11 halls. This is probably the most Oshkosh-ish airshow in Europe, except for the smaller size. This is not surprising as the Aero Friedrichshafen is patronized by the German Aeroclub, the German AOPA and the EAA. The next edition will take place from the 18th to the 21st of April, 2012.

The newest air show in Europe is the Cannes Air Show. The 2011 edition was the fifth one. This air show also focuses on general aviation. The exhibitions and demonstrations range from light aircraft to business jets, not to forget turboprops and helicopters. Tickets cost 35 EUR on the trade days and 15 EUR on the public days. Many visitors however get invitations from aircraft manufacturers or other businesses located on the airport.

The most remarkable of all European air shows takes place in early autumn. It is not an air show in the usual sense of these words, but a demonstration organized by the Swiss Air Force in the Axalp air-ground shooting range. This is a dream and a must go for spotters, but even if it is free, there is a price to pay...

The air-ground shootings, low passes and other demonstrations take place in a rather narrow valley. The noise of F/A-18 and other aircraft flying with full afterburners rolls and resonates down the valley and is much stronger than thunder. Spectators can feel it more than they can hear it. The targets are on a ridge running across the valley, and the spectators are placed on higher ridges, along the valley. This unique setup makes it possible to actually see the fighters from above as they climb to shoot at the targets. Seeing them plunge beyond the ridges is also a breathtaking sight.

The whole thing takes place in a mountainous area and the walk to the summit takes one hour. Many walk up there with cameras and lenses weighing several pounds. It is not unusual that the event gets cancelled because of weather, but when it takes place, it is really spectacular. Many people even take the walk for the rehearsal, one day before the demonstration. The demonstration in Axalp is not only about flying. It is officially called “Air force live fire event Axalp”.

Smoke seen up there does not always come from a generator.

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