Athens Flying Week 2018
Athens Flying Week 2018.

For the third consecutive year, Tanagra air base (home of the Greek Mirage 2000s), opened its gates to the public during the seventh Athens Flying Week. George Karavantos, member of the AFW committee, reserved a special vantage point to cover the AFW action unfolding in order to provide us with some unique photos of the air displays.

Around 40,000 spectators gathered at Tanagra air base during the fourth weekend of September to admire the aerobatic displays, something that is still quite new to most Greeks. During that weekend, many participants, domestic but also foreign, were presented in this aviation fest. There were many interesting attractions from all kinds covering almost every aspect of aviation. From front-line fighter jets, formation display teams and military helicopters to aerobatic planes, gliders, and even remote controlled aircraft. Overall the show was able to fulfil each and everyone’s desires in terms of preferences and interests.

Once again, the Hellenic Armed Forces and especially the Hellenic Air Force (HAF) supported the air show, not only by being host at Tanagra, but also by participating with multiple aircraft displays. The F-16 "Zeus" Demo Team (which also flew in formation with a Blue Air B737-800 on Sunday) and the T-6A "Daedalus" Demo Team (which also flew in formation with an Olympic Air ATR-42 on Saturday), performed exceptional displays on both days of the show, but unfortunately neither of them was utilizing their specially painted demo aircraft. More interesting to witness was the simulated dogfight between a ╬ťirage 2000 EGM from 332 Sq based in Tanagra and an F-16C Block 30 from 330 Sq based in Volos, taking place at low altitude over the field. These two aircraft performed one low pass with an Aegean Airlines A320 on Sunday.

Two other special painted F-4Es belonging to 338th Squadron took off from Andravida AB to simulate a low altitude airfield attack and low passes over Tanagra AB. Just before their display all the above mentioned fighters, performed a low pass over the field.

The "Heavy Metal" participation list had another F-16 display, this time from Belgium. The Belgian Air Force provided the second F-16 solo display act with their new striking "Dark Falcon". The Belgian Air Force is another great supporter of the AFW and its F-16 demo once again thrilled the crowds with its precise and perfectly executed flying display.

But the big surprise for this year’s AFW was the presence of not only one but two F/A-18 Hornets from the Swiss and Spanish Air Forces. This type of aircraft is not something that you see in every airshow and especially for the AFW, it was the first time. Both aircraft fascinated the crowds with their manoeuvrability and their high Alpha turns and passes. Before its display, the Swiss fighter flew a joint flyover formation with the PC-7 Team.

There were more helicopters in this year’s flying display than ever before, one civil and four military helicopters took part. The “Pegasus” demo team of the Hellenic Army Aviation, showing off the Apache’s agility, was another highlight of the show. The Hellenic Army Aviation also provided a one-off demonstration with a CH-47 Chinook deploying troops with parachutes. The Hellenic Navy’s S-70 Aegean Hawk was also present, providing a demonstration of a navy seal raid by fast rope. The last military helicopter was a rarely seen Super Puma which performed a CSAR mission. The sole civil helicopter, an EC-120B of a Greek transport company, performed some aerobatic manoeuvres with smoke pods. Another notable participant was once again a Canadair CL-415 fire fighting aircraft which tried to reduce the high temperatures of the weekend by water bombing the runway of Tanagra.

The two previously attended acrobatic propeller aircraft were again present to perform unlimited aerobatics; the Italian “Silver Chicken” CAP 21DS and the “Dutch Rush” Su-26MX from the Netherlands. Both performed unique demonstrations impressing everybody. There was also a third civil participation, this time from Germany, with a Christen Eagle II.

The two famous champions in glider aerobatics, Johan Gustaffson and Luca Bertossio returned once again to perform their spectacular shows during daytime and nighttime.

There were two turboprop Demo Teams in this year’s event. The first one was the Polish Aerobatic Team Orlik. The team receives its name from the aircraft it flies, the PZL-130 Orlik, a Polish single engine trainer. The second team was the Swiss PC-7 Team, which it also derives its name from the aircraft it uses, the famous PC-7 trainer.

In addition to the flight display, the public was able to admire two big surprises on the static display the first one was a pair of two extraordinary MV-22s which announced their participation just one week before the show. The second was the appearance of the new Italian trainer aircraft Leonardo M346.

Despite some initial concerns over the future of the AFW airshow, the Athens Flying Week continues and keeps on becoming bigger and stronger. The airshow continues to live up to the high standards set six years ago and raising them every year. We really wish we can keep on enjoying this unique aviation spectacle for many years to come. See you all again next year!

Text and Pics: George Karavantos

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