|Malta International Airshow 2017, September 23-24, 2017
|Location: Malta International Airport (static) Smart City, (display)
|Admission: : Adult 10 Euro /day for static, Free at waterfront
|Parking: Free with ticket
|Rating out of 10: 9.5
AMF SA316B Alouette III starting the air display
The Maltese public has always been thrilled by airshows, more so when these airshows are provided free of charge. During the RAF years the civilian population would always be captivated by the sight of the RAF's Gnat Red Arrows, Lightnings, Phantoms, Nimrods and Canberras right up till the withdrawal of British Forces and base closure of RAF Luqa in the late 1970s. The revival of air displays brought with it much nostalgia and attendances have always been quite high. Revenue generation ensued and this assured continued growth and participation in what was destined to become the biggest volunteer run air spectacle of its kind in all of Europe. Its popularity on the international airshow calendar brought with it themed tourism, benefitting the whole country's economy and the event itself.
Being a busy international aviation hub for the Mediterranean region, Malta International Airport (MIA) has undergone a number of changes over the years which have inevitably effected the confines of how this airshow goes about its business. When the Malta Aviation Society (MAS) started organising this annual airshow back in the early 1990s, MIA was still a relatively quieter airport affording more space for an event of this size with an underutilized secondary runway and several more open fields in its immediate vicinity. Both change and development are however inevitable and the airport has strived to maximize its revenue and profitability by expanding facilities offered to the ever growing demand for low cost carriers, executive jet chartering operations, aircraft servicing and engineering.
Malta is a small country covering just over 316 square kilometers, where building sites creep up overnight and where tower cranes dominate the skyline. The Islands have one airport. The immediate vicinity of MIA is almost entirely built up. Administrative local governance in villages surrounding the airport have always voiced their concerns about the sounds generated by airshow jet displays and the potential risks that an air accident could pose for their respective communities.
Such a state of affairs has led the Airshow's organisers to have no option but to accept the shifting of the air display to the coast. For the second in as many years the static park and air display have been segregated from each another resulting in a severe loss of revenue to the MAS. This year's airshow has however registered a marked increase in participating aircraft over the last few years.
No fewer than 56 aircraft took part in this year's edition of the Malta International Airshow. In this milestone 25th year the event has attracted participants from 12 foreign nations to our shores. Three aerobatic display teams took part, the Turkish Stars and Saudi Hawks employ jet aircraft during their display routines, meanwhile the Swiss PC-7 team uses the turbo powered low winged tandem trainer manufactured by Pilatus.
MAS25 saw the first ever participation by the Northrop F-5, a compact and agile jet which was first tested and flown in the late 1950s. Other notable aircraft participants included the Boeing P-8 Poseidon operated by the US Navy out of Sigonella NAS, an aircraft which is very rarely displayed at airshows anywhere, the Ukrainian Air Force's Antonov An-30 Open Skies and a CF-188 Hornet operated by 433 Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force.
The weather Gods were kind on the air displays. During the Saturday air display which was held between 4pm and 7pm heavy rain clouds loomed in the distance and this posed a challenge for photographers as the sun began to set. Meanwhile on Sunday, the static display in the morning had to be cancelled due to a heavy downpour which lasted until noon. The afternoon display proceeded as planned and the weather remained exceptionally clear throughout the whole three hours.
The three hour air display comprised of the following, here shown in the order in which they flew:
- AFM SA316B Alouette III - opening flag ceremony;
- Saudi Hawks aerobatic display (Turkish Stars on Sunday);
- P-8 Poseidon flew in from Sigonella AB and returned to Sicily after its display (Saturday only);
- AFM Agusta Westland AW139 helicopter and a Beechcraft B200 King Air;
- French Armee de l'Air Alpha Jet;
- French navy Dassault Falcon 50 Surmar;
- Swiss AF PC-7 team display; and
- Turkish Stars aerobatic display (Saudi Hawks team on Sunday).
Nine supporting aircraft flew in to ferry the necessary ground personnel, equipment and logistics backing for the three aerobatic teams, these were:
Swiss AF – Beech B1900D – T-729 – supporting the arrival and departure of the Swiss PC-7 team;
Turkish AF – Airbus A400M – 15-0051 – supporting the arrival of the Turkish Stars;
Turkish AF – Lockheed AC-130E – 62-13187 (Solo Turk markings) – in conjunction with the Turkish Stars;
Royal Saudi AF – Lockheed C-130H – 472 – supporting the Saudi Hawks team arrival;
Royal Saudi AF – Lockheed C-130E – 1623 – supporting the Saudi Hawks team arrival;
Royal Saudi AF – Lockheed C-130H – 473 – supporting the Saudi Hawks team departure;
Royal Saudi AF – Lockheed C-130H-30 – 1631 – supporting the Saudi Hawks team departure;
Turkish AF – Lockheed C-130H – 70-01947 – supporting the Turkish Stars' departure; and
Turkish AF – Airbus A400M – 15-0055 – supporting the Turkish Stars' departure.
Canada - Royal Canadian Air Force
1 x McDD CF-188 Hornet - 433 Squadron
France - Armee de l’Air / Aeronavale
2 x Dassault-Dornier Alpha Jet E - EAC 314
1 x Dassault Falcon 50 Surmar - 24 Flotille
Germany - Luftwaffe / Marineflieger
1 x Lockheed P-3C Cup Orion
1 x Dornier Do228NG – Pollution Control
Greece - Hellenic Air Force
1 x Beechcraft T-6A Texan II – 120 FTW, 364 Sqd
Italy - Guardia di Finanza
1 x Agusta Westland PH-139A – MM81750
Poland - Air Force / Navy
1 x Casa C-295M – 8 Squadron
1 x General-Dynamics F-16D – 2 SLT (Tactical Aviation Wing)
1 x PZL M-28B-TD Bryza – 43 BLM
Malta – Armed Forces
1 x Aerospatiale SA316B Alouette III
1 x Agusta Westland AW139
1 x Beechcraft B200 King Air
1 x Britten Norman BN-2T Islander
Saudi Arabia – Royal Saudi Air Force
9 x BAe Hawk Mk65 – Saudi Hawks display team
2 x Lockheed C-130H (logistics and support aircraft)
Switzerland – Air Force
10 x Pilatus PC-7 – PC-7 team
1 x Beechcraft 1900D (logistics and support aircraft)
Turkey – Air Force
8 x Northrop NF-5 – Turkish Stars aerobatic display team
1 x Airbus A400 (logistics and support aircraft)
1 x Lockheed C-130H (logistics and support aircraft)
Ukraine – Air Force
1 x Antonov An-30 Open Skies
United Kingdom – Royal Air Force
2 x Panavia Tornado GR4A – 9 Squadron
2 x BAe Hawk T.Mk1A – 100 Squadron
1 x BAe Hawk T.Mk2 – IV(R) Squadron
United States of America – US Air Force/US Navy
1 x Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker – 100 ARW
1 x Boeing P-8A Poseidon – VP-16 (air display only, not based here)
1 x Sikorsky MH-60S – HSC-28
Report and photography by Christopher Mifsud for