In 1961, 3 NATO squadrons with a tiger in their emblem got together at Woodbridge in the UK for some joint exercises. The only remaining tiger unit from those days is the French Escadron de chasse based at Cambrai. With the imminent closure of its base, the unit was granted the honour to host the NATO tiger meet 2011, 50 years after the first tiger meet.
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Sadly, operations against Libya saw many participants cancel for the 2011 tiger meet, but there was still plenty to see with many special colour schemes applied to the aircraft that did take part. This included older NATO countries, but also new member states such as the Czech Republic and Poland.
The tiger meet was held at the military airfield Cambrai Epinoy, but on Sunday May 15, the aeroclub at nearby Cambrai Niernies airfield hosted a tiger airshow which saw some of the participants of the tiger meet demonstrate their skills to the public. The airshow at Cambrai was called 'Meeting Renaud Ecalle', award-winning pilot with the French airforce Equippe de Voltige, following the tragic crash of him and his family while returning from an airshow last year.
The short runway meant that only light aircraft or helicopters could operate from the field, the other ones flying in from Epinoy.
The flying programme lasted almost seven hours, quite a long time for people to stand in a cold stiff wind in overcast weather. Most of the participants were civilian, but there was plenty of military action too, from both the tiger units and the French military. Highlights among the civilian participants included the terrific display by the British Turbulent Team, the Aerostars and a Securité Civil EC145.
Watch the complete report above (57 minutes)
Despite some grey skies, the programme managed to go ahead as planned and provided plenty of action from a very diverse range of aircraft. Of course, everyone hopes that by the next tiger meet in Portugal, operations over Libya will have ceased with a satisfactory result for the local people and with the safe return of all aircrew involved.
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by Chris Janssens
Lay-out and content by Chris Janssens, 2005 - present