|The first edition of Air Legend at the airfield Melun-Villaroche, to the southeast of Paris, blasted onto the European airshow scene with an enormous bang in 2018. 2019 looked set to be bigger and better. Could the organizers confirm their ambitions or was the hype and success just a one-off?
To most, the airfield at Melun-Villaroche is a great unknown, but it is home to a considerable collection of vintage aircraft, both airworthy and others in the process of being restored to static display condition. The area around the airfield also contains quite a few aeronautical companies.
The organization of the airshow is done by JM Airshow, a collaboration of Eric Janssonne and Thierry Marchand, former French air force and French army. They gather an enormous number of vintage aircraft from France and the rest of Europe to join the home teams. The French air force also supports the event with impressive vigour, which in 2019 even saw four surprise static aircraft greeting the crowd as they entered the showground, one of which was a shiny new PC-21, facing a recently-retired Epsilon in one of the hangars.
The showground contains not only aviation-centred tradestalls but also large reenactment zones, also with static aircraft, which boosts the number of aircraft on static display. Just about all of the flying display participants are also available for public viewing in the morning, as the air display runs from 13:00 until 18:00.
The flying display is fast-paced and only very few aircraft perform a full display sequence. Most of the vintage participants perform role demonstrations or tailchases rather than full solo-displays. The presentation of the show is in the hands of Bernard Chabert, whom most know from the shows at La Ferté Alais or Flying Legends in the UK.
Melun-Villaroche has two runways at a 90 degree angle. Most piston-aircraft used the runway parallel to the main crowdline for take-off and recovered on the other runway, which was also the runway used for jet operations. This meant aircraft could take-off while others were landing, resulting in a high display pace.
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The spotters pack was of little use as it offered access to two small zones, one of which was too far from the centre and the other right next to the VIP-tent which obscured the view for all but the front-row, though it could be argued that the earlier access does give spotters the opportunity to pick the place of their choosing on the crowdline as they were allowed in 2 hours before anyone else. Access to the static at that time is also pointless as all aircraft are still under covers.
While the show did have some no-shows, the most notable being the “shark” Mustang which suffered a landing mishap on the way to Melun and the Sabre which was stuck at Zeltweg due to adverse weather, what was on offer was among the most impressive collection of vintage aircraft to be seen anywhere in Europe, and presented in such a way that is attractive to a broad audience. If 2019 is anything to go by, this is a show that should be on any vintage aviation enthusiast’s list.
|Report by Chris Janssens
Lay-out and content by Chris Janssens, 2005 - present