|No doubt one of the highlights of the European airshow season was Airpower at Austria's fighter base Zeltweg. Over 9 hours of flying displays on both days made this a must-visit event!
The first take-offs occurred just after 8:30, the items that were to form the show opening and the flying display, which could really boast to be non-stop, lasted until after 18:00.
The early start didn't mean the early displays suffered from a lack of attention, as the airfield opened 2 hours before the display got underway so the audience still had plenty of time to look at the static items. Hightlights in the static park were a Serbian Super Galeb and An-26, a pair of Saudi Typhoons and a Polish Mig-29. There was also an exhibition in the museum adjacent to the base about the history of the Austrian air force.
The flying display was very well thought-out and had so much variation the audience had no trouble keeping their gaze skyward throughout the day. Warbirds, vintage jets, modern fighters, demonstration teams, aerobatics, gliders, helicopters and skydivers, Zeltweg had it all. One of the countless highlights was the European debut of the Saudi demonstration team Saudi Hawks, but for many the host airforce's unique demonstrations with ad hoc display teams really made Zeltweg stand out. Obviously, main sponsor Red Bull also got into the game with countless displays by their own fleet.
The programme was also exceptionally high-paced, leaving the crowd with no time to breathe between acts. Display aircraft also taxied by after their performance and pilots clearly enjoyed the audience's enthusiastic waves.
The nearby stork colony that many feared would hinder flying displays proved only a minor obstacle, the birds only entering Zeltweg's airspace a few times and this hardly caused any delays. The Austrian paratroopers did have a nasty incident on the first day of the show when two of them got their parachutess entangled, but fortunately, both survived, albeit with multiple fractures. Also on the first day, the Saudi Hawks had to cut short their display due to a bird strike. While the weather did get chilly and windy on Friday afternoon, all displays did go ahead as scheduled.
The organization was extremely smooth. The entire town gets into the action over the weekend with impromptu catering popping up all over, sometimes very elaborately like at the farms close to the spottersplace during arrival days. Even with the enormous crowd of close to 300.000 on showdays, there didn't seem to be any significant delays on-base either at the catering points.
All in all, a show that any organizer would be wise to study, as it excells on so many levels. From promotion to facilities, the flawless traffic management of all aircraft both on the ground and in the air to the exceptional hospitality, Zeltweg was an exceptional show in all positive meanings of the word.
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by Chris Janssens
Lay-out and content by Chris Janssens, 2005 - present