Malta International Airshow 2016

Smart City, 24-25 September 2016


It is fair to say 2016 was not the easiest year for the Malta Aviation Society to organize the Malta International Airshow for the 24th time. Uncertainty about participants and difficulties with the venue led to some controversial but necessary decisions. Most importantly though in hindsight: did it work?


An accident during a car in event in 2015 in which several audience members were injured at Malta’s International Airport meant the airport management was less than keen to host another high-profile event on its grounds for reasons of liability, something which combined with the Shoreham accident meant the airshow had to look for a new location, an impossible task on an island with only one active airport. A decision was made to divide the airshow to a static display at the airport in the morning and early afternoon, and then run the airshow itself over the sea in late afternoon. This was not without precedent, when the air display was held over Saint-Paul’s Bay during reconstruction at the airport.

While many regretted the decision to have the change of venue for the display, the main controversy was with the chosen location: Smart City, a business complex near the Tri-city area of Malta. As the crow flies, it’s quite close to the airport but over the road, everything takes more time in Malta. Poor reachability of the venue for the air display by public transport was one issue, and some additional car parking would also not go amiss. As an event venue however, it is not too shabby. It features some nice restaurants and bars and offers a good, slightly elevated view of the air action. With the difficulty in reaching the venue, it was all the more bizarre that there was no dedicated shuttle service from Valetta to Smart City as in previous years.

For the organisation though, it presents a problem of revenue. If people decide not to visit the static display and simply wash up for the air display which was free of charge, a large financial gap is inevitable. Likewise, with some traders already on site, any event catering company will have to compete for trade as opposed to “exclusivity” at the airport. That makes the contract less financially appealing.



Conversely, the car parking that was available nearby was not free of charge. Perhaps an agreement could be reached to take some of the revenue from car parking to cover organization costs.


While the venue was one problem, aircraft participation was a second headache. Lasting uncertainty over the event undoubtedly didn’t help with this matter. The static was certainly down in numbers compared to previous years, but it has to be said that the quality of participants was outstanding, including the likes of a French navy Falcon 50, US Navy Poseidon P-8, Ukrainian IL-76 and a Portuguese Casa 295 on Sunday. Also, all flying display participants were also present at the airport for public viewing in the morning.


The air display started around 5PM on Saturday afternoon and ran all the way to sunset with a pyrotechnics display by the Italian Pioneer team. Opening the display were the Armed Forces of Malta with an Alouette III, followed by a pair’s routine by their AW139 and King Air. Then came the other locals, the Italian military mission to Malta with an AB-212. The US Navy came by with a second P-8 Poseidon for a few fly-bys, quite a coup for the airshow! An aerobatics display by the Italian Silver Chicken Cap 21 preceded the Ukrainian SU-27 display, complete with flares, before a number of flypasses by the Polish Bialo Czerwoni Iskry, not a full display.


It is clear that the show still had lots of quality. It was therefore all the more regrettable that the air display had to be scrubbed on Sunday due to very high winds, for the first time in the history of the event. Hopefully the Malta Aviation Society will have better luck in 2017 for their 25th anniversary airshow. The dedicated volunteers certainly deserve it!