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Home > Reports > Florennes International Airshow 2012

Flaring Florennes!

One of the most anticipated European airshows of the year, but did it live up to the hype?
By Andy Evans.

The Belgian International Airshow 2012, held at Florennes Air Base promised a line-up of rare and exciting aircraft the likes of which hadn’t been seen at a Western Airshow for quite some time.

The Belgian International Airshow is held every two years and has historically attracted some very rare aircraft to the show. The 2012 event held at Florennes Air Base had a very tough tradition to follow. In the run up to the event a collection of announced participants and rumours combined to make any military air enthusiasts mouth drool. With the attendance from no less than five F-16 demo teams including the Danish, Greek  and Turkish displays a very special formation of all the display aircraft was planned which, would have been a spectacle never before performed at a major show. In addition, the rumoured appearance of Ukranian fast jets together with the announced Polish Su-22 role demo heightened expectations even more. The show, as always was to be topped by a major air power demonstration by the home team.

As many have come to expect in these harsh economic times, many of the rumours and announced acts failed to show! Most notable was the complete cancellation of the air power demonstration and the reduction of the Danish F-16 demo to static only, resulting in the postponement of the formation flypast. Never-the-less the show still had a very strong line-up including the Greek and Turkish F-16 displays, Slovakian Mig-29, Polish Su-22 Fitter Pair and a Czech L159 display so spirits were not dampened too much by the bad news.

Show day came and the excitement in the enthusiast community reached it’s peak only to be temporarily stopped by what seemed to be a poorly organised entrance system where there were just 6 people selling entry tickets for the entire show resulting in a slightly frustrating start to what promised to be an amazing day at an airshow.

The layout of the showground was a master class in airshow design with a large amount of static aircraft full of special tailed fast jets and displays in hangers showing every facet of life in the Belgian Military. The crowd line was “lined” with the large aircraft taking part whom, for a change were not cordoned off. Whilst this did make photography challenging, it was very interesting to get up close and personal with these beasts. The crowd were close to the ground action too, with the fast jet display ramp being located next to the public area, ensuring that all aircraft had to taxi close by at some point during the day. The facilities for the crowd were also clean and superb with a ticket system being used for food which is much simpler than have to spend money on what is usually poor quality food at UK shows.

Did the flying display live up to the hype? Yes. Did it make the photographic enthusiast happy? Maybe.

Whilst the flying was superb and the displays were packed full of flares there was one major problem; distance! The runway was 575% times further away from the crowd than the Royal International Air Tattoo; and the display line? 75% further away. Photographic wise this made landing/take off shots impossible without an 800mm lens and flying displays were requiring a heavy crop at 400mm and just about passable with a 500mm.

Did Florennes live up to its predecessors? Most Certainly. The show itself proved to be one of the best in Europe of 2012. What could be done to improve it? Bring the crowd line and the runway much closer, then they will be able to say “if Carlsberg made airshows…”

Andy Evans would like to thank the organisers of the Belgian International Airshow for their hospitality and to Forest Aviation Tours (FAT) for arranging the visit. For more information on other FAT tours, please visit http://forestaviationtours.co.uk/

To view more of Andy's photos please visit the gallery pages or his Flickr page.