Air Show Report : Athens Flying Week 2017
Athens Flying Week 2017 - Tanagra, Greece
For the second consecutive year, Tanagra air base opened its gates to the public during the sixth Athens Flying Week. George Karavantos, member of the AFW committee, reserved a special vantage point to cover the AFW action unfolding and provide us with unique photos of the air displays.
AFW17 at Tanagra air base
Around 40,000 spectators gathered at Tanagra air base during the third weekend of September to admire the aerobatic displays of the air show, something that is still quite new to most Greeks. Besides the regular participants, this year there were some new "attractive" additions to the programme.
Hellenic Air Force
Once again, the Hellenic Armed Forces and especially the Hellenic Air Force (HAF) supported the air show, not only by being host at Tanagra, but also by participating with multiple aircraft displays. Both HAF solo display teams, “Zeus” with the F-16C and “Daedalus” with the T-6A, performed exceptional displays on both days of the show, but unfortunately neither of them was utilizing their specially painted demo aircraft. Two F-4E Phantoms from 117 Combat Wing flew from Andravida to Tanagra on both show days to perform a simulated bombing raid. More interesting to witness was the simulated dogfight between a Mirage 2000 and F-16D, taking place at low altitude over the field.
Polish Air Force in force
The Polish Air Force, which had also been a participant at the previous editions, was the greatest foreign contributor to this year’s event. The Polish officials sent the Bialo Czerwone Iskry (“White and Red Sparks”) aerobatic team with their seven PZL TS-11 Iskra (Spark) training jets.
The Polish participation didn't stop there. Their legendary MiG-29 Fulcrum demo was once again one of the major highlights of the flying display, followed by their relatively new solo F-16 "Tiger" demo. This new kid on the block, born in 2015, is the second F-16C Block 52+ demo flown with Conformal Fuel Tanks fitted on the airshow scene. The Polish Tiger crew was trained by the Zeus demo team in flying displays with the F-16C Block 52+. The Polish Tiger demo was about to make its debut at the AFW last year, but was then cancelled at the very last minute, so its display was long awaited by the Greeks.
Belgian Air Force F-16
The Belgian Air Force provided the third F-16 solo display act. The Belgian Air Force is another great supporter of the AFW and its F-16 demo once again thrilled the crowds with its precise and perfectly executed flying display.
There were more helicopters in this year’s flying display than before, one civil and four military helicopters took part. The “Pegasus” demo team of the Hellenic Army Aviation, showing off the Apache’s agility, was another highlight of the show. It performed its spectacular display utilising a different variant on each day. On Saturday the display was performed with an AH-64A+, and on Sunday with an AH-64D. The Hellenic Army Aviation also provided a one-off demonstration with a CH-47 Chinook and UH-1H “Huey” deploying special forces by fast rope into the simulated battlefield. The Hellenic Navy’s S-70 Aegean Hawk was also present, providing a demonstration of a navy seal raid. The sole civil helicopter, an EC-120B of a Greek transport company, performed some aerobatic manoeuvres with smoke pods.
European debut of the Silver Stars
Most probably one of the biggest highlights of the show was the rare appearance of the Egyptian aerobatic team, the Silver Stars. The team performed its first display in Europe and the officials of AFW were very excited about having the debut. The team is comprised of ten K-8E Karakorum training jets. The Hongdu K-8 is an export variant of the Chinese JL-8, the two-seat intermediate jet trainer and light attack aircraft designed by Nanchang Aircraft Manufacturing Corporation. The K-8 variant produced by Hongdu and co-produced by the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex for the Pakistan Air Force is also exported to other countries. The Egyptian Air Force has received 120 aircraft of this type. The announcement of the Silver Stars participation was made only one week prior, it was a very nice surprise for all of us! The Silver Stars performed an exceptional display and perfect synchronized demonstration, "shining" in the sky over Tanagra base.
Return of the Red Arrows
The RAF Red Arrows aerobatic display team was the AFW17’s headlining demo team. The British team is a familiar guest at Tanagra base, in the past three years the Reds have been using the airfield for their pre-season training. The announcement of the Red Arrows was greatly welcomed by the Greek audience.
Power and unpowered aerobatics
There were two acrobatic propeller aircraft in the line-up to perform unlimited aerobatics; the Italian “Silver Chicken” CAP 21DS and from the Netherlands “Dutch Rush” Su-26MX. Both performed unique demonstrations impressing everybody. The two glider displays of last year’s AFW returned, Johan Gustaffson and Luca Bertoccio both performed their spectacular shows during daytime and in the evening. Some R/C aircraft were displayed while each glider was being towed to altitude. Another returning performer was 46 Aviation and wingwalker Daniellle.
Looking forward to next year
Despite earlier concerns over the future of the AFW air show, the Athens Flying Week continues and keeps on becoming stronger. The air show continues to live up to the high standards set six years ago and raising every year. We really wish we can keep on enjoying this unique aviation spectacle for many years to come. See you all again next year!
Report and photos by George Karavantos ( view portfolio )
Last Modified: 22 October 2017