Air Show Report : Athens Flying Week 2021
Athens Flying Week 2021 - Tanagra, Greece
After one year of absence due to the pandemic, the Athens Flying Week air show came back stronger than ever willing to continue its legacy for years to come. George Karavantos reports.
During the first weekend of September, Greece's biggest air show, the Athens Flying Week, “took off” again from Tanagra Air Base. This year's show was very similar to previous editions, but it definitely showed the persistence and willingness of the organizers to continue its presence despite the difficult years that might keep on coming. After all, Athens Flying Week 2021 was definitely one of the very few European airshows that actually did take place despite the ongoing pandemic.
Hellenic Armed Forces
The biggest military supporter of the show is the Hellenic Armed Forces, which have supported and will continue to support the show for years to come. The Hellenic Air Force gave its strong presence with its two demo teams, the F-16 "Zeus" and the T-6A "Daedalus". Once again two F-4E Phantom IIs of 338 Squadron flew in from Andravida Air Base to simulate a low altitude airfield attack at Tanagra Air Base, while a Μirage 2000-5 from 331 Squadron (based at Tanagra AB) engaged with a 341 Squadron F-16C Block 50 (from Nea Anghialos AB) and performed a unique choreography of advanced combat manoeuvres for an epic dogfight act. All the above mentioned fighters also performed a low pass over the field before starting their display.
Apart from the fighters, the HAF displayed its other aerial assets: the "life saver" Super Puma, the firefighter CL-415 along with the new basic trainer of the HAF, the Tecnam P-2002JF, which is currently replacing the T-41D.
Among other Hellenic Armed Forces aircraft, Army Aviation participated this year by showing a unique spectacle of a CAS evacuation scenario. During that scenario Army Aviation included all its aerial assets: Apache, Chinook, Kiowa, and Huey! The Hellenic Navy’s S-70 Aegean Hawk provided a navy seal raid demonstration with fast rope insertion.
The real star of the show was the one and only Greek Spitfire Mk.IXc MJ755. MJ755 is the only ex-Hellenic Air Force Spitfire in existence and had not flown over Greece since her retirement from military service on December 8th, 1953, so her homecoming gathered significant attention, both domestically and overseas. This legendary aircraft was on display as a gate guard and became later a part of the Hellenic War Museum in Athens, sitting on external display for several decades before her transfer to the Hellenic Air Force Museum at Dekeleia in 1995. In 2018 it was decided to make her airworthy again. The aircraft was sent to Biggin Hill where the extraordinary British restorers devoted their time and expertise to make this legend fly again. The display of this great aviation monument was the first one in the Greek skies in the 21st century and everybody was thrilled to witness its unique sound and shape. We really hope to see other similar attempts become a reality! Well done to everybody involved!
This year's dominant appearance from another European country was the French Air Force and the long awaited debut of the French Rafale in the Greek skies, a fighter that Greece has recently ordered an highly surprising acquisition program, announced only a few months ago. Along with the Rafale, the famous French aerobatic team Patrouille de France returned to perform again after their first AFW display during the 2019 show.
The other solo fighter jet display in this year’s program was the wonderfully painted F-16 from the Royal Danish Air Force.
A very interesting addition to the flight display were the departures and fly-bys of two F-15C Eagles belonging to the 493rd FS based at RAF Lakenheath. The 493rd FS deployed to Greece earlier this year, see also our report Exercise EARLY BIRD 2021. The Eagles were part of the static display but they also performed takeoffs and flypasts during the show!
The great sponsor and civilian supporter of the Athens Flying Week is Aegean Airlines, which continues to offer a unique spectacle of civilian airliners at every AFW, something that you don't see often at other airshows. This year the company showed its brand new A320neo and decided to display it with the help of Zeus team and also with the Saudi Hawks performing unique flypasts during both days of the show.
Royal Saudi Air Force
The true attraction both in the air but also on the ground was the RSAF! Continuing its strong relation with Greece, this was highlighted under the recent agreement between the two countries for joint military training. It took form under the first joint exercise FALCON EYE-1 and continued with another similar exercise held in Saudi Arabia. The Arabs brought two aircraft for the static show, one F-15C and one Tornado, both specially painted for the 90th year anniversary of their Kingdom which was celebrated last year. On both days their national demo team Saudi Hawks amazed the crowds with a unique display, full of smoke and Arabic music!
As far as we know this strong Greek-Saudi military partnership will continue and already some other events are planned to take place in the coming months. We hope to attend them and be able to provide you with some unique insight views...
Report and photos by George Karavantos ( view portfolio )
Last Modified: 19 September 2021
Update log: 19 Sept 2021 Added photo captions