Cazaux Airshow / Spotters Day 2005 Review
Sunday 12th June
Situated South West of Bordeaux, station BA120 Cazaux is home to the joint French and Belgian Alpha Jet training wing (the first few Belgian aircraft newly located from Beauvechain,) one of the three French DGA Flight Test Centres (CEV) and the location of the last active Republic of Singapore Air Force TA-4SU Skyhawks. Making the airshow even more attractive was the imminent retirement of three major types from the Armee de l’Air - the Mirage IV and Jaguar, and the Mirage III from service in the CEV, as well as the last chance to see a display of the Austrian air force J35OE Draken in France.
made the trip across the channel to report for UKAR. All photography by the author.
The show was organised for the weekend of the 12th June, handily placed in the calendar to enable a visit to be made to the Paris salon 2005 during the following week on the way home. Due to much enthusiast interest, a "spotters" day was organised for the Saturday before the show. This well organised event enabled photography of the assembled aircraft, as well as an opportunity to enjoy watching the rehearsals.
On arrival at Cazaux, the promised packed lunches were handed out. The French enjoy their food, and the carrier bags of provisions held sufficient for a reasonable picnic. Included was some bottled water, which was essential, as the temperatures soared to well over 30 degrees on both days.
Among the static aircraft was one of the first two seater Rafales to be delivered to the AdlA, a plethora of Mirage 2000s and F1s as well as various aircraft of the CEV. There were good opportunities to photograph taxiing aircraft from some of the earth berms near the various aprons. There were so many aircraft spread out over such a large area, that in the relentless heat of the French summer, it would have been difficult to get to see everything on just the show day. During the Sunday the Singaporeans opened up the hangar housing their Skyhawks for a brief tantalising look at the A4s not on show. The aircraft and spares involved in the flying display were situated at four separate flightines, all accessible for viewing.
The only disappointment of the flying was the distance of the display runway from the public - the two right angled crowd lines making the runway a hypotenuse. However, the major concern from the point of view of photographers, and folk without sunglasses, was that you were facing the sun for most of the display. The flying started with a spirited performance by the Draken. Four Mirage 2000s then cavorted about the sky, ending with some formation fly-bys.
A unique formation of four of the based Alpha Jets together with a pair of the Singaporean Skyhawks followed, which broke to perform an airfield attack. This was offset by a formation of three of the "Ancetres" or ancestors - a MirageIVP, MirageIII and a nicely painted Jaguar ‘E’, which performed numerous appearances throughout the day. One unusual display was an intercept of a Tucano by a pair of Mirage 2000s, which for a change made low speed high alpha manoeuvring interesting. Cazaux had not one but two Firebombing demonstrations, a CL415 and a Turbo Tracker of the Securite Civile.
No less than three F16s performed, the newly decorated Royal Netherlands Air Force machine, the Belgian Viper and a rare appearance (in the UK at least,) of the Danish display aircraft. National display teams were represented by the Jordanian Falcons, Moroccan Marche Verte, Patrouille Suisse, the Frecce Tricolori and much to the pride of the home crowd, a faultless if distant display by the Patrouille de France. An antidote to the fast jet action was provided by some rarely seen (in this country,) French based warbirds including a Harvard T6, a Flamant, T28 Fennec, an F4U Corsair and a Skyraider.
The star of the show for me was the soon to be retired Mirage IVP, of which there were three examples on show. Rarely seen in the UK, the retirement of this fabulous aircraft was met with sadness and pride by the locals. In service since 1964, it was the mainstay of the French Nuclear deterrent (Force de Frappe,) and latterly used as a Photo-reconnaissance platform. The last base to house them being the nearby Mont de Marsan. A minor disappointment for some of the attendees was the non appearance of the specially marked Mirage IVP which had instead gone to Le Bourget to take part in the Paris Salon.
Overall a memorable if exhausting weekend.