Brazilian Museu Aeroespacial Airshow 2005 Review
Sunday 17th July
The Brazilian Museu Aeroespacial's (MUSAL - Air and Space Museum) annual commemoration is my local airshow here in Rio de Janeiro, being only a 40 minute drive from where I live. It's the Museum's main event of the year, and the expectations for 2005 were high, since some of the best aerial performers in Brazil were invited to take part in the airshow this year, both military and civilian. Although some of them, due to different reasons, couldn't come to perform over the Base Aérea dos Afonsos, the ones that did turn up provided a good day out for the thousands that attended this nice event.
attends his second Brazilian airshow of 2005. All photographs by the author.
After setting the watch to wake me up ridiculously early for a Sunday morning in order to beat the crowds, and driving through most of Rio de Janeiro to get to the museum, a rare sight at airshows this year greeted me as I arrived at the Museu Aeroespacial: a cloudy sky. You're probably thinking that's no big deal, since most airshows in the UK aren't blessed with good weather to start with, but down here we tend to expect a blue sky most of the time, and the previous weeks we'd had nothing but gourgeous days. So I was a little bit disappointed, even though rain never was an issue during the day.
Unfortunately, the clouds weren't the only thing going against the airshow this year. Due to repair work on the airport's main runway, the static displays were significantly poorer, and there was nothing the organisers could do about it. In spite of this, there were still some very interesting aeroplanes to be found in the statics due to the museum's extensive collection of rare planes, which were cleverly brought out of the hangars to allow better photo opportunities for enthusiasts and public alike. Kudos should be given to the organisers for bringing out, for example, YA-1 4201, one of the AMX prototypes, which still sports both Brazilian and Italian markings, and the only P-47D Thunderbolt still in flying condition in Brazil, tail number 226766.
Other aeroplanes in the static displays were an A-29 Super Tucano from the 2º/5º GAv (Esquadrão Joker), an EU-93A (Hawker 800XP) from the Grupo Especial de Inspeção em Vôo - GEIV (these two were the only fixed-wing aircraft to be displayed not from the Museum's collection), two Avro C-91s (HS.748), a type the FAB retired in September 2005 after 43 years of valorous services with the 1º/2º GT and 2º/2º GT, and some old warriors which are permanently displayed outside the museum: a C-46, a DC-3, a Grumman S-2 Tracker, and a C-82. Again, F-5E 4846, which has been painted in special Tiger markings to commemorate the F-5E's 30th year of active duty in the FAB, eluded me, but hopefully I'll be able to catch it before the year is over...
The flying displays started with a roar, provided by the single Rolls-Royce RB 168-807 Spey turbofan engine that powers the A-1, or AMX. That particular AMX, 5502, is a A-1A (single seat) that belongs to the 1º/16º GAv, Esquadrão Adelphi (Adelphi Squadron), and is based almost next door at the Base Aérea de Santa Cruz. This squadron has the distinction of being the first one to operate the A-1 in the FAB (Força Aérea Brasileira, or Brazilian Air Force), being created in February 1988 to achieve this goal. The A-1 is employed by the 1º/16º GAv as a tactical strike, interdiction, and CAS platform, and 53 A-1As and A-1Bs are slated to receive a comprehensive modernization plan, with the first aircraft to be delivered in 2008. It will provide the A-1 a day/night, all-weather strike capability, allowing it to carry and deliver the latest in air-to-ground guided munitions.
After this nice opening to the festivities, the airshow welcomed a visitor from an airbase again situated close to the MUSAL in the form of a Brazilian Navy SH-3 Sea King from HS-1, called Esquadrão Guerreiro (Warrior Squadron). This SH-3, piloted by Cap.-Ten. Erandir and Cap.-Ten. Trindade, is one of the 13 Sea King helicopters based at the Base Aérea Naval de São Pedro da Aldeia, and is employed by the Navy in the anti-submarine role, being specially suited to this mission due to its respectable five-hour endurance. Also operated in the same base, and scheduled to display after the HS-1, were the Navy's A-4s or AF-1s, as they're called here, from VF-1 Esquadrão Falcão (Falcon Squadron). Unfortunately, the aforementioned officers explained that VF-1, for operational reasons, wouldn't be able to fulfill their promise this year, causing a gap in the aerial displays, and robbing the commemoration of one of its major attractions.
The aerobatic displays were the next items in the schedule, and all aircraft involved here were flown more than once. First in the air was Christen Eagle's PP-ZMG, displayed by Marcos Geraldi of the Equipe Tuareg. Based at Carlos Prates airport in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, this Christen Eagle is used to teach new pilots the art of aerobatic flight, and Mr. Geraldi showed the public what this little aeroplane is still capable of doing. He was followed by the Brazilian three-time aerobatic champion, Adilson Kindlemann, from Bragança Paulista, Brazil, who is now flying a yellow Sukhoi Su-31, PT-ZSV, having recently converted to this type from an Extra 300. Mr. Kindlemann is a precision aerobatic flyer, and his performance is among the best ones I've seen here in Brazil. The last pilot to perform aerobatics during the show was César Albuquerque from São Paulo, Brazil, with his white and blue Su-26M2, PT-ZSK. Although he also flew a Sukhoi, César wasn't able to match Mr. Kindlemann performance, but that's something to be expected, since he was competing with current aerobatic champion of this country…
The final displays in the schedule were provided by the FAB, and again, the organisers didn't get much help. From the four A-1s and the F-5E scheduled to display, only one A-1, once more from the 1º/16º GAv, turned up. This aeroplane, flown by Cap. Antunes, provided by far and away the best display of the day, with plenty of really low/high speed passes right over our heads. If you never have experienced a jet flying really low and fast right over you, you really don't know what you're missing! But the crowd favorite had to be the Smoke Squadron, commanded this year by Ten. Cel. Av. Reis, whose performance closed the 2005 MUSAL commemoration. I had the impression that their display box appeared to be much further from the crowd than in the past, a fact that seemed to be furthered due to the tamer routine they are performing this year. Anyway, once more their trademark maneuvers were flown to perfection, and they never fail to impress me.
I have to confess this was an airshow I was not completely satisfied with, since the missing displays were among the ones I really wanted to see. However, it was no fault of the organisers, who were dealt a bad hand to start with, and did the most they could to provide a good show. But, if I knew beforehand what I'd see during that day, I'd have gone anyway - it was still a lot better than a normal day at work!
I'd like to thank Mr. Ivan Roberto Soares, who allowed me a free hand to take many of the pictures seen here, and his two assistants, Michelle and Alda, for the help provided during the commemoration. This report owes a lot to their kindness and good will.