German Navy Flugtag, Nordholz 2006 Review
Saturday 27th August
The 2006 German Navy Flugtag or "Air-day" was held on Saturday 27th August at Nordholz near Cuxhaven in the northern part of Germany. The main attraction at Nordholz was the introduction into service of the newly purchased P-3C Orions from the Netherlands. These are replacing the Atlantics in all but the ELINT or SIGINT role, and the occasion would be one of the last opportunities for the public to see the Maritime Patrol versions of this aircraft in service.
braved the elements at what ended up as a very wet weekend. All photography by the author.
Marinenfliegergeschwader 3 "Graf Zeppelin" or MFG3 for short hosted the event, which had promised to attract a good selection of visitors, as this year sees the German Navy celebrating 50 years of service since being re-formed. The line up on the very informative airshow website leading up to the show was very impressive. Because of the interest in the event, on the Friday before the show a photocall was organised. The entrance to this was €20 which included a commemorative patch and free entry to the adjacent Air museum, the Aeronauticum. Calling this event a "Spotters Day" didn't seem to deter the numerous photographers who turned up!
On arrival at the base for the "Spotters Day" (Why does that term always conjure up an image of Dr Evil?) a coach was laid on to transport us to the airshow side of the airfield. It was immediately evident that all but the last few helicopters and light planes had already arrived for the event. The static aircraft were spread out on hard standings around the airfield so the first impression was of a sparse line-up, but the space and lack of barriers (except for the two F-15Es) was certainly helpful for photographers. The scarcity was deceptive due to the size of the airfield - I suppose one gets used to seeing all the static aircraft huddled together at the likes of Leuchars and Waddington.
The expected Orion and Atlantic fest didn't really materialise, save for a lone Canadian CP-140 Aurora. The undoubted stars were the specially marked Atlantic and a very colourful Lynx. Participation from the other NATO navies was disappointing but unsurprising, given the recent commitments, and also apparent cost cutting being imposed by many services. The weather for this event was mixed, but there was ample time for the small knots of photographers to wait for breaks in the comprehensive cloud cover.
After the conclusion of this event a visit to the Aeronauticum was made. It was understandably busy, but it is well worth a visit if you find yourself in that part of the world. Nordholz has a rich history and a great deal of the museum's indoor space is devoted to the development and use of Airships. During the building of a new facility on the airfield for the Orions, some of the foundations of one of the original giant hangars were discovered, and an example of one of these huge lumps of concrete can be seen outside the museum. As usually happens on these occasions some of the display rehearsals began on the far side of the airfield, notably the CH-53. Unfortunately the flying was beyond camera range, and by the time we had cottoned on and driven around the airfield, the rehearsals abruptly ceased!
Come the day of the show and a clear blue sky beckoned. Organisation wise, entry to the show was very well done. Some of the parking was at the on base gliding club, who share part the airfield with the Navy, occupants being ferried to the main entrance efficiently by a fleet of specially laid on buses. The flying display, according to the programme was to be divided into two - two hour elements with a two hour break for lunch. The display began with parachutists streaming various flags followed by some spirited flying by an Austrian pair, a PC-6 and PC-7. This was followed by three Atlantics and an Orion taking off. The corkscrew vapour churning from the propeller tips of the Atlantics was surprisingly missing from the Orion's - must be something to do with their efficiency?
The skies had darkened noticeably as three versions of the based Lynx demonstrated their individual roles, thoughtfully flying the entire length of the crowd line with large machine gun, Sea Skua and sonar buoy equipped types respectively. The highlight for me then appeared from our right, as the three Atlantics arrived in formation with the Orion. These then split, leaving a lone Atlantic to perform a superb solo display.
A crowd of about 70,000 was expected, but disappointingly for the organisers only around 25,000 turned up on the day, most of which departed after the first downpour. Those remaining managing to find shelter in the hangars or a fortuitously large open ended shed. The Canadian CP-140 was pulled out of the static display to perform, but remained on terra firma as one shower gave way to the next. A solo German Orion then taxied to the end of the runway to perform its routine, but returned to a hard standing and shut its engines down, signalling the end of flying, as it turned out for the day.
Having earlier sampled some excellent Bratwurst, lunch was provided by a Bundeswehr field kitchen - a large deep (1 litre?) plastic bowl of what looked like mushy peas laced with small cubes of spam - never did airshow food better fit the conditions!
As we departed the airfield however, we were far from disappointed and ended up not getting too wet or muddy. Apart from the weather it was a good way to spend the weekend.