Air Show Türkiye, İzmir-Çiğli Report

Saturday 4th June - Sunday 5th June 2011

The leading celebratory event to mark the 100th Anniversary of the Turkish Air Force (TuAF) was the weekend airshow held at 2nd Main Jet Base Command İzmir-Çiğli at the beginning of June. With the Chiefs of Air Forces from over 60 countries and no less than eight aerobatic teams included in the six hour flying display, the show stood out in the 2011 calendar as the 'must see' event for many enthusiasts.

Ian Matthews braves the heat to report from İzmir-Çiğli for UK Airshow Review.

On entrance to the show we were greeted by a hardened shelter complex containing examples of the trainer types normally seen at Çiğli - T-38A Talon, KT-1 and T-37 Tweet. To the right of the control tower was a pan containing further TuAF types with F-4 Phantoms, T-38, NF-5, F-16s, KC-135, C-130, CN-235, C-160 plus the enthusiasts favourite - a rare Boeing 737 AEW&C Peace Eagle. Helicopters completed the line-up with a TuAF Cougar & UH-1, Army AH-1 Cobra, Navy SH-60 Seahawk and a Coast Guard Huey. The TuAF promise of seeing 'every type in the inventory' was certainly upheld.

The Wedgetail also gave an insight into the future of the TuAF along with an F-35 JSF mock-up, visiting A400M transport and Anka UAV. Continuing to the visiting aircraft static display, a mouth watering line-up of different air forces types was assembled to demonstrate the worldwide support of the TuAF. Antonov transports from Serbia, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia rubbed shoulders with C-130s from Algeria and Belgium plus a C-27J Spartan from Bulgaria and CN-295 from Poland. As if that wasn't enough cargo aircraft, the spotters were treated on the Monday departure day to the arrival of a Croatian AF AN-32 plus Pakistani AF IL-78 & Hercules in support of their fighter types.

Speaking of fast jets, the quality of the static line-up got even better with a pair of GAF Typhoons, a MiG-29UB & PC-9 from Bulgaria, Romanian IAR-99, Jordanian F-16s, Hungarian Gripen and a Pakistani JF-17 fighter. Even the RAF contribution, a solitary Tornado GR4, looked splendid in its now defunct 14 Squadron colours and included mission markings on the nose.

Finding a spot on the crowd line was relatively easy with the majority of the crowd arriving around mid-morning ready for the start of the flying display at around 10.30. Opening the proceedings on both days were parachutists carrying the national flags of Turkey and the TuAF, followed by a spirited performance by an immaculate T-34 Mentor. The highlight of the flying programme on the Saturday was the 'Inventory Flypast' where formations consisting of types currently in service with the TuAF were proudly paraded in celebration of its centennial.

The bulk of the flying display was taken up with display teams and dynamic routines of the ubiquitous F-16 Fighting Falcon. The cream of the worlds aerobatic teams saluted the TuAF : The Red Arrows from the UK, Wings of Storm from Croatia, Thunderbirds from the USA, Team Iskra from Poland, Frecce Tricolori from Italy, Patrouille de France, Patrulla Águila from Spain plus of course the immensely popular Turkish Stars. To advertise the event, a unique formation overflew the town of Izmir on the Friday evening consisting of one of each type from the display teams (except the Reds and Thunderbirds) gathered at Çiğli.

The crowd went crazy for the home team, especially the Solo Turk F-16, resulting in a broadcast on the PA for the audience to move back from the taxiway so that the TuAF Falcon could return to its parking slot!

Other highlights from the flying display included a rare appearance from the Pakistan AF with their F-16 and JF-17 fighters. A masterful demonstration of airmanship from the Italian AF in the shape of their AMX & EFA with the Eurofighter seemly on full afterburner for the entire display. The sister AMI C-27J Spartan performed some devilish knife edge passes and stunning barrel rolls - definitely one to look out for at RIAT 2011.

Flares were definitely in fashion with the Solo Turk, Dutch and Belgian F-16s all lighting up the sky with fireworks. The Austrian AF with their tiger SAAB 105 and the Romanian AF IAR-99 tried their best to match them. The scariest display award definitely goes to Ali Ismet Ozturk in his Purple Violet Pitts S-2 biplane who dazzled the crowd with a series of positive and negative 'G' manoeuvres but left nothing to chance by pulling out very low over the runway.

With temperatures around 34 degrees on both days the airfield was very hot and dusty. The bumper 250,000 crowd over the entire weekend caused some vending points to run out of water on the Saturday. For photography, the sun was behind you until about 2pm and then it was a short walk to the exit with a dash across the dual carriageway to the end of runway 35 in order to get the best light. The police were relaxed about photographers outside the base during the airshow period. The locals also made the most of their new found customer base by bringing round ice cold drinks and snacks to the thirsty enthusiasts sheltering from the heat under the tree line by the approach.

The airshow weekend was made even longer for some as 1000 registered 'spotters' from 27 different countries were allowed on base to view the Friday rehearsals and Monday departures. A massive thank you is due to Belgian photographer Eric Coeckelbergh for helping to organise the unprecedented access to the static and display aircraft which was enjoyed by all. Amazingly admission to both spotters days and the two day airshow was completely free!

Air Show Türkiye 2011 was a great success and a hugely enjoyable experience for its overseas visitors and guests. A fitting way to say 'Happy 100th Birthday' to the Turkish Air Force.