Open Day at FACH Base Aerea El Bosque Report

Saturday 26th March - Sunday 27th March 2011

El Bosque AB is located in Santiago de Chile and was founded in 1913, in Lo Espejo ranch, at the south area of the city, becoming the oldest air base in the country. Today it is the home base of Escuela de Aviación Capitán Manuel Ávalos Prado (Chilean Flying School), Escuela de Especialidades (Chilean Aviation Technics School) and Aerobatics Team Halcones.

Antonio Segovia Rentería reports from the capital of Chile. All photos by the author.

The Open Day was part of the celebration of the 81st anniversary of Chilean Air Force (Fuerza Aérea de Chile, or FACH). Why 81? Because last year Chile suffered a major earthquake and the Air Force had to move all of its own resources in order to help people in the south part of the country - no celebration was possible or even desired under those circumstances. So one year after, the Air Force decided to celebrate its anniversary with several airshows across the country, finishing with an Open Day at El Bosque Air Base.

The activities started at 11am local time, with a beautiful sunny day and clear skies. The gates of El Bosque were opened free of charge to everyone, so a lot of complete families arrived to see the Fuerza Aérea de Chile's aircraft, both old and new. The airbase entrance, from which we could access the flight pan for the open day, has some legendary aeroplanes as gate guardians, such as an AT-6 Texan and a T-37 Tweety Bird in the traditional red and white paint scheme.

The Open Day consisted in a static display of operational aircraft, like the C-130B, UH-1H, Bell 412, Bell 206, T-35, Piper PA-28, Beechcraft 99A and old ones too, such as the T-37, Extra-300, Pitts S-2, Ñamcu and Bleriot (replica). Additionally some fighters put out of service a few years a go, including Mirage Elkan (Mirage 5 Mirsip) and the two-seat Mirage Pantera (Mirage 50) which was the main attraction for the public. Another interesting attraction was several T-35s Pillán under maintenance inside the hangar.

The air show was repeated twice, one show in the morning and another one in the afternoon. The sequence was opened by Chilean aerobatics team Halcones; they took off from El Bosque to perform a complete show with their traditional impressive maneuvers. Then from the Cordillera, appeared an F-16 Block 50 from Grupo 3 (Iquique Air Base), in a very low level and fast performance that featured a few very tight turns and a climb into the vertical.

The next aircraft on show was a rescue demo by a Bell 412 from Grupo 9 (Pudahuel Air Base), with two Commandos descending from the chopper, meanwhile the helicopter performed an eight turn, then one injured "dummy" was "evacuated" with the winch from the Bell. After that, from the south the F-16 appeared again in a slow flight and performed some maneuvers with a full afterburner, finalizing in another vertical climb in front of the people. The last show was the paratroopers group "Boinas Azules" (Blue Berets) who performed a jumping demonstration from a Twin Otter from SAF (Photogrammetric Air Service at Pudahuel Air Base).

One of the happiest facts was the possibility to sit in the majority of the aircraft on the static show. People young and old waited some minutes to enjoy a seat inside the cockpit with pilot helmet included, that was provided by cadets from Escuela de Aviación.

Finally, I can say it was a very good airshow with several aircraft on static display, the air demo was very impressive to the public and the hospitality of the people from the Chilean Air Force was excellent.