REVIEW: 9th Sanicole Sunset Airshow – UK & Europe Airshow Dates, News & Reviews

Sanicole International Aeronautics Show

The International Sanicole Airshow weekend was a little different this year with three days of air show from Friday to Sunday. However, Friday remained the traditional sunset air show with nearly three hours of flight time as the sun sank into the sky and dusk set over the Belgian countryside.

Paul Johnson / Flightline UK reports. All the author’s photographs. Video by Sanicole Airshow.

The Sanicole Airshow weekend is one of the best in Europe and the Sunset Airshow is always the most spectacular of the first. Like many events across Europe, things were a little different in 2021 with the fairground divided into five ‘zones’ for spectators to choose upon arrival by picking up the appropriate wristband. This allowed them to take advantage of shopping areas and static displays while not losing their place in the area of ​​their choice. The audience was also limited each day to ensure there were no crowds. However, the rest of the show was reassuring with the usual excellent welcome from the organizers even if the man in charge of the gates was a little late!

The weather is always a major factor for the sunset show as it can drastically change the lighting for spectators and references for participating pilots. If you had believed in the weather forecast, you could have been forgiven for thinking the show would be a complete failure, with most weather forecasting apps predicting hours of heavy rain. In reality the conditions couldn’t have been more different with the most glorious late summer evenings for the flight show and relatively clear skies. It wasn’t until after the flight was over that a distant thunderstorm provided its own light show as I made my way back to the hotel!

The flight opened with three overflights of the latest type to enter service with the Belgian Air Force, the Airbus DS A400M Atlas. The plane that flew to Sanicole was in fact the example of the Luxembourg Armed Forces which is based with the rest of the Belgian Air Force fleet in Melsbroek as part of the 15e Air transport wing.

The A400M was tracked by the Royal Air Force Red arrows fresh from their displays in the Channel Islands. As anyone who has watched media coverage of the G7 summit would have seen, a display of the red arrows at sunset is something really, really special to watch with the golden light making the red color scheme really pop and really brings out the smoke trails.

British participation continued after Red Arrows with Plane Sailing’s Consolidated manufacture of PBY-5A Catalina his only appearance of the weekend. The large white amphibian looked spectacular against the cloudy landscape before heading south for the Air Legend air show in Melun, France. Another piston nostalgia followed with Kris van der Bergh giving a virtuoso solo aerobatic demonstration in the Hawker Fury ISS. This stunning restoration of Hawker’s ultimate piston fighter wears its original Iraqi Air Force colors and is powered by the original Bristol Centaurus radial engine.

Two contrasting solo aerobatic demonstrations came from France. Jean-Marc D’Hulst returned with the sponsored Trescal Stolp Starduster too perform lyrical acrobatics in the golden sky. The display of the Air Force Aerobatic Team Additional 330SC was the opposite of the stunt spectrum with some really aggressive gyroscopic stunts that really seemed to defy all the laws of physics and logic with the pilot able to stop and tumble his plane at will in any position!

The middle of the display was marked by the show’s second national throw, Swiss Patrol with their six Northrop F-5E Tiger II. The sky provided the most spectacular canvas as the backdrop for the Patrol’s quick display which also includes eye-catching flares during their “grand finale.”

As the sky began to turn inky blue, the flight shifted to modern solo military demonstrations. The first of these was the Hungarian Air Force SAAB JAS-39C Gripen which is rarely seen on the larger display circuit. Pilot Mate Majerik’s display was one of the highlights of the evening with dramatic flare releases as the Gripen frolicked the sky. It wasn’t just its flares that lit up the dark sky, as Mate also included a shock and burn when it was displayed. Other jaw-dropping torch discharges came from the Belgian Air Force’s two solo demonstration teams, the Agusta A109BAi piloted by Captains Jo Jacobs and Stijn Soenens and the F-16AM Fighting Falcon piloted by Captain Stephan ‘Vader’ Darte.

The evening flight ended with a pair of special fireworks displays by civilian artists. The first of them was based in the UK Airborne pyrotechnics steal a pair of Grob 109b motor gliders. The team is made up of British Grob Agent Tim Dews and his son Tom who are based in a private Wiltshire gang. Their planes are equipped with thousands of LED lights and wing tip pyrotechnics for evening shows. Over the past couple of years, they’ve even added a bright tribute to the UK NHS under their wings. Their demonstration was a magnificent aerial ballet of loops and wingovers performed both in duet and solo.

Unlike the elegance of the power gliders, the final act was a bit more rock and roll with the Scandinavian air show Grumman AgCat piloted by Jacob Hollander. The AgCat has been a regular on the display circuit for many years as part of the team’s ‘CatWalk’ winged walking display, but the team calls their nighttime show ‘LLP’ which stands for Lights, Laser and Pyrotechnics. It was an impressive end to the show with the bright yellow biplane that radiated all kinds of visual effects into the dark sky, whether it was the animated LEDs on the lower surfaces of the aircraft, the bright green lasers, or the the assortment of fireworks coming out of the wing tips. !

There is really nothing quite like the Sanicole Sunset Airshow, it is truly a special event in its own right. This year’s edition was as, if not more spectacular than ever and the ultimate way to kick off a very special airshow weekend.

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