“Air Legend” at the Melun-Villaroche airfield in the South of Paris is a new airshow establishing itself firmly on the European circuit. The second edition in 2019 focused on Cold War jets and succeeded with a well balanced mix of those Cold War warriors, warbirds and modern aviation.
Where? Paris / Melun-Villaroche, France
After very positive reviews of “Air Legends” in 2018 I had to pay the airshow a visit for its second edition in 2019. The airshow site at the Melun-Villaroche airfield is only about 40 kilometers south of the French capital and easy to reach. Also the second weekend in September is well chosen. It is after the end of the French summer holidays and gives a gap to the event at La Ferté-Alais, which traditionally takes place on the Pentecost weekend.
Melun-Villaroche Airfield – a perfect location
The Melun-Villaroche airfield is dominated by large aircraft hangars designed by Gustav Eiffel. They provide an impressive background for the static display on the apron, which is accessible for the general public before the start of the airshow. This gives plenty of time in the morning to get up close to more than 100 aircraft that came together for “Air Legends”. And this is also an excellent opportunity to get some detail photos of the aircraft or to talk to pilots and ground crews.
In this year a large number of classic jets such as the MiG-15UTI (actually a Polish licence-built Lim-2), DH Vampire, Fouga Magister and Zephyr, Morane Saulnier Paris or Lockheed T-33 (Canadair CT-33) assembled on the tarmac. They stood side-by-side with the line-up of the Alpha Jets of the Patrouille de France as well as the Rafales of the Armée de l’Air / French Air Force’s Rafale Solo Display. Especially the Rafale attracted the attention as “Air Legends” was the premier event of it to appear with the new golden scheme celebrating its 10th anniversary.
Heavy warbirds such as the Skyraider, Corsair, Fury, Bearcat or Alize were parked in a second row on the apron, and the Spitfires, Mustangs, a Hurriance, plenty of T-6 Texans were placed more appropriately on the grass part of the airfield.
Flying Display at Air Legend 2019
The flying display followed a sequence similar to other events. For the main parts of the flying program, several airplanes were grouped together according to their age and theme.
There was a classiv Navy Duo of the La Ferté-Alais based F4U Corsair and the Bearcat from Duxford, three Yaks in different configurations, but all wearing the unmistakable markings of the Normandy-Niemen squadron, or a trio of Spitfires.
French hearts were beating faster with the Morane-Saulnier MS.406 teaming up with the Curtiss H75 representing warbirds of the French Air Force during WW II, before the two Skyraiders in connection with a large amount of pyrotechnics on the ground darkened the sky during the Vietnam scenario.
The biggest surprise amongst the warbirds however might have been the “Baghdad Fury”, a Belgium-based Hawker Fury FB10 in the brown camouflage colours of the Iraqi Air Force. It showed up on Sunday morning and flew that same day in formation with another Fury. Unfortunately I was already on my way back home at that time…
The flying program did unwind without any major interruptions or gaps from midday on for about five hours and offered additionally to the already mentioned warbirds a lot of variety, ranging from the world’s smallest jet plane up to aerobatic demonstrations and military jets.
This included flying displays of the Armee de l’Air Rafale Solo Display as well as the A400M military transport aircraft.
Although the spectators had to watch the flight demonstrations facing the sun at the beginning of the flying display, it got better and better during the course of the afternoon.
Mixed Aviation Photography Emotions
So whereas photographers had a frustrated look at their camera displays in the beginning, these unfavorable conditions fortunately turned to the good with the progress of the flying display. Later in the afternoon the light was perfect, and the flying was in full swing. While the “Air Legends” turned out to be difficult for photography in the beginning, it turned out really good. For the enthusiastic photographer the airshow organizers have also set up a special package which offered good access possibilities on the Friday before the show.
But while it was difficult to photograph the flying displays in the air, there was also plenty of opportunities to get some nice photographs on ground as well.
The grass field was well filled with spectators in the afternoon, and approximately 20,000 visitors each day had spread out their blankets and camping chairs to enjoy the flying demonstrations.
All of those 20,000 pairs of eyes turned to the sky at the end of the day when the most remarkable formation of aircraft appeared from the right. A Douglas C-47 Dakota, showing of large black and white “Invasion Stripes” on its wings, protected by a pair of P-51 Mustangs, and followed French Air Force’s aerobatic team, the Patrouille de France. Not for nothing I chose this photo as the main introduction photo for this report… Their Alpha Jets put the smoke on, and drew a mile-long trail in the colours of the French flag, the Tricolore, behind. This was a fitting tribute to D-Day, the 75th anniversary of the landing of the Allies in Normandy this June. And it was certainly the most patriotic moment of the event.
Air Legend 2019 – a success story continued…
This was only the second edition of “Air Legend”, but it proved that the success of the premiere last year was not a one-day wonder. It was a pleasure to see how the organizers make good use of the vast amount of space that is available at the Melun-Villaroche airfield and how they succeeded in bringing together such a big variety of aircraft. Just think about the Breguet Alizé from Southern France, the Belgian Iraqi Fury and the Lim-2 from Norway. I am eagerly waiting to see with what major theme “Air Legend 2020” will come up.
Have a look at the event’s website at https://airlegend.fr/en/