Original flying engines from the 1910s up to the latest military jets is something that only very few airshows worldwide can offer. Amongst them is the event of the Amicale Jean Baptiste Salis (AJBS) at La Ferté-Alais, which once again has proved this year in its 43rd edition that quality and quantity can be mixed really well.
Where? Aerodrome de Cerny, Paris area, France
After the quiet “pour Irène” start commemorating those Amicale members who watch the show from above, the Aeronavale literally beat up the place with their Rafale M jets. La Ferté still is one of the very few places where such a demonstration by the French Navy is held. In recent years the mixed formation was seen with Etendards or an E-2C Hawkeye, but this year for a most welcomed change the world’s only flying Alizée joined the two Rafales and the Paris jet.
After that the travel in time began, with the recently restored Caudron G.III, that was not only used for the first crossing of the Mediterranean by Roland Garros, but also as an observation aircraft during WW I. it was very interesting to see afterwards a Fokker Dr.I battling around with the G.III in a sky full of biplanes.
A highlight of WW I was of course the recently imported TVAL Bristol Fighter in formation with the superb Fokker D.VII, the latter one even flying with an original BMW engine from 1917! The Bristol F.2 Fighter has literally just arrived from TVAL in New Zealand in April and had its first flight only very shortly before the show. What a fine move it was to present it in close formation flight with its former enemy.
Belonging to the great variety that makes up the show at la Ferté-Alais in this year was the presentation by the “Securité Civile”, demonstrating the rescue of civilians with the EC145 and firefighting using the Canadair CL-415 and Tracker S2FT. After years of presence of the crew with their stand only in the row of souvenir booths it was great to see their flying assets finally in the air!
The flying and the aircraft used in WWII traditionally play a big part in the flying program as well. This era is split up and started this year with the ‘Germans’, flying the Junkers Ju 52, the Storch and a fake Messerschmitt, simulated by a Pilatus P-2.
The highlight of the Battle of Britain (BoB) was the Gloster Gladiator of the TFC (The Fighter Collection), which made its first appearance in France. Before its solo display it was nicely flown in a three-ship formation together with a Supermarine Spitfire and a Hawker Hurricane.
Not to be forgotten of course is the Curtiss Hawk 75, one of the main French assets to fight German aircraft during WW II in the Battle of France.
Then came – along the Eastern front – two Yak-3 and one Yak-11, followed by the Pearl Harbor scenario and its pyrotechnics, the impressive swarm of T-6s falling in on the airfield, and of course the P-40 chasing and finally shooting down the fake Japanese Zero fighter.
Noisy was also the Vietnam scenario, with the highly agile Bronco in the sky and three Douglas A-1 Skyraiders beating up the place once again. This high number of Skyraiders can be explained with the rich history of this ‘bomb truck’ in French Air Force service, as well as the 70th first flight anniversary of this type. Fortunately “205”, the La Ferté-based example was back in the air again this year after its midair-collision with a P-51 Mustang at Duxford in 2011.
More harmonic was the presentation of the propeller-driven Sea Fury and the jet-powered Hunter, complemented during the day by a Vampire that was another historic jet in the air at La Ferté-Alais.
Something for the eye as well and providing great sights in the sky were the trio of two Beech 12 together with the shiny and highly polished DC-3 Dakota, or the Lockheed L-12 Electra, which was for a long time not seen participating at the airshow.
Boeing was celebrated by an impressive 7-ship formation of Stearman biplanes, and the great fly-by of an “Europe Airpost” B737, especially marked with a “loves La Ferté” sticker to celebrate the event.
The French Navy and Air Force – Armée de l’Air – also strongly supports the event and La Ferté-Alais is always their first airshow of the year for the Rafale solo display and the Patrouille de France. Both of these acts were eagerly awaited by the public this year. On none of the two days most people only left at the very end of the flying after any of the two has finished its display.
The Sopwith Strutter of the “Memorial Flight” was the last aircraft to take it to the skies at 6:30pm on Saturday, with a cancellation due to the weather on Sunday. It was a very pleasing closing point of another great La Ferté meeting, which for sure earns highest ranks amongst comparable airshow, being a great travel of time using a packed flying program, and still remaining its stunning French Flair.