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“ Magic “ Ferté-Alais. 05/31/2015

 

“ Magic “ Ferté-Alais,

43rd Ferté-Alais airshow was held on 23rd and 24th of May 2015, at Plateau de Cerny airfield, south of Paris. The yearly event remains popular with European air enthusiasts, thanks to its very french touch. It is somehow considered as the “ national ” airshow by French aviation fans and warbirds connoisseurs. Around 50.000 visitors were attracted by the grass field, family atmosphere, market stalls, and the show setting with sounds and showmanship. Yet, it was amazing to see how Amicale Jean Baptiste Salis collection recovered quite well from last year’s disaster. 

Let’s remind facts. This happened two days only after last year’s show was just over. On Tuesday June 10th  by night, the mother of all storms in local history .., stroke the airfield. Balls of hail – these could be appropriately named as “ice” stones - fell and broke historic hangar roofs of the Museum and damaged most warbirds they contained. All in all, no less than 500.000 Euros worth of buildings and aeroplanes destructions were recorded. And to name a few of the airplanes that were hit, most WWI canvas such as popular Fokker DR.1 were scratched. One weekend after the storm, I could witness the Amicale’s Ju-52 visiting Meaux airfield. Though still flying correctly, its fuselage and wings were severely hammered and nobody will overcome this. Amicale Salis and Aéroclub de France requested public donations. So they managed to raise up to 80.000 Euros, while insurance companies provided part of lost money. Then for six months, Salis volunteers could not work on airplanes as their hangars were being rebuilt. As a matter of facts, only a few airplanes were restored in a few months only before the show deadline. What an achievement with so much faith.

So “ Le Temps des hélices ” - as the show is traditionally called - was back on deadline with appropriate WWI and WWII flying machines. Interestingly, La Ferté is one the rare shows in the world to feature airplanes that are separated into historic sequences, all in all with appropriate sounds mixed with hollywood kind of music, clever - and sometimes humorous - commentary charged with emotion. Interestingly enough, the speaker always had a few short topics for us, explaining why a specific flying machine made History, and what people life and state of mind was during that evocated period. Three flying displays examples of that “ spirit of Cerny ” , are Normandie-Niemen pilots “ sociology “ with obviously, Yaks flying over, then, “ Tora Tora Tora ” Honolulu lazy times being broken by a raid of T-6s playing Japanese Zeros, and last but not least, Vietnam War raids by an OV-10 D Bronco and three Skyraiders shelling the “ viets ” with appropriate “ Doors ” music as a sound background. Add some “ pyros ” effects to all these themes, and you get the perfect show for all aged visitors. 


Main star item may have been Bréguet Alizé (number 59) flown by Jan Viard from the “ Alizé Marine ” association. It was leadin a Marine Nationale four ships formation including a Morane Saulnier MS760 Paris from Armor Aéro Passion and flown by Jean-Michel Laporte, all along with two Dassault Rafales M jets. These Navy (+ ex-Navy) gentlemen flew one of the most “ class ” mixed modern jets and warbirds formation this reviewer has ever seen anywhere. Both Rafales performed a break, then Alizé and Paris flew along, and then the jets came back and performed a short but powerful duo and noisy act. Every year I have the feeling, through a 300 lens compressed perspective, that the simulated Rafale M pass on the “ carrier “ deck will scratch some grass from the ground. The final reheat is fantastic, but unfortunately this year, this was not followed, as an act of contrast by the traditional appearance of the Blériot XII. The Pégoud bird has not recovered from hail and rests in the hangar.

 


Instead, a Caudron G.3 was back in the event. I could witness its first test flights, handled by Jean-Pierre Lafille, a week before the event. Looking like an extravagant machine created for a Jean-Pierre Jeunet baroque film, let’s remind this reconnaissance aeroplane was produced non-stop from 1914 to 1918. Famous Salis collection Skyraider was flying again for a first summer since its wing was scratched when it was on display at Flying Legends.2010. Another “ subscriber ” to La Ferté was Curtiss Hawk H-75 still bearing the Armée de l’Air " Bataille de France " colours. Lucky pilot was Patrice Marchasson. Is he the only French individual allowed to fly a TFC fighter ? Speaker Bernard Chabbert found the event was an opportunity to call for funds in order that a French organization or person could own this airplane TFC is now putting on sale. As explained, it would be appropriate to keep this fighter in France, and obviously there are more than a company - connected to aviation frenchness and 1940s warfare - that could afford it. At present time, Stephen Grey has enough fair play to keep it until a potential French buyer shows interest, as he assumes, this gem should now belong to the République Française. So hopefully somebody with a good bank account will have read this report.

 


Other vintage airplanes were there. Christophe Jacquard’s Sea Fury flew again with the “ Amici del Hunter “ two-seats aircraft. From a photographer’s point of view, it was the best display of the whole show, both airplanes performing again a dramatic sky charged with clouds mixed with sunshine. And from the engineer of sounds, it was crazy to listen to the contrast of the Fury blades against the Hunter jet noise, just looking like some sort of Rock concert. Apart from that Hawker set, flew the De Havilland airplanes evocation. The “ Cercle de Nangis “ Vampire was back, followed by the very much awaited for Hurricane.MkII C P3351. This very airplane really took part to the Battle of France, and to the Battle of Britain as well. Then it was delivered to the Soviet Forces, and crashed near Murmansk, the place where it was recovered. Then it was rebuilt by Pionner and Avspecs in New Zealand. It was bought and cargoed by Jan-Frizo Roosen in March 2013. Having met P3351 a few years ago in New Zealand whilst it stayed there still non flyable …, never would I have guessed it would be once owned and flown in France a few years later ! Finally bad news were this Hurricane was damaged at landing at Dijon Darois airfield on its way back from La Ferté. Luckily Jan Roosen did not suffer but it is not known what current state of P3351 is.

Was Gloster Gladiator owned by the Fighter Collection, La Ferté-Alais real star this year ? Surely it is my personal point of view. It is too much forgotten that some biplane fighter aircraft still played a core role during WWII. So it was appropriate that this powerful fighter flown by Nick Grey, was shown back to back with the Hurricane in the program, to say a few words about the Battle of Malta to an audience that is not familiar with it. Overwhelmed by the Luftwaffe the RAF managed to defend the island to prevent german forces landings. In 1941, ratio was about 3 german fighters against 1 RAF … Other star attraction was an Albatros, a WWI bomber figthting along with a repaired (from storm) Fokker Dr.1 against a RFC patrol composed with two Memorial Flight Se-5a replicas and Bristol F-2b Fighter. Once more, last time I did shots of the F-2b was at Omaka, New Zeland. One thing I have learnt from La Ferté is though I had to fly more than 20 hours to be in New Zealand, I live in a small world anyway, especially with vintage aviation.

No doubts to me that La Ferté-Alais is one of the best vintage airplanes airshows in the world, not least for rare participating aircraft, but also for its green grass “ aircraft carrier ” style airfield and relaxed atmosphere, all in with the authentic French countryside. Furthermore, I suggest that other sorts of events of the kind – such as those in UK and New Zealand - should introduce the sound and music package coupled with these comments containing plenty of emotion in their airshow display program. As after all, what else could people ask for ?

 

 

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