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Midnight Sun Airshow Kauhava 2008 - Episode One. 07/31/2008

 

Midnight Sun Airshow 2008 - Finland

Lentajien Juhannus 2008 : white nights over Kauhava.

Episode one : prelude to a white night.

Yes, this was my road movie to the Midnight Sun Airshow. This yearly airshow takes place every last ' night ' of Spring, a rather sunny night with bright light as the sun does not go fully down. What an interesting task it was to travel and make pictures there, one week after the Quebec International Airshow " A la Brunante " air display at dusk. This was definitely a finnish air force yearly runned international event at its flying school.
Kauhava airfield is the Air Force Academy nearly a 100 km east of Vaasa city.
So I rode a car from that swedish born city, on June 20th morning. And it was like a road movie. Just a few red wood houses, scattered along the gracious finnish forest.
The roads are wide and going straight ahead, and you must take care not to bump into the famous finnish reindeer. You cross few cars. How superb it is to drive from Vaasa up to Kauhava through a splendid country fully covered with trees.

 

Then I faced the base entrance : it was nothing like a french or american military installation. Just a smilling guard welcoming me as he just saw my media badge. At first glance he raised the barrier, thenI was a little enthusiasted by the tiny tarmac appearing further, surrounded with a few 1960s big buildings but modern hangars. It just could remind me a civilian airclub airfield or a just swiss military airfield. The gates opened at one just in time for the afternoon show.
If you are a crazy spotter I must aware that you may have feeled bored there, as apart from the Finnish Air Force superb Midnight Hawks four BAeHawk national team, F-18s, Vinkas, NH-90s flying machines, few foreign participation were included in the event.
But as an aviation photographer who enjoys feeling alone amongst a few Finnish friendly locals and national media guys, facing an unusual sunlit night all in all in an airshow that may have attracted no more than 20.000 people, it was a fine dream. It was also unsusual to cross so many people wearing the russian air force uniforms. Being warmly welcomed by the air force instructors - flying local Hawk training a/c - and organising the show, and being cared by the media officers as nowhere else, I then crossed the airfield occupied by a funfair and a small static display including the local forces hardware, a gorgeous An-2 Colt from Estonia, and a polish air force Su-22 twin-seats Fitter. But all eyes and ' hearts ' were turned towards the Su-27/30s flightline flanked by a support IL-76, as the afternoon sun disappeared and the sky was starting to threaten the event with big grey clouds. The Russian Knights. Wow... Incredible... How many - few - times have I seen them apart from the Moscow show ?

 

 

Then what a pure airshow it was to be in the afternoon. Well it seems that the Illmavoimat school guys know quite well how to attract the rare and unusual machines... It was a ' sunny intervals ' sky. Let's say it was just fine to watch a local Hornet ' bad weather ' type fine display, the Midnight Hawks, and a Border Guards Do-228. Then a Su-27 took off alone and scratched the sky with a few perfect tailslides, superd passes with afterburners. And it was all like if its pilot Col Katchenko - the Knights leader - was condemned by ropes of water suddenly falling... Nothing stopped this tight display that was one of the best solo Flanker performance I have experienced for the last ten years. But for once the floods did not stop neither Katchenko to fly nor myself to shutter my Nikon D-200 with my lens facing the strange afteburners that are not the same colour on both engines : one is always bluish, and the second one yelow like a huge candle. Everybody runned into the main hangar to save a lunch, though for me it was the first time I would have lost a Nikon into the waters for a Flanker's eyes only.

 

Then a Finnish officer confessed in my ear : ' you will see that all this ropes will go away , and that a clear blu sky will follow ', as the Flanker parked into the flooded tarmac. He pointed out that as a local inhabitant himself, he never had experienced rain for a Midnight Sun night. At five in the afternoon, incredible hot light inhabited the base sky as the sun pierced the clouds. The afternoon display started again. It included a Fouga Magister, Jyrki Laukkanen Pitts Special S-1, Raimo Nikkanen flying a CAP-231, Petteri Tarma flying a CAP-232, famous Sami Kontio Ultimate, Tapio Pitkänen Dornier, a Border Guard Agusta Bell 412, one Border Guard Vinka solo, one FIAF Hawk solo, FIAF two powered paraglider with one hang glider. It was ashame that Pauli Perttula's Gloster Gauntlet missed the event as strong winds crossing Finland during previous days prevented this piece of history to cross the country and join Kauhava.

 

But nothing else would match the five Russian Knights Flankers piercing the deep blue sky in a perfect formation. This is the heaviest aerobatic team in the world given the five Flankers wingspan. For that reason when it happens that they fly with landing gears extended over the public faces then a kind of black shadow is fastly hidding the sun.
I have discovered that Finland is cheap to travel in, if you compare that country to Norway or Sweden. Only the flight from Paris to Vaasa via Stockolm cost a mere 1000.00 Euros big banknote. All in all I calculated that the full journey to Finland had cost me 1400,00 Euros. Remember that the Russian Knights filled the full flying display nearly alone. Suffice to say that each of the five Su-27 Flanker did cost me no less than 280,00 Euros for shooting it, when I assume the complete team cost 1400,00 Euros for my photo files journey. So let me point out that had I have to spend more to photograph these five huge jets in the future I would do it again.

 

' Suffice to say that each of the five Su-27 Flanker did cost me no less than 280,00 Euros for shooting it (...)  I would do it again '.

 

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