Aviano Open Day, Italy-July7

AFTER A TEN-YEAR gap, the 22nd Aviano Open Day was held on July 7, providing Italian enthusiasts with a unique opportunity to see many interesting and exotic aircraft in their own country. It was hardly any wonder then that some 450,000 people turned up for the event.

Aviano is home to the USAFE’s 31st FW and other units involved in operations over the former Yugoslavia. Since the 1950s it has hosted the largest airshow in Italy which has always been organised by the US units based there. This time they excelled themselves, with more than 50 aircraft in the static display.

The highlight of the show must surely have been the Serbian and Croatian aircraft which were being exhibited abroad for the first time. The former turned up with a Yak-40 and a Super Galeb from the Experimental Unit, which, after its flying display was parked in the static line. The Croatians brought two MiG-21s from 21 Eskadrila, one of which flew, an Mi-24 from 29 Eskadrila and a support An-2.

Among the other static aircraft were various Tornadoes — two German examples from MFG 2 and JBG 33, one Italian from 154° Gruppo, plus one 2 Sqn GR.1B and two 56 Sqn F.3s from the RAF. The F-16 contingent included two from Denmark’s Esk 730, two from Holland’s 313 Sqn and one, of course, from the USAF’s 31st FW, which bore the Wing Commander’s special tail markings.

Other interesting participants were two Portuguese Alpha Jets from Esquadra 103 and two Turkish RF-4Es from 173 Filo, all former Luftwaffe examples still sporting their old green camouflage. Also worthy of note were two MiG-29s from JG 73, two F/A-18Ds from VMFA(AW)-332, two Mirage 2000Ns from EC 2/4 and a Spanish EF/A-18 from the recently-formed Escuadron 153.

The ‘giants’ section featured an Italian G-222, two US KC-135s, a Canadian Aurora, a British AWACS, and three Hercules (one each from the USAF’s 42nd ACCS, Norway’s 335 Skvadron and Spain’s Ala 35) which, like most of the aircraft displayed, were involved in former Yugoslavia operations. Members of the public were particularly attracted to two F-117s from the 8th FS which were making their first visit to Italy. One remained under guard in the static, while the other took part in the flying programme.

Personnel from 31st OSS gave an interesting demonstration of how they loaded and unloaded various missiles and bombs onto an F-16

—a procedure rarely witnessed by the show-going public.

The flying display included performances from four aerobatic teams

—the French Patrouille de France, the Czech Mi-24 team, the Swiss PC-7 team and Italy’s Frecce Tricolori. There were also various solo displays from, among others, a US F-16, F/A-18 and OA-IO, a German Phantom (which stole the show with its levelled roaring takeoff) and Tornado, a Spanish EF/A-18, a Slovenian PC-9, plus an Italian Tornado, AMX, G-222 and NH-500.

And while the crowds were being entertained, fully-armed pairs of EA-6B Prowlers from VMAQ-2 were constantly taking off and landing as they went about their business over former Yugoslavia — proving that nothing interferes with the more serious daily routine of the base.

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