Athens Flying Week 2021
Report and photos by George Karavantos
October 26, 2021
After one year of absence due to the Pandemic, the Athens Flying Week air show came back stronger than ever willing to continue its legacy for years to come. George Karavantos reports.
During the first weekend of September, Greece’s biggest air show, the Athens Flying Week, “took off” for one more year from Tanagra Air Base. This year’s show was very similar to previous ones but it definitely showed the persistence and willingness of the organizers to continue its presence despite the difficult years which might keep on coming. After all, Athens Flying Week 2021 was definitely one of the very few airshows which actually did take place despite the Pandemic.
Hellenic Armed Forces
The biggest military supporter of the show is the Hellenic Armed Forces which have supported and will continue to support the show for years to come. For a consecutive year, the Hellenic Air Force gave its strong presence with its two demo teams, the F-16 “Zeus” and the T-6A “Daedalus”. Once again two F-4E Phantom IIs of 338 Squadron flew in from Andravida Air Base to simulate a low altitude airfield attack at Tanagra Air Base, while a Μirage 2000-5 from 331 Squadron (based at Tanagra AB) engaged with a 341 Squadron F-16C Block 50 (from Nea Anghialos AB) and performed a unique choreography of advanced combat manoeuvres for an epic dogfight act. All the above mentioned fighters also performed a low pass over the field before starting their display.
Apart from the fighters, the HAF displayed its other aerial assets: the “life saver” Super Puma, the firefighter CL-415 along with the new basic trainer of the HAF, the Tecnam P-2002JF, which is currently replacing the T-41D.
Among other Hellenic Armed Forces aircraft, Army Aviation participated this year by showing a unique spectacle of a CAS evacuation scenario. During that scenario Army Aviation included all its aerial assets: Apache, Chinook, Kiowa and also Huey! The Hellenic Navy’s S-70 Aegean Hawk provided a navy seal raid demonstration with fast rope insertion.
This year’s dominant appearance was the French Air Force and the long waited debut of the French Rafale over the Greek skies, a fighter that Greece acquired, under an express and highly surprised acquisition program, only a few months ago. Along with the Rafale, was the famous French aerobatic team Patrouille de France which performed their first display during the 2019 show.
The other solo fighter jet display in this year’s program was the wonderfully painted F-16 from the Royal Danish Air Force.
But the real star of the show was the one and only Greek Spitfire Mk.IXc MJ755. MJ755 is the only ex-Hellenic Air Force Spitfire extant and had not flown over Greece since her retirement from military service on December 8th, 1953, so her homecoming gathered significant attention, both domestically and overseas. This legendary aircraft was on display as a gate guard and became later a part of the Hellenic War Museum in Athens, sitting on external display for several decades before her transfer to the newly Hellenic Air Force Museum at Dekeleia in 1995. In 2018 it was decided to become airworthy again. The aircraft was sent to Biggin Hill where other extraordinary British people devoted time and expertise to make this legend fly again. The display of this great aviation monument was the first one over the Greek skies and everybody was thrilled from its unique sound and shape. We really hope to see other relevant attempts become a reality! Well done to everybody involved.
The greater sponsor and civil supporter was and will be Aegean Airlines which continues to offer at every AFW a unique spectacle of civil airliners, something that you don’t see often at other airshows. This year the company showed its brand new A320neo and decided to display it with the help of Zeus team but also with the Saudi Hawks performing unique flypasts during both days of the show.
But the true attraction both in the air but also on the ground was the RSAF! Continuing its strong relation with Greece, this was highlighted under the recent agreement between the two countries for common military trainings. It took form under the first common exercise Falcon Eye-1 and continued with another similar exercise in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis brought two static aircraft, one F-15C and one Tornado, both specially painted for their 90th year anniversary of their Kingdom which took place last year while both days their national demo team “Saudi Hawks” amazed the crowds in a unique display, full of smoke and Arabic music!
As far as we know this strong relationship will continue and already some other events will take place in the following months and we will be there to attend them and give you a unique insight of them…