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Category Archives: European Airshow Council

AIRSHOW NEWS: Gilbert Buekenberghs receives ICAS award

Gilbert Buekenberghs, Director of the International Sanicole Airshow in Belgium, has received a special award in Las Vegas at the International Council of Shows Convention.

During the annual Convention of the International Council of Air Shows (, which was held in Las Vegas, Gilbert Buekenberghs received the ‘special achievement award’ from ICAS ‘ President Judy Wily. This prize is awarded to exceptional personalities from the airshow world for their special contribution.

Gilbert Buekenberghs receives this award because of his commitment in turning the small International Sanicole Airshow into one of the main annual European Airshows and for bringing together participants, organisers and governmental bodies from across the globe to exchange and discuss best practices, stimulating professionalism and safety at airshows. Gilbert Buekenberghs is the founding chairman of the European Airshow Council ( As chairman of the European Airshow Council he has developed a close cooperation with the International Council of Air Shows, which focuses more on the North American airshows.

In Belgium Gilbert Buekenberghs is best known for the annual International Sanicole Airshow in Hechtel which he organized for the first time 37 years ago. “It’s a great honour to receive this award. At the same time, it is also recognition for the many volunteers who contributed to the success of the International Sanicole Airshow.” says Gilbert.

In 2014, the team behind the International Sanicole Airshow will support the task force of the air force base of Kleine Brogel to organise the Belgian Air Force Days ( which will be held at the air force base of Kleine Brogel on 13 and 14 September 2014. In September 2015 there will be a traditional International Sanicole Airshow.

EDITOR’S BLOG: The cancellation of Festa al Cel 2013

I was saddened to hear of late cancellation of Barcelona’s Festa al Cel event last week, particularly as Flightline UK was due to cover the event for a third time after two very enjoyable trips in 2010 and 2011. Despite Spain’s difficulties, Festa al Cel had weathered a difficult year in 2012 and was looking forward to producing what promised to be a very exciting line-up this year featuring Patrulla Aguila, the Turkish Air Force F-16C SoloTurk as well as a superb mix of civilian displays from across Spain and Europe. Sadly the tale of the event’s cancellation has very little to with the usual struggle for money which blights many airshows. Instead the airshow has been a victim of some very unusual bureaucracy on the part of the Spanish Airport operators.

Barcelona is one of the world’s great destinations for holidays and short breaks. It is a wonderful city set on the Mediterranean coast with some stunning architecture old and new, a superb buzz and night-life in the city plus long sandy beaches. All that made it a stunning location for visitors and airshow participants alike who came to Festa al Cel from across Europe and beyond.

Festa al Cel always presented an incredible mix of displays covering all facets of aviation and from many different European countries. Just taking a snapshot from the last three years there were displays from La Patrouille de France, Patrouille Suisse, Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16AM Fighting Falcon, Belgian Air Component F-16AM Fighting Falcon, French Air Force Alpha Jet as well as the Spanish Air Force with its EF-18A Hornet, SAR SA330 Puma, CL215T Firebomber, Patrulla Paracaidista del Ejécito del Aire (PAPEA) , Patrulla ASPA and of course Patrulla Aguila – and that’s just the military. Civilian items were just as international; from France came the Breitling Jet Team and warbirds like the Supermarine Spitfire XIV, P-51D Mustang, Yak-3, AJBS’s Harvard based Zero and UK based items have included the GliderFX Team, SWIP Team and Breitling Wingwalkers. In 2011 Russian aerobatic aces Svetlana Kapina and Victor Chamal also wowed the crowds. There were also the Spanish display items – the local civilian fire-fighters showed off their Air Tractor Water-bombers, the Fundació Parc Aeronàutic de Catalunya showed off its impressive collection which includes the Super Seata classic jets and the local aero-clubs and Flying schools also provided some very unique flypasts along the seafront. Even airliners such as the Lufthansa A380 and Vueling A320 have appeared at the show. It really has become a true carnival of aviation and does a lot to promote spanish aviation with the small showground near the Olympic Park. The event has also regularly featured on live national television and really was seen as a major event in the region. In 2009, the event was combined with the Red Bull Air Race World Series and the round saw Paul Bonhomme take his first Championship in-front of 1.2million spectators over the two days of competition!

The cancellation of the event is a result of opposition from AENA, Spain’s public body operating several Airports. Not only has AENA made it impossible to run Festa Al Cel this year, but has also forced the cancellation of the Open Day at Sabedell Airport which is home to a number of historic aircraft which form Fundació Parc Aeronàutic de Catalunya. The Open Day usually coincides with Festa al Cel allowing visitors to view FPAC’s wonderful collection and a number of the visiting participating aircraft up close. AENA have cited airspace and environmental concerns in their opposition to the running of Festa al Cel but the cancellation of essentially a public open day with a STATIC display of aircraft seems to suggest AENA are trying to stem any sort of protest to the cancellation of the main airshow.

2013 would have been the 22nd Festa al Cel. The organisers are all highly experienced in running an international air display safely within the constraints of Barcelona’s airspace. Display crews were always well briefed on all the airspace constraints and the safe routes to and from their operating airport. It is very hard to see from the outside why AENA have forced the cancellation event considering the years of experience there have been running the event prior to 2013. Every year sees some changes to airports whether they have expanded or changed procedures but in reality there have been no changes that could not have been worked through between AENA and Festa al Cel to ensure the continued, safe running of one of Europe’s top airshows.

I do hope Festa al Cel’s organisers will be able to resurrect the event for 2014 and that there will be plenty of support for the event’s return both from within Barcelona and Spain and from the wider European AIrshow community. Considering the event had the backing from the City of Barcelona and various participants, it is a great shame the 2013 event has been lost to harsh and perhaps ill-informed decision making.

AIRSHOW NEWS: United States Air Force cuts aviation support at public events

3/1/2013 – WASHINGTON (AFNS) — As the Air Force braces for potential sequester, leadership has cancelled all aviation support to public events for at least the remainder of the fiscal year and is standing down the Thunderbirds aerial demonstration team to save flying hours to support readiness needs.

Effective today, active-duty, Reserve and Guard units will cease all aviation support to the public. This includes the cancellation of support to all air shows, tradeshows, flyovers (including funerals and military graduations), orientation flights, heritage flights, F-22 demonstration flights and open houses, unless the event includes only local static assets.

Additionally, the Air Force will cancel the Thunderbirds’ entire 2013 season beginning April 1.

The Thunderbirds and Heritage Flight crews will complete their certification procedures for safely flying aerial demonstrations in case the budget allows resumption of scheduled events in 2013, but the Air Force will cease participation in Heritage flights following certification.

The Air Force will reduce flying hours by as much as 18 percent — approximately 203,000 hours — and impacts will be felt across the service and directly affect operational and training missions.

“While we will protect flying operations in Afghanistan and other contingency areas, nuclear deterrence and initial flight training, roughly two-thirds of our active-duty combat Air Force units will curtail home station training,” said Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III.

Since all aerial support to public and military events is flown at no additional cost to the taxpayer using allotted training hours, the Air Force had no choice but to cancel support to these events.

“Engaging with the public is a core Air Force mission and communicating and connecting with the public is more important today than ever before. However, faced with deep budget cuts, we have no choice but to stop public aviation support,” said Brig. Gen. Les Kodlick, the director of Air Force Public Affairs. “The Air Force will reevaluate the program at the end of the fiscal year and look for ways to curtail the program without having to cancel aviation support altogether.”

The Air Force will continue to seek additional ways to remain engaged with the American public.

AIRSHOW NEWS: Spitfire MH434 to visit Malta

OFMC Spitfire LFIXB MH434

OFMC Spitfire LFIXB MH434

The Old Flying Machine Company’s Spitfire LF IXB MH434 will be flying out to the Malta International Airshow this year. It is a very big anniversary year for Malta; 70 years ago the George Cross medal for Gallantry was awarded to the people of Malta for heroism shown on the ground during the dark days of the Second World War.

The visit to Malta has been spearheaded by the Malta Aviation Society and will no doubt spark memories of 2005 and the Merlins over Malta project that saw the Historic Aircraft Collections Spitfire Vb and Hurricane XII visit the island. The Spitfire is an iconic aircraft to the Maltese as the RAF fighters helped break the siege of Malta by German Forces in 1942.

Thanks to Ian Sheeley of TSA Consulting

BADA off to a flying start!

Leading figures from the UK aviation and airshow industries met in Gloucestershire this month to launch the British Air Display Association (BADA).

The association, which announced an initial membership of 82, aims to be the focal point for developing and encouraging safe practices as well as promoting the industry to those involved in staging airshows, including display pilots, organisers, and authorities such as the Civil Aviation Authority and the Military Aviation Authority.

Held at the headquarters of the Royal International Air Tattoo in Fairford, the inaugural meeting saw the election of a committee to run the association. It comprises: Acting Chairman Ian Sheeley; Acting Vice Chairman George Bacon; Secretary Robert Windsor; Treasurer Colin Hitchins and committee members Geoff Brindle, Rod Dean, Dave Walton, John Davies, Rick Peacock-Edwards and Glen Moreman.

Ian Sheeley said: “the inaugural meeting was a great way to launch this new national association with an encouraging number of members present. The new committee provides a wealth of experience that will help BADA get off to a flying start”.

He added: “The key thing now is to maintain the momentum, and the first issue we’ll be looking at relates to airspace restrictions associated with the London Olympics next year and their effect on the airshow business – that’ll be receiving a great deal of our attention. The launch of BADA is an exciting development for the UK airshow industry and I’m looking forward to working with the rest of the committee and our members to build for the future.”

European Airshow Council Convention 2009

EAC Convenion 2009

EAC Convention 2009

From Thursday March 5th to Saturday March 7th the European Airshow Council organized its 14th Annual Convention in Hasselt (Belgium). With around 50 new delegates out of a total of 150 delegates from a large variety of countries the airshow industries once more showed that the EAC Convention is the first big rendezvous of the year in the European Airshow circuit.


During this years’ EAC Convention all interested in the Airshow Industry, including Military and Civil Aviation Authorities, Performers, Organisers and Aerobatic Team representatives as well as Commentators and Journalists gathered in order to discuss standards of safety and excellence in the Airshow Industry. Participants from around the globe took advantage of the excellent networking opportunities offered by the EAC Convention. With delegates from across Europe and countries such as Argentina, Jordan and the West Coast of the USA, as well as a representative from the European Commission and the President of the International Council of Airshows (ICAS) the international scope of the EAC Convention was once more reaffirmed.

During this years’ Convention the airshow industry celebrated the 100th anniversary of the first airshow which took place in Reims (France) in 2009. Pierre-Alain Antoine (FR) remembered the early years of the airshow industry in the beginning of 20th century. Back in 1909 over a million spectators saw an air display in which only 18 planes participated. Mr Diego Canga-Fano (Spain – Deputy Head of the Cabinet of Antonio Tajani, Vice-President of the European Commission Responsible for Transport) looked into the pan-European challenges for the civil aviation in the near future.

In the key-note speech General Buyse (Chief of Operations and Training of the Belgian Armed Forces) elaborated upon the continued importance of airshows for recruitment purposes. “ In order to be able to fulfil this task airshow organisers need to be creative and need to be able to build bridges between civil and military participants and authorities”, General Buyse said. Today armed forces are deployed in various missions abroad. Therefore, an airshow not only offers an excellent opportunity to show the capabilities of the armed forces but also to show the tactics involved in operational missions.


With the Role Display the RAF created a new and dramatic kind of display showing in a superb way how to integrate operational tactics in an air display in combination with ground troops and pyrotechnics while ensuring that the flight safety was not compromised. Sqn Ldr Andy Pawsey who is considered to be the architect of the RAF Role Display was awarded the Paul Bowen Trophy by a unanimous vote from the multinational Board members of the EAC. Riyad Ayyoub (Chief of maintenance and engineering of the Royal Jordanian Falcons) on the other hand was awarded the prestigious Chairman’s award for his continuous contributions to the airshow industry during the past 25 years.

EAC COnvention 2009

EAC Convention 2009


Safety always has been one of the key missions of the EAC. In that respect the tone was set by an excellent presentation by John Cudahy (USA – Chairman of ICAS) who elaborated upon ICAS’ efforts to change the culture of air safety in the USA. James Black (UK) updated the participants on pan-European regulations and standardisations related to the aviation industry, which also includes airshows. On the same topic but from a somewhat different angle Dr Steve Jarvis (UK – Cranfield University) provided some psychological insights into how the mental workload of display pilots can rise to a level that it interferes with situation awareness.

Other new opportunities were discussed by Nigel Lamb (UK) and Chris Norton (UK). In their presentations the former drew on his extensive personal experience to describe the challenges of air racing and the latter outlined innovative marketing and sponsorship strategies behind the Blades Aerobatic Team. In their presentation Hans Rahmann (Germany) and Gerhard Fahnenbruck (Germany) of Stiftung Mayday (Mayday Foundation) discussed their efforts to provide post-incident stress management for pilots.

The range of subjects discussed was fascinating; delegates were challenged by other speakers who spoke of the challenges of designing and performing safe displays in the F-16, and the emerging requirements to combat noise limitations as well as carbon emissions at airshows. There was much to discuss and many ideas to take home to the 23 countries represented at the Convention.

This year’s EAC Convention attracted skilled speakers and excellent presentations and has been very successful. The large number of new delegates from across the airshow Industry has underlined the need for an international body that, together with ICAS, can take the lead in further improving the Airshow Industry.

European Airshow Council Convention 2008

From Thursday February 21st to Saturday February 23rd the European Airshow Council organized its 13th Annual Convention in Hasselt (Belgium). With 150 delegates representing 25 countries the airshow industries expresses its appreciation for EAC’s efforts in achieving its fundamental objective to promote excellence and safety at airshows.

During the annual EAC Convention all interested in the Airshow Industry, including Military and Civil Aviation Authorities, Performers, Organisers and National Aerobatic Team representatives as well as Commentators and Journalists gather in order to discus standards of excellence in the Airshow Industry. At the same time the EAC Convention offers excellent networking opportunities for all involved. With 150 delegates from across Europe and countries such as South-Africa, Qatar, Al-Ain, Jordan and USA the number of delegates increased with well over 40% since last year while the number of countries that was represented increased with about 25%. These numbers show the success and international character of EAC’s Convention.

The theme for this Convention was “Too many accidents in 2007 – How do we improve the safety of the Display Pilot?”. Under the expert chairmanship of Major General Des Barker (S-Africa) and Dr David Stevenson (UK) a lively pre-Convention Seminar was organised on Thursday afternoon. Through presentations and discussions various contributory factors to airshow accidents were touched upon.

Various speakers of the Seminar or the Convention elaborated upon factors that contributed to incidents and accidents such as Safety Briefings, Fatigue and Stress at an airshow, G-LOC during display, distraction of display pilots, displaying vintage aircrafts, the introduction of a new aerobatic aeroplane, uniform display regulations and the role of a Display Inspector. Not only have these factors been analysed based upon incidents and accidents that occurred over the past few years, through discussions and a forum session, in which all delegates participated, suggestions and recommendations were made for the future.

Several delegates recognised EAC’s leading role in setting, developing and updating Joint Aviation Authority Guidelines. In that respect delegates called upon EAC to continue making steady progress in its efforts of being recognised in this debate by European Union bodies. It is believed that such Joint Aviation Authority Guidelines can contribute to decreasing the number of incidents involved in Airshows.

During the traditional Aviation Dinner at AeroClub Sanicole on Friday evening the Red Bull Air Races (represented by Mr Heinz Möller) received the Paul Bowen Award, while Mr Jacques Bothelin (leader Breitling Jet Team) received the the chairman’s Trophy for his lifetime airshow achievements. Also awarded that evening were the prizes for the best publicity material by an organiser and by a performer, as judged by an international group of delegates!

This years EAC Convention brought skilled speakers and excellent presentations and has been very successful. The increasing number of delegates from across the Airshow Industry underlines the need of an international body that together with ICASS takes the lead in further improving the Airshow Industry. We already look forward to an exciting and safe 2008 airshow season.



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