Flygfesten, Dala Jarna


Team GB!
Click to Enlarge

Flying Flea
Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

SAAB's Jets!
Click to Enlarge

International Jets
Click to Enlarge



Sweden is home to a number of airshows each summer. One of the most highly regarded is Flygfesten held at the small Dala-Jarna airfield in the Vansbro municipality 300km north west of Stockholm. The show has a rich history and has hosted some of the world's most famous display teams such as the Royal Air Force Red Arrows and the Swedish Air Force's Team 60. The show is only held every three to four years and is one of Europe's top air events. Paul Johnson/Flightline UK  was lucky enough to join the Swift Aerobatic Display Team for the trip north. Photography copyright of the Author.

Away from the  flying...

Flygfesten has to be one of the most friendly airshows we've been to and it certainly seems very popular amongst the British display crews that have appeared here. As well as the fine flying displays, both Friday and Saturday evening saw concerts on a main stage and one of the hangers. Headlining the whole event were Swedish tribute band P-Floyd who put on a superb performance under the Scandinavian night skies. Elsewhere, another Swedish band, Face84, were providing music for a hanger dance.

As with British airshows, much of the showground was given over to traders as well as exhibits from the military. One stall that really caught the eye was an aviation collectors stall. The owners van had signatures from all the aircrews that had performed at Dala Jarna.

The club house was the hub for the operation. Each morning, show organiser Kjell Dalsheim gave the display briefing and more importantly, it was where the aircrews were fed!

Dala Jarna airfield occupies a clearing in the extensive untamed forests and lakes that characterise the Vansbro municipality. Sporting events are hugely popular in the region with fishing, white water rafting and swimming being amongst the favourites which is unsurprising considering the rugged scenery you pass on the way to Dala Jarna. The town of Dala Jarna can trace it's history back to the stone age but today is centred around agriculture with some very large and modern industrial farms. One unusual landmark in the town is a "scale" model of the Eiffel tower! One thing that is hard to avoid and we've never forget though was the local mosquito population. They had just arrived in time for the airshow and the somewhat damp conditions in the evenings just encouraged them!!

The airfield at Dala Jarna is home to Västerdalarnas Flygklubb which offers powered flying and gliding to the local community. Flygfesten (literally "Air Festival") started in 1946 to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the club. The club house has all manner of photos on the walls showing the festival's history with exciting formations of SAAB Drakens as well as those all important international acts. More recent years have seen the cream of the European airshow scene appear alongside their Swedish hosts. Amongst some high profile acts to appear at the show in recent times have been our own Red Arrows, the Harrier GR7 and the Dutch F-16 as well as all manner of Scandinavian based acts.

As well as a large fly-in and air displays, Flygfesten has always included evening musical entertainment from top Swedish artists. 2009 saw P-Floyd headline the main stage. They are a Swedish Pink Floyd tribute act with a tremendous following and what music could be more apt for an airshow? Other acts performed in one of the hangers while there was a full fun fair set up around the other buildings. Even at 11pm, the locals were still coming onto the site to share in the festivities which are a highlight of the year for the locals.

The airfield lends itself perfectly for the airshows. A drainage ditch runs parallel with much of the runway and the raised levee provides the perfect spectator areas almost looking down on to the runway. In a broad sense, the show is similar to the UK's Biggin Hill Air Fair in that it's contains a huge variation of modern military, warbird and civilian display acts from right across Europe. The airfield though is very small which meands many of the larger and faster types operate from remote airfields such as Borlanga. However, the small airfield does means that everything seems much more intimate with an over flowing and impressive flightline of visiting and display aircraft that we simply never see at UK shows.

One thing that immediately caught the eye on arrival was the number of British display acts at the show - it was almost like home from home! The Aerostars have visited the show before with their six Yak-50s but in 2009 they were taking in a mini tour of the Scandinavian airshows which included excursions into Latvia and Norway. Another UK aircraft touring Scandinavia was the Plane Sailing Catalina. The "Cat" was spending a fair chunk of August touring a number of different airshows as well as the fresh water lakes. The large amphibian was a particularly spectacular performer operating from the relatively small airfield. On the final day of Flygfesten, the Catalina joined up with the locally based DC-3 Dakota for an interesting tailchase of the heavier piston engined aircraft at the show. The Dakota was used aa a drop ship for a team of parachutists as well as giving a very impressive solo display.

At the opposite end of the scale to the Catalina and Dakota was Bob Grimstead's Fornier RF4D "Redhawk." Bob had transited the slow flying motorglider all the way from the UK across Denmark and much of Sweden. Bob's display is very reminiscent of the old Skyhawks displays and Bob is looking to form a duo of these wonderful old motorgliders for next year.  Staying with the UK and "gliding theme" the Swift Aerobatic DIsplay Team made the long trek out to Sweden. Like Bob Grimstead, Peter Wells transited his new SA1100 Twister G-RIOT from it UK base to Sweden via a night stop at the Silence Aircraft factory in Germany while the S-1 Swift wastrailered in by road.  They were joined by Dala Jarna's local PA25 Pawnee flown by pilot Jonas Larsson who had to quickly learn the somewhat unorthodox aerotowing section of the team's display. Once released, Guy Westgate gave a stunning routine of unlimited glider aerobatics.

Michael Carlson

Michael Carlson is well known in the UK for his displays in his Bleriots and the Tummelisa. However, at Flygfesten we were treated to displays by two other types from his stable. The Piper L4 Cub may not sound exciting, but the manner in which Michael displayed it certainly was. We certainly haven't seen half cubans, loops and the wingtip scrapping the runway at UK shows before. Just as spectacular was his later display in his Fokker Triplane. Michael's triplane has an authentic rotary engine yet his display was just as energetic as that in the Cub!

Yet more gliding came courtesy of Johan Gustafsson flying a Pilatus B4 glider. Johan won the "Sportsman" glider aerobatics class in the Swedish competitions in 2008 and put on a fine display  Other local aerobatic talent included an unusual pairing of a Yak-55 and a Zlin 526F in a team called the Nordic Acroflyers. At Dala Jarna, the team performed to live music from band P-Floyd.

But the show of the day had to be that given by Lithuanian ace Jurgis Kairys. Jurgis is famous throughout the world for his aerobatic feats and his display at Dala Jarna didn't disappoint with an eye-popping 21 flat spins and some impressive low side slip and inverted passes!

An unusual display item was a BAE Systems Jetstream 32 from the Directflyg airline. Jetstreams are slowly dwindling in numbers but it still proves a valuable asset linking several of Scandinavia's smaller airports. The United States Air Force also contributed to the transport theme with a number of fly-bys from a Ramstein based C-130J Hercules II. Though Dala Jarna is not too small for a Hercules, the confined space meant that the Hercules was one of the aircraft operating from Borlanga airfield.

Sweden has a thriving vintage aircraft scene. One of the most unusual displays was given by a trio of biplane trainers; a Boeing Stearman and a pair of Tiger Moths flown by Kenneth Ohm, Henrik Lundh and Per Cederqvist. After a few formation passes. the formation broke with one of the Tiger Moths flying solo. To open his solo display, Per caught the attention of the crowd by playing the bugle while flying a slow pass down the crowd line before performing some aerobatics!!

The warbird population in Sweden has recently seen a massive boost thanks to the Biltema company. Two of their most recent acquisitions put on thrilling displays at Dala Jarna. Biltema's Spitfire XVI  has been seen in the UK as it was restored at Historic Flying Ltd at Duxford before making the trip north. It was joined by a TF-51D Cavalier Mustang which wears a stunning paint scheme very different to other Mustangs currently on the European display circuit. A striking North American T-6 also took part in the flying display. It wore some colourful markings and "Checker Tail" nose-art and produced an impressive amount of smoke during it's aerobatic demonstration.

As well as these familiar shapes, Sweden has it's own, rather unique warbirds. The SAAB B17 dive bomber is just one of those unfamiliar shapes.. The B-17 was designed in the 1930's by ASJA before that was absorbed into the new SAAB company and first flew in 1940. They entered service in 1942 with the Swedish Air Force but retired after just 8 years of service as the jet age started. The example at Dala Jarna is currently the world's only airworthy example and is operated by the Swedish Historic Flight. It has ventured outside of Sweden, notably to Duxford's Flying Legends event in 2005.

Jurgis Kairys

Jurgis Kairys provided the show of the day in his Su-26. Jurgis  has worked with the Sukhoi Design Bureau on the development of the Su26, Su29 and Su31 competition aircraft and has even developed his own bespoke aircraft  - the "Juka." Jurgis specialises in Freestyle Aerobatics and competed at Silverstone later in August during the World Aerobatic Championships in the Freestyle competition.

As well as the fixed wing flying there was plenty of rotary action. The earliest rotary types were represented by a Bell 47 flown by Stig Aggevall. One of the Bell 47's equivalents modern day Swedish Armed Forces is the Agusta Hkp15 (A109) which gave a particularly impressive display coming out of the trees at very low level before giving the crowd a very close up view of this potent helicopter. In complete contrast was a MTO Sport Autogyro which gave quite a startling display of the abilities of these eye-catching aircraft which are hugely popular in Sweden.

If there's one thing that makes Swedish airshows stand out, it's the classic jets that operate from the Country which are often world unique. Opening the main show on Saturday was a very rare Vampire FB6 (J28 Vampire in Swedish service) operated by Team Vampire and resplendent in Swedish Air Force markings from the 1950's. Sunday's show saw a pair of historic SAAB jets open the show. The J29F Tunnan or "Flying Barrel" is certainly a unique shape in the sky. Powered by a reheated De Havilland Ghost engine, the J29 was the only Swedish Air Force aircraft to see combat under the auspices of the United Nations in Congo during the early 1960's. The aircraft at Flygfesten is the world's only airworthy example having been restored by F10 of the Swedish Air Force. Joining it was the equally unique shape of the J32B Lansen. The Lansen was a later SAAB Fighter that saw long service with the Swedish Air Force from 1955 until the early 1990's. The example flying at Flyfesten is one of two kept on for taking high altitude air samples. Indeed it was air sampling flights by the Lansen that gave the first indications of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

The most modern SAAB Fighter was also on show. The JAS-39C/D Gripen solo from the Swedish Air Force put on a powerful display each day at Dala Jarna highlighting just how far the often futuristic SAAB designs have come in 60 years. As well as the Gripen there was further fast jet action from the Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16AM Fighting Falcon demo team. Ralph "Sheik" Aarts putting on a couple of superb shows under the dramatic Swedish cloudscape. The show was closed on both days by the Breitling Jet Team lead by Jaques Bothelin. The Breitling Team are always impressive performers and a fitting finale to a great airshow.

Flyfesten more than exceeded my expectations. Few other airshow combine such a variety of flying, good entertainment and one of the most friendly atmospheres at any airshow I've experienced. If you get the chance to visit the next Flygfesten, do so!

Thanks to Guy Westgate and Peter Wells for making this report possible

Click to Enlarge

Rotary Delight
Click to Enlarge

The Heavies
Click to Enlarge

Piston Power
Click to Enlarge

Scandinavian Aeros
Click to Enlarge

Tail end Charlie
Click to Enlarge


>>Click Here for Airshow Previews and Reviews

>>Click Here to Return to Homepage


copyright © Flightline UK