AirPower Zeltweg 2016
In September 2016, one of the biggest aviation events in Europe was held in the Austrian state of Styria. In this state lies the Zeltweg Air Base and this was the home of the AirPower 2016 air show during the first weekend of September 2016. AirPower 2016 was organized by the Austrian Armed Forces in cooperation with the region of Steiermark and the Austrian energy drink Red Bull. While Steiermark promoted their beautiful region during this huge aviation event for national and international tourism, the Austrian Armed Forces showed its strenght and capabilities. Zeltweg Air Base is the main airfield of the Austrian Air Force and along the years it was home to a lot of different types of aircraft. Some of them are possible to visit at hangar 8 in which the Militärluftfahrtmuseum Zeltweg is located. AirPower Zeltweg 2016 welcomed around 300 000 visitors on two days and around 240 aircraft from 20 countries took part in the varied static and flying displays. The cost of this impressive event was about 3.75 million euros.
The Austrian Air Force showed its capabilities to the audience with an impressive air power demonstration. During this demonstration a group of people was held hostage by 'terrorists'. During the first phase of the demonstration a small group of Austrian special forces landed at the airfield after which a large formation of helicopters from the Austrian Air Force flew to the airfield. This impressive formation consisted of Bell OH-58 'Kiowa', Agusta-Bell AB214, Aérospatiale Alouette III and Sikorsky S70 'Black Hawk' helicopters. After the hostages were freed by the Austrian special forces, they were picked up by Aérospatiale Alouette III helicopters and the 'terrorists' were eliminated by the special forces and armed Bell OH-58 Kiowa helicopters. Once this military rescue mission was over, an unknown aircraft entered the Austrian airspace which led to the QRA being called in to intercept this possible invader. The Austrian QRA consisted of two Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets that quickly forced the unknown aircraft to land. After this QRA-demonstration one of the Eurofighter Typhoons also performed a solo display.
Another highlight during the AirPower Zeltweg 2016 airshow was the historic formation flight. Especially for this unique formation flight, the Austrian Air Force gathered all the jets that have ever been part of the Austrian Air Force. The group of jets participating in this historic formation flight consisted of a de Havilland Vampire, a Fouga CM170 Magister, a Saab 29 Tunnan, a Saab 105, a Saab J35 Draken, a Northrop F5E Tiger II and a Eurofighter Typhoon. In addition to the historic formation flight, the large crowd could also enjoy the flying skills of other old aircraft such as the Messerschmitt Me262A-1c from Germany and the Fokker D.VII biplane that was used during World War I as a fighter aircraft. Aircraft and helicopters that were part of the static part of the AirPower Zeltweg 2016 included a Boeing CH-47D Chinook helicopter of the Royal Netherlands Air Force, an AeroL-159 ALCA trainer jet of the Czech Air Force, an AgustaWestland AW101 helicopter of the British Royal Navy, several Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets of the German Air Force and the Royal Air Force and a Boeing E-3 Sentry AWACS aircraft.
Since Red Bull was ons of the major sponsors of the AirPower Zeltweg 2016 event, there were numerous aircraft and helicopters present from the famous Flying Bulls. Some of the most beautiful demonstrations of the Flying Bulls during this weekend were those of the rare Bristol 171 Sycamore helicopter, the Bell AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter, the Douglas DC-6B transport aircraft, the Vought F4U Corsair World War II fighter and the Alpja Jet trainer jets. The demonstration of the Bristol 171 Sycamore was a unique moment as this is the only existing example of its type in the world that is still capable of flying. In addition to aircraft and helicopters of the Austrian Air Force and the Flying Bulls, the crowd could also enjoy several other impressive demonstrations of fighter jets such as the Mikoyan-Gurevitch MiG-29 from the Polish Air Force, the Dassault Rafale from the French Air Force and the Saab JAS 39C Gripen from the Czech Air Force. And of course an air show is not complete if there are no formation teams participating. This was also the case at the AirPower Zeltweg 2016 as famous formation teams such as Patrouille de France from France, Patrulla Aguila from Spain, PC-7 Team from Switzerland and Frecce Tricolori from Italy were present and gave beautiful shows with the Austrian mountains in the background.
Text & photos: Kris Christiaens