Andreas Zeitler reports.
France’s premier air show is held each year at Cerny aerodrome, close to the picturesque town of La Ferté-Alais, just a short distance from Paris. On clear days you can see the Eiffel tower from the plateau where this French vintage aviation haven lies. The event itself takes place during the weekend of Pentecost, fifty days after Easter, and thus the date for any given year varies between mid-May and mid-June. This year the “Le temps des helices”, or “The time of propellers” as the show is affectionately known, took place over the weekend of May 14th/15th. However, the weather felt more like April and clearly challenged the organizers. Temperatures were decidedly chilly at around 10°C (50°F) and a northern crosswind over the runway, blasted straight into visitors’ faces along the fence line. On the Friday practice show, thunderstorms made an appearance, with rain, and even a little hail peppering the airfield. These inclement weather conditions unfortunately prevented the attendance of some participants further afield. The Swiss-based TBM-3 Avenger and Morane MS.406 were two such much-missed warbirds this year, especially as the announced naval Avenger/Catalina and French MS.406/Hawk 75 formations had received significant billing. Thankfully, The Fighter Collection’s Duxford-based Curtiss Hawk 75 and Spitfire Mk.V arrived several days earlier, wisely choosing the more favorable weather conditions available at that time. Fortunately the storms stayed away over the weekend, but the damage had already been done as the airfield’s grass runway was already sodden from previous days of rain. This further hampered flight operations for the heavier aircraft. As an example, Christophe Jacquard’s Hawker Fury and Douglas Skyraider arrived from the southern France after Saturday’s flying display ended, but the pilot’s elected not to fly on Sunday because of the precarious runway conditions.
Nevertheless the locally-based Amicale Jean Baptiste Salis collection came up with a diversified flying program from 1pm until well after half past six on Saturday. It spanned the whole history of flight, from the early days of Blériot up to modern military jets. There was a strong participation from the Securité Civile and the French military, which usually uses the La Ferté air show to open the new season for the Patrouille de France and the Rafale jet fighter solo display. A fly-by of a Corsair International Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet celebrated the airline’s 35th anniversary and 100 years of the American aircraft manufacturer. This reflected upon the legendary airliner displays at the airfield during the 1980s, such as the Concorde fly-by in this video VIDEO HERE TO POST AFTER though present day regulations prevent them flying so close to the public. With an interesting contrast in scale, a Boeing Stearman flew just after the Jumbo had cleared the scene and left behind a fascinated crowd.
Sunday was the best day of the weekend, with a smooth flying program and in clearly better weather. After the opening ceremony, which remembered the late French warbird and flying legend, Marc ‘Leon’ Mathis with a Zlin missing-man formation followed by a minute’s silence, the show started with the French Air Force Dassault Rafale demonstration. Further flying covered all eras of flight, interrupted by several aerobatic acts. The cool-looking Caudron G-III and venerable Spad XIII of the Memorial Flight represented WWI aviation. 1930’s US air travel returned to life with a stunning formation of a Lockheed Electra Junior and Beech 12 taking to the air.
The classic warbird flying, always the crowd’s favorite, this year included amongst a German element with the locally-based Junkers Ju-52 flying alongside a Swiss Ju-Air example with a Bücker Bestmann and Fieseler Storch.
France’s Flying Warbirds strengthened the impressive line-up, most notably with a Catalina flying boat, which landed at the airfield on Saturday and performed twice during the weekend. This actual flying boat sank the German submarine U-342 during WWII. France’s Flying Warbirds also brought their P-51D Mustang, Yak-11 and P-40N Warhawk. They put on a great show, even if the sky was rather gray.
For sure the warbird flying will be strengthened next year by the La Ferté-Alais based F4U-5 Corsair of the Casques Cuir. It is currently undergoing restoration which is progressing well. A first engine run already took place and the aircraft looks quite complete. It should be ready the fly in 2017 and will be quite a sight on the grass runway! Thus, though being a bit cold this year, the Amicale Jean Baptiste Salis ‘La Ferté’ air show lived up to its grand expectations. Although missing some aircraft, organizers made up for it with an exciting mix of different aircraft and air show acts. Great food and shopping possibilities further added a great air show weekend. Pentecost next year will be on June 3rd and 4th, so mark those dates in your calendar for the 2017 edition of La Ferté-Alais. Weather should be better then, but the flying will be fantastic as always!
Thanks to Andreas Zeitler of Flying- Wings.com for the article.