The below published 22nd January 2014
The story starts as I drive away from Sakhir Air Base for the last time in 2012: banners announce the dates of the 2014 show, 16-18th January. Farnborough are the organising force behind the show. Whilst displaying at Farnborough in 2012, I learned that they gained the contract to put on the BIAS in 2014. Negotiations start for my participation approximately 16 months prior to the show. Terms and contracts are exchanged, bringing me to November 2013 where I disassemble and pack into the container departing 29th November. Approximately 10 days earlier than on previous occasions for what is normally a 3 week voyage. Well guess what? The shipping agent made a mistake, he booked a ship that would not arrive until day 1 of the show. This, I discovered on Monday 6th January when I was due to depart on the 10th. Plan B had to be made in double quick time as it’s unthinkable to let down the organisers of a show, especially when it’s such a big International Air Show and such a privilege to fly at.
So, Plan B was hatched in a few hours and and put into place on Monday morning. Disassemble the 300L, make air freight suitable shipping frames, work out how to load a 26’3″ metres of Extra 300L onto a 20ft pallet. By Tuesday midday this was all done and we awaited the 40ft curtain side lorry to collect and take it to Stansted. That evening we loaded to the pallet, 3 persons taking approximately 2 hours to strap it down securely.
Last item for Tuesday was to buy an airline ticket to Manama, Bahrain. Wednesday dawned, time to pack personal travel bag, then off to LHR for the overnight flight. Arrival in Bahrain is a pleasure compared to ANY UK airport. There is a simple visa application form to fill in, however I had a pr-entered bit of paper. The friendliness of the people here started with the immigration officer whose questions were “you’re here for the airshow then” yes “I remember you from last time ,it’s Capt Mark” then followed by friendly banter.
Then again, a very short walk and you’re ground side where I had a coffee. Whilst seated looking at the presentation screen in the BATELCO shop, I saw myself on screen as part of the promo video for the show.
Next, it’s call the hotel to find a lift as I’m a day early and was not expected. Then, it’s call the hire car company and get that arranged. In the mean time DHL are doing the formalities to customs clear the aircraft after which again the pallet is loaded to a 40ft curtain sided lorry, however this time I’m required to have a police escort with 4 heavily armed black clothed police bringing up the read. Red traffic lights are not an issue and we cruise through heading south to Sakhir arriving at approximately 6:30 PM. I then break the pallet down and put the Extra 300L in the massive hangar for the night.
Friday dawns after a rock solid 8 hrs sleep, breakfast with the Breitling team and it’s head on down to the airbase and start the assembly. Working on my own, as Nick Peel my licenced engineer is only due in the evening and I manage to make the parts look like an aircraft again.
Saturday is a simple task of fitting the rudder and doing the duplicate inspections after which the shell and cowlings are fitted for completion. Paperwork for the aircraft and then fuel and flight permissions, and I’m all set to check fly. Brilliant, such fun to be flying in the Kingdom of Bahrain again. The centre aerobatic tank holds 45 lts fuel. I fly continual aerobatics till the fuel flow meter says I have 11 lts remaining. The Bahrain International race Circuit is below with its twisting and turning track, being a rather hazy day with visibility of approximately 8 km, the city was not visible.
Having the only 2 seat a/c on site the Extra 300L is in much demand as a photo ship.
The first sortie is flown with the Twister team (formally SWIP team) This is predominantly flown over the Bahrain International Circuit. The team reciprocate by mounting cameras on their aircraft to photo the Extra G-JOKR again over the BIC.
Sunday 13th it was the turn of the Breitling wing walkers to be photographed over the Al Durrat Islands in the south. These islands are man made with VIP residences, very pretty looking from the air. With Katsuhiko Tokunaga on board up front he took some stunning pictures, one of which from this shoot was published in the Times. Pilots Martyn Carrington leading with Vic Norman on the wing.
In addition to the photo shoots I also practiced my display. Being used to the 330SC I had to make alterations to the sequence normally flown. I started at 10,000 feet with a smiling face and a heart, diving down at 200 kts with my sequence properly start towards the crowd.
The next big photo shoot was with the DHL team, a pair of Extras each side of the Boeing 757 freighter. Flown by Adrian Willis (Extra 200, port side) and Chris Burkett (Extra 300s, Starboard side) Roger Ware was Captain of the DHL 757. Karl Drage was the photographer on this occasion, joining up with the 757 was easy. He took an orbit at 130 kts then lined up with the runway. The easiest and best way to get the shot was to fly inverted over the formation. Several passes over the show site and the BIC then followed.
At major airshows the organisers require you to validate your flight, this is a requirement as not all countries have a DA system (Display Approval) and it gives the safety committee the opportunity to asses the performance and safety of all acts prior to public displays. Practice flights were observed in the preceding days which resulted in various discussion about the aerodynamics of what I was doing.
Most aviators fly in 2D ie up/ down (pitch) and left/right (roll). I’m different in the sense that I use full 3D space and axes of the aircraft adding huge amounts of yaw and gyroscopics making the aircraft do things that generally have never been seen before by a great number of the audience and in this case the flying control committee (FCC) . It initially does make them rather nervous, but after a few flights they settle I book a validation flight at 11am on the 15th January, just the day before the show. Upon landing I’m advised that I had passed.
I’ve decided that I will open my show with a smiling face at 10,000ft above Sakhir air base. The base has a massive runway, I’m guessing over 3000 meters. From 10,000 feet the whole Kingdom can be seen, Northwards the International airport along with the reclaimed lands and ex-pats housing. Apparently a foreigner cant buy property on the Kingdom but only that which has been reclaimed from the sea. All of which Diyar Al Muharraq is, many of these houses are owned by Saudis as holiday homes. Access is easy from Saudi Arabia as a bridge links the two countries across the King Fahad Causway. The Duratt Islands being the same in the South.
These Durrat Islands proved very popular with every team wanting to go and take a look. The Huawei team (pronounced “who are we”) are very slick at staging a photo shoot. With out doubt some of the best pictures were taken in the south of Bahrain.
ARC from Duxford bought along a Spitfire flown by John Romain. Surprisingly this was a simple aircraft to assemble. Apart from it bulk it appeared easy to manage. Everything fitted in one 40ft container with tools and lifting equipment in a 20ft box.
Durrat Al Bahrain is the largest artificial island in Bahrain after the Amwaj Islands. The US$6 billion project will consist of a series of 15 large artificial islands, covering an area of over 20,000,000 m2 (220,000,000 sq ft) once completed in mid-2015. It will comprise six atolls, five fish-shaped islands and two crescent-shaped islands.
The plans for the finished islands include five-star hotels, a 18-hole golf course, 12 bridges, and a marina The marina will span three of the islands and will cover a land area of approximately 700,000 m2 (7,500,000 sq ft) with a cost of about US$1.3 billion.
Bahrain Air Show (BIAS 2014) is staged in 2 parts. Part 1, in the mornings is to the south end of the runway where the public have various attractions. A heritage village, Vertical wind tunnel, live bands, Air Force helicopters that can be sat in, Model aircraft display, and various static displays. The morning session is all civil aircraft invited for the occasion. My self, John Romain in Spitfire, Peter Wells and Guy Westgate in the twisters put on displays twice per day. This presents quite a busy schedule. Part 2, The Afternoon flying for the VIP’s and trade section of the show starts at 13:00 and ends 16:40. Darkness comes very quickly at this latitude. After dark the Twister team put on a pyrotechnic show.
The “Al Fursan” (The Knights) are the United Arab Emirates Air Force aerobatic display team. The team flies seven Aermacchi MB-339A jet trainer aircraft including one solo. The team has a total of ten aircraft.
The “Al Fursan” aircraft are painted in black, gold, white, red and green colors and are equipped with smoke generators producing red, green, white and black smoke (i.e. the colours of the UAE flag)
The Russians Knights display team in the SU27 made lots of noise for 25 minutes with very close and accurate formation flying. Originally formed on April 5, 1991 at the Kubinka Air Base as a team of six Sukhoi Su-27s
The Kubinka air force base located 60 km west of Moscow is well known both in Russia and abroad. For years, it has been known as the Air Force installation used for demonstrating advanced combat aircraft to national and foreign leaders. Nowadays, Kubinka AFB is known as the best aerobatics school where the Russian Knights and Swifts aerobatics teams are stationed. Meanwhile, Kubinka is a major base of the Russian Air Force in the Moscow region.
With the last display flown the teams start to disassemble there aircraft. Basically by the end of the day after the show aircraft are either in the containers or awaiting to be packed. The Extra 300L needs 6 persons, 3 per side to lift the wing off, all other tasks can be done with 2 persons. I pack my aircraft into the container and secure with 5 tonne straps, shutting the door to be opened all being well in India on the 6th March.