World Air Carnival, China 2015.
After a few days of hard work putting planes together the practice day had finally arrived. The weather had other ideas though as it was raining and the visibility was very poor. However by the time the pilots and crew had had their breakfast and been driven to the huge military airbase, the conditions were improving.
In the capacious hangar the engineers made some last minute checks to the aircraft before they were taxied to the flight line. Phil Massetti flew his Cap 232 to do a final weather check. Luckily it had cleared enough. A four ship team made up of 2 Extra aircraft, flown by Steve Carver and Halim Bin Othman, a Yak 50 flown by Rolandas Paksas and and the Cap 232 flown by Mark Jefferies, took off for some practice and for an air to air photo shoot. Wayne Mansfield, of Aviad demonstrated banner towing with the banner commemorating 70 years since VJ day, the end of World War II.
Before the aircraft were tucked into the hangar for the night there was just enough time for a couple of VIP flights. One brave participant was Siyu Jaing, who is the managing director of the Blue Legend company. A lot of local visitors were very keen to have their pictures taken with the pilots near the planes. At times it made us feel like film stars.
After a really full-on day in high temperatures the team were pleased that a return to the overnight accommodation was imminent. We decided to visit the “Aviation Shop” on the way out of the airport but, rather than being the pilots’ supply shop we expected, it specialised in food and cold beer, with a few aviation related things like quadcopters and model aircraft kits.
The next three days were the air show days. The days all started misty, with a gradual improvement during the mornings. While we waited for the weather to clear, the team had to bring all the aircraft to the flight line, fuel them, check the oil and fill the smoke oil tanks. These tasks had to be well organised to ensure that all 14 aircraft were ready for action as soon as the weather allowed.
During this time the show began with a display of hot air balloons with one, fittingly for China, shaped like a panda. It was a bit too windy for them to be flown, but it was an impressive sight just seeing them on the ground. Wayne Mansfield took off to do some more banner towing, this time advertising Budweiser.
The eight Global Stars took it in turns to fly an unlimited aerobatic sequence with the added excitement of flying between air race pylons. The wind conditions on the first day were not so favourable for pylons either. However, the race went ahead without anything untoward occurring. At the end of his run Mark Jefferies climbed to ten thousand feet and drew one of his famous smiley faces in smoke. On one occasion during the show the Breitling wingwalkers gave up their places on the wings to a couple of VIPs for a flight, one of whom didn’t look so sure about the whole experience. The Yakovlev team, made up of four Yaks put on a very fluid display with a spectacular breakaway manoeuvre. When there were gaps in the flying programme the team’s bagpiping chief engineer Andy McLuskie entertained everyone. After a fantastic four-ship Global Stars display with synchronised dotty smoke there was a balloon popping contest and a pyrotechnic ‘bomb’ courtesy of Mark Jefferies.
On the final day, the teams joined up to form a spectacular 14 ship formation, the biggest civilian formation ever seen in China. The Yakovlevs and the Breitling team led the group and were followed by two teams of four Global Stars. There could not have been a more breathtaking finale to an airshow.