The Alxa Challenge at FB Park.
Takes its name after the nearest town Alashan, some 50 km away. We are in the East side of the Gobi. As with all events in China we need to allow 24 hours travel door to door. Heathrow to Beijing, Immigration, bags collection, check in again for the local onwards flight of between 2- 3 hours is not uncommon.
On this occasion we take the local flight to end up in Yinchuan where we take a hotel for the night prior to a short flight in the morning to Alashan and a bus to the venue. We choose to go direct to the venue to start work, arriving at 12:15 to take lunch.
Starting work on the two Extra at 12:45, 2 teams of 2 persons is just right for assembly. We work constantly to 18:30 which sees both aircraft assembled ready for final inspection and paperwork in the morning. Forward planning we ask for fuel at 10am.
Sure enough we are ready for fuel at 10am…. but, hurry up and wait, we can’t get it till 12pm. Paperwork done, ground runs completed we are brief to fly at 14:00. The allotted time comes and as with all other places in china, the totally deserted desert with the nearest airport 50 km away we are told the all to often term “military activity” . Its stop start till 17:10 when we are finally released to fly. Solo check flights are carried out above 1000ft, this then gives me a chance to view the surrounding area from a-high, drawing a smiley face expressing my feelings . Our next flight we then fly a formation practice.
Day 2, it’s the same story. get to the airfield for 10am and “military activity” prevents flying. Having been flying shows in China since 2011 only once has “military activity” been observed. The remainder of the time it must be down to stealth planes being tested 🙂 Flying does commence late in the day, just 1 1/2 hrs before sunset.
Tom and I have the chance again to practice a formation flight and the evening pyro flight. This is the last flight prior to show day.
The event is primarily a full blown “petrol head” show. Lots of trick cars, trucks, dune buggies etc. Showing of there stuff. Here is just a small collection of photos. After dark, its full party time, street food outlets, music and fireworks. You can select from various accommodation on site. Glamping in a caravan, or a traditional yurt or DIY in a tent.
Our “flying team”. Pilots, engineers and management.
Some amazing action take place during the 5 day event. More than we have time to see. The venue is purpose made and can’t be found at all on Google Earth 2011 pictures. Massive investment has taken place with more to come. The venue is scheduled to have a few hotels built in the next few years. A second large hangar with more airport infrastructure to be built. Looking at the site it seams a large oval track has been laid out also.
To Patty Wagstaff the sky represents adventure, freedom and challenge. A six-time member of the US Aerobatic Team, Patty has won the gold, silver and bronze medals in Olympic-level international aerobatic competition and is the first woman to win the title of US National Aerobatic champion and one of the few people to win it three times.
Patty, one of the world’s top airshow pilots, flies thrilling, low-level aerobatic demonstrations before millions of people each year. Her breathtaking performances give airshow spectators a front-row seat view of the precision and complexity of modern, unlimited hard-core aerobatics. Her smooth aggressive style sets the standard for performers the world over.
My formation leader on this occasion is Tom Cassells. Tommy always dresses to ward of the hoards of mosquitoes that are attracted to him 🙂 Sure enough, even in a desert they find him. Not only that but some sort of camel fly also which has a nasty bite causing swelling in a matter of moments.
This event is quite a long one with 5 days of shows to do. Tom and I fly formo, Patty flies a solo then Tom and I fly a pyro. Patty is with us till the 3rd day, she flies then departs back to the USA. Tom and I plan to share the solo, however I’m taken ill with a tummy issue knocking me out for 24 hours.
Other teams taking part are the AeroSuperBatics team. These guys, Martyn and Dave are good fun. It does take a considerable amount of time for them to assemble the aircraft and post show disassembly however they turn up fully practiced and only need check flights prior to display.
The Pioneers team flying the Alpi Aviation Pioneer. The 4 ship formation flies a nicely choreographed non aerobatic display. The certification category is what causes the non aerobatic flight, however the aircraft is aerobatic!
The Jinyi paramotor team from Hubei province fly twice per day. The daytime flight is with flags training and smoke canisters in a stacked formation. The evening flight is with pyros. very pretty in the sunset.
Wayne Mansfield has his AVIAD Husky here towing the sponsors banner around the site on a couple of occasions per day. Importantly this gives us a camera platform for some exceptional photos taken by Keith Wilson.
So the final days flying was specifically for VIP joy rides of government officials and sponsors along with CCTV broadcast.
We arrange for a 6AM bus to start packing the planes away.Watching the sun rise, work commences at 07:15, we push the planes out to have morning dew settle which then freezes! By 15:15 we have the container doors ready to seal. 8 hours with a tea break and lunch the doors close on this chapter.
All the below images by Keith Wilson.