Over the weekend of the 8th and 9th of June, the skies above the west coast of Sweden were filled with aircraft noise of a different kind when the Gothenburg Aeroshow was staged after a break of 3 years. A number of the AeroResource team attended in search of some Swedish SAAB beauties. Adam Duffield reports.
Situated to the northwest of Gothenburg at the Sӓve airport (now known as Gothenburg City airport), the airshow is held within the grounds of the unique Aeroseum (reviewed by Duncan Monk in a previous AeroResource article) giving visitors access not only to the show but also the wide variety of exhibits held within the underground facility.
With the exception of two display acts, all of the show participants were based from the airport for the weekend and whilst on the ground, were split between two aprons at opposite ends of the showground. Although these areas are essentially on the crowd line giving good viewing, a tall wire mesh fence separates the south westerly apron making that area difficult to photograph. This fence is also present along the entirety of the crowd line and is part of the security in place to separate the Aeroseum from the main airport, and is therefore unavoidable. The north easterly apron however, is only separated from the crowd line by small barriers, thus making it much more accessible for photography.
For those wanting to gain access to the flying aircraft for photos, the only way was via registration for the spotters program. Not only does this give access to some reserved viewing areas (for free), it enables registered people the chance to sign up for a tour of both aprons – one at the start of the day and the other at the conclusion of flying for a small charge of 50 SEK each – approximately £5. The reserved viewing areas are in three locations around the airfield. The most central is a clearing on the side of the hill that overlooks the entire show and is situated behind the flight line. Whilst giving the best overall view, it is situated further away from the displays so difficult for photography with shorter lenses (400mm will not provide a full frame photo for most aircraft from here). The second area, and by far the most popular for photographers is at the most south westerly point next to the taxiway. This area consists of two grass mounds and gives enough elevation to shoot over the fence line for both taxi and takeoff/landing shots as well as being a prime position for the banking turns onto the display axis. The final location is located halfway between the first and the north eastern apron. Essentially it is a flatbed truck with some access ladders to get on. Whilst it provides a few extra feet of elevation, it’s location at the very rear of the crowd line means there is still no chance of shooting aircraft taxiing on the ground due to the fence line. If this location could be moved to the fence line, even if that meant it being further along towards the north east apron, it would provide a much better view and be of more use to photographers.
Aside from these locations, the static display items were mainly limited to small light aircraft from local gliding and flying clubs eager to attract new members. Of particular interest was a Gӧtaverken GV-38 (SE-AHG) – a Swedish license built version of the American Rearwin Sportster. One of 14 ever built and the only flying example in the world, it was built by the Gӧtaverken shipyard in Gothenburg in the 1930s. Also of note was ex-Swedish Air Force Hkp4 (Vertol Seaknight) ’72’ in its vivid splinter camouflage scheme (which is notably also present on the rotor blades themselves). This particular airframe flew into the 2010 air show for its final flight before retirement and transfer to the Aeroseum. The airframe is currently being restored to flight status and was originally planned to take part in a ground run during the show but due to paperwork issues was unable to participate.
As with all airshows, there were also a number of non-aircraft related displays and stands. In comparison to many UK shows, there was a noticeable shortage of stands with only a handful situated along the main pathway. Food and drink provisions were handled mostly by a small hotdog stand and a larger barbeque facility. Queues on the Saturday for both were large however some improvements to the ordering and queuing system (and a few more vendors) seemed to resolve the issues for the second day. A local Audi dealership were present with a number of their vehicles including a soft top R8 and RS6 Avant which were demonstrated during an interval in flying by legendary Swedish rally driver Stig Blomqvist. The Swedish Armed Forces were also present and highly visible providing security as well as static displays for the show with everything from their clothing and motorbikes to the display trailercovered in the distinctive splinter camouflage scheme. Being serenaded with the greatest hits of Abba by a military brass band is also something that is likely unique to Sweden!
Anyone wanting to fly themself at the show could take the opportunity to get airborne in a Robinson R.44, operated by Copter Flyg. At 300SEK for a five minute flight, it was certainly one of the more expensive attractions on offer – but given that the aircraft was flying near constantly for the majority of the show (operating from a grass pad next to the car park), it must have been popular!
On both days the flying display itself was opened just before 11AM by a parachute display from Fallskärmsklubben Cirrus Göteborg (Parachute Club Cirrus Gothenburg), jumping from a brightly coloured Antonov AN-2 Colt (LY-ABK). Following the jump, the main displays started , with gaps in between many acts to allow arrivals and departures of scheduled flights from Ryanair and Wizz Air to continue unimpeded.
A wide variety of prop aircraft made up around half of the displays for the programme. Warbirds were, as to be expected, well represented and showed very well a variety of types operated in the past by the Swedish Air Force. A trio of SK16 Harvard aircraft (SE-FUD and SE-FVU) – including a highly polished US example named ‘Mean Machine’ (SE-FUZ) performed a series of tight formation passes before separating into a solo and pair’s tail chase sequence. An SK61 Bulldog (SE-FVX) from the Swedish Air Force Historic Flight performed a spirited display starting off high and progressing lower throughout the display ending with a wonderful low level topside pass, and very aggressive knife-edge wing wave. Representing an earlier era of flight was a replica FVM Ö1Tummelisa biplane (SE-XIL). Designed and built in Sweden in the early 1920s, the original aircraft type was used as an advanced trainer and preceded the inception of the Swedish Air Force during 1926. Paired with a Fokker D.VII (SE-XVO) it flew a well thought out, if not historically accurate, dogfight routine within a very small display radius. Watching an aircraft such as the Fokker perform 3 consecutive loops at low altitude is certainly awe inspiring.
Another pair of historic aircraft were also present, in the form of the Biltema sponsored Spitfire Mk.XVIe (SE-BIR) and Cavalier F-51D Mustang II (SE-BIL), performing a very long display routine starting with a solo Spitfire display which was then joined by the Mustang. With plenty of topside passes along the curved display line, especially when viewed from the North East end, the only slight downside of the length of the display would be the lack of a genuine solo segment from the Mustang showing off its true performance.
One of the nicest schemes of the show must go not to a Swedish aircraft, but to the North American T-28 Trojan (N428B) flown by Sten Svensson. In the UK we are often used to seeing the desert camouflage scheme of the Radial Revelations operated T-28A Fennec displaying at Duxford however this aircraft sported a stunning US Navy scheme representing the VT-2 ‘Doerbirds’ squadron from NAS Whiting Field, and was to catch the sunlight present during Sundays display (after displaying under a stray cloud on Saturday). Another scheme worthy of note was that of the Piper L4 Cub (OY-ECV) – an aircraft normally depicted in the standard green paintwork. With a red and yellow checkerboard nose reminiscent of many American warbird schemes, D-Day invasion markings and ‘Mistress’ artwork on one side it looked just as good on the ground as in the air.
Aerobatic displays were also well represented during the show and included two civilian acts. The first was a solo Pitts S2C (SE-LYX) display and the second featured a Sukhoi Su-29 (N9PK) flown by Swedish aerobatic champion Jan Emilsson. However, the Sunday display of the Su-29 started at a somewhat more sedate pace to that of Saturday. With the commentary in Swedish throughout the show it was difficult to understand why until screams and laughter were heard from a cockpit microphone fitted within the aircraft where it transpires a commentator was being put through an ever increasing intensity of manoeuvres as part of the display. Billed as one of the headline acts, the Royal Jordanian Falcons brought their Extra 300s to the show, and put on their usual high standard of display featuring tight formation flying and unlimited aerobatics.
For those interested in rotary aircraft, 4 ex-Swedish Air Force examples operated by the Flygvapenmuseum were present, comprising of a pair of Hkp5s (Hughes 269s ‘45’ SE-JIR and ‘46’ SE-JIS) and a pair of Hkp6Bs (Bell Jetrangers ‘54’ SE-HGX and ‘48’ SE-JVB). The four helicopters performed a couple of flypasts before returning to the hover in front of the crowd and then returning to their static location in a somewhat underwhelming and distant display. More interesting was the search and rescue demonstration provided by a Sikorsky S-76C (SE-JUY) operated by Sjӧfartsverket on behalf of the Swedish Maritime Administration and based at the airport. Another S-76C was also “on show”, this time the local Air Ambulance (SE-JUX) operated by Norrlandslyg Ambulans, which provided a number of impromptu flypasts on return to its base at the airport following numerous shouts during the weekend, as well as one landing close to the crowdline.
Representation from the current military capability of the Swedish Air Force was provided in the form of two displays, both provided by F7 Såtenäs, Skaraborgs Flygflottilj (or Skaraborg Air Force Wing) located near Lidköping. First up was a Lockheed Tp84 Hercules (84003/843) which performed three low passes complete with the ramp down and waving loadmaster for the second and third. Height perception can always be thrown by the local geography but the Sunday display looked incredibly low when the aircraft banked around a prominent wooded hill in the distance. The second display was courtesy of a Saab JAS-39C Gripen (39226 on Saturday and 39211 on Sunday) which arrived from display right at high speed with no warning (presumably the commentary – in Swedish – had announced its arrival). Showing off the performance and manoeuvrability of the relatively small jet brilliantly, this was one of the best displays of the entire weekend and sets a very high standard for other fast jet displays to follow. It was a shame that the display didn’t use flares, as the Danish Air Force F-16 display at the previous show did – and the Gripen display included a pull-up which seemed to be when the flares would have been released.
The real stars of the show, and certainly for some people the only reason for attending, were the assorted jet aircraft from the Swedish Air Force Historic Flight. Unfortunately, despite an early listing on the schedule the highly anticipated J35 Draken and J32B Lansen were removed in the months leading up to the show due to paperwork difficulties. Also affected by last minute issues was the J29F Tunnan which also had to cancel at short notice.
However, the Swedish Air Force Historic Flight (SwAFHF) still had 4 of their jets present in the flying display of the show. Originally both Swiss Air Force aircraft, the De Havilland Vampire T.55 (SE-DXU) and Hawker Hunter Mk58 (SE-DXM), which are both now painted in Swedish markings, performed graceful solo displays with the Vampire in particular giving the crowd plenty of topside opportunities. As can be expected of the SwAFHF, SAAB aircraft feature heavily and the final two jets that were present were both made by the manufacturer. The Sk60E (SE-DXG) has additional markings across the topside for this year to celebrate 50 years of the SAAB 105 design – however there were very few opportunities during the display to get a clear view of these.
The final jet drew by far the most attention – the incredible SAAB AJS37 Viggen (SE-DXN). Restored to airworthy condition in 2012, the Viggen is an aircraft that many enthusiasts are looking forward to seeing again and in the week leading up to the Gothenburg show confirmation had been received that it would appear in the UK at least twice during 2013. The noise from the aircraft is just incredible and its dull silver appearance really can shine once some sunlight hits it. The Saturday display seemed somewhat restricted and off the display axis, whilst Sunday’s was a marked difference with increased afterburner usage immediately evident even to the naked eye. Sundays display was also completed by a reverse thrust 360 degree turn on the runway, something unique to the aircraft. In a fitting finish to the show weekend, and after the departure of some of the other acts, the four SwAFHF jets took off for one final time to form up in a 4 ship diamond formation for one last flypast (although by this time the sun had moved around in front of the crowd).
With the weather gods being kind despite the forcasted rain and thunderstorms for Sunday, the Gothenburg Air Show 2013 certainly delivered a solid line up and variation in displays. To get the most from the show from a photography viewpoint the locations afforded by the spotter scheme were mostly perfect and highly recommended for anyone considering attending the next show even if you don’t take advantage of the apron tours. It is also recommended to get to the show days early (the grounds opened at 9AM, and stayed open until 6PM) if you intend to view the Aeroseum itself as, predictably, once the crowds arrive it is very difficult to find a space to take any pictures without getting someone else in the shot. It was disappointing that the Tunnan was cancelled at the last minute and there were some longer gaps within the display programme that could have fitted another couple of display items in but the trip was certainly made worth it by the quality of displays that were present and, of course, the chance to see the Viggen display in its home territory.
Visiting from the UK: How to
Often, trying to organise trips to airshows abroad can be a difficult and time consuming task especially if information isn’t easily available in your native language. Therefore, in order to try and help anyone who may be looking at attending in future years, the following section details how the AeroResource team organised this trip. This is by no means the only way to do it but it met the requirements of the travellers at the time which will obviously differ from person to person.
With the show being located at the Sӓve airport and wishing to fly into the same location, flight choices are somewhat limited with Ryanair the only airline servicing that route from the UK at present via Stansted. With a morning and evening flight outbound, it was chosen to fly out on the Friday evening and return on the Sunday evening giving the 2 full days at the airshow. Utilising only the 10Kg carryon allowance, which just covered adequate camera equipment also kept costs down to £50 return per person for the flights.
Options for accomodation for three, on a small budget, were limited and again proximity to the airshow was important. In the end, a triple bed room was found at the Dalagärde Hostel located in Skogome, approximately 15 minutes drive from the airport and 10 minutes from the airshow itself. The rooms may be cramped and very basic, but with breakfast included in the price of £25 per person per night along with an onsite bar and free wifi, it provided a cheap but suitable place to stay.
The final element was transport whilst there. Buses from the airport only run into Gothenburg itself therefore requiring a second bus back to the hostel which, at past 10pm when we would have arrived, could have been difficult. Taxi to the hostel was considered however prices are relatively high especially if not running on a meter. Therefore, a hire car was the only option left and Budget, via Avis, have a centre within the airport itself which was perfectly located. It also enabled the team to visit two static aircraft located in a town further outside Gothenburg on the Saturday night (details to follow on the forums). For a VW Golf it worked out at under £30 per person for the 2 days hire and fuel.
AeroResource would like to extend their extreme gratitude to Jörgen Carlsson and his team for their help and assistance during the two days at the show and wish them all the best success for future years.