“ Magic “ Ferté-Alais,
43rd Ferté-Alais airshow was held on 23rd and 24th of May 2015, at Plateau de Cerny airfield, south of Paris. The yearly event remains popular with European air enthusiasts, thanks to its very french touch. It is somehow considered as the “ national ” airshow by French aviation fans and warbirds connoisseurs. Around 50.000 visitors were attracted by the grass field, family atmosphere, market stalls, and the show setting with sounds and showmanship. Yet, it was amazing to see how Amicale Jean Baptiste Salis collection recovered quite well from last year’s disaster.
Let’s remind facts. This happened two days only after last year’s show was just over. On Tuesday June 10th by night, the mother of all storms in local history .., stroke the airfield. Balls of hail – these could be appropriately named as “ice” stones - fell and broke historic hangar roofs of the Museum and damaged most warbirds they contained. All in all, no less than 500.000 Euros worth of buildings and aeroplanes destructions were recorded. And to name a few of the airplanes that were hit, most WWI canvas such as popular Fokker DR.1 were scratched. One weekend after the storm, I could witness the Amicale’s Ju-52 visiting Meaux airfield. Though still flying correctly, its fuselage and wings were severely hammered and nobody will overcome this. Amicale Salis and Aéroclub de France requested public donations. So they managed to raise up to 80.000 Euros, while insurance companies provided part of lost money. Then for six months, Salis volunteers could not work on airplanes as their hangars were being rebuilt. As a matter of facts, only a few airplanes were restored in a few months only before the show deadline. What an achievement with so much faith.
So “ Le Temps des hélices ” - as the show is traditionally called - was back on deadline with appropriate WWI and WWII flying machines. Interestingly, La Ferté is one the rare shows in the world to feature airplanes that are separated into historic sequences, all in all with appropriate sounds mixed with hollywood kind of music, clever - and sometimes humorous - commentary charged with emotion. Interestingly enough, the speaker always had a few short topics for us, explaining why a specific flying machine made History, and what people life and state of mind was during that evocated period. Three flying displays examples of that “ spirit of Cerny ” , are Normandie-Niemen pilots “ sociology “ with obviously, Yaks flying over, then, “ Tora Tora Tora ” Honolulu lazy times being broken by a raid of T-6s playing Japanese Zeros, and last but not least, Vietnam War raids by an OV-10 D Bronco and three Skyraiders shelling the “ viets ” with appropriate “ Doors ” music as a sound background. Add some “ pyros ” effects to all these themes, and you get the perfect show for all aged visitors.
Was Gloster Gladiator owned by the Fighter Collection, La Ferté-Alais real star this year ? Surely it is my personal point of view. It is too much forgotten that some biplane fighter aircraft still played a core role during WWII. So it was appropriate that this powerful fighter flown by Nick Grey, was shown back to back with the Hurricane in the program, to say a few words about the Battle of Malta to an audience that is not familiar with it. Overwhelmed by the Luftwaffe the RAF managed to defend the island to prevent german forces landings. In 1941, ratio was about 3 german fighters against 1 RAF … Other star attraction was an Albatros, a WWI bomber figthting along with a repaired (from storm) Fokker Dr.1 against a RFC patrol composed with two Memorial Flight Se-5a replicas and Bristol F-2b Fighter. Once more, last time I did shots of the F-2b was at Omaka, New Zeland. One thing I have learnt from La Ferté is though I had to fly more than 20 hours to be in New Zealand, I live in a small world anyway, especially with vintage aviation.
No doubts to me that La Ferté-Alais is one of the best vintage airplanes airshows in the world, not least for rare participating aircraft, but also for its green grass “ aircraft carrier ” style airfield and relaxed atmosphere, all in with the authentic French countryside. Furthermore, I suggest that other sorts of events of the kind – such as those in UK and New Zealand - should introduce the sound and music package coupled with these comments containing plenty of emotion in their airshow display program. As after all, what else could people ask for ?