Melbourne FL – After a long winter, the sound of aircraft engines begin to fill the air across the United States. Venues begin to open their gates to air show enthusiasts. This season, Air Museum Network packed the gear and headed to sunny Florida for the Melbourne Air and Space Show which was held on April 1 and 2.
The choice of this particular event was not by chance. Early in the year, rumors and rumblings filled the aviation media outlets with news of something very special. Once the rumors were confirmed as fact, the choice of this air show was the proverbial no brainer. The French Air Force Flight Demonstration Team Patrouillle de France was coming to tour the United States. The tour commemorates the 100th anniversary of the US involvement in the Great War (World War I).The US tour was the first for the Patrouille in 30 years and the Melbourne Air and Space Show would be the debut.
The show was headlined by the United States Air Force Thunderbirds and counted on the a fantastic cast of air show performers. Like a prize fight at Madison Square Garden, Fans were treated to smaller acts like SOCOM Para-Commandos and Kent Pietsch with his Jelly Belly Interstate Cadet. Air show staples like the B-25 “Panchito” and the Geico Skytypers kept the crowd entertained in between acts. Greg Colyer took to the air in his T-33 “Ace Maker II” and showed the fans what having “The Right Stuff” is all about. On the military front, the United States Navy ensured that eardrums were ruptured with the deafening roar of the TAC Demo Team’s F/A-18 Super Hornet, while the United States Air Force’s F-35 and a Cavalier P-51D honored the past with the ever popular Heritage Flight.
As part of the festivities and in an act of true class, the French Government awarded two World War II D-Day veterans with one of France’s highest distinctions, the Legion of Honor. In the name of the President of the Republic of France, the French Consul pinned the medal and embraced the Veterans in the presence of their family, VIPs and the entire Air Show crowd.
One of the golden air show rules is to expect the unexpected. The Melbourne Air and Space Show stood steadfast to this rule. In a late addition to the lineup, organizers and the Patrouille de France unleashed the aviation equivalent of the Kraken. The French team is supported by the Airbus A400 Atlas. This medium transport aircraft is a sight unseen in this neck of the hemisphere. In what is possible the first air show performance of this type in the US, it did not disappoint. Seasoned aviation photographers could not help but wipe the tear from the eye before sporting their biggest pepsodent smile and launching into a frenzy of high fives. Remember that line from the film Jerry Maguire? No…not “Show me the money”, the other one…”you had me at Hello”? Well this air show “had me at the A400”.
Although the Thunderbirds were the headliners of the show, there is no doubt that the Patrouille de France was the main attraction. This became evident as the eight Dassault Alpha Jets paraded down the runway and the colors of the French flag Tricolore were waved by many of the French nationals in attendance.
In the US, we have grown accustomed to the speed, roar and brute power of flight demonstration teams like the Thunderbirds and Blue Angles. There is nothing wrong with that. Who doesn’t enjoy the spectacle? The Patrouille de France and the small nimble Alpha Jet, bring a grace and style seldom seen. It is like going from a Broadway musical to an evening at the Ballet. some notable differences between the French Team and their US counterparts is, never during their performance does a spectator look at empty space. There is always at least one aircraft performing and in line of sight. The use of colored smoke (Red and Blue) add a certain….Je Ne Sais Quoi. This teams performance was best described by French Aviation Photographer Paul Marais Hayer as……….. “Nice and Smooth”.
To classify this event as an air show would be doing the Melbourne Air and Space Show an injustice. It was a bit more than that. It was a celebration. The festive multi national atmosphere could be summed up by the French National Motto Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite (Liberty, Equality, Fraternity). This is exactly what we needed. Organizers put together an event with an International flair. In a nutshell…..it was a much needed breath of fresh air.
You must be logged in to post a comment.