AFW 2021 Air Show, Day 2: Flying Performances

By Spyros Georgilidakis | September 7, 2021

This article covers the spectacular flying performances over the two days of the AFW (Athens Flying Week) 2021 Tanagra International Air Show!

AFW 2021 Air Show, Day 2: Flying Performances

This is Luca Bertossio. It’s impossible to convey how impressive this was, with pictures. Please look him up!

As we saw in the first article, AFW 2021 took place at Tanagra Air Base (LGTG). The base has been the show’s home for several years, allowing planes of all sizes to take part. At its inception, Athens Flying Week took place even closer to Athens, in Tatoi Airport (LGTT). However, the sole runway at the airport (03/21) is too short for big jets and fighters, forcing them to operate from elsewhere. This took a lot away from the static displays, in particular.

AFW 2021 Air Show, Day 2: Flying Performances
HAF Tecnam P2002 JF initial selection trainer. These planes are brand new for Greece, replacing old T-41Ds (military Cessna 172s with bigger engines)


AFW 2021 – The Conditions

In 2020, AFW was one of the many air shows to get cancelled, but the 2021 situation was more promising. Organisers took several measures, including having separate seating areas for those with COVID-19 certificates, and those without. Obviously, the situation around static displays involved everyone mingling, with masks helping. In any case, getting there early to take pictures of the planes without scores of people in front of them, was the best way to go.

HAF CL-415 fire bomber. Greece really depended on these aircraft during several devastating fires this summer.
AFW 2021 Air Show, Day 2: Flying Performances
A HAF F-16 and an M2000 in a mock “dogfight” over the field. Choreographed of course, but with plenty of burner and Gs!

Alas, AFW 2021 still suffered from a lack of civil/commercial displays. Previous shows had a very strong variety of aerobatic aircraft of all speeds and vintages, including gliders. Only a few made it this year, unfortunately.

Hellenic Navy Sikorsky S70 helicopter, in one of many such force deployment demonstrations in the air show
AFW 2021 Air Show, Day 2: Flying Performances
Hellenic Air Force Fighters: F-16C, F-4E (2) and M2000-5. Yes, many of the Phantoms smoke! It’s a nasty habit but they’re too old to quit now

But AFW 2021 made up for the above by presenting a strong showing from military participants. Again, the host Hellenic Air Force (HAF) had most of the jets, many of them flying over from their home bases. The French Patrouille de France, the Saudi Hawks and the Danish F-16 Solo display team, provided an amazing spectacle. And again, a Dassault Rafale got a lot of the crowd’s attention, since Greece recently bought several of these jets.

AFW 2021 Air Show, Day 2: Flying Performances

Danish F-16AM solo display. Note the old-style (i.e. small) F-16 stabilators. This is a “knife-edge” pass, note the position of the rudder!

AFW 2021 Air Show, Day 2: Flying Performances

Patrouille de France, with their AlphaJets. Very impressive, and long; it’s a 25min show!


A Show-Stopping Veteran

AFW 2021 also saw the participation of a Hellenic Air Force Spitfire. Yes, this aircraft still officially belongs to the Air Force. But the ‘Icarus’ foundation funded its full restoration in the UK, before the pandemic. A British TV show (“Inside The Spitfire Factory”) covered the entire restoration process, for this specific aircraft. The pandemic delayed its return to Greece, which finally happened earlier this summer.

AFW 2021 Air Show, Day 2: Flying Performances

They turned off the music to let us enjoy the noise from the Merlin engine. This Spitfire has the ‘LF’ wingtips, common in Spits made late in WWII.

One surprise in AFW 2021 came from two F-15Cs, belonging to the USAF 493rd Fighter Squadron, better known as “The Grim Reapers”. Officially, they weren’t part of the show! They simply happened to be in Tanagra, on a NATO visit.

AFW 2021 Air Show, Day 2: Flying Performances
There is a kill mark under the cockpit of this plane.

AFW 2021 Air Show, Day 2: Flying Performances
No, the camera is right-side up!

But The Grim Reapers very much joined in on the spirit of the AFW 2021 proceedings. They flew out in full afterburner, then made several similarly LOUD patterns, when they returned. The unit also had a small display on the show grounds, talking patiently to the public. The author can attest that they are much friendlier than the name “Grim Reapers” would suggest.

HAF F-16C “Zeus” Solo display
AFW 2021 Air Show, Day 2: Flying Performances
HAF F-16 ‘Zeus’ and Aegean Airlines A320neo flypast. Aegean is a sponsor of Athens Flying Week


AFW 2021 In A Nutshell

By all accounts, the show was a big success. Despite the lack of many non-military aerobatic teams, AFW 2021 drew bigger crowds than its organisers expected, especially on Saturday. If you wish to go next year, the author would recommend comfortable shoes, factor 50 sunscreen (seriously, you can’t have too much) and a hat that covers the back of your neck.

AFW 2021 Air Show, Day 2: Flying Performances
The Saudi Hawks, flying seven BAe Hawks (like the Red Arrows). A great performance.

A lightweight tripod wouldn’t go amiss, either, even if you have a small camera. And if you intend to shoot video, you can’t have too many batteries for that camera. Finally, the alcohol wipes that have become so “fashionable” in the pandemic, are great for removing sunscreen from your hands, so you can handle your camera. Enjoy!

Aegean Airbus A320neo flying in formation with the Saudi Hawks

AFW 2021 Air Show, Day 2: Flying Performances

AdlA Dassault Rafale C Solo Display. This is from Saturday; on Sunday this jet had an issue, and the show was performed using the spare, conventionally painted jet.

All photos by the author

For the first article showing the static displays, go HERE

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