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Since a couple of years, mid September is reserved for the Sanicole airshow, this year being the 36th edition. The participants list was gradually filling up during the months before the show with again a great mix of aircraft and helicopters coming from all over the world to perform their display in front of the visiting public. This year the main highlights were the attendance by the Swedish Air Force Historical Flight and the USAF B-52 bomber.
For the third time now this year, on the Friday evening before the big airshow day, the Sanicole sunset show was held. This year’s sunset edition clearly showed how much this unique spectacle is enjoyed both by the public as by the performers. Over the years more and more airshow performers have started using lights and fireworks to enhance their low-light displays. So this year’s sunset edition was again even more attractive to the public than last year’s, and the public another had a great evening watching, despite the big shower that interrupted the display.
The sunset show started at 18h with the Hayabusa parachute team, followed by the demonstration of the Dutch F-16 flown by Captain Stefan "Stitch" Hutten. The Royal Jordanian Falcons with their quartet of Extra 300s were the next performers, giving the public an aerobatic ballet. They were followed with an impressive aerobatic routine by Pierre Marmy in his Su-26, who surprisingly for a lot of people proved to be a local resident working and living not too far from Sanicole. Next the Canadian parachute team, the Skyhawks, who made the long trip to Belgium again, after their first visit two year ago. They performed an awesome show greatly appreciated by the public who all stared high in the sky to see the parachutists jumping out of the back of the C-130 Hercules.
Then it was the turn for another first-time Sanicole performer to take the stage, in the shape of the French Air Force Rafale, who came over to Belgium solely and especially for the sunset show. Captain Michaël Brocard flew an awesome display clearly demonstrating the exceptional maneuverability and the great power of his magnificent jet. Of course the Belgian Air Force was not to be left out, and the Agusta became the first Helicopter display of the evening, this year also adding to the light spectacle, using flares. Following this, in an even more and more darkening sky, a group of bright lights made their appearance in the distance, it soon proved to be a very unique formation by the famous Breitling Jet Team flying together with the Rafale. What an awesome sight and sound it was to see this great formation flying past the public line. After the Rafale broke off, the Breitling Jet Team started their performance, but unfortunately due to a cloud break above the airfield, they could not finish the display and had to recover back to Kleine Brogel.
After a pause of 10 minutes to let the rain pass on, it was time for two special demonstrations that used a lot of lights and fireworks. Brendan O’Brien was first to take off in his yellow Piper Cub and started his climb to start the show. Once in position he ignited the fireworks attached onto his aircraft and started an extraordinary spectacle in the sky, never seen in Belgium before. The exceptional combination of light effects, smoke and different types of fireworks really were an awesome thing to see. The second team who added a lot to sunset entertainment was the SWIP team, flying their two brightly colored Twister aircraft. This year they visually enhanced their performance with LED lights all along the aircraft. After a short formation display, they also climbed to start their fireworks performance which kicked off with an explosion of fireworks in the air, as well as on the ground.
The closing performer of the 2013 Sanicole Sunset Show was again, as is becoming tradition, the Belgian Air Force F-16 solo demo display, this year flown by Renaud “Grat” Thys. His perfect use of the afterburner complemented by the use of a lot of flares produced amazing fiery light effect which could be perfectly seen against the dark sky. His display ending with a final flypast along the crowd line, the third Sanicole sunset show was concluded in great success. And a massive firework was lit to close of this spectacular and unique show.
On Saturday the many Sanicole volunteers were busy preparing the airfield for the great airshow day on Sunday. During the day more participating aircraft arrived and some display rehearsals were flown. The weather predictions for Sunday were looking great, so everyone was looking forward to a great day. Unfortunately during the evening one of the Breitling Jet Team L-39’s experienced engine problems on the way back from Den Helder and crashed in a field just across the Dutch Border, just short of arriving at Kleine Brogel. Thanks to the professional reaction of the crew, they steered the aircraft away from houses and successfully ejected from the aircraft without any injuries.
Sunday morning, the weather was looking great, it could not be any better for flying. The show started early with some large scale model planes demonstrating their capabilities. The program was to be filled with a great mix of demonstrations, and one of the major theme’s for this year was ‘It’s takes two’, which brought some nice paired couples to the show.
First some of the lighter aircraft took to the skies above Sanicole, like the An-2 biplane and the Piper of O’Brien Flying Circus. The first duo to perform was the two Twisters forming the SWIP team. Then the crowd was woken up by the performance of 4 F-16’s of the nearby Kleine Brogel Air Base. Flown by 31 Tiger Sqn pilots, they showcased some of their tactics used in real time warfare in a great display and concluded with some nice formation passes.
The Swedish Air Force Historical Flight was a welcome visitor to the show, as they flew over to Belgium with three of their Saab Jets. Flying solo displays were the Saab Sk.60 trainer as well as the World’s only flying Saab Tunan, the flying barrel. One of the highlights of the show was for sure the flight’s recently restored Saab Viggen which gave a spirited demonstration showing its great forms and the pure raw power of this glorious Jet.
No show without formation teams, and this year was no exception. The Ursel based Victors formation team gave a nice show with five Pipers enhanced with red smoke. Another large team was the Aerostars flying their 5 Yak 50 aircraft led by a sole Su-26 which again put on a great show, constantly entertaining the public. One of the long-time performers at Sanicole are the Royal Jordanian Falcons who made a welcome return. The Belgian Air Force Red Devils flying their four Marchetti’s could of course not be overlooked on the show and also put up a remarkable display of formation flying. To the regret of many, unfortunately due to the incident that occurred the evening before, the Breitling Jet Team had to cancel their performance for the Sunday show.
This year also saw the welcome return of the Royal Navy taking part with the Lynx solo display. Other helicopters flying were the Belgian Air Force Agusta and the famous Sea King rescue demonstration.
As a prelude to the Canadian forces parachute team, the Belgian World champion parachute team Hayabusa demonstrated some magnificent examples of their skill. All the way from Canada came the Skyhawks parachute team who performed some extraordinary “Parabatics”, flying different formations of two or three parachutists. One of their tricks greatly appreciated by the crowd, was the dedication jump out of the C-130 to show us a huge Belgian flag as a great show of respect. Another parachute demonstration was given by WWII re-enactors jumping out of a classic war veteran C-47 Dakota.
More aerobatic displays were flown by Pierre Marmy in his Breitling Su-26 and all the way from Austria came RedBull AirRace pilot Hannes Arch performing a stunning aerobatic performance in his Edge 540. With one of the themes being ‘It’s takes two’, some more duo’s made the journey across the channel from the UK, the Redhawks flying two Fournier’s and the TRIG team flying two Pitts. The Royal Air Force was also to be well represented with not only the Tucano display, but unfortunately the Tutor, Hawk as well as the King Air displays were cancelled due to technical reasons. For the hometeam Bart Verhees flew his unconventional looking self-build aircraft, the Verhees Delta before the crowd. The classic Breilting DC-3 also made it to Sanicole to give a lovely display.
As every year Jetair was present to show one of their airliners and this year it was flown in a very unique formation between a legendary aircraft and an airliner. It was the P-51 Mustang that was flown together with the Jetair Boeing 737, a very unusual sight for the crowd indeed. After the formation pass, both aircraft flew a couple passes along the public line. Then it was time for another contemporary fighter bird, the Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16 solo display in their bright “Orange Lion” jet, proving yet again that they are among the top performers in the circuit.
This year also marked the 60th anniversary of the mighty B-52 bomber, and for the occasion the USAF aircraft brought one over to Europe to perform at different airshows including the Sanicole airshow. The first pass was really an awesome sight as it flew from behind the public showing the immense topside of the bomber. Two more passes were made before the aircraft continued its journey followed by a trail of black smoke. As with the sunset show, the Belgian Air Force F-16 again had the honor to close the 2012 edition of the Sanicole airshow with another great performance.
During the evening it was time for the great Sanicole BBQ, and after a well-deserved meal, organizer Geoffrey Buekenberghs took the stage to honor the participating aircrew for their effort. The airshow director handed over the trophies and thanked everyone for making the 36th edition of the Sanicole airshow yet another great success. Hereby we would like to congratulate Geoffrey and Gilbert Buekenberghs and the whole Sanicole team for organizing another great edition regardless of all the challenges this year.

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