The Malta International Airshow made a very welcome return after an absence of 3 years. The show was planned to be held in 2020 but due to the Coronavirus epidemic, the show was postponed to 2021 as was the case with other European shows. The Malta Aviation Society, the organising body of the Malta International Air show, also celebrated 50 years after its formation.
The static show was held at the newly renovated Apron 4 where the area has been taken up by the new facilities of SR Technics which was also one of the main supporters of the event. The flying display, like in recent years, was held at a seaside location this year moving to St Paul’s Bay in front of the Malta National Aquarium.
The show was much anticipated by aviation enthusiasts but also by the general public. The participation in the flying display by the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team – The Red Arrows made a very welcome appearance closing both the displays on Saturday and Sunday. This was the ninth visit of the team to the Malta Airshow.
Joining the Red Arrows in the flying display was the Swiss Air Force PC-7 team being their only overseas participant due to the pandemic. This was their fourth visit to Malta and on Sunday the team was joined by the Swiss F/A-18C for a flyby. The F/A-18C was an awaited item on the flying display although on Saturday the display was called off as the jet was unserviceable. The F/A-18C crew worked tirelessly on Saturday to have the jet ready for Sunday’s display.
The Belgian F-16AM display team was also present in Malta and this would have marked the last display of its pilot Vador as the demo pilot of the team. This was not meant to be as like the F/A-18C both the Dark Falcon jet and the spare aircraft were broken prior to its display. Supporting the Belgian F-16 demo team on static was a C-130H Hercules CH-01. CH-01 was seen sporting a livery to commemorate the types’ retirement from service at the end of the year.
Joining the Belgian Hercules on static, another classic transport aircraft, a German Air Force C-160D Transall in a special livery and just like the Belgian Hercules, the German Air Force is retiring the Transall as well. For both aircraft, this was their last airshow participation as both air forces are introducing the Airbus A400M in service.
The static display was dominated by Italian participants. The Italian Air Force made an appearance with a sole twin-seat AMX and two Tornado IDSs. These were very welcome participants since both types are nearing their end of service. This same AMX was also a participant 20 years ago in the Malta International Air show, that year sporting a specially coloured tail.
The Guardia di Finanza displayed on the static two of their latest helicopters, Leonardo PH-139A and UH-169A. The participation of the Leonardo 169 was the type of debut visiting the Maltese Islands. The PH-139A is the 1000th airframe built by Leonardo. The PH-139A was not the only Leonardo 139 on static as the Polizia di Stato and Vigili del Fuoco were also present with the Leonardo 139. The Italian Navy made a rare appearance with an NH Industries SH-90A from Grottaglie naval air base.
The Armed Forces of Malta also joined the line-up of the Leonardo 139 helicopters, with one of their own AW139. Also in the static display, the AFM portrayed the Alouette III and the Beechcraft King Air B200. These three types also participated in the flying display, where the Alouette III opened the flying display with the Maltese flag salute and then a routine by the King Air and AW139 simulating a Search and Rescue operation.
Denmark was a very welcome participant, having participated nearly 20 years before in the 2002 edition, the Danes were present with a CL604 for the static display. Joining the static display was also a Polish Navy M-28 Bryza. The Polish Navy has been a common participant in recent years.
The event was supported by local flying schools as both the European Pilot Academy and the Malta School of Flying were showcasing their aircraft and promoting their schools to the younger generation. The Malta Aviation Museum had their Tiger Moth and Piper Cub on static. Both aircraft are still airworthy. The Silver Chicken a homebuilt CAP-21DS and flown by Luca Salvatori was the only civilian participant in the flying display. I-SIVM is a modified version of the CAP-21 making it the right candidate for aerobatic performance.
Participating for the first time in the flying display of the Malta International Air show was the much-welcomed Turkish Air Force F-16C SoloTürk and the French Air Force Rafale C, both performances were breathtaking and the pilots showcased the abilities of both jets.
We all hope that the Malta International Air show would return and find itself on the air show calendar year in and year out, one of Malta’s most awaited events.