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100 Years Turkish Air Force

The Turkish Air Force celebrated its centennial at the 2nd Main Jet Base Command İzmir-Çiğli at the beginning of June 2011. The Air Base was ideal due to the proximity to the tourist city of Izmir and the favourable weather during that time of year making it suitable for the visitors to enjoy the weekend. Turkey has good economic and political ties with many countries which meant that the organisers could attract a good number of countries mainly from Europe and beyond.

The majority of aircraft came from the host nation which also included aircraft from the Army, Navy, and Coast Guard along with all aircraft types in operational service with the Turkish Air Force at the time and insight into the future of the Turkish Air Force that included the E-7T Peace Eagle in full Turkish Air Force colours, an Airbus A400M Demonstrator, and a mockup of an F-35.

The flying display started with several paratroopers gliding over the Air Base followed by the Turkish Air Force Inventory flypast, first were three Eurocopter AS 532AL Cougars carrying the Turkish and the Centenary Air Force Flags followed by Vic-formations of Cessna T-41D, SIAI-Marchetti SF-260D, Korea Aerospace KT-1T Woong-Bi, Cessna T-37B Tweet and Northrop T-38A Talon. Next were transport aircraft first a CASA/IPTN (TAI) CN-235M-100 followed by a Lockheed C-130E Hercules and Transall C-160D both sporting Turkish Stars colours and a Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker. The last three formations were Northrop F-5A-2000 Freedom Fighter, Lockheed Martin (TUSAS) F-16CJ Fighting Falcon, and McDonnell Douglas F-4E Terminator 2020.

A large part of the flying display was taken up by the world-renowned aerobatic teams that saluted the Turkish Air Force with their breathtaking aerial displays, Croatian Wings of Storm, French Patrouille de France, Italian Frecci Tricolori, Spanish Patrulla Aguila, Royal Air Force Aerobatic team – The Red Arrows, U.S. Air Force’s Thunder Birds and the home team Turkish stars all graced the skies over the base.

The Unveiling of the Solo Turk F-16 demo team happened during the Show where the newly formed team performed in front of a thrilled audience during the weekend also leading a unique formation that had leader’s aircraft from five different aerobatic teams flying together during twilight. Many solo demonstration teams that usually are part of the Airshow circuit across Europe were present namely the Austrian Saab 105OE, Belgian Air Force F-16, Dutch F-16, Romanian IAR-99, and Italian C-27J, Typhoon, and AMX from the Reparto Sperimentale Volo, also an exotic appearance in the form of a Pakistani Air Force F-16A and a JF-17 solo displays the latter having been in active service with the first Pakistani Air Force Squadron, ‘Black Spiders’ since 2010.

The static display was nothing short of interesting aircraft, first were the locally based advanced trainers parked in front of the hardened shelters right after entering the Base namely, Northrop T-38A Talon, Korea Aerospace KT-1T Woongbi and Cessna T-37B Tweety Bird which the latter have since been retired from service, then moving onto the main ramp were air assets from the Air Force and other Turkish Force along with foreign participants including a rare appearance of a Soviet-built Mig-29UB of the Bulgarian Air Force which is rarely seen outside of Bulgarian territory, a pair of Jordanian Lockheed Martin F-16AM and Two Luftwaffe Typhoons.

The size of the base could accommodate several transport aircraft, this included an Algerian and Belgian Lockheed C-130s, Hungarian, Romanian, Serbian, and Slovak Antonov An-26s, Bulgarian Alenia C-27J, and a Polish CASA C-295M.

The Turkish Air Force Centenary Air Show was very well organised, with a large attendance of over 250,000 visitors over the weekend. Access to aviation enthusiasts and photographers, both on arrival and departure days was allowed which made it a great opportunity for photos, surely making it one of the best air shows in the continent that year.