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Malta International Airshow 2023

The Malta International Airshow returned to the Maltese skies after an absence of a year, with an impressive lineup of participants, both on static and flying display in Qawra.

Sad news hit the organisers and the public with the unfortunate news from the Patruille Swiss right before the first day of arrivals, after the team canceled its participation amid lack of support technical staff for the event. Nevertheless, the show must go on and the team of organisers and helpers know how to set a show for the public.

This year the Slovenian Air Force debuted with a spectacular solo display of a Pilatus PC-9 and its striking camouflage colours. Adding to the Slovenians were the Swiss Hornet Display team with the Legacy F-18C Hornet, Turkish SOLOTÜRK and the Polish F-16 Tiger Demo team for the first time in Malta who not only performed their debut display in Malta but also performed the first over-water display in the team’s history.

This was the last international display for Captain Yannick “Fönsi” Zanata from the Swiss Hornet Display Team and also the last international display for Colonel Emre Mert from SOLOTÜRK, who served his time as Commandant of SOLOTÜRK. We wish them success in their flying career.

This event is mostly sought after by visitors from across the world to witness The Armed Forces of Malta Air Wing assets performing and on the static display lineup as they are hard to see at airshows in the Continent and beyond. During this year’s edition the show started with several formation passes composed of an Alouette III, Leonardo AW139 and Britten Norman Islander, followed by a SAR Demo with the AW139.

The most anticipated participants this year were The Flying Bulls with two Dornier Alpha Jets, a North American B-25J Mitchell, and a Lockheed P-38 Lightning which all aircraft featured in the flying display.

The Royal Air Force Red Arrows are always a showstopper in Malta, that are highly anticipated by the public to see the precision manoeuvres of the eight jets under the leadership of Red1, Tom Bould. This was the tenth visit of the team to the Malta Airshow.

The general public was allowed access to two different locations, the SR Technics apron had the Reds and a USAF Boeing TC-135, and all remaining aircraft were at Safi Aviation Park.

The United States Air Force participation in the static display was a momentous addition to the airshow lineup with the Boeing TC-135 making it’s debut at Malta International Airshow. From the exterior, the TC-135W looks exactly like the mighty RC-135 but has the sensitive electronics removed and provides pilots with an excellent practice aircraft. Only two training-configured TC-135Ws (serials 62-4127 and 62-4129) exist and are assigned to the 55th Wing at Offutt. In 2019, 62-4127 became the first aircraft to have ‘Baseline Charlie’ installed, which was the fleet-wide glass cockpit modification.

A line up of helicopters displayed at Safi, most came from Italian Forces namely, Italian Coast Guard Leonardo AW139CP, Guardia Di Finanza Leonardo AW169LUH, Polizia Di Stato Leonardo UH139C, Italian Navy EH-101 Merlin. A welcome return were Netherlands Air Force after thirteen years this time with a Eurocopter AS 532U2 Cougar.

The Safi Aviation Park footprint allowed large aircraft to be displayed for the event, The Polish Air Force had a Lockheed C-130E in Safi, and the Italian Gurdia Di Finanza also had an ATR P-72B with its striking black colour scheme.

This year saw the return of the Romanian Air Force for the Airshow after seven years, this time with an Antonov An-26, the type is set to be retired soon from active service.

Other fixed-wing aircraft came from France with a TBM 700 of the Air Force, an Irish Air Corps Pilatus PC-12 NGX, and two Royal Navy Hawker Beechcraft 350CER Avenger T1 from 750 Squadron that back in the 70s the very same Squadron was based close by at RNAS Hal Far, flying Percival Sea Prince T.1.

In 2008, the Malta International Air Show made history with the participation of two RAF Typhoons, that was the very first appearance of the type in Malta. This year it was time for a new Typhoon operator in Malta with two Luftwaffe Typhoons from TaktLwG 31 (Tactical Air Force Wing 31) although the Air Wing is not new to Malta having last participated with Tornados in 2003.

The National Carrier of the Maltese Islands made a comeback after nine years with a couple of flypasts that were only rehearsed on Friday as the A320Neo of Air Malta was only scheduled to fly on Sunday, but the show got cancelled due as the wind strength and the sea conditions exceeded the predetermined limits to safely host an airshow at sea.

Business Jet operator SkyFirst participated by performing a display with their Dassault Falcon 7X at the Qawra Sea Front, whilst Harmony Jets participated at Safi Aviation Park with one of their Dassault Falcon 10. The flying schools had most of their aircraft displayed in Safi as well.

This is Malta’s greatest outdoor event, and it is all set up by a group of volunteers most of whom hold jobs in the aviation sector, that in the past, the very same event inspired them to choose aviation as their carrier.

We would like to thank the Organisers – the Malta Aviation Society, for the great opportunity to cover this event from a different angle and hope the event will return soon.