Air shows go online!

As the year advanced, it became clear that anti-coronavirus measures would last with us at least until the end of 2020. The limit of participants for public events is one of them, together with keeping the social distance and tight cleaning and disinfection rules.

In addition, fire and rescue services, the armed forces and similar organizations – that are not only protecting the area and visitors but in most cases are also co-organizing those aviation events – had to focus their resources on fighting with the pandemic. It was not surprising that, starting with the end of March, the aviation events began to be cancelled one by one.

And just when it seemed that this air show season is completely lost, but nature abhors a vacuum and a new idea was born shortly. Initially, it started with several flypasts organized in different countries in order to boost the morale – Red Arrows, Blue Angels, Thunderbirds, Patrouille de France,  and several other national aerobatic teams began to perform the regular flypasts over their countries, to honour those who are fighting with the pandemic and to strengthen the unity.

Also in Russia, the annual Victory Day Parade on 9th May had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus situation in the country. However, to boost the morale and still properly commemorate the Victory Day, the Russian authorities have decided to perform large-scale flypasts throughout the country, and also in Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and over the Russian air base Hmeymim in Syria. The Russian Aerospace Forces reported that approximately 600 of their military aircraft participated in those flypasts.

Sukhoi Su-25SM – a formation of six Su-25 concluded the Victory Day parade, creating the Russian national flag over Moscow

And it was Russia too, where the new solution has seen the light of the day for the first time ever. An air show without any spectators? Prior to year 2020 this could sound completely weird and pointless, but in the world of lockdowns, social distancing and other security measures it became a reality.

The first major air show of 2020 season in Europe was then organized at Kubinka air base on 9th May, with participation of leading military aerobatic teams in Russia – Соколы России (Falcons of Russia), Стрижи (the Swifts), Русские Витязи (Russian Knights) and Беркуты (Golden Eagles). This event was live broadcasted by main Russian media and also was available on YouTube and the Russian Ministry of Defence website. The idea of online-only air show, without any spectators at the site, was no longer an eccentric concept.

It looks like the Russian idea fell on fertile ground and at beginning of June, several information about online aviation events were announced.

Russian Knights performing the flying display at MAKS-2017

The International Sanicole Airshow was among the first, spreading the news about the Digital Sanicole Airshow. This online event will be organized on 11th September, in the evening – the original date of cancelled 2020 Sanicole Sunset show.

The Digital Sanicole Airshow, quoting the official press release, ´will take you along behind the scenes of the airshow world and the Sanicole Airshow with recordings of the most spectacular air demonstrations, unique on-board footage, interviews with the pilots and some images from the Sanicole archives. The typical airshow images will be combined with some great base visit reports of both modern and historic airplanes

Among the participants, the RAF Red Arrows jet aerobatic team was already confirmed to perform over Sanicole airfield. The Digital Sanicole Airshow is dedicated to healthcare providers that are in the first line of fighting with the coronavirus pandemic.

Boeing B-17G Super Fortress ´Sally B´ – Sanicole Sunset Airshow 2019

Tag der Bundeswehr, the annual open doors event of the German armed forces, was initially scheduled on 13th June 2020. As a replacement for the cancelled event, the Bundeswehr is going to held ´Digitaler Tag der Bundeswehr´, on that very day, between 11:00 and 12:45 hours CET.

The live displays, interviews and reports will be live broadcasted via ´Bundeswehr exclusive´ channel on YouTube, including the interview with German Ministry of Defence, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.

General Colonel Ulrich Baumgärtner, the medical service inspector, will explain how the Bundeswehr medical units are responding to the coronavirus pandemic and Lieutenant General Martin Schelleis is going to tell about the administrative assistance provided by the German armed forces. All those interviews will be accompanied by live demonstrations of the German Army, the Air Force and the Navy.

In addition, the usual motto of the German open doors event – ´Willkommen  Neugier´ (Welcome the curious ones), was this time replaced by ´Wir sind da´ (We are here).

Panavia Tornado IDS – Tag der Bundeswehr 2019, Fliegerhorst Jagel (Schleswig)

On 2nd June it was also announced that Slovak International Air Fest – SIAF, the biggest air show event in Slovakia, would also be cancelled and replaced by an online event. The online broadcast will be organized on 29th August and, according to the organizer, will last six hours.

However, unlike the Sanicole Airshow and Tag der Bundeswehr, this broadcast will include only the archive materials from SIAF shows held between 2011 and 2019, together with some additional live interviews. The broadcasting platform was not disclosed yet.

Although the SIAF show was postponed until 2021, it is still not known where it would take place. A long-lasting and complex reconstruction of Sliač air base is planned to start soon, in order to make it ready to welcome new Slovak F-16V fighters. One of the options is Kuchyňa air base, but it also needs some construction works to be finalized first.

Mil Mi-24V (Czech Air Force) – SIAF 2012

And last, but not least, the annual NATO Days in Ostrava/Mošnov will also be organized as the no-spectators event, with online broadcasting. The organizer of this popular military and security show announced this last Thursday, although just a few details were released so far.

It is sure, that the event would be organized with the airport doors closed for visitors and there would be no static exhibition there. On the other hand, the organization teams promised to focus on dynamic displays and to broadcast them live. No details about the channel and broadcasting times were disclosed yet.

The list of participants is still unknown, however, together with this latest announcement, the Belgian and Lithuanian flags vanished from the official web site. In addition, the usual ´partner nation´ of the event was also changed – in 2020, the Czech Republic will be the ´partner nation´, replacing the initially announced Sweden.

Saab SK35C Draken – NATO Days 2016

Apparently, it seems that instead of going to the airfield, we will be welcoming more and more aviation displays at our homes. On the other hand, there are still some organizers that believe they would be able to held the scheduled event and are confirming the dates. However, the coronavirus measures must be observed, so it was reflected in the already-announced general conditions: limited number of participants, cancelling some of the usual displays and keeping the social distance in the area. Will it be possible at such specific event as an air show is? We are about to see soon.

As a signum temporis, the coronavirus is regrettably the one to sets the trends in the air show world this year. Let´s hope this would be the only season marked by the online air shows – although interesting and great, they would never replace any live event, with real roar of jet engines and the smell of aviation fuel…

Breguet ATL2 Atlantique NG – Tag der Bundeswehr 2019, Fliegerhorst Nordholz