Fête Aérienne 2022 - Aerodrome La Ferté-Alais / France

Update: 2022/07/14  by Robert Kysela / CHK6

Every year on the Whitsun weekend, aviation enthusiasts have a must-attend event that draws thousands of fans from all over Europe to brave the nerve-wracking traffic jams of Paris to attend one of the most successful and best events on continental European soil – we are talking, of course, about the Fête Aérienne in La Ferté-Alais, a few kilometres south of Paris. After this event was cancelled in 2020 due to Corona and had to be postponed to the end of August in 2021, the crowds were particularly high this year. More than 21,000 aviation enthusiasts visited the Aerodrome Cerny, even though the weather forecast for the weekend was anything but rosy. Fortunately, the spectators were not disappointed and even though it rained at least 100 times, the sun came out every now and then and provided a fascinating backdrop with the dark storm clouds in the background.

Bleriot XI Replica - © by Robert Kysela
Morane Saulnier TypeN - © by Robert Kysela
France played a leading role in the development of aeronautics in the years before the First World War. Even if the first powered flight can be attributed to the American brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright, it was mainly French aviation pioneers such as Louis Bleriot, Alberto Santos-Dumont or Henry Farman, to name but a few, who advanced aircraft technology in this early era with their groundbreaking achievements. It is therefore not surprising that this era also played a special role at the Fête Aérienne. In the absence of original aircraft from this period, a few replicas such as a Bleriot XI together with a Morane Saulnier TypeN opened the flying programme.

Originally powered by an 80 hp Le Rhône rotary engine, later aircraft were often fitted with a 100 hp Anzani 10C radial engine

Caudron G.III Replica - © by Robert Kysela
Caudron G.III Replica - © by Robert Kysela

The replica of the Caudron G.III is also interesting. This design by the brothers René and Gaston Caudron had its maiden flight at the end of 1913. In the first years of World War I, the G.III was used in large numbers by the French Air Force as a reconnaissance/artillery observer and light bomber. Originally powered by an 80 hp Le Rhône rotary engine, later aircraft were often fitted with a 100 hp Anzani 10C radial engine. After the war, the aircraft was used for training purposes, but also gained fame for numerous pioneering feats, such as the first landing of an aircraft on Mont Blanc (30th of July 1921 with the Swiss pilot François Durafour at the controls) or the crossing of the Andes by a woman (Adrienne Bolland) on 1st of April 1921. The aircraft shown in La Ferté-Alais is a replica built in 1991.

Supermarine SPITFIRE Mk. IX - © by Robert Kysela
Junkers Ju 52/3M - © by Robert Kysela
World War II plays a major role in La Ferté-Alais. Besides the obligatory Supermarine SPITFIRE and Curtiss P-40 WARHAWK, it is above all two German rarities that put the “icing on the cake”. A Junkers Ju-52/3m and a Fieseler F-156 STORCH represent the Luftwaffe in the flying displays. The Ju-52/3m is a Spanish-built CASA 352L which was acquired by the Amicale Jean-Baptiste Salis in 1990 and, after more than 12 years of extensive restoration, can be admired at numerous events in the colours of the former Luftwaffe. The “Old Aunt Ju” is powered by three ENMASA (Empresa Nacional de Motores de Aviación) BETA B-4 radial engines, which have a take-off power of 775 hp. This engine is a licensed version of a Wright R-1820 Cyclone. The original engine of the German Ju-52/3m, the BMW 132, was also originally based on an American engine (Pratt & Whitney R-1690 HORNET).

With the combination of slats over the entire wingspan, large landing flaps and so-called Flettner flaps, the F-156 had a stall speed of just under 50km/h

Fieseler Fi-156C-3 STORCH - © by Robert Kysela
Fieseler Fi-156C-3 STORCH - © by Robert Kysela
The Fieseler Fi-156C-3 STORCH, which was flown grandly in La Ferté-Alais, is a version produced under licence by the French manufacturer Morane Saulnier and designated MS. 500 CRIQUET. The STORCH (stork) was by far one of the most fascinating aircraft of its time – no other machine could boast flight behaviour like the small machine with the high-legged landing gear. With the combination of slats over the entire wingspan, large landing flaps and so-called Flettner flaps, the F-156 had a stall speed of just under 50km/h. This meant that a STORCH could defacto stand in the air with a corresponding headwind and sometimes even fly backwards. An extremely short runway also resulted from this. The Fieseler STORCH gained fame through the liberation of the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini on the Gran Sasso (in the Apruzzen mountains) in September 1943, when a STORCH landed on a sloping, short mountain slope and flew the liberated Duce to safety together with the SS-Hauptsturmführer (Captain) Otto Skorzeny. The pilot in this liberation operation was Captain Gerlach. Just under 2000 of the Fi-156 were built at the Fieseler-Works at Kassel, while Morane-Saulnier built just over 1000. After the delivery of the Argus AS10 8-cylinder V-engines was no longer possible due to the end of the war, further models from French production with radial engines of the type Jacobs-R755 (MS. 505) and Salmson 9AB (MS. 502) were installed.
North American / Rockwell OV-10B BRONCO - © by Robert Kysela
North American / Rockwell OV-10B BRONCO - © by Robert Kysela

Another aircraft designed for use on short, unpaved runways was the North American Rockwell OV-10 BRONCO. This enormously manoeuvrable light observation and ground combat aircraft, powered by two Garrett T-76-G turboprops, was increasingly used in Vietnam from 1969 onwards, where it supplemented and partly replaced the completely obsolete and inadequate Cessna O-1 BIRD DOG and the Cessna O-2 SKYMASTER. Since the OV-10 was capable of carrying a relatively large weapons load (just over 1600kg), it was also used for close air support. On the one hand, the BRONCO had impressive flight characteristics, but was slightly underpowered with an engine output of just under 1060 kW. The aircraft on display in La Ferté-Alais is one of originally eighteen OV-10B aircraft that were in service with the German Bundeswehr from 1970 to 1994 as target towing aircraft. This variant was fitted with a glazed rear fuselage segment and had no armament. After their retirement in Germany, a few of these fascinating aircraft found their way into private hands – including the OV-10 of the Amicale Jean-Baptiste Salis with the civilian registration F-AKZM.

The A-1 proved to be a stable weapons platform and could carry 3,600kg of ordnance at 15 external pylons

Douglas AD-4NA SKYRAIDER - © by Robert Kysela
Douglas AD-4NA SKYRAIDER - © by Robert Kysela

Another veteran of the Vietnam War era is the Douglas A-1 (AD) SKYRAIDER. This aircraft was based on a US NAVY requirement for a dive bomber to replace the Douglas SBD DAUNTLESS and made its maiden flight on 11th of March 1945, which meant it came too late to see action during World War II. The A-1 (original designation: AD) earned its spurs in the Korean War, where it carried out over 275,000! missions and dropped almost 120,000t of ordnance. All SKYRAIDER missions were flown from aircraft carriers and were carried out by the US Navy and the US Marine Corps. The A-1 proved to be a stable weapons platform and could carry 3,600kg of ordnance at 15 external pylons. Although technically obsolete by that time, the A-1 made its big appearance in the Vietnam War. From 1964 to 1972 (in the case of the US Navy only until 1969) the SANDY (the radio call sign for the A-1 SKYRAIDER was Sandy) was extensively used as a counter-insurgency and close air support aircraft. The A-1 was a tremendously robust machine and could take a hit or two, but with the introduction of man-portable anti-aircraft missiles (now called manpads), such as the SA-7 STRELA, the days of the SKYRAIDER were numbered.

Douglas AD-4NA SKYRAIDER - © by Robert Kysela
Douglas AD-4NA SKYRAIDER - © by Robert Kysela

The A-1 was powered by the same engine as the mighty Boeing B-29 SUPERFORTRESS, an 18-cylinder Wright R-3350-26B Duplex Cyclone. This had a whopping take-off power of 2840 hp, which enabled the A-1 to reach a top speed of just over 500 km/h. In La Ferté-Alais, an AD-4NA SKYRAIDER, built in 1950, could be seen, which has only been painted in the current livery a year ago. Unfortunately, this aircraft is currently for sale (for about € 750,000), which means that this may have been the last time it was seen at a European airshow. 

At present, there are 48 aircraft of the naval version in active service, which are divided into three different units (Flotille 11F, 12F and 17F)

Dassault RAFALE C - © by Robert Kysela
Dassault RAFALE M - © by Robert Kysela
In addition to the aforementioned warbirds in the collection, it is above all the French Armée de l’Air et de l’Espace and the French naval aviators (Aviation Navale, or Aéronavale for short) that delight the public with their displays. Unfortunately, as the runway at La Ferté-Alais is only a grass strip, take-off and landing of modern fighter aircraft is not possible. This year, three Dassault RAFALEs were demonstrated in flight, whereby the solo display aircraft of the Armée de l’Air was unlucky with the weather, as it was raining cats and dogs at that very moment. The two RAFALE M of the Aéronavale were somewhat luckier. At present, there are 48 aircraft of the naval version in active service, which are divided into three different units (Flotille 11F, 12F and 17F). The RAFALE M differs from the Armée de l’Air version in that it has a reinforced structure, an extended and reinforced nose wheel, an arrestor hook for deck landings and modified avionics for operating the aircraft over sea.
Grumman E-2C HAWKEYE - © by Robert Kysela
Grumman E-2C HAWKEYE - © by Robert Kysela
Also belonging to the Aéronavale is a Grumman E-2C HAWKEYE. The French Navy owns just 3 of these aircraft, which are soon to be replaced by the successor model E-2D ADVANCED HAWKEYE. Of the existing aircraft, two are permanently on the French nuclear aircraft carrier CHARLES DE GAULLE. The third aircraft is stationed at the Base d’Aéronautique Navale de Lann-Bihoué, near Lorient (Flotille 4F). This carrier-based, airborne early warning system with its 7.32m radar dome is capable of detecting large targets up to a range of 650km, as well as small, fast-flying targets up to a range of 270km. The radar used in the E-2C is an APS-145 radar with a pulse power of 1 MW operating in the 400 – 450 MHz frequency range. The E-2D uses an AN/APY-9 AESA radar with electronic beam steering, which operates in the UHF frequency range and is said to detect all kind of targets at a range of over 550km. The AN/APY-9 is manufactured by Lockheed Martin.
Rain & Thunderstorms - © by Robert Kysela
Patrouille de France - © by Robert Kysela

VERDICT: After the forced break due to Corona, it was a particularly great experience to visit the Fête Aérienne in La Ferté-Alais. Even though the number of guest aircraft was limited this time, the programme was simply great – just as one is used to from the friendly French. From my point of view, there is only one point to criticise: as always, there were lots of great sales stands where every aviation enthusiast could find what they were looking for. But not the catering. Nowhere was there a juicy burger to eat, but lots of vegetarian and vegan stuff. The hot dogs looked like they came from a 3D printer and tasted suspiciously like tofu – a no-go for a real aviation enthusiast! If this becomes the norm in the future, I’m in for some hard times! All joking aside, I’m already looking forward to the next Fête Aérienne in 2023, even at the risk of having to bring my own food!

Robert Kysela / CHK6

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