Axalp Air Show 2011

A description of climbing the mountain ridge from where you can watch the airshow, can be found here (Switzerland Autumn – Dag 4/6).

After a couple of hours waiting, a helicopter ascends to inspect the area around the shooting targets and drops someone at the other side of the valley. He walks towards a couple of people and sends them back. That cliff on the other side has the sun from behind is a couple of hundred meters higher. To get there you face a similar kind of ‘walk’ as from this side, taking 5-6 hours in complete darkness. From this side you are facing the sun.

The guy on the other side is picked up again. Not long after, two F/A-18’s appear in the distance. They perform a kind of high altitude ballet. They seem to balance on their tail and turn around each other. A bit later we see them much closer and then suddenly everybody is caught by surprise by two other Hornets that fly very low and fast through the valley while launching a battery of flares. Spectacular! They pass by another couple of times and sometimes they fly straight towards a rock wall, to turn steep upwards in the last possible moment. I did not have any chance in photographing this. Have to keep this in mind for the second show this afternoon.

Then there follows a nice demo of a Pilatus PC-21. This one also arrives fast and unexpected, but now from the other side. The sky is very deep blue and the aircraft are looking nice against it. Snowed terrain as background is something else also and really photogenic.

Then the shooting exercises commence. First a couple of F/A-18s followed by a much larger number of F-5’s. The explosions are quite loud. During the shooting you see some smoke around the cockpit. After a few seconds followed by loud bangs of ammunition exploding in mid air. When the F/A-18’s are almost passing there is a very weird sound, WHOOEEEEEPPP, that first pitches higher and then lower. At first I do not understand what is causing this sound. The F-5’s make a similar weird noise, and then I understand. It is the sound of the canon ifself. Because the shooting is a couple of hundred meters away, that sound travels together with the aircraft towards us. The munitions travel much faster (about 2-3 times) and you here that sound first. So actually you hear back in time!

The sightings are really spectacular and the same is for the photographs. The aircraft fly circuits west-east, north-south and south-north. Especially on the north-south trajectory you see the aircraft dive almost vertically into the valley.

As quickly as it started it is over again. The time is 11. During a couple of hours, vips are being flown in by helicopter. At 14:00 the real repetition for the shows of tomorrow and the day after will follow.

3 hours of waiting in between cow shit await me.

Exactly at 14:00 the same game starts. It is a rerun of this morning. Despite the fact that is was really focused to get the F/A-18’s with the flares, I am again distracted by the two higher in the air. I aim my camera quickly on the two with flares but it takes some time to get them in sight and for the lens to focus. Just a bit too long and for the second time I am too late. I have one acceptable photograph.

Now there is also a 20 minute display of the Patrouille de Suisse. Quite spectacular with such a background.

There are three hills here where you can stand and today I just stayed at the same location. The next two days I can have some more variation. I know which photographs I want to make and those F/A-18s with flares are most certainly among them. While I am thinking about this, the news is broadcasted that the real airshow for the coming two days has been cancelled. This due to the flooding on monday. The army has to clean up the mess and can not be used to assist with the show. This is quite a disappointment…

In some way I am not sad about it. Another two times climbing that f…… hill and then with thousands instead of hundreds is far from appealing. For the time being I have nice set of photographs.

The descend is a lot less heavy luckily and I can enter the chair lift almost immediately. In the end I arrive at my hotel after a half hour of driving and there awaits me a surprise. Everything is dark and all doors are closed. It is their resting day. I try my card but the keylock does not react. At the other door I get a red light. Oh oh… On the other side of the street there is bakery that is still open and I ask her. She doesn’t know these people and does not have their telephone number either. I go back and try all doors again. Now I try the card both ways and luckily the door opens. Whoef…

It is completely quiet and dark inside. It looks like I am the only one here. Sadly enough I have lost my internet connection because that was only valid for 24 hours. I did not know that…

I am really tired and lie down on the bed for a few minutes. Around 21:30 I wake up again and decide to go to bed immediately.

What a beautiful day this has been. Really happy to have done this. What a spectacle! Despite the long waiting, the cold and the not in the last place the climbing, that was heavy. The photographs make up for it, especially in hind sight (-;

Eurocopter EC145
Eurocopter EC635P2+
Eurocopter EC635P2+ and Cougar Formation
Pilatus PC-21
F-5E Tiger II
F/A-18C Hornet
F/A-18D Hornet
Patrouille de Suisse