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DIJON – Mondial Des Patrouilles 2000 15 - 16 July

(and the nearby Association des Amis du Musée du Château)

Andrew Bates reports: For any UK enthusiasts making the long trek to Dijon, the subsequent sunny intervals were a welcome respite from the mediocre summer weather experienced so far during the airshow season. Base Aérienne 102, or Dijon-Longvic to quote the full name, primarily home to the Armée de l’Air Mirage 2000Cs & 2000-5s of both EC 01.002 & EC 02.002, threw the gates open to the public over the weekend of 15-16 July. For those familiar with French AF shows, such events usually take the form of either a ‘Meeting Nationale’ or ‘Porte Ouvert’. However, this particular show was billed as ‘Mondiale Des Patrouilles’; effectively a gathering of national display teams.

Consequently, there was a total of six teams in attendance, all of whom took their turn to thrill the audience, with each performing their own unique repertoire. Apart from the expected participation from the Alpha Jets of the Patrouille de France, displays were performed by the MB339s of the Frecce Tricolori, the F5s of the Patrouille Suisse, and the Aviojets of the Spanish AF Team Aguilla. Meanwhile, adding a touch of East European flair were the Polish AF Turbo Orliks, whilst the CAP231s from the 'Marche Verte' of the Royal Moroccan AF completed the line-up of teams. The Reds were unfortunately conspicuous by their absence, but they were obviously bound by display commitments elsewhere (Yeovilton and East Fortune being two venues listed on their itinerary that weekend).

All the teams were well received by the enthusiastic crowds, though obviously the most vociferous applause was reserved for the PdF, apart from the Swiss team, whose trademark finale ‘bomb burst’, complete with decoy flares, never fails to impress. However, the flying was not entirely dominated by the display teams, there was also an excellent selection of individual demonstrations, which were evenly spaced between the team performances, to give a nicely balanced flying programme.

Not surprisingly, there was a heavy French presence in the flying, which saw paired performances from the Jaguar Es of EC 02.007 and Mirage F1Cs of EC 03.033, along with a superb demonstration of power and agility from the home based Mirage 2000-5 from EC 02.002. As a complete contrast, a sedate flyby was performed by E-3F Sentry 206/36-CC from EDCA 00.036.

Foreign participation saw displays from a 10 Wing F-16A and 1 Wing Magister from the FAB, whilst the Swedish JA37 Viggen from F16 Wing was especially popular with the assembled crowds. However, as far as the enthusiasts were concerned, star attraction was the pair of Singapore A-4SU Skyhawks from 150 Squadron, one of which was put through a spirited display routine, demonstrating an impressive rate of roll, along with a degree of manoeuvrability that would typically be more akin to a fly by wire design. Unfortunately for all the ‘spotters’ amongst us, of the two Skyhawks present (957 & 941), 957 was one of the pair visiting Waddington the previous month. This inevitably led to much incredulity and dismay, as one by one, the UK contingent were forced to concede the unpalatable truth: ‘I’ve dropped a Singapore Skyhawk!? - Aarrh!!’

Naturally, the AdlA featured prominently in the static park, including a good selection of Mirage variants, such as F1CT 253/30-SJ from EC 01.030, F1CR 622/33-NH from ER 02.033, 2000N 332/4-BN from EC 02.004, 2000D 669/3-ID from EC 01.003, and 2000-5 70/2-FD from EC 02.002. The latter Mirage had been painted in a rather smart two-tone grey scheme, but unfortunately for the photographers present, was tightly boxed in by barriers, ensuring little room for a decent shot. Other notable French participation was provided by Alphajet E14/2-EI, Tucano 497/312-UP, Epsilon 134/315-YY, and Falcon 20 483/339-JI, which certainly caught the attentions of most visitors, by way of its ‘nose job’.

As an added bonus, some of the visiting support aircraft had been given room in the static, rather than being parked in some far-flung corner of the airfield. These included Swedish Tp84 Hercules 84004/844, Polish An26 1603, Spanish CN235 T.19B-07/35-25, and Moroccan CN235 025/CNA-MC. Meanwhile, for those with an interest in historic aircraft, there were a couple of French registered warbirds to be found on show, both immaculately presented. This pair comprised of T28S Fennec (or Trojan if you prefer) 51-7749/135/F-AZHR in an attractive USN colour scheme, along with B25J Mitchell 45-8811/F-AZID, which was reportedly visiting from Athens, despite French ownership.

Despite the mass turn out by the local population, it was still possible to determine that a good proportion of UK enthusiasts had taken the trouble to attend this event, judging by the number of English voices to be heard around the airfield. Whilst the long journey undoubtedly deterred some people, those that made the effort ensured they got maximum value from their travels by making a short detour south of Dijon to the village of Savigny Lès Beaune. Here, within the grounds of a château renowned for it’s high quality Burgundy wines, can be found the Association des Amis du Musée du Château, which apart from a collection of racing cars and historic motorcycles, has an impressive array of preserved aircraft.

With approximately sixty airframes on display, of which the majority are military jets, it’s no surprise that the Mirage family feature heavily within the collection, with just about every version of the Mirage III you could possibly imagine, as well as a pair of Mirage IVs. Other French types include Ouragan, Mystère, Super Mystère, Magister, Zephyr, Alizé, and even a pair of Jaguars. However, the museum proprietors have not confined their collecting policy to French military only, and have created a veritable treasure trove of classic jets. This included a trio of Starfighters, comprising a Belgian duo of F104G and TF104G, along with a Canadian CF104, as well as an impressive line up of Mig variants, from Mig-15 to Mig-23 inclusive. Other highlights included an F84F, a pair of G91s, one German, the other Portuguese, an F105F Thunderchief, a Polish Su-7, and even a Lightning; F1A XM178, which had been rescued from decoy duties at Leuchars.

Space precludes listing all the museum inhabitants, suffice to say that the remainder of the collection was just as ‘tasty’. This was actually your scribe’s second time around this fascinating attraction, having managed to secure a visit whilst on holiday last year, after much pleading with ‘her indoors’. By making a return trip, it was evident that the acquisition policy was continuing, as a Polish Su-20 and Mil Mi-2 had been added to the inventory. Meanwhile, the refurbishment programme was also seen to be progressing, with the F8 Crusader freshly painted and back in the collection, whilst the Belgian Hunter was over in the restoration area, stripped down and awaiting its turn.

All in all, the weekend’s activities were worth the long drive south, with the ideal combination of an enjoyable airshow, and a superb museum. With the additional bonus of good weather, beautiful countryside, and an opportunity to purchase fine wines, what more could you ask for?

 

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