In recent years, the AIR POWER event organised by the Austrian Federal Army in cooperation with the energy drink manufacturer Red Bull developed into one of the largest and most spectacular air shows in Europe. The estimated 300,000 visitors to Airpower 2011 has not only confirmed this status, but expanded  it further. No other open-air event this year was able to keep up. With more than 220 aircraft and numerous international aerobatic teams on display at the Hinterstoisser AB, the Air Power 2011 has outclassed established major events, including the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford. However statistics and figures do not always tell you if an event is going to be  a success. With all the media hype about  AIR POWER being the largest European event, there was a lot to live up to. This year's AIR POWER, saw a breathtaking flight program and numerous attractions on the ground. For the city of Zeltweg and surrounds, the Austrian Armed Forces and Red Bull the first weekend in July was a huge success.

This success can be attributed to several factors. Firstly the location of the Hinterstoisser AB in the middle of the Green March, in the federal state of Styria is certainly one of them. Seccondly Austrian Armed Force excellent presentation throughout  this major event. Thirdly the sponsorship of the energy drink manufacturer Red Bull. The final factor is the beautiful region in and around the city of Zeltweg. The above mentioned factors contributed in part to the success of the event weekend that saw about a quarter of a million spectators pour into Zeltweg. Another major contributing factor is that there is no entrance fee (only parking fees apply) this makes it more attractive to people than events where one is confronted with some exorbitant ticket prices (like the RIAT at Fairford or the Flying Legends Airshow at Duxford, which costs 32 GBP per day for /adults!). Another  important contributing factor to the success of the AIR POWER is the marketing done by the media. Nowhere else has an organizer brought the media so successfully on board as with the Austrian Armed Forces and Red Bull. In addition to this there is word-of-mouth advertising. One indicator of the AIR POWER`s stature is the huge number of enthusiasts who have placed this air show on their agenda at the top. This year more than 700 aviation spotters have acquired the so-called spotters package, a kind of all-inclusive package for aviation enthusiasts.  In addition to a full board accomodation, the participant is given the opportunity to take his/her photos / videos from 13 different spots, which are spread around the entire airport area. . If one wishes to change spots it is possible to have army personnel call available vehicles via radio at any time. This gives the spotter the opportunity to change his/her location several times per day - a service which definitely does not exist in this form at any other event. The cost of a spotter package amounts to ? 30 per day - Now that is good value for money!

This year's show program was really outstanding. On offer was not only the entire Red Bull fleet but also everything the Austrian Army and Austrian Air Division has in its inventory. The international involvement was definitely worth seeing. First and foremost was the long-awaited presentation of the Saudi Arab aerobatic team, the ROYAL SAUDI HAWKS. This team consists of six BAe HAWK Mk.65 and 3 Mk.65a advanced trainers and was first presented to the public  Arabia public at the 100th anniversary of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1999. Since then, the team has been seen primarily at events in their homeland. Their European debut was therefore in Zeltweg. Due to a bird strike on one of the aircrafts the Saudis had to cancel their display on first show day, but showed off their impressive skills on the second day. The extremely dynamic display of the ROYAL SAUDI HAWKS showed clear parallels to the British RED ARROWS - which is not surprising , as there were ex-RED ARROWS pilots who participated in the creation and training of the team. The SAUDI HAWKS are based at the King Faisal Air Base near the city of Tabouk (in the northwest of the country).

Besides the already mentioned ROYAL SAUDI HAWKS there were plenty of other international teams on display in Zeltweg. There was the most famous aerobatic team of our time, the Italian FRECCE TRICOLORI.  The TURKISH STARS and the PATROUILLE SUISSE delighted the audience as well as Croatian KRILA OLUJE (Wings of Storm). The largest civilian jet aerobatic team in the world - the Breitling Jet Team flying the Aero L-39 ALBATROS. A very special display, at least in the eyes of local spectators was a flying display performed Austrian Air Component flying four SAAB 105 OE. This swarm, flew a display in a tight formation, including some maneuvers that were flown by the former Austrian Aerobatic Team KARO AS. Unfortunately this legendary team was disbanded in 1984 but is still present in the hearts of many Austrians. The Saab 105 OE is a more powerful version of the Saab 105 SK60 (instead of the relatively weak Turbomeca Aubisque RM 9 engines the Austrian Export variant used the of the more powerful General Electric J85-GE-17B turbines, each rated at 1280 kp of thrust). A total of 40 aircraft were ordered by the Armed Forces in the early seventies, of which 22 are still in active service at the present time within the Austrian Air Division.

In the case of the military fighter aircraft, naturally the Eurofighter EF-2000 dominated. Austria has purchased 18 aircraft of this type, all of which are based in Zeltweg. In addition to a great solo display two EUROFIGHTER scrambled and subsequently intercepted an "intruder", played by one of the Austrian Air Divisions Lockheed C-130 HERCULES, which highlighted the tremendous capabilities of the EF-2000. Also the EF-2000's solo display was many times more dynamic, as the one's from other EF-2000 (this does not make sense). Despite these grandiose displays of high technology products made by EADS, the biggest highlight, at least for the majority of the spectators, came in form of an old acquaintance. We are talking about the famous MiG-29 – (NATO code: FULCRUM). Initially, one Polish and one Slovac MiG-29 display was in the flying schedule, unfortunately, the Polish display aircraft was down for technical reasons. Even a second Polish MiG was on display in the static, the demonstration was flown on both show days by the Slovak MiG-29AS coming from Sliac AB (1st Fighter Squadron).

Unfortunately, the AIR POWER 2011 also was marred by an accident. In an airborne exercise paratroopers from the 25th Air Assault Battalion from Klagenfurt were airdropped by two, low-flying Lockheed C-130 HERCULES. Two paras got stuck in the air and both tumbled to the ground with a hardly reduced speed. Miraculously, both survived severe bone fractures and, according to official press releases, both will fully recover. We would like to pass on our best wishes at this point. Due to the accident investigation on the airdrop of paratroopers part of the show was cancelled on the second day. Of civil aircraft the RED BULL fleet dominated the show, most notable of course the majestic Douglas DC-4. This particular aircraft was originally the official aircraft of the former president of Yugoslavia, Marshal Tito and came to Austria in an adventurous way through Zambia.

Beside the DC-4 the  FLYING BULLS (the official name of the RED BULL fleet) consists of a North American B-25 MITCHELL, a Chance Vought F-4U CORSAIR, a Lockheed P-38 LIGHTNING, a Bell AH-1 COBRA and a MBB Bo-105 helicopter. All these aircraft could be seen in the 2011 flying display. A special highlight was the flight program of the Messerschmitt Me-262 owned by the Messerschmitt Foundation at Manching. The display of the legendary first operational jet fighter in the world was often criticized as boring, which was definitely not the case at Zeltweg. Immediately after take off the Me-262 banked to the right, retracted the landing gear and went off for a terrific display! Thank you for letting us see this display!

CONCLUSION: to list all the highlights from the flying program is beyond the scope of this report. There was definitely something for everyone. Almost all the announced aircraft went on display (with the exception of the Polish MiG-display and the Swedish SAAB J-29 TUNNAN, which had to stay in Sweden due to engine problems). The AIR POWER 2011 has impressively demonstrated that it is THE LARGEST airshow in Europe - at least this year! Whether this will continue to stay that way remains to be seen. Visiting Styria for the next AIR POWER is definitely on our list – CU there!

Robert Kysela/CHK 6


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