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Grosseto Airshow '99, Italy
Michael Balter reports from the airshow at Grosseto '99, where more than 150,000 people found their way to the base on both September 25th and 26th spotters and photographers having already filled the surrounding roads on the 24th (arrivals day).
Basking in the twenty-six degree sunshine, their enthusiasm was rewarded with the arrival on approach to the runway of aircraft from many nations. Crisp calls on scanners were followed by enthusiasts leaping in all directions to get "that better shot". They were well rewarded by, not only the arrival, but impromptu displays in the form of touch and goes followed by a burner climb from two F15Es from the 494th FS at Lakenheath. Not to be outdone, the pilot of the F104S from 311 Gruppo stowed his undercarriage at the last minute of his approach, lit the burner and flew a low pass down the length of the Grosseto runway, drowning the noise of hundreds of camera shutters in the process. The afternoon brought practises from some of the participants just to stop boredom setting in among the crowds!
Of the two days, the Saturday was reserved for VIPs, press and invited guests. The crowded streets on both days, however, led official estimates of attendance each day to reach 150,000. Clear skies and 30 degrees ensured a good turnout although the geography of Grosseto means that, from midday, spectators are looking straight at the sun, while the press (and your scribe) was safely ensconced on the opposite side of the field. My thanks go to all those officials at Grosseto who made my trip possible and so enjoyable.
Sundays public event was opened at 13:15 p.m. by the Italian parachute team "Falchi Blue", who performed in front of the principle guests the Deputy Prime Minister and Chief of the AMI. A press-gang of over one hundred reporter/photographers and eight TV teams ensured plenty of media coverage.
The highlight for many must have been the nine-ship formation flight of F104s from 9 and 20 Gruppos. My position at the "last-chance" point before turning onto the runway watching, photographing and trying to film nine F104s taking off, keeping my lunch in my stomach in all that noise was something I will never forget. The formation flew several passes over the crowd and the accompanying TF104 in the static display. For me though the solo-display of the Eurofighter Typhoon (see, it can fly Ed) which arrived on the Saturday before going straight into his display, repeated on the Sunday. An incredible display of loops and rolls was topped for me with the opportunity to get some exclusive shots as it was parked over "our" side of the airfield.
The display by the GAF F-4F from Hopsten, flown by two family friends Captains Roschmann and Gladitsch from 732 Squadron, was impressive in fact more later in a report from them as to "what its like to fly a solo F-4F at Grosetto".
Solo displays from the EF-18A, Mirage 2000, Harrier GR7, Alpha Jet and G222 all followed, and performances from both the Red Arrows and the home team of the Frecce Tricolori added spice to an already great display. For me, though, it has to be the F104s. It was great to see and meet so many Star-Enthusiasts from all over the world to Grosseto, where the planned future move to Gazzanise is due to be followed by the arrival of Typhoon in 2004.
Again my thanks go to the press officer at 4 Stormo and especially Colonel Salvatore Gagliano Ufficio Stampa, without whose support this report would not have been written.