Malta’s geographical location in the Mediterranean has allowed for their airshow to host some exotic aircraft over the years, from Libyan Chinooks to Egyptian K8’s. Whilst recent African participation has been lacking due to the current tension in the area, this hasn’t stopped a wide range of aircraft from central Europe taking part. Since 2016 Malta has operated a similar model to the Jersey airshow, with a static display at Malta-International Luqa Airport and, from the second show, the flying display taking place over the sea off of Qwara.
This year the static display was split into two, with the Red Arrows parked at SR Techniques in the northwest corner of the airport. The ability to get up close to the Red Arrows was very popular with the Maltese public and likely came from criticism of the 2021 event where they were parked at SAFI aviation park and hidden from public view. The Red Arrows were joined at SR Techniques by a Boeing TC-135 from the United States Air Force, painted in the distinctive grey and white paint scheme in keeping with its RC-135 family. The TC-135 arrived from Offutt AFB, Omaha having completed a 13-hour flight, with a short stop over at RAF Waddington to collect some USAF Exchange officers currently serving with 51 Squadron, RAF. The second section of the static display was located at SAFI Aviation Park on the south side of the airport. Entering through the gates visitors were greeted with a row of transport/multi engine aircraft and an opposing row of helicopters.
Stand out aircraft had to be without a doubt the Romanian Air Force Antonov An-26, which was originally scheduled to be an Antonov An-30 Open Skies aircraft. Unfortunately, this wasn’t available due to maintenance and rather than cancel their attendance altogether the Romanians brought their 38-year-old ‘Curl’. At the other end of the spectrum was the Italian Government’s Guardia di Finanza ATR 72-600MP surveillance aircraft which should have attended in 2021 but was unable to do so. The Guardia di Finanza has long supported the Malta International Airshow, this year saw them also bring one of their new AgustaWestland MH-169A helicopters, even going to extent of shipping ground handling equipment to the island from mainland Italy by road and ferry. The Italian helicopter contingent also featured an Italian Government Polizia di Stato AgustaWestland UH-139C and an Italian Government Guardia Costiera AgustaWestland PH-139B, as well as an Italian Navy AgustaWestland AW101 Mk.112ASW/E, which made the very short flight over from Catania-Fontanarossa in Sicily on the Friday evening.
Working our way through the static park a line-up there were no less than ten Maltese General Aviation aircraft from the two flying schools on the island. In fact Malta is a perfect place to learn to fly as it generally has good weather and only one airport, meaning flying in busy controlled airspace as well as flying over water on a regular basis.Tucked away in a corner of the static park next to a pair of de Havilland Canada DHC-8s that had certainly seen better days was a quartet of the Armed Forces of Malta Air Wing aircraft in the shape of an Aérospatiale SA.316B Alouette III, AgustaWestland AW139, Beech B200 King Air and Britten-Norman BN-2T-26 Islander. The Armed Forces of Malta Air Wing operates its aircraft in the Search and Rescue and Maritime Surveillance roles and has done
In a rarity to most airshows the display aircraft also featured in the static display prior to the flying display, including a huge amount of support from The Flying Bulls, the aviation/ airshow arm of ‘Red Bull ‘, the global energy drink brand, who brought a pair of Dassault Breguet/Dornier Alpha Jets, a Lockheed P-38L Lightning and North American B-25J-30-NC Mitchell. The latter two both presented in a polished metal finish which glistened in the hot Mediterranean sun. It must be said that the support ‘Red Bull’ brought to the show, not just in terms of The Flying Bulls but also in terms of the hospitality, was excellent as there was a complimentary ‘Red Bull’ bar in the aircrew enclosure throughout the week and their hospitality staff walking around offering complimentary cans on show days. Featuring on the jet pan outside the Aviation Cosmetics Malta Ltd hangar was a pair of German Air Force Eurofighter 2000s which were on static display only, joined by the Polish Air Force Lockheed Martin F-16C Fighting Falcon demo team, the Turkish Air Force General Dynamics F-16C Fighting Falcon ‘Solo Turk’ Demo team, the Swiss Air Force McDonnell Douglas F/A-18C Hornet solo demo and, making their Malta International Airshow debut, the Slovenian Air Force Pilatus PC-9(M) solo demo.
The flying display took place on the Saturday and Sunday afternoon, once the static park had shut its gates to the public. Located in the north of the island Qwara and St Paul’s Bay is the location for the flying display, with display centre being located near the Malta National Aquarium. The display coincided with the ‘Destination North’ festival, a cultural event held along the coastal road featuring food, drink and live music. Strong winds were predicted for the duration of the weekend; while this didn’t affect the Saturday show, which was attended by thousands of Maltese locals and visiting tourists alike, the Sunday show was cut short after just one act, that of the Armed Forces of Malta Air Wing AgustaWestland AW139 Search and Rescue role demonstration.
One thing that the Malta International Airshow prides itself on is its spotter’s package, after all the Malta International Airshow is organised and run by the Malta Aviation Society, the island’s largest enthusiast group. The spotter’s package gave you airside access to the arrivals on the Thursday and Friday, along with the opportunity to watch the departures and arrivals from Luqa-Malta International of the display aircraft, a night shoot on both the Saturday and Sunday and see the aircraft depart the island on the Monday. Whilst it must be said that the facilities at the two locations are quite sparse (this was pre-briefed in the joining instructions) the photographic opportunities were certainly worth the relatively low cost. The Malta International Airshow is set to return in 2025 and we’re pretty sure that the line-up of aircraft will once again be superb.
South West Aviation Photographers would like to thank everyone at Malta International Airshow for making this article possible
Report by Matt Sudol
© South West Aviation Photographers 2023