An Air Show in Africa- or 5eme Salon International de l´Aeronautique et du Spatial
When I read about a planned Air Show in Morocco in April 2016, I searched the web about previous ones and it looked very promising. There was a small international participation on those shows, but lots of their own Air Force aircraft. Up to now I only have seen their national Aerobatic Team “March Verte” (Green March ) and a few of their support aircraft (CN.235M). So the descicion was made to try to attend the next edition, which should be their fifth, ready to get more aircraft of this Rare Air Force.. As I never was in this part of the world and I had some doubts about organizing travel and accommodation and behavior at Marrakesh, myself and a friend decided to join a tour which was organized by some Dutch friends who have been there before. It was slightly more expensive, but the safety to join some friends and their experience was well worth it. As their group flew from the Netherlands to Marrakesh we decided to organize our own flights and flew from Germany via Madrid to Marrakesh on the same day as them. At Madrid we met two young men with photo boxes which were also on their way to Morocco It turned out they also would join the group from the Netherlands, which was expected that evening. We arrived around lunchtime on the opening day of the show at Marrakesh. As advertised, the Dutch friends had organized a shuttle to the hotel and after our quick check-in there, we got organized and got a taxi, and we drove to the exhibition area. After arrival, the pick-up of the press accreditation went very quick and smoothly, again a sign of good preparations. The static contained some new military hardware (French Rafale C; American C-130J-30; British Atlas C.1 (A.400M), two Alpha Jet As from Portugal, some civil aircraft (including a Super Tucano from Brazil) and some aircraft and helicopters from the Moroccan Forces. Although it contained some interesting helicopters (AB.205A and CH-47D) from the Air Force and each type used with the Moroccan Gendarmerie (the Federal Police) , the only fighter from the Air Force was an F-16C-50+, their other two types, Mirage F.1EM and F-5E were missing unfortunately. However, the atmosphere was very relaxed and some nice pictures could be taken in the late afternoon sun mostly behind the barriers after asking permission. When we returned by taxi to the hotel at 19:00, the rest of the group had also arrived at the hotel and a lot of well-known faces were seen again.
After a good breakfast the next morning we all drove in a bus to the entrance, and while the reminder of the group got their paperwork done with their accreditation, we entered the area after another security check. We met the press officer and got information about flying times and access to areas during the four days of our stay. It became clear that due to the fact that also civil traffic had to be handled at the airport, there were time-blocks for the military demonstrations. Unfortunately it became also clear, that the participation of the Moroccan Air Force was limited to a few items, including their own demonstration team “Marche Verte” (Green March) and an overflight of a four-ship of F-16s. Therefore the organization, which wanted to have more international participation was proud to have no less than three demonstration teams… including from Italy the Frecce Tricolori, from Spain the Patrulla Aguila and the team from the United Arabic Emirates “Al Fursan”. Each day there was a different schedule, meaning different light each day, giving different opportunities each day. However, as proud as the organization was in achieving their aim in getting more international participation, the same way the enthusiasts were disappointed in seeing only a few items of the Moroccan Air Arms. On the first day the UAE team “Al Fursan” could be watched. They have taken over MB.339s from the Italian Air Force which were modified for the team, the designation is MB.339NAT now. The team uses seven aircraft in their demonstration and it became obvious that they learned and were trained by the Italian national team, the Frecce Tricolori. They were flying the following day and although they had one broken aircraft they performed their well-known great routine. During the last months, they got a slightly different painting, their former dark blue tail was replaced by the national green/white/red colors.
The press officer was also able to organize a short visit to the tower, allowing some unique pictures from above of parts of the static display. Also on Friday evening, an UAE C-17 arrived to pick up the Bell 407GX which was one of the star items in the static.
Saturday was the public day of the event and the people came in masses despite the temperatures in the high 90s F. It was entertained by all three international display teams and the aforementioned F-16 four-ship which came from Ben Guerir. However, due to the time limitations, their own national display team was unable to perform. On Sunday was departure day and we were hoping for pictures of the leaving aircraft but access was denied this time due to a higher security level, but we were able to take pictures from outside. However, the only interesting aircraft this day was a KC-130H Hercules of the Moroccan Air Force.
Our Dutch friends left in the evening for home, our flight headed to Barcelona around midnight, where we spent the night before leaving the next morning back to Germany. All in all a nice trip with some interesting aircraft although less than we hoped for, but the good weather and photo opportunities made more than up for it and I’m looking forward to the 6th edition of the Salon in 2018.
Special thanks to our friends of 4Aviation for their preparation work and to the Moroccan Air Force PAO team with their great Colonel Bahr, thank you for your patience and ongoing support.