By Nigel Hitchman

More than 30,000 spectators gathered to see the fabulous Le Temps des Hélices airshow on the beautiful grass airfield on the plateau above the town of La Ferté Alais, France over the weekend of May 18th and 19th. We were lucky to miss most of the stormy weather that was around and were treated to a great show with some sometimes stunning backdrops to celebrate the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

The replica Morane H of 1912 (top) and Bleriot XI-2 of 1910 were both powered by 80hp Le Rhone rotaries. [Photo by Nigel Hitchman]
While the weather played ball for the most part, for some time a funnel cloud hovered in the skies behind the displaying C-47 and other aircraft. [Photo by Nigel Hitchman]

The highlight within the D-Day theme was the flypast by Chalair’s Douglas C-47 F-AZOX escorted by Supermarine Spitfire FR.XIVe G-SXIV flown by owner Brice Ohayen, Spitfire PR.XIX F-AZJS flown by Eric Goujon for owner Christoph Jaquard and Republic P-47D Thunderbolt Nellie B, G-THUN, flown by Baptiste Salis owned by Fighter Aviation Engineering. All three then gave individual displays, the Spitfire XIV showing off its authentic looking invasion stripes, painted by brush and already wearing off in the rain. Eric Goujon gave a superb display in the Spitfire XIX, particularly on the Saturday with a string of high vertical maneuvers and also some superb topside passes, one of the best Spitfire displays I’ve seen for years.

The Spitfire Mk.XIV’s already-weathered invasion stripes are shown to great effect as Brice Ohayen pulls his aircraft past the crowd. [Photo by Nigel Hitchman]
Eric Goujon shows the profile of the Spitfire PR.XIX against the French clouds. [Photo by Nigel Hitchman]

The ARCo Westland Lysander Mk.IIIA G-CCOM flown by John Gowdy was a big highlight for the local crowds, being the first visit of a Lysander for  probably 30 years since the Sabena Old Timers example OO-SOT was there. Particularly poignant being in France, where the majority of Lysander clandestine operations were carried out dropping agents or packages, we also saw a demonstration of this with an old Citroen driving up and an “agent” getting out and into the Lysander.

The Lysander shows its interesting wing planform. Note the bomb racks under the stub wings mounted to the wheel spats. [Photo by Nigel Hitchman]
The “secret agent” climbs aboard the Lysander, his Citroen already leaving the scene. [Photo by Nigel Hitchman]

Making its debut at a major European airshow was the Hawker (Sea) Fury ISS F-AYSF, in Royal Australian Navy colors but with its Iraqi serial 308 as restored by Guido Zuccoli in Australia 40 years ago. It moved to the U.S. some years later and was regularly flown by last owner Walt Bowe there for a couple of years before he sold it to Italy in 2019. After import by MeierMotors it remained at Bremgarten for a few years eventually going to Italy, but was grounded by an engine problem at Roudnice, Czech in the summer of 2022. It was returned to airworthiness by Bruno Ducreux’s company Aero Restauration Services at Dijon late last year and has now been bought by locally-based Christoph Jaquard, and was displayed by Bruno here.

The Hawker Sea Fury, which served with the Iraqi Air Force, was resplendent in the Royal Australian Navy scheme it has worn for many decades. [Photo by Nigel Hitchman]
The Hawker Fury turns in to land, its generous flap area and wide undercarriage stance apparent. [Photo by Nigel Hitchman]

The Luftwaffe were represented by a great display from the Amicale Jean-Baptiste Salis — the Salis Collection — CASA 352 (Spanish license-built Junkers Ju 52/3M) F-AZJU and Fieseler Storch (French-built Morane-Saulnier MS.505) F-AZRA, including a very slow flypast from the big trimotor managing to keep formation with the Storch.

The Luftwaffe was represented by an interesting pairing of a Spanish-built Junkers Ju 52 and a French-built Fieseler Storch. [Photo by Nigel Hitchman]

The WWII Pacific Theater was represented by the “Tora Tora” demonstration which has become a favorite at La Ferte Alais. This year we had 12 Harvard/T6/SNJs representing the Japanese attack with a great formation break to start the attack. One Harvard modified to look a bit like a Zero then “shot down” another before being “shot down” itself by The Fighter Collection’s Curtiss P-40F, representing one of the USAAC P-40s that were at Pearl Harbor. With the last French based P-40 now sold in Sweden TFC’s example was used instead, flown by Patrice Marchison. It was unusual no other TFC aircraft was present, but Stephen Grey was seen during the weekend.

The “Japanese” aircraft of the Tora Tora display peel in for their attack. [Photo by Nigel Hitchman]
The Fighter Collection’s Duxford-based Curtiss P-40F represented the Pearl Harbor defenders at the show. [Photo by Nigel Hitchman]

Continuing the Pacific theme was a nice formation pass of the Consolidated Catalina G-PBYA from Duxford, together with the Salis Collection Vought F4U-5N Corsair F-AZEG both then doing individual displays.

The Catalina, escorted by the Corsair, pays tribute to the Pacific Theater. [Photo by Nigel Hitchman]
The Corsair recovers after its display. [Photo by Nigel Hitchman]

Always a big highlight at the show is the flight of the pioneer aircraft. This year we had an exceptional display from two 80hp le Rhone rotary powered replica aircraft of the Salis Collection: the 1910 Bleriot XI-2 (2 seater version) and 1912 Morane H, with formation flypasts and opposition passes, it really was amazing to see. The Morane H was the aircraft in which Roland Garros became the first person to cross the Mediterranean sea in 1913.

Two rotary-powered early monoplanes, the Morane H (left) and Bleriot XI-2, approach for a pass by the crowd. [Photo by Nigel Hitchman]

Memorial flight flew their superb Royal Aircraft Factory BE2f reproduction with its TVAL-built RAF 1a engine on the Friday evening, flown by Edmund Salis. Sadly the rest of their collection (Sopwith One-and-a-Half Strutter, Fokker D.VII, Bristol F.2B Fighter and Spad XIII) were only on static display, all with various engine issues that need sorting, but their main work at present is on the two Morane AI aircraft which are part way through restoration, hopefully to be completed in two or three years.

The Memorial Flight’s BE2f was one of a small handful of WWI types to fly at the show. [Photo by Nigel Hitchman]
The BE2f, airframe and engine built by TVAL in New Zealand, hums by the crowd. [Photo by Nigel Hitchman]

The Salis Collection’s superb Caudron G.III replica flew together with some WWI replicas, two Fokker Dr.I Triplanes and two Royal Aircraft Factory SE5A lookalikes which carried out a mock dogfight, with top cover provided by a formation of three Stampe SV-4B and three Bücker Jungmann biplanes.

The pilot of the Caudron G.III waves to the crowd, seemingly oblivious to the Fokker Triplanes above! [Photo by Nigel Hitchman]

One thing that was really missing from this years show was the usual array of between the wars civilian aircraft, the Stampes and Jungmann only flew top cover and didn’t display and although several of the Salis collection Moraine-Saulnier parasols were on static display none flew, it would be fabulous to see some of these flying again. Just one Stinson SR-10C (F-GPJS) representing the U.S. classics flew, but we did have an excellent display of Mauboussin 125 Corsaire F-PCES of the Mauboussin collection, the first time this has flown at a major display, although its been static before following its restoration a few years ago.

When it came to post-war aircraft it was great to see the Dassault MD311 Flamant F-AZKT of the Amicale des Avions anciens D’Albert, which has recently been repainted. This flew in formation with two Socata TB-30 Epsilons, the types representing two large French aircraft manufacturers (Dassault and Socata, now Daher), the Flamant series having been the first aircraft produced by the newly reformed Dassault after WWII.

The recently-repainted Dassault Flamant of the Salis Collection shows its distinctive lines. [Photo by Nigel Hitchman]

The Vietnam War demo has also become a favorite, but this time missed having any Douglas Skyraiders, just four T28s, a Hughes 369HE (representing an OH-6a) and the OV-10 Bronco, which for the first time I’ve seen dropped four parachutists out of the back with the glass dome removed.

A civil Hughes 369 stood in for its U.S. Army OH-6a cousin during the Vietnam War scenario, which also featured T-28s (two in the background). [Photo by Nigel Hitchman]

More modern aircraft were presented by the Aeroclub de France with their display of four Fouga Magisters together with four aerobatic aircraft making a nice unusual formation, followed by individual displays. We also had the Patrouille de France, French Air Force aerobatic Extra 330, French Naval Aviation Dassault Rafale and Swiss F/A-18 Hornet displays, and Team Raven with their RV-8s from the UK.

Another unique (and colorful) formation was that put on by the Aeroclub de France. [Photo by Nigel Hitchman]
The Patrouille de France put on their usual polished display in their Alpha Jets. [Photo by Nigel Hitchman]

In the static display it was great to see the Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress Pink Lady outside. There were a lot of positive comments that it will be returned to flight, and it carried out a full four engine run on the Thursday evening before the show.

This year Pink Lady was on static display, but that may change in the near future. [Photo by Nigel Hitchman]

It was also interesting to see the WACO PCF N3557W in the static display area, this having been imported last year along with some other WACO project and is for sale. Owned by the same company, Piper PA-12 Super Cruiser N7972H was also another recent import in the static for sale. The Fairchild Argus Mk.II F-PBCM painted to represent a US Coast Guard machine was nice to see departing from the static park.

An interesting visitor which wasn’t on display was the PZL Swidnik (Polish license-built Mil) Mi-2 Hoplite ER-20257, this has been in France for quite a few years and had previously been registered RA-1149K. The aircraft had an engine problem on departure and ended up being towed to the helicopter maintenance hangar Sunday evening.

The Polish-built Mi-2 Hoplite suffered engine trouble and had to be towed away for repair. [Photo by Nigel Hitchman]

On display for the first time was the Salmson D.7 Cricri F-AZAB which has been on restoration in the Salis Collection hangar for the past few years, now almost completed and powered by a 90hp Salmson 5AQ 5-cylinder radial. Painted to represent one of the earlier Salmson D.6 CriCri that were delivered to the French Air Force in the late 1930s, the aircraft last flew in 1983.

The almost-complete Salmson D.7 Cricri of the Salis Collection. [Photo by Nigel Hitchman]

Last but not least was one of the highlights of the show found in one of the private hangars which was opened up to display it, the Salis Collection’s De Havilland DH.89 Dragon Rapide F-AZCA painted up as Royal Navy HG709/CU999 looking superb with its restoration almost completed. On display in front of the vintage airliner was the restored cockpit area of a Morane Saulnier M.S.406.

The Salis Collection’s Dragon Rapide is also nearing completion. Note the restored cockpit of a Morane M.S.406 fighter in the foreground. [Photo by Nigel Hitchman]

The airshow at La Ferte Alais is always on the Pentecost weekend so next year will be June 7-8. It is one of the best airshows in the world with a great setting and backdrop, it’s around an hour’s drive south of the center of Paris so easy to get to…well worth a trip from anywhere!