Zeltweg, Austria: This year sees the fifth anniversary of the spectacular air event Airpower13. Of course, all departments of the Flying Bulls have been preparing for this unique show for weeks!
For the action-fuelled show, all aircraft and helicopters of the Flying Bulls fleet will be flown to the heart of Styria, where the Airpower 2013 is taking place. As administrative issues grow exponentially with the number of aircraftparticipating in a show, it’s no wonder that the more than 25 Flying Bulls planes scheduled for the event are keeping the Ground Operations team quite busy!
Earlier this year, preparation works were started on the P-38 Lightning and B-25 Mitchell. Both planes have an unpainted outer skin that requires regular polishing. For instance, making the Lightning’s aluminum surface gleam like a mirror takes the team 300 hours of polishing – which amounts to a whopping 38 working days or roughly eight weeks. The B-25 takes even twice as long to get into shape!
Six weeks ago, the Flying Bulls Ground Operations team started to prepare everything they need for the operation, protection and handling of their equipment during the entire duration of the event. Before the event kicks off, they have to get the aircraft tugs ready and stow the various tow bars and covers in specially prepared bags. If the team runs out of bags during this preparation phase, their saddler has to produce new ones. Trucks are packed with lubricants and other equipment and driven to Zeltweg. In the meantime, all necessary aerobatics and formation flight permissions are provided by the event organizers.
Although all of the Flying Bulls’ aircraft are extremely well maintained at all times, they need to undergo special checks before an event of this magnitude. For instance, the Flying Bulls technicians have to check the aircraft’s prescribed maintenance hours. If these coincide with the date of the event, the team has to prepone them because they won’t be able to do them on-site.
The Flying Bulls Ground Operation consists of two teams. One of them traveled to the event location five days before the event opening. During this week, the rest of the other team has gradually followed. The Ground Ops team will also be in full action during the event. All aircraft are exclusively refueled, directed to their designated positions and prepared for parking by the Flying Bulls team. It takes a team of five an hour to take appropriate care of all aircraft that have been flying in the show. For instance, team members need to tend to the planes’ windowpanes, engine inlets and outlets, propeller covers and of course the delicate statics and impact tubes of the aviation electronics.
Only when all flyable Flying Bulls aircraft are safely parked and covered in a wind- and weather-proof way can the Ground Operations team think about calling it a day – except for those who are on watch, that is.
The only place that’s totally deserted during this time is the Hangar-8 in Salzburg because the whole Flying Bulls team is stationed in Zeltweg for the duration of Airpower.
Although the pilots of the Flying Bulls complete regular training sessions throughout the whole flying season, theyhave to complete a special training program for the Airpower.
Although the team is doing airshows in different parts of Europe almost every weekend, the demands for the big event in Zeltweg are somewhat different.
In addition to flying aerobatics maneuvers and presenting their entire fleet, the Flying Bulls will also do a formation flight performance at this year’s Airpower. During a special training camp in České Budějovice in the CzechRepublic, the helicopter pilots prepared for their Airpower performance. In Slovenia and Zeltweg, the fixed wing pilots of the Flying Bulls come together to stage an extraordinary show.
Before the event, every pilot scheduled to fly at the Zeltweg show needs to get cleared by the event committee. The person in charge of this procedure is Display Director Bernd Pfiff. The approval process is done in accordance with STANAG regulations.STANAG is short for “Standardization Agreement” and refers to a set of standardized procedures among NATO states, for instance regarding the separation/space between aircraft, flying altitudes and landing and departure procedures. These special qualifications apply both for the crew workingon the ground and the ones up in the air.
Three days before the event, the big transfer from Salzburg Airport to Zeltweg took place. The remaining members of the Ground Operations team refueled all aircraft and helicopters before seeing the pilots off to one of the world’s most spectacular airshows.
The spectators at Airpower in Zeltweg will be witnessing a team of expertly trained pilots at the height of the season at one of the world’s biggest air shows. They will have the chance to get to know the Flying Bulls fleet in all its glory, something that rarely is the case at any other event.
Sure, Red Bull gives you wings – but for the Flying Bulls pilots they come hard earned!