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  75 years Axalp
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Text:

Urs Schnyder

Pictures:

Urs Schnyder

   
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In 1942, in the middle of the second world war it was decided to establish a gunnery range at Axalp. The reason for the location was of course the airbase of Meiringen just down in the valley. It meant that there was no long flying time necessary to reach the range.

Today, 75 years later the range is still in use and once a year attracts many enthusiasts. Where else can you watch live firing at such close range in such an environment!

This is not really an airshow as such rather an event. The main reason is still the gunnery competition. However, at one time when more and more people went to see it the Air Force started to display their main aircraft types. This takes about one and a half hours only.

When I went for the first time, it was still possible to drive up with your own car as far as you could and walk the rest of the way.Today the roads are closed to private traffic and there is an organized bus shuttle that takes people up to the village of Axalp from where you can take a short trip with a cable car. However, as the viewing areas are at 2200 meters above sea level it is still a hard walk, up steep paths until the top is reached. And in October it can be very cold up there. There is also no guarantee that you will see any flying, as happened a few years ago when the fog closed in 10 minutes before the start of the demonstrations.

There were just a few scattered clouds in the morning when I went up. My aim was to be on top before the sun came out which I managed. During the gunnery competition, the clouds started to close in and at some time it was completely overcast. Around midday it cleared up and we enjoyed blue sky for the rest of the day. As I mentioned, it is an event rather than an airshow. Some people bring half their kitchen along to enjoy a fondue or a barbeque up there.  It is meanwhile so well known that you will find people from all over the world climbing up there to experience this special atmosphere.

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Gunnery competition

This of course is the real reason for the whole event. In earlier years, it was only this competition that took place.  There are usually groups of four aircraft of the same type that follow each other in their shooting passes. Depending from which direction they approach there is little time between first glimpse of the aircraft and their disappearance again. The competition is of course not optimized for any audience as the main aim of each pilot is to win the competition and not to display for the audience.

 

   

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

   

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

       

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

Gunnery demonstration

This demonstration starts the 1,5 hours public part of the event. It normally begins with flare dropping F-18ís flying in at low level from the valley below. You can actually look down on them, as they approach.
The F-18 and F-5 then do their shooting passes at the three different target areas. They use different types of ammunition some of which looks quite spectacular when it explodes on the cliff face that is one of the target areas. After shooting they fly away ground hugging down the valley or up the mountain, depending on which target they were aiming at. The whole demonstration ended with a mixed formation fly past of the aircraft that took part.

   

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

     

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

Pilatus PC-21 demonstration

The PC-21 is designed to let students progress directly to fast jets. The Swiss Air Force has indeed no jet trainers any more since they sold their Hawks to Finland. The performance of the PC-21 is almost jet like but the maintenance is not, which today is an important point. Many Air Forces around the world have ordered or are already flying the type. Swiss pilots progress directly from the PC-21 to the F-18.

   

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

       

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

EC635 demonstration

The Eurocopter EC635 is used for Communication duties, light transport and Search and Rescue missions. It was this SAR mission that was demonstrated, recovering a casualty with the help of the winch.

 

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

   

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

Super Puma demonstration

Because of the height above sea level, the Super Puma could not give the display that it normally does at lower altitudes. This was more than compensated by the spectacular dropping of flares while in a climb. Super Pumas are also used for combatting forest fires with the use of an underslung bucket. This was demonstrated by two machines. 

   

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

   

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

F/A-18 demonstration

 

The one thing that did make this display even more special than normally was the use of flares. This is obviously the advantage of displaying at a shooting range. There are fewer restrictions compared when displaying at an airfield. Otherwise the F-18 display this year was probably the best so far.

 

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

 

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

 

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

Patrouille Suisse display

This was the last item on the program. The team had to adapt their display. Because of the close proximity to the mountains not all figures were possible to do. The backdrop of snowy mountains and cliffs gave the display a very special note. Add to that the cloudless blue sky and it was perfect.

 

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

 

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

 

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

 

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

(Picture courtesy Urs Schnyder)

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last update 14. December 2017

Written 8. December 2017

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