A year ago, no one would ever have thought what changes COVID-19 would force upon us in 2020. The airshow industry was hit very hard, with nearly all American airshows being canceled, and only a handful able to adapt to a drive-in style which allowed for ample social distancing. And it sure will be interesting to see how the 2021 airshow season will look like. What will the new normal be? Maybe more of the drive-in style shows? Time will tell. But it will definitely be a while before we are back to the “good old days” of massive crowds all packed together.
Speaking of airshows, since I have not been able to attend a single airshow this year, let’s look back at an airshow I attended during my vacation in Switzerland last summer.
What exactly is the Zigermeet? It is the name of an airshow in Switzerland. Ziger is a byproduct from the process of making cheese. And meet, as in meeting or get together. The Ziger comes from the area of the Glarus Region in Switzerland, which is approximately a 65km or 40 mile drive south east of Zurich. The town of Mollis has an airport and that is where the Zigermeet 2019 airshow was held on August 16-17, 2019.
Many years ago the first Zigermeet airshow was a very small event, more like of a get together/fly-in of aviation enthusiasts. But over the years, the show kept growing, and with 2019 the Zigermeet became the largest airshow in Switzerland. Friday was considered a training day, with about 10,000 attendees, and Saturday was the main event day with 20,000 attendees.
I happened to be vacationing in Switzerland the second half of August, and I had reserved one day, Aug. 17, to attend the Zigermeet 2019. There are several businesses located at the airport, among them the Kopter Group which was recently acquired by Leonardo, who is in development of a new single engine turbine helicopter called the SH09. Swiss Air Ambulance Operator REGA also has a base at the Mollis airport, and proudly showed off their new Airbus EC-145 Helicopter and their new ambulance jet from Bombardier, the Challenger 650.
The Swiss government was in the middle of the evaluation process for a new fighter jet acquisition in order to completely retire the aging F-5 Tiger fleet and lessen the use of the F-18s the Swiss Air Force currently operates. The current contenders are Airbus with its Eurofighter, Dassault with the Rafale, Lockheed Martin with the F-35 Lighting II, and Boeing with the F-18 Super Hornet. There had been be a fifth contender, Saab with the Gripen E, but during the beginning of the testing process Saab was asked to withdraw because the evaluation committee felt the Gripen E was not mission ready yet. Nevertheless, Saab had a big presence at the Zigermeet with an aerial display of the Gripen and the older Viggen, a visitor pavilion, as well as a VIP area for invited guests.
Airbus, Dassault, and Saab all presented their respective jets and had visitor pavilions and handed out plenty of swag to the masses. Lockheed Martin also had a pavilion and handed out fliers. There were F-35 pilots who talked with interested airshow goers, but for whatever disappointing reason, Lockheed Martin decided to showcase only a mock-up of a F-35 Lightning II and did not bother to bring in an actual aircraft and perform an aerial display. Boeing had a massive tent that was set up for a big catered event, but that was by invitation only. The Super Hornet was also not in attendance; not even a mock-up.
The flight displays through out the day were fantastic, as mentioned above the Eurofighter, Gripen and Viggen, and the Rafale showed off their capabilities. But there were also show teams like the Baltic Bees with their L-39 jets from Latvia, and, of course, the Patrouile Suisse flying the F-5. I personally also always like seeing helicopter demos, and the Swiss Air Force showed off the Super Puma and Czech Air Force had a fantastic aerial display with one of their Mil-Mi 24 Hinds.
Of course the Swiss Air Force was also present with the F/A 18 solo demo, the Patrouille Suisse, and the Super Puma helicopter demo.
But with all the fast jets and unbelievable acrobatic displays, what stopped me in my tracks happened during the lunch hour, when Christian Moullec from France flew his powered glider with his geese over the airfield. There was just something so serene and peaceful watching this man with his machine interacting with his birds. Simple yet spectacular!
Comparing European airshows to airshows in North America, it feels that such events in Europe have a much more relaxed atmosphere. I really appreciated seeing the single ship demos from European jet manufacturers which we normally don’t get to see here in North America. If you happen to vacation over in Europe and can combine that with a visit to an airshow, I can highly recommend it.
The next Zigermeet is slated for 2022. If you like to see some more stunning images from the airshow, check out the gallery from the official airshow website.