Assignment No21: Tour de Sky 2016, Finland

Assignment No21: Tour de Sky 2016, Finland

Ian Sykes joins COAP for the official coverage of the 2016 Tour de Sky event at Kuopio, Finland

Trip number 3 with COAP for me! Flying into Helsinki and then a few train journeys east got us to Kotka from where the next day we drove to a small airfield formerly used by the German Luftwaffe in WW2 at Kymi. Here the plan had been to fly along with the super rare Gloster Gauntlet to Kuopio for the Tour de Sky airshow, photographing the warbird en-route. However due to the impending weather, the pilot (a former Lt Colonel and Finnish AF legend), was unable to make the ferry flight. As a result, we conducted an aerial sortie in the local area before the storms came in, which gave ample opportunities for some stunning images. It also showed how effective the camouflage was on the aircraft.

It was my first air-to-air and yes I was nervous… Of course we were safely strapped and secured, but having the door open still seemed kind of wrong so I hid behind Steve for padding with Rich’s advice on how to get the best out of the sortie ringing in my ears.

After the flight and interviews we had a look round the small museum at the airfield which contained MiG-21s and a Folland Gnat amongst other gems.

The flight to Kuopio was to say the least cosy with all seven of us plus luggage stuffed into the back of the Cessna...I opted for the sleep option as by that point I was getting queasy.

On arrival at Kuopio we quickly established offices in a random tent next to our cameraship aircraft and positioned next to us was the Baltic Bees display team with their L-39s.

With all of us wanting to conduct aerial sorties, the photo-missions were divided into specific flights with a good mix of types in each sortie and lots were drawn with only Rich knowing what they were to be. We all gained some props and some fast jets... Maybe not always the exact types we hoped for but is there a better way to do it...? None that I can call.

So even after one successful photo flight under my belt I was still fighting the butterflies as we ventured out for the next shoot with the Finish Midnight Hawks team and USAF Special Ops Hercules which was quite a bumpy ride... I did say to Rich that it was as hard as cycling an Alpine stage in the races I have done! Balancing and holding the best position and angle during the physical demands of being in-flight was exhausting!

We then had a very quick turnaround to get back in the air for a rendezvous with the Baltic Bees. This didn’t quite work out in terms of being together in the same airspace for photography. There are a million things that can stop a sortie being successful and this was one them.

Day 2 more action sky-side with the Midnight Hawks, P-3 Orion, Osprey (extremely hard to shoot) and Romanian MiG-21s with plenty opportunity between flights to catch ground action.

Day 3 and the airshow was sadly hit by the weather and this was all shooting at ground level, though one of our group took the plunge to undertake fast-jet air-to-air, by going in the backseat of the Baltic Bees L-39 for a four-ship sortie. His face was a picture!

So another great trip finished and I think it was 11 flights in total in the five days for me... Might get used to it yet having insisted on driving everywhere between 1991 and hopping back seat in 2009 in France!  I look forward to the next ops – I’ve got the air-to-air bug for sure!