Germany To Allow Aerobatic Formation At Berlin Show

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Germany To Allow Aerobatic
Formation At Berlin Show

06/06/00 12:12:04 PM U.S. EDT

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — An aerobatic team will fly in formation this week at an air show in Germany for the first time since three Italian stunt jets collided and unleashed a fiery mass that plowed into a crowd of spectators 12 years ago at Ramstein Air Base, killing 70 people.

Germany reacted immediately to the Ramstein accident that also injured 400 people, banning all aerobatic flights — even single-jet maneuvers. The horrible images from the crash, whose victims are still today undergoing therapy, also created such an atmosphere of caution that air shows voluntarily refrained from allowing even formation flying — a much less risky maneuver.

Sensitivities are still so high that the German aerospace industry's business association sought and was granted permission by the federal Transport Ministry for the Patrouille de France aerobatic military team to do a formation flyover Saturday at Berlin's biennial International Aerospace Exhibition, Germany's main air show.

German authorities are still taking extra precautions even in permitting just the formation flight, and allowed it partly just because of the reputation of the French group, which is the country's national aerobatic team. The team is only being allowed to perform “an in part high fly-by,” with the flight remaining at least 400 meters (1,300 feet) away from the crowd, and they must also do a demonstration run ahead of the performance.

The planes are also required to remain far enough apart with “no overlapping of wing surfaces, maintaining a certain distance during the entire flight,” said Hartmut Heidenreich of the Brandenburg state Transport Ministry.

It was a pleasant Sunday afternoon on Aug. 28, 1988 when 10 Italian Aermacchi MB 339A's started a complex maneuver at Ramstein flying over and under each other in a breathtaking display.

Suddenly two of the jets collided, erupting in fire with one and spiraling off into a crowd estimated at 200,000 there to attend the U.S. Air Force's annual open house show. A third stunt plane, apparently hit by debris, lost control and crashed away from the airport runway, as did one of the others.

The Berlin air fair is Germany's largest, with some 300 aircraft on display for about 80,000 industry representatives. About 230,000 members of the public are also expected to attend. Aerobatic military flying is still done in other European countries, including in Italy, home of the Freccie Tricolori team that lost three pilots and their planes in the Ramstein disaster.

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