On Saturday 19 March 2016 a group of 8 people gathered at Schiphol for our third tour to Chile. The bi-annual FIDAE plus the yearly Air Force parade at El Bosque were the main goals for this trip, totalling 11 people in the end. Via Paris, where we picked up 2 more participants of the tour, we arrived in Santiago after a long and bumpy flight (on Sunday 20 March). Santiago was baking in the sun and we had spectacular views on the Andes Mountains and a clear blue sky. After we picked up the rental cars we had a quick look at the base and saw the F-16s parked in preparation for the parade. As nothing was happening at the base, we headed out to the Air Force museum in the city. The Museo Nacional Aeronautico y Espacio is located at former air base Los Cerillos, also home to the headquarters of the Air Force. The museum has an impressive collection of aircraft that once were operational with the Chilean Air Force. Most of the aircraft are positioned quite well for photography. The friendly people at the museum were willing to show us the storage area as well, making for a complete picture of the museum. After our visit to the museum we drove to our apartments in the city where we would be staying for the rest of the week.
On Monday 21 March we were out early on our way to El Bosque, with a complete team of 11 participants. We had arranged a base-visit to this base to witness the yearly fly-past of the Air Force. After a smooth access procedure we were accompanied to a dedicated enclosure for photographers. A big grandstand with high-ranking officers of the Air Force had views on a small static show with two T-35Bs and a single SR22T. Even the President of Chile was present for the parades, consisting of many bands marching but in the end a lot of aircraft as well. Different formations of T-35s, F-16s and other aircraft passed the base around midday. The T-35s could be photographed well upon return, but unfortunately the F-16s were already on their way to their home base (and not back to Pudahuel). After saying goodbye to our contacts we spent the rest of the day at Pudahuel, resulting in pictures of a landing tanker.
On Tuesday (22 March) we had a visit at Pudahuel Air Base. We were greeted at the gate by our contact person and went to the buildings of 9 Squadron. The base was preparing for FIDAE but nevertheless took enough time to show us around. After a short briefing we got an insight in squadron operations, including the OPS room and the SAR department. After that we were able to visit the ramps. Part of the fleet of transport aircraft was home and we were able to photograph them well. After that we visited the helicopters of 9 Squadron and got some insight in the daily operations of the different types. Luckily one of their Bell 206 was flying, so we were able to photograph some flying aircraft as well. After this nice visit we said goodbye and drove to Tobalaba. This airfield is home to the flying branch of the Carabinieri and has an interesting mix of planes. We had been in contact with the unit prior to our visit, but never received any confirmation. When we arrived at the base they did not seem surprised and five minutes after our arrival we were walking on the ramp. We felt very welcome and were able to photograph all aircraft present. After finishing here, we drove to Vitacura. This small base is home of the fleet of gliders of the Air Force and the reception was very friendly as well. Unfortunately there was no flying planned, but we managed to see some gliders. Via a number of Wreck & Relics we returned ‘home’ for a good meal!
The plan for Wednesday 23 March was visiting Rancagua, the largest Army airbase of the Chilean Forces. A visit to the base was not possible, but since they have a nice museum collection at the gate we decided to visit anyway. We were greeted at the gate by friendly staff that helped us and showed us around all aircraft preserved at the gate. Because we noticed movement at the Flying Club, we decided to visit this as well. The friendly people here showed us around and some members of our group decided to take a pleasure flight in one of the aircraft present. The rest of the group had the chance to relax a bit and watch the aircraft. The hangar of the Aeroclub is adjacent to the runway so we were able to see a Ce 208B, CN235 and Cougar. Not the best of light at this time of day, but very nice to see! When everybody was back on the ground again, part of the group went to Pudahuel for some landing shots, while another part of the group visited some Wrecks & Relics in the South of Santiago. Both groups joined up again at Pudahuel at the end of the day.
On Thursday (24 March) we headed out to Vina del Mar, the Naval flying base of Chile. Contrary to earlier days, the weather was not playing ball, as it was foggy and cloudy. When we arrived there was a large overcast and it was actually quite cold! From the local Aeroclub it is possible to have a look at the runway, so we went there. The Navy was not to be stopped by the bad weather and took to the grey skies with two PC-7s, an AS523, Bell 206, AS365 and an O-2. Not the best weather for photography, but there is no better Chilean PC-7 than your first one! The second part of the day was spent at Pudahuel again, photographing landing aircraft.
Friday, Saturday and Sunday (25 to 27 March) were spent at Pudahuel to catch as many as possible FIDAE arrivals and rehearsal. As is customary to the things that we do, our patience was put to the test frequently but was rewarded in the end as well. We were able to enjoy, amongst others, Peruvian KT-1s, USAF F-22s and a bunch of Chilean aircraft. On Sunday we were able to catch some demo-practices as well.
The last day of the trip, Monday 28 March, we had access to FIDAE (one day before opening) and were able to photograph all static aircraft and took some pictures of the F-22 that went for a practice demo. Around noon we had to hand in the rental cars again and prepare for our long flight back home, looking back at another successful tour!