Greece II 2014
In 2014 we travelled to Greece twice; for the A-7 retirement and for the November open days. The November open days were visited by 4Aviation for the seventh time in a row already.
We had agreed to meet at Schiphol at 04.30 in the morning already on Thursday 5 November for the seventh 4Aviation tour to Greece in November. All eight participants of the tour were in time. After an uneventful Transavia flight we landed at the airport of Athens in time. Unfortunately not all baggage had joined us this time; one bag was still at Schiphol…. The rental car was quickly picked up, all took their seats and the first helicopters of the Hellenic fire department and police were already read. After that we headed for Megara AB, an army base with lots of Chinooks, UH-1Hs, NH90s and AB205As. After scoring some serials there we continued via some wrecks and relics and Tripolis AB to our hotel. In the evening we have enjoyed a good meal in the hotel and exchanged the first serials. Although today was a ‘travel’ day we had seen a lot again!
On Thursday 6 November we left for Kalamata 7.30 to arrive there just past 8 o´clock in the morning. Unfortunately the base didn´t open until nine o´clock and we therefore had to wait for a while. In the meantime we managed to get permission to picture the three gate-guards. The commander would bring us to the ramp, where a small static was in place. Just before he arrived the first six buses full of school children arrived already… please say this isn’t true? We quickly followed the buses, parked our car and ran towards the static. Here we found two T-2 Buckeyes, a T-6A and an F-16D. The F-16D was being used for fire department instruction. After some asking the aircraft was freed of all items and kids and we were able to take a clean shot. Unfortunately the sun was gone by now. The local T-2s and T-6s were pretty active. It still is a remarkable sight to see an airworthy Buckeye. Also on the flightline a couple of Buckeyes could be captured. Obviously we were being closely monitored by base personnel, but all were very friendly. In a hangar we found three more T-2s and two T-6As. Near the entrance a number of T-37B was stored. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures of these. By now at least 15 buses with school kids had arrived. We left the base in time and set course for the next base of today; Andravida. On arrival there we went through the normal process of handing in our passports and waiting for the bus to take us to the static display. The bus took us to the platform with… two F-4E AUPs, one of which was carrying a special tail for 40 years. Unfortunately the stairs on these could not be moved, despite us being the only guests and our willingness to help. This was made up for by the departure of 9 Hellenic Air Force F-16C/Ds of several units and a RF-4E. We were able to picture these during taxying and take-off. Also the local F-4Es of 338 and 339 Mira were very active. All in all we saw 11 local Phantoms. The sun was very cooperative again also. After this nice base we went to the third base of the day; Araxos. Here we could still see the footsteps of last month when many spotters were here to photograph the final operational A-7s. Outside on the tarmac were two local F-16C/Ds and a visiting F-4E AUP of Andravida. Also an A-7E that was parked a little further could be pictured after some convincing. Inside a hanger was another F-16C and the nice ‘grey/grey farewell’ A-7E. The sun was shining at Araxos as well with dark clouds in the background. After three successful visits we drove to our hotel in Athens.
After this morning (Friday 7 November) all baggage was complete again and we could take our car to the first base; Elefsis AB, home to 112 PM with its many transport aircraft. The weather was perfect and better than predicted; clear blue skies. We were the first ones to arrive on the base and the ERJ-135, C-130B, CL-215 and C-27J were quickly photographed on the platform. A Cougar was displayed in the hangar. Here also the base personnel was very friendly. On the way out we could even visit the museum and this option was gratefully accepted. After this successful visit we drove to the museum at Tatoi. On arrival here we also noticed large numbers of school kids. Did the buses that we saw at Kalamata all drive to Tatoi? The storage area could only be captured from behind the metal chain that was in place. After that we were able to capture the museum and even some flying T-41D and Coast Guard aircraft. When we left Tatoi the sun also disappeared. The next target was Tanagra AB, home to 114 PM with Mirage 2000s. When we arrived there there was still some flying going on; a Mirage 2000-5BG, F-16D and two F-4Es of 338 MDV took off. All would return an hour later, resulting the Mirage 2000-5BG taxying by just in front of us. Nice! The static display at this base is always nicely lined up. The sun wasn’t helping at this time be we have enjoyed ourselves a lot. Two coloured A-7s of Araxos (Tiger and Olympo), 60 years 338 MDV F-4E AUP and a Mirage 2000 with ’25 years’ jubilee coloured tail (with two different paint schemes). Also a large amount of older aircraft was put in place; from T-33A to C-47, F-104s, F-102, F-5A, Mirage F1CGs etcetera. Furthermore several Mirage 2000s were visible, among the two in the QRA hangar fully armed. Since this was the last base of the day we were not in a hurry and enjoyed a relaxed visit. But, “We’ll be back” (with sunshine!). At the guards house our big Greek friend was waiting, related to Borat from Kazakhstan. We would be seeing more of him later during the tour. After about 3.5 hours we arrived at our hotel in Larissa by 22.30 in the evening. We had already enjoyed our diner underway so all that was left was a quick shower and then off to bed. It had started to (seriously) rain in the meantime. The weather forecast for the next day was far from ideal; wet and cloudy.
On Saturday morning (8 November) we first inhaled some culture; close to the hotel we found an old Greek theatre, or better the remains of that. Since today was the day the ceremonies are held at the bases, Larissa did not open its gates until 13.00 o’clock so we had time in the morning for several wrecks and relics. We were at the gate in time to be the first ones to enter the base. There were already quite some people though because of the Archangel Michael celebrations, patron of the Hellenic Air Force. We could park our car behind the platform and soon after the first RF-4E were being photographed. Remarkable was that the F-16s of 337 Mira now been given unit marking on the tail. Nice! Also the presence of two Apaches was a nice extra. During the day there was a demo by the T-6A, F-16C and an Apache. We have waited for these to finish. After these demonstrations we ‘did’ the base museum and the gate-guards. We then went directly to Nea Anchialos. Arrived there in time and we were able to drive to the platform straight away. This used to take more time in the past. Here also everybody was very nice and cooperative. The static contained a TA-7C, Mirage 2000, 2 Apaches (for the demo on Sunday) and two F-16Cs of which one in special colours for 60 years of 341 Mira. This aircraft was freed of all ‘stuff’ for us and we were allowed to picture it from some stairs. We could even capture inside a shelter that contained a withdrawn F-16C, together with an F-5A. In the hangar an additional three F-16c of all three squadrons were photographed. On our way out we stopped at the gate-guards and were invited to watch the lowering of the Greek flag. All was very relaxed. Feeling happy about the visit we left the base and found some more wrecks and relics on our way to our final hotel. Photography in the dark was practiced heavily. With varying results, but it was a lot of fun! Around 21.00 hours we were in the hotel and enjoyed the meal as a group.
All good things come to an end. This also goes for this tour; the final day of the tour had arrived. The first item on today’s schedule (Sunday 9 November) was a second visit to Tanagra. We departed the hotel in blue skies but after about 30 minutes we were fully surrounded by fog with very low visibility. This lasted until 1 km from the Tanagra-exit. We were at the gate in time and had to wait until 9 o’clock to enter the base. Again we were the first ones to get to the tarmac. The fog was clearing up more and more and eventually we could picture all aircraft in the sun today. A good choice to visit this base again. Borat was on duty again today and obviously we had to take a group photo here together with him. Tatoi was next, hoping that the storage area of the museum was not accessible and to find out if there were aircraft for the static display. Unfortunately the storage area was still closed and only one T-41D was added to the museum aircraft. But it was very quiet today to the camera’s certainly did get out of their bags today. After that we drove around the base. During that we passed the Olympic village, a nice venue to see. Via several wrecks and relics we went to Athens. In Athens the finish was scheduled for the marathon run from Marathon to Athens today. The finish line was close to the war museum. We could not get closer than 1.5 kilometres from the museum. So, parked the car and six went to the museum. When they got back we had to get out of town again. That was easier said than done with all road closures and taking roads that leave only 10 cm to spare on each side of the car. But after several attempts, during which TomTom keeps trying to send you to the city centre, we managed to get out of town and fill up the van and hand it in. Check-in was timely and the return flight went according to plan. Our arrival at Schiphol was in line with the plan but we were parked at the wrong jet bridge and therefore had to wait a very long time for our baggage to arrive. After more than 1.5 hours we said goodbye to each other and concluded that we had seen and photographed very much and that we had been lucky with the weather. Until next year!