A busy schedule for Monday 6 November, with three open airbases “to do” and hopefully enough flying action (this being a Monday and thus a “normal” flying day). First stop Tanagra. We were a bit early, so we had to wait just outside of the gate. When asked about the time of opening, the guard kept it vague: “Nahhhh after nine, quarter past maybe”. We made it clear we more likely expecting nine o’clock sharp! Our thee minivans weren’t the first to queue up at the gate at nine, but all vehicles were summoned to make an immediate u-turn after the gate and drive straight out again. Not us (of course!), our timing was immaculate and we were the first on base. A good thing, as the first Mirage 2000s were already taxiing out and we were just in time near the runway threshold to have a go at them. Between taxiing Mirages and overshooting Dromaders it was also a bit of a rush to photograph the static aircraft without the first busloads of school children blocking the view. Most of our group decided to wait for the return of the four Mirages in the air from where we had parked our minivans, which is a bit closer to the action than from the edge of the shelter area. The Mirages returned all four duly in time, and we could get under way to our next destination. But not before we had a chance to photograph the silver F-104 at the gate, again something which was not always allowed on previous occasions.
Onwards to Dekelia / Tatoi, home of the Hellenic Air Force museum. On arrival it immediately became clear that we were almost the only ones visiting, which made photography much easier and less time consuming, had it been crowded then it would have been a whole different story. A single T-41 and Dromader complemented the museum’s outside line-up, as part of the Patrons Day celebrations. Those of us less interested in the museum were entertained by the local T-41s flying short training missions. The Coast Guard wouldn’t play similar ball, but it was all smiles by everyone when three Dromaders taxied out, went right past us, and took off in beautiful view. How cool is it to have these flimsy looking but rugged old piston aircraft still flying in your Air Force? More piston engine sound overhead the airfield came courtesy of a Canadair 215 water bomber flying outbound of Elefsis, our next target of the day.
At Elefsis the powers that be had decided to organise the Patrons Day celebrations and small static show in a new location, no longer on the AEW Embraer platform but on the other side of the airfield, in the new hangar of the helicopter squadron. The static consisted of a single Canadair 215 and Dromader outside (the C-27J which had apparently been present as well the day before, had been removed), plus a couple of Huey helicopters inside the hangar. Our escort had no problems with us also taking photos of an additional couple of helicopters (Hueys and Super Puma’s) pushed away behind a screen at the back of the hangar, as long as we didn’t take any photos of the aircraft at the other side of the airfield. But that happened anyway of course, as far as it had any sense, when a C-130 came in and another one departed, both which we were more than welcome to take pictures of. As the icing on the cake, and admittedly with more than a little bit of surprise, when asked if our escort could take us to the nearby dump area, he agreed. After this our escort had to say goodbye and handed us over to his deputy. It still took some convincing at the main gate for allowance to photograph the memorial park near the gate (again, full of aircraft), something which had already been assured to us by our original escort.
After Elefsis our day wasn’t over yet, for we still had a long drive ahead of us, crossing the Peloponnisos to Kalamata. A couple of years ago this would have been a substantial undertaking over half-finished motorway and secondary roads, but fortunately the motorway is now fully completed all the way to Kalamata, including an almost countless number of toll stations. A routine police control at one of these toll stations saw us being pulled over, but the police officer soon found out he was dealing with three minivans full of grinning foreigners, and had us on our way again before anyone could say “Yassas astynomikós”. Less fortunate was the farmer in front of us with potatoes stacked literally three meters high in the back of his small pickup truck. The sat-nav in the lead vehicle had its own interpretation of the quickest way to the hotel, and sent us through the centre of Kalamata city, with a preference to the narrowest alleys possible. One minivan abandoned this folly and went on their own way, the other two persevered. What are the odds, with all those small alleys in the whole of Kalamata, to be guided through the one alley with a real F-5 next to it? Yes, we knew it was supposed to be there, but driving to it was not in our plans for tonight. The occupants of the second minivan, faithfully following the lead, simply didn’t believe this route wasn’t on purpose! We finished the day with dinner in the hotel, and a beer or two.