When it became known that the Italian Air Force would organize an airshow at Pratica di Mare for their 100th Anniversary, we were very excited as the Italians have a uniquely varied Air Force, and in the past held great shows at Pratica.
Closer to the actual event we got somewhat less excited as all the essential info was not available online, the website was only officially accessible from Italy, questions arose whether the museum would be open, and also arranging all the necessary things for this tour (air & ground transport as well as accommodation) was not running as smoothly as we are used to… So there were a lot of worries and unknowns before we actually headed to Italy.
On the other hand we knew that this is the ‘Italian way’ and in the end everything will be okay. After the event, when we had returned home and all had spent a great couple of days in Italy with an incredible show on the ground and in the air, this belief proved to be justified.
On Thursday 15 June, a group of 38 enthusiasts got together at Amsterdam-Schiphol airport for an exciting tour to Italy. The direct flight to Rome left at 07:15 so we had to be at Schiphol early. Checking in went smoothly, as was the security check and KL1597 brought us to Rome’s Fiumicino airport almost on time. Here we met with another dozen participants to make a rounded number of 50 for this tour.
Originally we had scheduled to visit the Air Force museum in Vigna di Valle this afternoon, but up to the end of May the people at the museum could not tell us when they would open again after an extensive rework and building a new display hangar. They also did not bother to pick up the phone anymore or answer emails in the first weeks of June. But luckily we found out the museum would open up on the 16th, a day later than we had betted on, so we had to make other plans for today.
The coach instead brought us near the approach of the Pratica di Mare airbase, as many aircraft should arrive today for the show and some of the participants might rehearse their airshow routine. As our coach could not access the small roads and dirt tracks on the southern end of the approach the group had to walk a few kilometres to the spots where we set up camp. Some walked right up to the runway threshold (as far as it goes), others decided to make the ranch near the approach their stay of choice. The weather was a bit disappointing, with an occasional rain shower and overcast, culminating in a big downpour near the end of our stay, but the arriving aircraft certainly were not! Unfortunately we had just missed the arrival of the F-104, but the epic G91 certainly made up for this.
After spending a couple of hours here we headed for our hotels. Because of the size of the group we had to divide the group into two different hotels. An unexpected traffic jam on our way to the second hotel was a bit unfortunate, but couldn’t detract from already a great day out and more expectations to come.