Melun Air Legend 2021

Article by Gert Jan Mentink, all photos taken by the author on 11 September 2021.

Melun Corsair 1600

After several years of restoration, the French Vought Corsair F-AZEG is up and running again. It is owned by the Salis organisation, based at La Ferté-Alais.

Although it is only its third edition, the Air Legend show at Melun-Villaroche (France) has already earned its place amidst the major European air shows. The large airfield is conveniently situated in the southeastern part of the greater Paris region, and easily accessible by motorway.

It has a rich history as it initially was a French civilian airfield, becoming a German military base during WWII. After the war the USAAF used it for a couple of years after which it became a French military base again. Finally the French Air Force left the airfield and it was then used for test flying by Dassault and engine testing by the local SNECMA (now Safran) engine factories.

The main theme of the 2021 edition of Air Legend which was held on 11 and 12 September was War in the Pacific. This theme was chosen because it was 80 years ago this year that the War in the Pacific broke out. On 7 December 1941, the US were drawn into World War II when their base at Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese.

Melun B25 nose 480Melun Spit OOXVI 480

The organization had managed to book a nice variety of warbird types most of which were in some way or the other connected to the theme. Others, like the Spitfire and Buchon of the Ultimate Fighters, the Swiss Morane Saulnier 406 and the Belgian Spitfire Mk.XVI, were representatives of WW II in Europe.

In the early hours of Air Legend most aircraft that would later participate in the airshow could be photographed on the ground. And thanks to the presence of a large number of reenactors true atmospheric images could be taken. The reenactors representing Luftwaffe personnel even had their own camp. In a corner of the airfield part of a WW II “Fliegerhorst” was erected. The presence of a Bucker Bu181 Bestmann and a Nord 1002 (representing a Messerschmitt Bf108) nicely attributed to the scene.

Melun photo

Re-enactors nicely contribute to the atmosphere during an airshow like Air Legend. In this case even the photographers get photographed.

Amongst the non-flyers aircraft in the static park consecutive generations of French military aircraft could be seen: trainers ranging from a SCAN built Stampe SV-4, to the Alpha Jet and from there to its successor, the Pilatus PC-21. Helicopters ranged from an Alouette II, museumpiece of the Gendarmerie museum of Melun, to two machines operational in the French navy, a golden oldie Alouette III which still looked fine despite its age, and their latest type, the NH90-NFH.

The airfield is also the home of the Association des Mécaniciens Pilotes d’Avions Anciens (AMPAA) a society of (literally translated) aircraft mechanics and pilots. It was founded in 1981 by a group of former Centre d’Essais en Vol testpilots. AMPAA owns an impressive collection of historic aircraft of which some have been restored to flying condition while others are stored for the future.

Melun Lysander 480Their hangar doors were open which revealed some unique gems, like the Hurel-Dubois HD-34 photoplane with its enormous wingspan, an AVIA B33 (licence built Ilyushin Il-10), and a Westland Lysander to name but a few. In the hangar the French B-25 Mitchell F-AZZU could also be seen. It was badly damaged shortly after its take-off from Melun in May 2011. At that time it was considered not to be feasible to be restored.  

Melun-Villaroche has two paved runways, which were both used during the airshow. The shorter (1300 mtrs) 01/19 was used by most of the piston engine aircraft for their take-off and landing. The display line ran north-south along this runway 01/19, while the public area was on the Western side.  So photographic conditions were difficult at the beginning the airshow but improved as the time passed. Unlike the media, the spotters community had its own enclosure (for an additional € 40 fee per day) Luckily there was more than enough space along this 01/19 for the photographers that had not paid this extra fee, even when not arriving early. Far out of reach of the cameras of most people the jets and larger piston aircraft used the second runway, RW 10/28, which is longer (1975 mtr) than 01/19.

Melun Be18 320Melun Boomeran NX32CS g 320During Air Legend 2021, Europe’s sole CAC Boomerang, NX32CS, representing the Australian effort to withstand the Japanese, was a rarity. Three examples of the most famous fighter of the Pacific, the Chance-Vought Corsair were present: Flying Bull’s OE-EAS, Fighter Collection’s G-FGID and La Ferté Alais based F-AZEG.

Unfortunately the item on the attack on Pearl Harbor, in which a group of Harvards would act as Japanese aircraft had to be cancelled: the Salis organization owned Beech E18S F-AZEJ veered off the runway after a number of unwanted swings during take-off. It came to rest next to the runway after a ground swing. Fortunately the two crew were unhurt. It meant a break in the program that even took the words out of the mouth of commentator Bernard Chabbert, who usually cannot stop talking!

Next to all historic aircraft, the French military presented some of their current equipment. The Marine Nationale demonstrated an Atlantique 2 and two Rafale N’s, while the Armée de l’Air et de l’Espace flew the A-400, a Rafale and a duo of Mirage 2000’s, the Patrouille Gusto. The show ended with a tribute to the French writer and pilot Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. His most famous book, Le Petit Prince (the Little Prince) was released in 1943 and since then 140 Million copies were sold. Saint-Exupéry lost his life in a Lockheed P-38 while on a mission over the Mediterranean.

Melun Rafales 320Melun PdF tails 320Melun PC21 320
To commemorate him, the Patrouille de France has adorned its Alpha Jets with small Petit Prince signs on their fins. The finale of Air Legend was a demonstration of the PdF, which opened with a pass of the team together with Flying Bull’s P-38 Lightning.

Many thanks to the organization, in particular Mme. Iza Bazin for the invitation and thanks to Otger van der Kooij who prepared the following log: 

(321) Gomhouria 6 as Lw DC+MV ex Egypt
E176/8-MB Alpha Jet nb (ETO02.008)  
5390/UZ AS355 EH03.067  
14/709-FP PC-21 EPAA00.315  
340/4-FG Rafale B EC02.004  
997 Alouette 3 22S  
129 Falcon 10MER 57S  
5 NH90NFH 33F 1093  
1517/JAY Alouette 2   preserved
F-AYGG SV-4C   1073
F-AYOB TB30   79
F-AZHX Vampire FB6 as VZ152/4-LH ex Switzerland J-1115
(F-AZMR) N1101 as Lw KG+FM ex France 216
F-BEGD L-4B as USAAF 43-0815/26-R  
F-BNEC MS733   ex France 129
F-PCES Mauboussin 125   177

Melun Spad

Replica SPAD WW I fighter F-AZNP with the stork sign of Escadrille N.3, the squadron of French ace pilot Guynemer.

AMPAA Hangar:
(DD-39) Avia B-33   stored, ex Czech
100 CM170 as F-HTKC  
... Mystere 4A   preserved
201 Mirage 3B   preserved
6311 AAC1   stored, ex Portugal
F-AJNO Latécoére 28   stored
F-AYAI Fokker A1 as 03.03 replica
F-AZKG T-28 Fennec   82
F-AZNH HD34   preserved
F-AZNP Bleriox XI-2   replica
F-AZPO Po-2   49-026 white c/s
F-AZQB Bleriox XI   replica
F-AZZU B-25J as USAAF 46-8811/9B  
F-BLYG MS733   110
F-GOHM MH1521M   64
... Lysander   restoration
... Po-2W   green c/s
... Spad S.VII as S1461 replica
1076 Alouette 2   stored
... Tiger Moth   restoration
F-AZOX CC-129   ex Canada 12965
F-AYJB TB30   77
N80696 T-28A as USAF 49-1574  

Melun PdF and P38

Patrouille de France accompanied by Flying Bull's Lockheed Lightning

Main Flightlines:
123/115-KD Mirage 2000C EC02.005  
524/115-OA Mirage 2000B EC02.005  
147/4-GZ Rafale C ETR03.004  
F-AYLV L-5 as USAAF 42-99107/36 ex Italy MM52970
F-AYSB CL-13B Sabre 6 as USAF 01675/FU-675 ex Germany 01+13
F-AYVF T-28B as USN 138360/KB-5  
F-AZBE AT-6C as USAAF 43-12177/TA-127 ex Belgium H-29
F-AZBQ T-6G as USAAF 115237/OH ex France 114848
F-AZCV T-6G as USAF 51-14456 ex Spain E.16-191
F-AZEF T-6G US Navy c/s ex France 114387
F-AZEG F4U-5NL as USN 124724/NP-22  
F-AZEJ Beech E18S as USAAF 22429/V  
F-AZFN AD-4N as AdlA 126937/22-DG ex France 126998
F-AZJA TBM-3E   ex USN 85869, on static 12sep
F-AZJS Spitfire PR.XIX as RAF PS890/UM-E ex Thailand Kh.14-25/97
F-AZKU P-40N as USAAF 42-105915  
F-AZNN LET C11 as 14 white  
F-AZOS LET C11 as Yak-9 6 white ex Egypt
F-AZQV T-28C as USN 146287/WS-08  
F-AZRB SNJ-5C as USN 90747/PA-47 ex Spain C.6-135
F-AZRO T-6 as Japan 3443 zero look a like
F-AZTE C-47A as F-BBBE ex USA 141406
F-AZTL T-6G as France 117207/CR-311 ex USA 115102
F-AZXN Kaydet as 3885/835 ex FJ835
F-AZZK Yak-3U as 48 white new build
F-AZZM T-6   Zero look a like
F-BEJF MS505 as Lw BE+JF  
F-GHIP L-4B as USAAF 43-0496/56-M  
F-GIZL Cap10B   ex France 18
F-GSCC Cap10B   ex France 127
F-GUMI Cap10B   ex France 126
G-AWHH HA1112M1L as 9 white ex Spain C.4K-105
G-FGID FG-1D as RN KD345/A-130 ex USA 88297
G-IBSY Spitfire Vc as RAF EE602/DV-V  
G-PBYA Canso A as USAAF 433915 ex Canada 11005
G-TFSI P-51D as USAAF 44-14251/WZ-I  
G-THUN P-47N as USAAF 45-49192/F4-J  
HB-RCF D-3801J as Swiss AF J-143  
N21FS Expeditor 3NM   ex Canada 1538
N25Y P-38L   ex USA 44-53254
NX32CS CA13 as RAAF A46-139 replica
N47W UC-71   ex USA 42-38288
N184KP Expeditor 3NM   ex Canada 1530
N223CM CT-128   ex Canada 2344
N431HM C-47   ex USA 42-24133
N6123C B-25J   ex USA 44-86893
N56938 PT-17 USCG c/s, coded 202 ex USA 42-15665
OE-EAS F4U-4 coded RB ex Honduras 614
OO-XVI Spitfire XVI as RAF SL721/GE-S  

Melun Yak FAZOS

Once an Egyptian Air Force trainer, this F-AZOS was rebuilt as a Yakovlev Yak-9 fighter in the colours of the Normandie-Niemen unit of the Russian Air Force.

Alpha Jet E EPAA20.300/Patrouille de France:
E48/F-TEMH/1, E20/F-TEMS/2, E119/F-UGFE/3, E45/F-TETF/4, E129/F-TELP/5, E35/F-TEMA/6, E105/F-UGFM/7,      
E87/F-TELC/8, E81/F-UGFO/9, E73/F-TENE/0 and E137/F-TELJ/-      
Flightline (pleasure flights):
F-HIZI PT-18 coded 55 ex USA 40-1991
F-HLEA T-6G as USAF 49-3056/56 ex Spain C.6-188
N14113 T-28A as 17206/TL-206 ex Haiti 1236
Flightline (southwest side, only visible from outside):
528/115-KS Mirage 2000B EC02.005  
313/4-HI Rafale B ETR03.004  
36 Rafale M nb  
41 Rafale M nb  
46 Rafale M nb spare aircraft
Flying only:
0007/F-RBAA A400M ET01.061  
18 ATL2 nb  

Melun A400

The Airbus A400M demo: It is amazing to see what a skilled pilot can do, while flying such a 76 tons (empty) transporter.

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