After the ADEX show in Seoul last year (see that article HERE), the following weekend saw another show in Sacheon, a city in the south-west region of South Korea.
The show was held at the military base at Sacheon which is one the ROKAF’s main training bases, housing the 3rd wing with its 3 squadrons of KT-1s, a locally produced turboprop trainer (similar to the Tucano and PC-9). Pilots from all three of Korea’s armed services receive their fixed wing training at Sacheon and the pace of the daily flying program is very high with waves of 20 or 30 aircraft launching several times a day and occupying the surrounding airspace.
The Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) facilities are also at Sacheon. KAI is a major aviation manufacturer that, in addition to license production of several types such as the KF-5 and KF-16, have produced several indigenous designs such as the KT-1 turboprop trainer, the T-50 Golden Eagle advanced jet trainer (which has also been developed into the TA-50 Lead-In-Fighter and FA-50 light attack version to replace the ROKAF’s ageing fleet of F-5s as well as for several export customers) and the KUH-1 Utility Helicopter. KAI also plays a major role in Korea’s advanced space program. There is also a local, civilian terminal for daily passenger flights operated by Korean Air and Asiana.
The Sacheon Air Show has been an almost annual event since 2005 and the organisers have striven to provide Koreans with a half-way alternative between the very large, and mostly military oriented, shows held in Osan annually and Seoul every two years, and the quite small and fairly limited civilian events held throughout the country, by providing diverse displays from both the ROKAF and non-military performers as well as industry and trade displays and family oriented entertainment all in one show. This is not an easy task as Korea only has a very small and restricted civil or private aviation scene.
The PBA (Paul Bennet Airshows) team, were able to re-position their two Pitts’ by flying them from Seoul to Sacheon on the Monday following the Seoul show. This may have been a relatively simple task on the face of it but Korean air traffic control doesn’t usually have to deal with much private aviation, combined with the fact that a majority of the country is quite mountainous, made it an interesting flight for Paul and Glenn.
One advantage of being at the base during the week before the show (for me at least) was the chance to catch the ROKAF F-4E arriving for static display. A rare chance to catch one of these classic machines “in action” rather than just on static display.
After a few practice flights by the various displays during the week, the show kicked off on Friday. The static display included examples of most ROKAF front-line types as well as a P-3 from the ROK Navy, an AH-64 from the ROK Army and an MUH-1 helicopter from the ROK Marines. KAI also provided a brand new FA-50 (which looked to be an export example, judging by the colour scheme), the KT-1C demonstrator and a KC-100 piston engined light aircraft, and the local Police airwing had a Jetranger on show too.
In the air, there were solo handling displays by a KT-1 and a TA-50, jumps by the ROKAF Parachute display team and a CSAR (Combat Search And Rescue) demonstration by a pair of ROKAF Blackhawks, a mass flypast by a formation of locally based KT-1s in the shape of the number “70” to mark the ROKAF’s 70th anniversary and the PBA team and the ROKAF’s Black Eagles as the headline acts.
Paul and Glenn flew their formation routine in the mornings and Paul put on his solo display each afternoon and, just as in Seoul, the crowds loved it, with audible gasps and applause during the displays (as formation and high energy aerobatics by private pilots is not something which is often seen in Korea, due to the limited and restricted private aviation scene), and there was a mad rush to meet the guys and get their autographs after each flight.
The ROKAF also conducted experience flights before and after the flying displays as well as during the lunch-break in the middle of the day, offering people the chance to fly on a CH-47, C-130 or CN-235 as did a group of light aircraft operated by various Universities and flight training centers.
No sooner had the prop stopped after Sunday afternoon’s display than the team began dismantling Paul’s Wolf Pitts to be airfreighted back to Australia as it was scheduled to display at the Nhil airshow the very next weekend. The fact that this was safely achieved with the aircraft heading off to Seoul on a low-loader on Monday morning was certainly an impressive lesson in planning and organisation and a testament to the skill and teamwork of everyone involved. The Model 12 was also pulled apart but sent by sea in the team’s container a short time later.
After the Wolf Pitts was safely on its way on Monday morning, there was also the chance to get a few of the ROKAF aircraft which had been on static display over the weekend as they were prepared for departure.
This had been a massive effort from the PBA team, having flown 39 displays in just 27 days across 3 countries! But it didn’t stop there as their fans in Australia will know; they carried on to appear at various shows around the country including Nhil and the RAAF airshow at Edinburgh as soon as they got back home.
My sincere thanks to the Paul Bennet Airshows team for the opportunity to catch and capture this leg of their calendar of overseas shows.