Held annually on the 2nd Saturday of January at Don Mueang Royal Thai Air Force Base, the Children's Day Airshow is one of the most anticipated and celebrated events for Children's Day in Thailand. A large open event, filled with both static and flying displays, as well as activity and food booths for the public, the Children's Day Airshow always draws in a huge crowd yearly. Up until last year, I have not had the opportunity nor time to attend the RTAF Children's Day Airshow, so I finally decided to make an effort, book a trip up to Bangkok, along with my fellow avgeeks Dillon and Jonathan, and to attend this incredible event.
GETTING TO DON MUEANG
With the Airshow starting at 0800hours in the morning, my friends and I opted to take a Private Hire Car (GRAB) to Don Mueang Airbase. Truth be told, Private Hire Car services in Thailand are generally affordable compared to Singapore, so the cost was not overly hefty on our wallets. The Car dropped us off at the designated location, after which we needed to go the rest of the way into the Airshow premises on foot. There were plenty of street stalls set up along the road, selling all sorts of goodies from snacks, drinks to toys, hats and other apparels. The walk to the airshow from the drop off point was roughly 10-15mins long, though a less tiring alternative would have been to take the shuttle bus at the Air Force Museum into the airshow entrance. However, that would have taken more time as the queue for the bus was extremely long and crowded. There was no entrance fee, but we did have to line up for a brief bag check and security screening. Overall, it was not a hassle getting to the airshow.
(1) RTAF Airbus A340-500
The one plane we set our sights on catching was the Royal Thai Air Force's Airbus A340-500. Previously flown by Thai Airways as HS-TLC, this plane was stored in 2012, and subsequently taken over by the Royal Thai Air Force, re-registered as HS-TYV. The aircraft now serves as a VIP transport for the RTAF, ferrying dignitaries and members of the Thai Royal Family overseas when needed. Unlike most other aircraft on display, the A340 and other VIP transports are normally kept at a relative distance from the exhibition area, to prevent members of the public from getting too close to the aircraft. This time around, it was not too far off, and we had a clear direct view of this amazing aircraft.
(2) Basler BT-67
Developed from the DC-3 airframe, the Basler BT-67 is a remanufactured and modified version of the famous and iconic Douglas DC-3, with improvements made by installing newer Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-67R turboprop engines, extending the length of the fuselage, upgrading the avionics, and making modifications to the leading edges and tips of the wings. RTAF operates 7 of these turboprop planes, mainly used as a cargo airlift and transport.
(3) Fairchild AU-23 Peacemaker
Introduced in 1971 by the United States Air Force for use in the Vietnam War, The AU-23 is a militarised version of the Pilatus PC-6 Porter. This simple and harmless looking aircraft could be easily armed to the teeth, adding formidable aerial support to ground forces in a combat zone. With 35 built by the US, all models of this plane were supplied to the RTAF in the 1970s, with only 15 remaining in operation today.
4) Everything Else
Other notable mentions of aircraft on display at the airshow includes RTAF's C-130H, Saab S-100B Argus, ATR72, A319 and A320.
(5) Historic Planes Display
A number of historic museum planes were on display at the airshow as well. The one that really caught my eye was the North American F-86 Sabre. This plane is historic, and its introduction into the skies pushed forward the horizons for aerial combat aircraft, being the only other jet fighter that could counter Russia's Mig-15 in the early 1950s. The interesting thing about the museum planes display was that there were no barricades around the aircraft. Kids and adults were allowed to climb onto the planes, sit on the wings and hide under them for shade from the intense sunlight. Of most airshows we've been to, this was indeed an uncommon sight which made the RTAF Children's Day Airshow more fun!
At every Airshow, one of the attractive highlights of the day has to be the aerial flying display. This year at the RTAF Children's Day Airshow, the aerial display line up included the Gripen, F-16 Fighting Falcon & KAI T-50 Golden Eagle, the AU-23 Peacemaker, CT-4E Airtrainer & Eurocopter EC-725 Caracal. Unfortunately, we were not able to stay for most of the aerial displays as we had to rush over to Suvarnabhumi Airport. We were able to catch some nice aerial manoeuvres by the Gripen, which is always a welcomed sight.
Overall, the RTAF Children's Day Airshow is definitely worth a visit. It's free entry, interesting aerial & static displays and little to no barricades around the aeroplanes really makes it an avgeeks' heaven. Plus a good angle of DMK's runway operations, in case you like to do some spotting on the side while attending the airshow. Come 2021, we might find ourselves back in Bangkok again, and for a slightly longer stay so as not to squeeze every mark on the itinerary into a single day.