Thessaloniki: the planes “dance” in the gorges

Thessaloniki: the planes “dance” in the gorges

Perched on the flanks of the massif that crosses the Vouraikos gorge, with the picturesque Odontotos Diakoptos – Kalavryton slowly “climbing” higher and higher at the bottom of the narrow ravine, dozens of photographers around us stand among the rocks and enjoy the tranquility of the landscape. Except that the Germans, Italians, Czechs, Dutch, Belgians, Polish, Italians, British, Slovaks, Japanese fans of the aeronautical idea are impatiently awaiting the moments when this silence will be “broken”. After all, they have been coming from their country for days so that in the early morning they point their cameras to the sky. Stoically and for many days they will wait when the otherworldly sound of two powerful jet engines is heard in the relief of Achaia. They are tourists of a different kind who want to return to their country with photo frames of these planes – wonders of aerodynamicss. As they comment on RESEARCH, there are few places on the planet where they can see a heavy fighter weighing over 13 tons thanks to 60,000 pounds of power flying like a well-trained ballerina at a breath of trees and their tops. Suddenly the conversation stops and in front of us an impressive plane will cross the canyon rich in vegetation just like the actors of the movie “Top Gun: Maverick” did in the final scene of the famous movie: only we are not in Arizona , but in Kalavrita…

The uniqueness of Greece that excites

“The places where you can photograph many types of fighter planes moving at low altitude are rare, we aviation concept fans living in the area, for years we have been trying to capture beautiful photo frames of the trainee pilots who will pass through the area for a few moments and share them with other enthusiasts around the world. This year, we were happy to see that more and more aviation enthusiasts from all over the world are arriving and staying in the region in order to have such a photographic experience. This is positive for the region and for tourism,” Mr. Yiannis Rigopoulos, one of the region’s oldest photographers/aircraft spotters, commented to APE BEE.

To the west, armed with sunscreen, a hat, some snacks, water and above all a spirit of companionship, climbers like the natives… goats and sheep – who even keep them company – the photographers have immense reserves of patience. Time passes and finally they smile broadly at the end of noon. Finally, a pair of Saudi F-15SA fighters will fly the gift below, above and beside them at high speed, ‘throwing’ the aerodynamics of its enormous wing, but also the ‘God Bless You’ written on the beak of each aluminum ‘bird’ of plane than the specific country. Suddenly an alarm will sound. Hundreds of clicks, the telephoto lenses go up in flames while admiration for the know-how of the operators dominates the spotters of the world.

From April 24 to May 4, 2023 when the Exercise “Senior 2023” there were some days when part of the design of virtual missions involved a quick transition of such a morphology to other regions. These are the times for which more than 500 aircraft spotters they had only registered to go to Greece this spring. They rented a car, a hotel and went to the mountains, which the four young Italians next to us did. After traveling from the north of the neighboring country and for about a week, they came to Greece to see these planes. The days of crossing the Greek canyons by fighters from all countries have borne fruit, especially since Italian fighters have arrived in Greece this year for the exercise.

“There is few places in the world where you can see and enjoy this special sight, airplanes for “dancing” that is to say in canyons a few meters from the rocks of a slope. We came to Greece precisely for that, the whole company”, explains the great Italian amateur photographer who is sad to have to return to his native country after four days of photography. The group of friends stayed in Corinth and enjoyed another photo-clicking opportunity with the passage over the Acropolis of the large formation of planes on April 28, a traditional time for the “Hiniochos” exercises of Greece.

The significant footprint of Exercise “Hiniochos” in the wider region, especially since the exercise has become international, has therefore attracted the interest of many countries who either participate or send delegations to monitor the exercise. and create a strange tourism product. The ability of the Hellenic Air Force to organize and conduct realistic exercises, in a wide area with a variety of geomorphological characteristics, makes these exercises capable of providing participants with a high level of training, but has also created a new pole of attraction for another, more “special”, tourist market. In this particular case, the only nature-loving route that starts from Diakopto and ends in Kalavryta has for a few days in April and May to offer an aerial attraction, which, although it requires patience on the part of the visitor/photographer, can give particular emotions.

In search of the unique photo

“There are very few places in the world to take pictures, make videos and enjoy such a spectacle. There are for example Sidewinder Canyon in the United States. while we also have the area known as the Mach Loop which includes specific valleys in mid-west Wales, an area in which such low-level rapid flight training takes place,” the observer comments. German aircraft photographer Florian Szczepanek who, alone or with a company, plans year-round trips to photograph aircraft in parts of Europe. Indeed, the places where such experiences of observation and photography are possible are rare. In addition to the aforementioned UK’s famous Machynlleth Loop or Mach Loop canyon, in the United States there are fans who go to Rainbow Canyon or Star Wars Canyon as photographers call it part of Death Valley National Park in California, while their luck – photographic – they can also search the vast expanses of Nevada when visitors take part in large exercises several times a year. Since 2013, the Greek “Hiniochos” would have gained a place on this short list.

With the same enthusiasm they await the arrival of the fighters in the canyon with us and with their four cameras a Belgian fighter plane photographer with his German friend. Jyou even observe them carefully studying the position of the sun so that they are standing every hour and in the right place for photography, always ready and with their eyes glued to the bend in the canyon. The pulse of the large group around us rises when at last two Italian tornadoes arrive from the depths and seem to do the incredible while flying between rocks and straits. Through a telephoto lens, they look like two iron arrows whose noses are… mounted by two people. After hours of waiting, finally smiles and many photo frames of the two Italian planes licking the treetops in the beautiful Greek ravine. You admire the way the pilots “shake” the plane in sharp maneuvers as if it were an ordinary day at… “the office”.

In the previous days, such passages were made in the area Greek F-16 and F-4E Phantom, but guests seem to have had the first word this year as low-level training is invaluable to an aviator. Thus for 2023, these are the crossings of the imposing F-15SA fighters from Saudi Arabia, the F-16 from Jordan, the French Rafale, the impressive Italian “Tornadoes” from the Aeronautica Militare (Tornado IDS plane of the army of the ‘air Italian) who could train to avoid “the enemy” they were captured in frames by the international traveler-photographers who were waiting around us perched on the slopes.

Each photography day will end with visitors to our country to they smile contentedly while enjoying a traditional herb pie in a nearby cafe. They will comment on the course of the day with their friends from all over the world before returning to their hotels. A few days later, accompanied by their suitcases, they will bring back to their homeland many stories that will dress up the beautiful photo clicks of the Greek countryside which for a few moments welcomed the high-speed crossings of these steel wings coming from the four corners of the world. world.

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