Thessaloniki: Planes ‘dance’ in the gorges

By | May 16, 2023

Perched on the sides 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 German, Italian, Czech, Dutch, Belgian, Polish, Italian, British, Slovak and Japanese fans of the aviation idea are eagerly awaiting the moments when this silence will be “broken”. After all, they have been coming from their countries for days so that from early morning They point their cameras at the sky. Stoically and for many days they will wait for the otherworldly sound of two powerful jet engines to be heard on the Achaian relief. They are a different type of tourists who want to return to their countries with photo frames of these airplanes – marvels of aerodynamicss. As they comment in INVESTIGATION, there are few places on the planet where you can see a heavy fighter of more than 13 tons thanks to 60,000 pounds of power fly like a well-trained dancer just a breath away from the trees and their tops. Suddenly the conversation stops and in front of us an impressive aircraft will cross the canyon rich in vegetation just as 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 one can photograph many types of fighter aircraft moving low over the ground are few and far between, we aviation concept fans Living in the area, for years we have been trying to capture beautiful photo frames of the pilots-in-training who will for a few moments speed through the area and share them with other enthusiasts around the world. This year we were happy to see that even more aviation lovers from around the world have arrived and are staying in the area for such a photo experience. This is positive for the region and for tourism,” Mr. Yiannis Rigopoulos, one of the region’s oldest aircraft observers/photographers, told APE BEE.

All the way west, armed with sunscreen, a cap, some snacks, water and, above all, some company, the climbers like the natives… goats and sheep -who even keep them company- the photographers have vast reserves of patience. Time passes and they finally smile widely at the end of noon. Finally, one pair of F-15SA fighters from Saudi Arabia it will pass the gift under, over and past them at high speed, ‘projecting’ the aerodynamics of its huge wing, but also the “God bless you” written on the beak of each one of those aluminum “birds”. aeronautical than the specific country. Suddenly an alarm will sound. Hundreds of clicks, the telephoto lenses light up as admiration for the operators’ skills dominates the observers of the world.

From April 24 to May 4, 2023 when the Exercise “Senior 2023” there have been certain days where part of the design of virtual missions involved a quick transition of that morph to other regions. They were the moments for which more than 500 aircraft spotters they had signed up to travel to Greece this spring only. They rented a car, a hotel and went to the mountains, which was done by the four young Italians next to us. After traveling from the north of the neighboring country and for about a week they arrived in Greece to see these planes. The days of crossing the Greek canyons by fighters from all countries paid off, especially when Italian fighters arrived in Greece this year for the exercise.

“There is few places in the world where one can see and enjoy this special sight, planes to “dance”, that is, in canyons a few meters from the rocks of a slope. We came to Greece for exactly this, the whole company”, explains the tall Italian amateur photographer who is sad to have to leave for his homeland after four days of photography. The group of friends stayed in Corinto and took another opportunity to shoot photo-clicks with the passage over the Acropolis of the large formation of planes on April 28, a moment of tradition for the “Hiniochos” exercises in Greece.

The significant footprint of the “Hiniochos” exercise in the region in general, especially since the exercise became international, has aroused the interest of many countries participating or sending delegations to monitor the exercise and creating a strange tourism product. The Hellenic Air Force’s ability to organize and conduct realistic exercises, over a large area with a variety of geomorphological features, makes these exercises capable of providing participants with a high level of training, but they also created a new pole of attraction. for a different group. , more ‘special’, tourist market. In this particular case, the unique nature-loving route that starts from Diakopto and ends in Kalavryta has 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 generate special emotions. . .

Hunting for the unique photo

“There are very few places in the world to take photos, make videos and enjoy a show like this. 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 where fast low-altitude flight training takes place,” says German aircraft spotter Florian Szczepanek. , who, either alone or in company, plans year-round trips to photograph airplanes in parts of Europe.Indeed, places where such observing and photography experiences are possible are few and far between.Besides the already mentioned famous canyon Machynlleth Loop or Mach Loop of the United Kingdom, in the USA there are fans who go to the Rainbow Canyon or Star Wars Canyon as photographers call part of the Death Valley National Park in California, while their -photography- luck too they can search the vast expanses of Nevada when visitors hold large drills several times a year.Since 2013, the Greek “Hiniochos” has apparently earned a place on this short list.

With the same enthusiasm they await the arrival of the fighters to the canyon with us and with their four cameras a Belgian fighter jet photographer with his German friend. youYou even observe them carefully studying the position of the sun so that they are every hour and in the right place for the photograph, always ready and with their eyes on the bend of the canyon. The pulsations of the large group that surrounds us rise when finally two Italian Tornadoes arrive from the depths and seem to do the incredible 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 how the pilots ‘shake’ the aircraft in sudden maneuvers as if it were any other day at the… “office”.

In the previous days, such steps were carried out in the area F-16 Greek and F-4E Phantom, but the guests seem to have had the first word this year as low-altitude training is invaluable for an aviator. Thus by 2023 were the journeys of the imposing F-15SA fighters from Saudi Arabia, the F-16 from Jordan, the French Rafales, the impressive Italian “Tornadoes” of the Aeronautica Militare (Tornado IDS aircraft of the Italian Air Force) that will be able to to be training to avoid the “enemy” who were captured in frames by the international traveler-photographers who waited around us perched on the slopes.

Each day of photography will end with visitors from our country to they smile contently as they enjoy a traditional herb cake at a nearby cafe. There they will discuss how their day went with their friends from all over the world before returning to their hotels. A few days later, together with their suitcases, they will take back to their homeland abundant stories that will dress the beautiful photographic clicks of the Greek countryside that for a few moments welcomed the high-speed crossings of these wings of steel from all over the world.

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