The Cambrai airshow; a real Mirage F.1 fest

On 6 September 1981, Cambrai Air Base organized a ‘Portes Ouvertes’. Lots of sunshine and temperatures up in the mid 20s Celsius, on probably one of the last beautiful days of 1981’s summer, drew over 100.000 people to the air base.

BA-103 Cambrai-Epionoy “René Mouchotte”
Cambrai Air Base is located in the upper North of France and was in 1981 home of three Mirage F.1 squadrons. EC1/12 “Cambresis”, EC2/12 “Picardie” and EC3/12 “Cornouaille”. The base is named after René Mouchotte, a pilot of the Free France Air Force who was the commander of a RAF squadron at RAF Biggin Hill during World War II. He was shot down in 1943 over the English Channel during a mission to protect B-17 bombers. He recorded 408 missions and 1743 flight hours.

The airshow
In the eighties, Cambrai Airshows offered great photo opportunities. Planes on the static could sometimes be photographed at the beginning or very end of the airshow without people around them. And all the planes on the flight-line could be photographed whole day long. The same goes for the taxi-track that runs in front of the flight-line.
This year’s airshow saw a limited number of foreign visitors; a Belgian F-104 from Kleine Brogel AB, a F-111E from RAF Upper Heyford, two A-10As from RAF Woodbridge and two F-15Cs from Bitburg Air Base. All the other planes on the static, flightline and in the show were French. The show part started at 2 P.M. sharp with the passage of three F.1 formations. Other planes in the show were a Mirage III, a Super Etendard, a Mirage IV, an F-15, an A-10, some warbirds and finally Patrouille de France. The start of the Patrouille de France show was a fly-by of the nine Alpha Jets with two Noratlas transport planes. After that, the ‘Patrouille’ gave a splendid 20-minute show. Directly after the final Alpha Jet touched down, the airshow was over, and all the spectators had to do was reach the car park and find themselves a few moments later in one of the most gigantic traffic jams the region has ever experienced.