A meeting tortured by mistral wind
On 5 June 2005 Istres-Le Tubé Air Base opened its gates for the public for a Meeting Aerien. Around 30.000 spectators found their way to the air base. Unfortunately, the circumstances were not too good. The whole day the base was tortured by a violent mistral wind which every now and then blew clouds of dust over the base. Photographing was a challenge this day while the static and runway were situated facing the sun the entire day.
Base Aérienne 125 Istres-Le Tubé
Istres-Le Tubé Air Base was build prior to World War II. It is situated in the very south of France, about 60 kilometers northwest from the city of Marseille. The base has a remarkable runway. The base’s runway is 3.750 meters (12,300 ft) long and 60 meters (200 ft) wide. An additional overrun area 1.200 meters (3,900 ft) long was built for Airbus Industries in 1992. The overrun area has the same characteristics as the runway, making it the longest runway in Western Europe. Istres was also designated by NASA as a contingency landing site for the Space Shuttle in the case of a Transoceanic Abort Landing. In 2005 Istres was the home base of the French C-135 tanker fleet. 11 C-135 and 3 KC-135Rs were stationed at Istres. Besides the tankers, Istres was also home of the Mirage 2000N (where ‘N’ stands for nuclear) “La Fayette” squadron with 20 Mirages. In 2018 the French brought the Mirage 2000N career to a close. Nowadays Istres is home of the heavy wing department of the French Air Force. Not only the C-135s and KC-135s are still based at Istres, but also the Airbus 330 is now a permanent resident at Istres.
The 2005 Meeting
No less than six demo teams participated in the Meeting Aerien. Patrulla Aguila from Spain, Team Iskry from Poland, The Royal Jordanian Falcons, Marche Verte from the Royal Moroccan Air Force, Team Breitling and of course Patrouille de France. The French Air Force showed a lot of airplanes from its inventory, including the M02 prototype of the brand new Rafale. Other air forces that participated were the Belgian Air Force with the F-16 and CM-170, the Royal Netherlands Air Force with the F-16, the USAF with two Aviano F-16s and the Royal Air Force with two Jaguar GR3s and two Tornado F3s from 56 Sqn.