The fifth edition of the International Marrakech Air show took place at Menara airport, just outside the city of Marrakech, Morocco. The event started with the trading days on Wednesday the 27th of April until Friday the 29th of April and concluded with an air show on the Saturday.
Fixed wing aircraft and companies with aviation parts and systems were the main focus during the trading days. But a variety of helicopters could be seen during the days. from the old, but still going strong, Alouette II and Bell 205 helicopter to a newer military variant based on the Bell 407GX.
The Escadron Aérien Gendarmerie Royale (Royal Police Squadron) operates a variety of helicopters and fixed wing aircraft from airfields spread about the country and were as always well represented at the show with an EC135T2+, EC145, SA330 Puma, an SE3130 Alouette II and several fixed wing aircraft.
In August 2015, the Royal Moroccan Air force took delivery of three former US Army CH-4D Chinooks after being refurbished by Columbia Helicopters. One of them was present on static display. A second example only flew on one of the trading days with a sling load from one side of the airport to the other side.
An AS565MB Panther from Flotille 11, which is based at the airport of Casablanca, was on static display as well. It is one of the three Panther helicopters that the Royal Moroccan Navy operates.
Definitely the highlight of the show was the United Arab Emirates Air Force Bell 407 at the stand of Northstar Aviation. The United Arab Emirates Air Force ordered 30 retrofitted Bell 407s and the delivery is still ongoing at the moment. The Northstar 407MRH (Multi-Role Light Attack Helicopter) is based on the civil Bell 407GX airframe. The retrofitting makes this a high-performance, low-cost lightweight multi-role helicopter for the military that can perform a variety of missions such as light attack, close-air support, (Air) surveillance and reconnaissance (AISR/ISR) and even passenger or cargo transport. It carries a four station light weight weapons platform, capable to carry Hellfire missiles, Hydra rockets, GAU-19 machine gun and a M134 mini-gun. The cockpit has a Garmin G1000H integrated flight deck with multiple screens. A non smoking sign was even applied as well. Three antenna mounts are mounted on the tail boom and a gyro stabilised Flir Star SAFIRE 260-HLD EO/IR (electro-optical/infrared) is mounted underneath the nose, providing high resolution imagery both day and night.
The show is a good opportunity to see the inventory of the Moroccan Air Force, navy and Gendarmerie that are seldom seen outside Morocco. During the previous four editions, the Royal Moroccan Air Force took the opportunity to show their own aircraft and helicopters, both in the air and on the ground. During this years edition they practically did not fly. Several types where not even present this time. Even their own display team, Marche Verte, did not fly on Saturday during the air show. The organisation probably wanted to represent themselves as a trade show but that reflected on the air show as well. Normal civil operations continued during the day and three blocks were reserved for the air show. These blocks were basically filled with one foreign demonstration team during each block. The Moroccan public became enthusiastic while seeing the cross-over manoeuvres from Al Fursan, Frecce Tricolori and Patrulla Aquila. For the foreign visitors this day was mostly a disappointing one. About 30 of the 50 advertised aircraft could be seen flying that day, mostly aircraft from the well known demonstration teams. The Moroccan military contribution to this day was a four ship formation with F-16s and a Casa CN235 transport aircraft for the parachute team. Not even a single helicopter from the Royal Moroccan Air Force did fly. A missed chance, the public responded very enthusiastic when the parachutists landed, imagine how enthusiastic they could be while seeing their own aircraft and helicopters flying.