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Pratica di Mare Open Day 2004





On the 29 th and 30th of May this year, at the Airport of Pratica di Mare a special open day was held


All good things have to come to an end sometime and this also includes the flying career of one of the most charismatic fighter planes in post-war aviation history. During 2004, the Aeronautica Militare Italiana (Italian Air Force) will cease flying the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter after a career spanning 40 years. Add to this that in 1954 the Starfighter's prototype flew for time. Facts that can not go unnoticed and the Italian Air Force is the last service anywhere in the world to fly this jet. In order to allow a 40 year period in the Italian Air Force to pass into history, an airshow was held at Pratica di Mare near Rome featuring the F-104, but also of course other types in Italian service

The air show was planned for the Sunday. Highlights during the show were the formation of nine Starfighter's that made several passes and at the end of the show the red 'Ducati' Starfighter flew in formation with the Frecce Tricolori. The show attracted many visitors. Early in the morning, many people were waiting in front of the gate to enter the base and an Italian TV-station broadcasted the show live on television.

Flown as a tribute was a formation of the Frecce Tricolori led by the red 999 F-104. After several passes they did the missing manAfter the landing of the '999' came not only an official end on the operations with the Starfighter within the Aeronautica Militare Italiana, but also worldwide

Naturally, Starfighters were much in evidence at Pratica di Mare, with an F-104S-ASA, MM6943/4-1, sprayed in exactly the same silver/white colourscheme as used on the earliest examples in Italian service. Better known was the Starfighter for it's tactical camouflage scheme, as applied to the museum exhibit from Vigna di Valle, MM6501/3-11. Belonging to 3° Stormo at Villafranca during it's flying days. From the two Starfighter units left in 2004, 9° Stormo from Grazzanise, apparantly brought is famous Dugati red starfighter. The MM6930/9-99 wears the red paint scheme adopted for the Ducati 999 motorcycle



In total 18 f-104s were on display, of which 16 in flying condition. Six aircraft were displayed in a special area called 'World Starfighter Meeting'. Three of these aircraft wore special colour schemes.

From the base at Grossetto came the black MM6873 in a predominantly black colourscheme celebrating 40 years of service with the Aeronautico Militare. 20° Gruppo, the Starfighter training unit, painted MM54253/4-20 in a blauw scheme. The airshow included a flypast of nine Starfighters, among them three two seaters, with the characteristic howling of their GE J79 engines. A sound that inspired so many youngsters to become aviation enthousiasts....
Apart from this formation, the organization had more surprises for us. A formation of a Tornado ADV, an EF-2000B Typhoon and a F-16ADF led by a F-104S appeared from the south. After one pass they appeared one more time. This time the F-104 broke up from the formation to climb out just like in a 'missing man' formation.

Aircraft wise, Pratica di Mare's airshow had much to offer. Foreign participants to visit Pratica di Mare included, apart from among others British Harriers, Austrian SAAB 105's and a pair of Hungarian Mil helicopters a duo of Turkish Air Force RF-4E Phantoms and a MiG-29 from the German air force.

Anyway, the glorious weather and the many F-104's on show gave the Starfighter it's farewell it deserved.




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