Airshow Report: Chitose Air Festival 2017

Airshow Report: Chitose Air Festival 2017

Last weekend, I had a chance to visit Chitose Air Base near Sapporo for its annual airshow. As such, I decided to report on that one before continuing with my Hawaii articles.

I flew from Narita to Sapporo with Jetstar and then met up with some friends for dinner. After spending a night at Toyoko Inn Tomakomai hotel, we met up once again to enjoy the airshow.

Take-Off of the Japan Air Self Defense Force 747

The reason I went to the airshow even though I am not exactly a military fan is very simple. Chitose Air Base is the home of the two Japan Air Self Defense Force 747. And, as long as it’s not on a mission somewhere, one of the aircraft always makes an appearance at the airshow.

On the morning of the airshow, we went to New Chitose airport’s international terminal from where it is just a short walk to a spot where departures from the air base’s runways 18L/R can be seen. It is also possible to see aircraft taxiing from the civil pair of runways to the international side there as well.

Chitose Air Base Spotting Location

Waiting for the 747 to depart.
Korean Air 737

Korean Air 737 taxiing for departure.

The 747 was pushed back about five minutes before 9AM, and while it was heading to the runway, there was a formation fly-past of T-4s and F-15s.

JASDF 747 Push Back

JASDF 747 being pushed back.
F-15 and T-4 Fly-Past

Fly-past of F-15s and T-4s.

Then, at 9:05AM, the Jumbo took off into the cloudy Hokkaido skies in order to prepare for its flying display.

Japan Air Self Defense Force Take-Off

Japan Air Self-Defense Force 747 departing for its demo.

With the 747 in the skies, we waited for some more minutes at the spot to photograph an Aurora Dash-8-200 and AirAsia X A330 in special livery.

Aurora Dash 8

Aurora Dash 8 taxiing after arrival.
AirAsia X A330

AirAsia X A330-300 taxiing after arrival.

Then, we moved to the next spot.

Bad Weather = Simplified Flying Display

The next spot was a place right outside Minami Chitose station which offers a nice place to watch the airshow’s flying displays. And sure enough, by the time we got to the location, plenty of people was already there.

Minami Chitose

Minami Chitose spotting location.

Visitors waiting for the flying display.

Then, at 10AM, the 747 flew past the crowd. It was followed by a pair of F-15s a couple of minutes later. It turned out that, unfortunately, the weather forced the cancellation of a combined fly-past and the two types did their fly-pasts separately instead.

JASDF 747 Fly-Past

The Jumbo fly-by.
F-15 Fly-Past

A pair of F-15s flying past the crowds on both sides of the runway.

After that, the 747 flew past the crowd once again as it approached the runway for landing. The F-15s followed once again.

JASDF 747 Holding

JASDF Jumbo waiting for the F-15s to land before crossing the runway

With the 747 and F-15s back on the ground, we decided to head to the actual airshow venue to take a look at the static display.

Chitose Air Festival 2017 Static Display

As for getting to the venue, there was a shuttle bus running between Minami Chitose station and the base for 210 yen (about 2 USD) each way. Just as we got on the bus a fairly impressive display by an F-16 started.

Minami Chitose Station

Minami Chitose station.
Chitose Airshow Shuttle Bus

Shuttle bus to the venue.

The bus dropped us off at a parking lot a couple of minutes walk away from the apron. While at that point the weather was still cloudy, it seemed like there was a chance for improvement. And indeed, less than an hour later, the sun came out for the first time.

The static display included about a dozen Japan Self-Defense Force aircraft (from all of its branches).

It also included a Dash 8 and a Gulfstream of the Japan Coast Guard.

Chitose Airshow 2017 Static Display

Part of the static display.
Japan Coast Guard Gulfstream

Japan Coast Guard Gulfstream.
Fighter Jets

Fighther jets.
Shin Maywa Flying Boat

ShinMaywa US-2 amphibious aircraft of Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force.

Finally, aside from the aircraft, there were also booths promoting ANA, JAL, JASDF, etc.

ANA Booth

ANA and JAL booths.

Blue Impulse and the JASDF 747

Besides the above static displays, there were also aircraft of Blue Impulse – the JASDF aerobatics team.

Blue Impulse at Chitose Airshow

Blue Impulse aircraft before their display.

And on the far end of the venue, there was the JASDF 747 that performed the flying display earlier in the morning.

Japan Air Self Defense Force 747

Japan Air Self-Defense Force Jumbo on static display.

One of the moments I was waiting for the most was Blue Impule’s show and more specifically, it’s fly-past above the 747. Unfortunately, even though the team taxied out for departure, they stopped before taking off due to technical issues with some of the aircraft.

…and so, instead of getting the whole team flying above the 747, the below is all I could get…

Japan Air Force 747 and Blue Impulse

The slight disappointment of the day – there were supposed to be five Blue Impulse aircraft flying above the 747 in this photo…


Enjoying the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force 747

…the good thing is that even though the Blue Impulse part didn’t work out as planned, there were still more than enough opportunities to enjoy the 747.

First, one could freely walk around the 747, and even under its wing and tail. What an amazing experience!

There were also tours that took people even closer to the aircraft, but that was limited to the first 300 people in the line.


How often can one get this close to an aircraft like this?
JASDF 747 Tail

Tail of the Japanese Jumbo.
JASDF 747 Tail

Standing under the tail was quite the experience!
JASDF 747 Tour

The first 300 people were given a closer tour of the aircraft – including seeing the engines, landing gear, etc. from up close.

Then, there was a little photo shoot with the 747 team members posing in front of the aircraft.

JASDF Team Photo

The 747 team posing in front of the aircraft.

Finally, at the very end of the airshow. Or better to say after it ended and before we were sent out, we were able to get some more photos of the 747 as it was being towed away from the static display to its hangar.

Head On with Japan Air Force 747

Head-on with “Cygnus.”
Helicopter Departing

One of the helicopters departing the display area.
Cygnus Towing Truck

The 747 winglet, towing car, air stairs and hangar.
Cygnus Towing Away at Chitose Airshow

One of the last shots – and one of the main shots I went to the airshow for.

Heading Back to the Terminal

With the 747 towed away. Or, rather, with us sent away, it was time to leave the airshow venue.

We took the free shuttle bus back to Minami Chitose station, and a train from there to Sapporo New Chitose airport.


The Chitose Air Base team working hard to clean-up after the airshow.

At the airport, we quickly went to the observation deck, as Hawaiian Air 767 was arriving.

Hawaiian Airlines 767

Hawaiian Airlines 767 taxiing to terminal after its arrival from Honolulu.

After taking a photo of it, I bit my friends a farewell and headed off to catch my flight to Sendai onboard ANA’s Dash 8.

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