Radom Air Show Report
Saturday 24th August - Sunday 25th August 2013
One felt a certain sense of déjà vu when reading the pre show participation list for this event, featuring as it did, many items seen at the excellent Kecskemet show a mere three weeks earlier. Not as though these items were run of the mill; I’d much rather see Romanian Lancer, Polish Fitters, Czech and Hungarian Gripens, Wings of Storm, C-27 etc repeated than some of the every weekend UK airshow acts… That said, there was more than enough other aircraft to make this event worth a visit, be they the Polish home team or some very tasty visitors. Comparing the event to it’s Hungarian counterpart there were other similarities - a cheap entrance fee (about £8), a long (11 hours) and varied flying display, a good selection of static aircraft, bolstered by much of the flying display machines parked at close quarters to the public or at the very least taxying in front of them, a full ground exhibition and a totally committed crowd who came for one thing - a long, varied, exciting airshow. They got one!
Long-time UKARianwas in Poland for what promised to be one of the best airshows in Europe this summer. All photography by the author.
Though it may seem odd to say, this writer was quite pleased that the weather was a good deal cooler with a fair few clouds than the almost living furnace like conditions of Kecskemet… Unlike Kecskemet the crowd faces the sun until mid afternoon resulting in backlit shots and a quest for finding a spot far side of the heavily forested and extremely well (3m) fenced airfield. It must be mentioned of course that with such a diverse range of types, long programme with a lot of multiple, massed type displays, nationalities and display pilot experience, both events held extremely well organised and above all safe flying displays. Not as though there were some "bizarre moments" - more later.
Arriving on the Friday morning after navigating some very "interesting" Polish roads, it was clear that yet another comparison could be made with Kecskemet in that there were no restrictions in congregating outside the airfield to view the arrivals and practices. The local fields and roads became car parks and the whole scene resembled something of a festival, indeed many had set up tents and were camping for the weekend. What a refreshing change from the UK’s paranoid two week exclusion zone around an airfield during an airshow with parking or stopping a vehicle deemed akin to committing murder. The Ukrainian trio of IL-76 and two Su27s arriving at a little after 8am set the standard for a good steady flow of arriving aircraft and display practices and though the weather started a little overcast and dull it improved through the day to end in a glorious clear afternoon and evening giving some stunning light for the later events.
Bizarre moment number one occurred when the Midnight Hawks team after being held for about 15 minutes or so to rehearse took off, flew a circuit and landed, as merely 5 minutes later the Polish Air Force practiced for a second time that day their massed flypast; not the best bit of planning! The final practice of the day resulted in bizarre moment number two - the French Rafale and Belgian F-16 were both listed to rehearse (mention must be made here of the very accurate arrivals and display sequence lists along with other downloads freely available from the website) and both duly took off but rather than perform their solo shows joined up for a duo performance featuring formation passes, breaks, cross overs and some tail chasing. A total one off as this was not repeated at the show and to my knowledge, not anywhere else - obviously some bar room banter resulted in a special thank you show for the Polish hosts. Any information appreciated! The Ukrainian Flanker, Dutch F-16 and Gripen pair stood out here for their practices in such perfect conditions.
Saturday dawned quite foggy, but that thankfully quickly burned off to leave a very pleasant summers day. The customary queue to enter revealed a security check that quite frankly left me speechless as possibly the most pointless and wasteful scene I have witnessed. Cue the third bizarre moment - the checks consisted of a quick look through individual bags, but only to find, remove and then discard in an ever growing pile any liquids! Thousands of people had arrived at the show armed with water, juice, Coke etc to see them through the day only to have it taken off them and thrown away. I still fail to see the point of this - people were quite openly drinking the liquids in front of the guards but to no avail - over the fence it went. Again, I would appreciate more information as to why this pathetic waste of money, time and perfectly good drink took place as apparently it does occur elsewhere in Poland. After some muttering I reluctantly took a few gulps from the two litre bottles I had and then handed over my Vodka and Baileys…
This unpleasantness was quickly forgotten as the sun was shining and most of the early morning statics were nicely positioned, though the crews were keen to congregate all over their and other's machines and also happy to photograph people in cockpits etc. It has to be said that the show proved to be a real bonus for rotary winged fans as the hosts fielded a prolific selection of types - Air Force Mi2, SAR Mi8, armed up Mi17, SW4, camo W3RL Sokol, Army casevac Mi17, Mi2 Navy SAR W3W Anaconda and Mi14 (the same Orca schemed machine as seen at RIAT '12). A similar selection were lined up for the flying display - an SW4 (a further 6 flew in the mass flypast) and W3RL from the Air Force, a pair of Mi24V (plus two Mi24D spares) and W3W from the Army and a beautiful SH-2G Seasprite resplendent with special sea dragon stickers on the Port side. PZL-Mielec-Swidnik/Agusta Westland had a substantial exhibition with further types including a gun ship W3PL, SW4 "solo"- an unmanned version of the light helicopter, a civilian SW4, military marked grey painted AW149 (potential Mi8 replacement) and a pair of PZL built S-70i Blackhawks, one of which flew. Add to this a steady gaggle of VIP configured Mi8S/T and W3WA (one of which brought in the Polish PM on Saturday) from Warsaw, Police Mi2, Mi8, Bell 206 & 412, and an Air Ambulance EC135 and some 40 or so Polish choppers were on view. Foreigners in the rotary winged department featured French Air Force Caracal dangling special forces, Dutch flare flinging Apache (plus spare and static), static Danish Fennec and the Red Bull Cobra.
There was a healthy collection of visiting statics - Austrian Saab 105, Belgian Herc, Czech C295 and anniversary marked ALCA, German Tornado (unfortunately a standard grey jet) and 100 years P-3C, Hungarian An26, Dutch F-16 pair with the Diana special, Romanian C-27, Slovak tiger Mig29UB and L410 and aforementioned Ukrainian IL-76 and Su27. Even the RAF got in on the act with a pair of 11 Sqn Typhoons and the 4 (AC) Squadron anniversary fin Hawk T2. However, BAe got hold of it and used it as their exhibition piece, obviously having a punt at a possible Polish AF order. I'm convinced BAe do not want any clear, unobstructed photos taken of this jet as everywhere it appears it's surrounded by sales paraphernalia!
Light aviation and historic types were also well represented in the static including a WSK/LWD TS-9 Junak ("brave young man") undergoing restoration. The TS-9 was an indigenous trainer used in the late '50s and early '60s. A Bleriot replica and UK registered Auster were surprises as was an unusual turboprop powered Wilga belonging to the Polish Border Guard.
The flying got underway to a gentle start at 9am with a two hour section entitled "Aeroklub Polski" and featured a varied selection of flying machines and displays such as tethered balloons and powered parachutes, banner towing and aerobatics. As at Kecskemet, the standard of high octane, competition aerobatics was extremely high with Extras, Zlins and Sbachs performing some outstanding displays. Also in this section was an RAF schemed Tiger Moth, home builds and gliders; one of which belonging to the Zelazny aerobatic group consisting of a Fox glider flown by Jerzy "Jerry" Makula being towed by an Extra in a superb display very reminiscent to the GliderFX display.
Polish historic items featured a TS-11 Iskra finished in the colours of the prototype and a TS-8 Bies (Devil). The TS-11 belonged to the Polish Aviation legends Group who also fly the Xtreme XA41 aerobatic display in a bizarre duo sequence. They also have plans to make a replica PZL P.11 monoplane fighter that should be well worth seeing. The TS.8 is a rather ungainly looking basic trainer with a shallow gull wing, replacing the Junak and Yak 11 from the late '50s to early '70s, three currently remain airworthy.
From 11am the display notched up a gear with modern military types, display teams and set piece demonstrations and flypasts. Teams comprised the very well received local Orlik Team (Radom is the home base for the team, part of 42.Baza Lotnictwa Szkolnego im. kpt. pil. Franciszka Zwirki i inz. Stanislawa Wigury (42.BLSz)) and Iskry, Croation Wings of Storm, Baltic Bees, Midnight Hawks and the Patrouille Suisse, who were actually called in to replace the cancelled solo F/A18 demo. There were also some informal formations in the aeroclub section, such as a four-ship of Aero AT-3s, but these were very low key. The home team also provided a very impressive mass flypast to formally open the event - after some parachutes, Team Iskry laid down the national colours in smoke, followed by six PZL SW4 Puszczyk (Tawny Owl) helicopters, then Orlik team trailing white smoke that annoyingly lingered, hampering photographs of the following three-ship of Bryzas, C-130H with two C295s and the heavy metal element of six smoky Su22s, six even smokier MiG 29s and finally six F-16s. Further pairs of F-16s and Su22s featured in a close air support demo, though the Fitters merely made a high speed pass popping flares as they went. The Falcons 'turned and burned', though quite high over the airfield. Yet another pair of Fitters flew the very impressive pair display, add these to the static two-seater Su22UM-3K and some 11 different examples of Sukhois dated but fabulous swinger could be seen.
Foreign fast jets comprised a good mix of common and seldom seen solo displays - Austrian Saab 105 (effectively closing the show on Saturday at just before 8pm!) Polish Mig 29 with flares, Czech ALCA, Romanian single-seat Lancer C (flown even more energetically than the two-seater at Kecskemet - the low, slow top side pass being just scrummy), Czech (tiger finned) and Hungarian Gripens, Rafale (disappointing for me not the Tiger meet example), Italian Typhoon (a borrowed 36 Stormo example being subject to RSV handling) and a quartet of F-16s - Belgian (Sunday show closer with a lovely flare-filled display in the twilight), Dutch, Turkish and Greek. "Stitch" in the Dutch F-16 provided another bizarre moment on the Sunday - he popped the flares whilst still on the deck during his touch and go leading to the runway being closed for 15-20 minutes for sweeping.
Solo Turk was fabulous as ever and it was good to see the Americanised Zeus solo Greek display on his only foreign trip. I haven't included the Ukrainian Su27 in the fast jet category as this was flown in typical Flanker style at a fairly slow pace that demonstrated the sheer power and handling of this wonderful jet extremely well. Expected tail slides, gut wrenchingly tight turns, achingly slow high alpha and a low missed approach with dirty roll didn't fail to impress. The Friday practice was flown in the single-seater whilst both actual displays featured the two-seat UB with the rear seat occupied. The remaining display items consisted of the solo Croatian PC9, ever impressive Italian C-27, beautifully flown Red Bull Corsair and almost aerobatic M-28 Bryza from PZL-Milec. Departure day on the Monday (UK August bank holiday) saw most of the visitors depart and most obliged with some fairly low take offs and beat ups, none more so than the Ukrainian IL-76 that immediately began to wing rock as soon as the wheels had left the ground!
As I took my life in my own hands and began the perilous drive back to Warsaw airport, I witnessed the end of the final bizarre moment of the weekend. A rather grand marquee had been erected on the Friday along with a fenced enclosure and copious outdoor furniture on the far side of the airfield - obviously a VIP enclosure or a press vantage point I thought, but it remained empty during the Saturday show. So it must be the Saturday night airshow party venue then? Nope. Leaving the airfield at turned 9pm, the area was quiet. A Sunday only special area then? No.... it went unused all weekend and was then duly taken down during the Monday and trucked away...
Thank you Radom and the Polish Air Force for a first class air show and some bizarre events to give my ageing grey matter something to ponder!