After the move from Brno to Hradec Kralove in 2003 it was time to see how (and 'to what') the CIAF (Czech International Air Fest) has developed, back at the airport where it originally started in the 1990s. In the meantime quite a lot has changed at Hradec Kralove, with the most important change being for sure the transformation from a military airfield to a small civil airport.
Where? Hradec Kralove, Czech Republic
But despite its civil orientation the event still receives a lot of support from the Armed Forces of the Czech Republic.
This was impressively shown at the beginning of the show when the formation fly-by of the Czech Air Force took place: L-39, L-159, JAS-39 Gripen, L-39 of the CLV (Centrum Leteckého Vycviku / Centre of Air training for the Czech Air Force) and An-26. Unfortunately the recently acquired CASA C-295 was missing in this package on both das of the show.
The aircraft were followed by a pair of Mi-24 helicopters who directly started their demo that was 'enhanced' by the employment of pyrotechnics.
The next act was even better: an interception demo of a civil airliner was shown. Whereas it was difficult for a foreigner to follow it - due to Czech-only commentary - it was quite clear that something happened when everyone was turning their heads as in the distance a formation of a CSA B737 and two JAS39C Gripen Fighters could be spotted. They crossed the airfield in order to initiate a formation change for another fly-by along the runway and finally the airliner even came in to land. As a big surprise the 737 was even wearing a new special colour scheme.
Then it got really noisy with the display of the Danish F-16, flown by Eskesen Chanton. He used his afterburner a lot as well as some flares, but however this F-16 cannot be set in par with the other European Solo Displays of the "Fighting Falcon" as it had many moments when nothing was happening and the aircraft was out-of-sight, which prolonged the display unnecessarily.
In comparison also unspectacular, but a nice opportunity for photography, was the Belgian Agusta A109 helicopter, even more set into nice light during its rehearsal on late Friday afternoon.
A step back in time was the dogfight of the scale replicas of the "Red Baron" Fokker Dr.1 triplane and a Sopwith F1 Camel, turning around in steep curves. A formation of Aero L-29 Delfin and a Yak-52 was another civil act, as the times are long gone when both of these types were still in service within the Czechoslovakian Air Force. Due to this the type well known among the public and this interest was clearly recognizable when the Delfin was flying.
A noisy surprise followed after a silent display of 2 Fascination ultralight aircraft with the Saab JAS39 Gripen Czech solo display, which flew in directly from its nearby home base Caslav. The approach wasn't noticed by anybody, so everybody winced when it whizzed by for the start. Unfortunately the weather during this display was not very good during my visit, so I decided not to take too many photos of it. Some photos of the Gripen fly-in on Friday are added here for your viewing pleasure:
The W-3A Sokol was another nice Czech AF display, as it presented a SAR as well as a fire-fighting demonstration, which were highlighted by some sunny spells.
The following presentations after midday followed the plot of the morning with a good mix of civil and military aircraft taking to the skies. Especially the rescue demo of a civil EC135 and the formation presentation of the Antonov An-2 of the "Heritage of the Flying Legends" need to be mentioned here.
To present the remaining types of its inventory the Czech Armed Forces still presented the L-159 and L-39 solo demos as well as another routine of the Mi-24 team and flew all types of the CLV training centre from Pardubice, consisting of a EV-97 Ultralight, Let L-410, Zlin Z-142 and the sole remaining Mi-2 helicopter.
For the military enthusiasts the Slovak MiG-29 stole the show: the single-seater in 'digital' camouflage was foreseen for the flight display, whereas the Tiger twin-seater MiG-29UBS was prepared for the static display. During the arrival on Friday and the departure on Sunday however, both jets were showing off nice formation flying, tracing the characteristic black smoke plumes behind.
The main highlight of the show for most of the visitors followed in the afternoon with the 7 special coloured L-39 Albatrosses of the Breitling Jet Team. Its display with seven jets obviously surpassed the presentation of the Royal Jordanian Falcons flying four Extra 300L aircraft, however the latter team was awarded the best display performance during the event.
After the Breitling Team most of the visitors made their way home and it was up to a Zlin Z-37 and the departures of some of the visiting aircraft to close the event at around 5pm.
Before the show started I took the chance on Friday to have a look at the fly-in which proved to be a good idea as most of the jets that disappereard in the static display for the week-end could be photographed quite well:
And to conclude here are some photos of the static display that was very difficult to photograph:
But after all CIAF 2010 was once again a nice event, though the announced Tiger meet did not bring the expected masses of special coloured aircraft to Hradec Kralove. Surely the fact of the civil airport helps the easiness of the event, but on the other side it became quite obvious by the sparse participation of foreign nations in the static display that the 'NATO day' event in Ostrava only two weeks later made many decision makers think of where to send its aircraft to. It is somehow surely a missed chance that two such events somehow stand in concurrence of each other and it remains to see what will happen to all of them.
What is sure however is the fact that the friendly (beer&food...) atmosphere of airshows in the Czech Republic can hardly be beaten!
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