Kecskemet Air Show
Held biannually at the Hungarian Air Force (Hun AF) air base in Kecskemét this air show is after the Formula One Grand Prix Hungary’s biggest outdoor event. The location can be easily reached with a one hour drive from Budapest’s airport and it is therefore no wonder that it is becoming more and more popular also among the foreign air show enthusiast –
Where? Kecskemét, Hungary
though they still represent clearly the minority. For the Hungarians the show is a great day out, for the foreigner the unique possibility to see a lot Hun AF aircraft flying and to still experience some more aircraft of the former ‘east’.
Therefore I also made my way there this year, attracted by MiGs and the famous Hungarian goulash, and also to have a look at the country for my first time. Originally I wanted to fly there from Friday until Monday in order to be there for the show and to have a look at another aircraft museum nearby, but shortly before the show my flight was switched to leave on Thursday and return on Sunday. Therefore my plans and booking had to be changed on short notice, but that’s what can happen when you book a low cost carrier…
The weeks before the show I did not pay too much attention to the online participants list as it included also visitors from China which seemed very implausible to me, and some surprises on location were also welcomed.
Due to the changed arrival I was already standing at the approach of Kecskemet Air Base on Friday together with several other native and foreign enthusiasts and we were all waiting for the visitors to come. Still in a hazy sky the first aircraft arrived at around half past nine and it continued until around 2 pm with some latecomers arriving in the afternoon, which was mainly foreseen for display rehearsals.
The morning already brought some surprises, as a Czech civil registered L-29 Delfin or a Romanian IAR-330 Puma helicopter, a MiG-21 and the supporting An-26. They were welcomed as well as the Polish Antonov and the Su-22, but also western visitors were a nice few. Remarkable was the very strong British participation with 4 Tornados (2x GR4 and 2xF3) and 4 Harriers. A Li-2 and a Po-2 rounded the variety of aircraft quite nicely as well. During the afternoon the rehearsals showed what to expect during the week-end with e.g. the Patrouille de France flying and also a Hungarian Mi-24 Hind, that suddenly came up behind the trees, surprisingly in special colours and releasing flares during the display. That really raised my mood for the next day.
Fly-In and Rehearsals
At around 7pm the sun started disappearing behind some clouds and after the AWACS landed – of course we were all hoping for the special coloured one but were disappointed – it was time to go to the hotel, having a look at the city centre and the wine fest, and enjoy some Hungarian specialities before having a good sleep.
The show started really early, opening he gates at 7am! And the Hungarians also get up that early to attend the event, which leads to queues in front of the entry gates already an hour before. Getting in I was really surprised by the huge area and there were stands and aircraft parked everywhere. Fortunately I have had some friends with me that have been to the show before and that led me to some good vantage points for photography. Arriving there early was really necessary because the field filled up really fast. One reason for this might have been the bad weather forecast for the following day. People got in and settled down everywhere with their covers, chairs and picnic stuff, making getting around in the front rows quite difficult. And fortunately I have taken a ladder with me as a 2m high fence blocked the sight on the taxi- and runways.
Hand in hand with the early entry the first aircraft already took off at 0830 and were another welcomed surprise after the Hind the day before: two special coloured L-39s, whose presence has not been known before, lined up and took off to get out and escort the arriving DC-6 to the show together with the two Czech L-159A ALCA and L-159B. However one of the L-39s returned earlier, presumably due to a technical problem, and was not seen anywhere again during the rest of the week-end.
Hungarian Air Force / Magyar Légierö - L-39
In the morning mainly the HunAF presented their displays that started with a mass fly-by, led by a Mi-8 carrying the Hungarian flag and being escorted by two Mi-24s. Following were 3 Yak-52s that are used in Hungary for the first pilot trainings and then came two An-26s, each of them escorted by two L-39s respectively MiG-29s.
The final part was a 7-ship of their newly acquired Gripens, clearly presenting the high state of readiness of this new fighter regarding the fact that currently 12 aircraft are in service. As Kecskemet is Hungary’s only jet aircraft base all of the jets had to take off from there, giving some really nice opportunities for photography.
Besides the fly-bys some aircraft were also displayed during solo routines, a Yak-52, the Gripen and the Hind in the morning together with some kind of airpower demo consisting out of a Mi-8 and two Mi-24s circling around and firing. Unfortunately I have been to far away and unable to understand the Hungarian commentary in order to give some more information about the happening. The solo Hungarian aircraft not displaying in the morning was the MiG-29 as it waited until later in the afternoon to show its performance in style!
Solo Displays - Mi-24
During the show a lot of the already air show acts performed as the Belgian and Dutch F-16 (the latter one even with flares during the display!), 3 Gripens – Czech, Swedish and Hungarian - were up in the air and also the Spanish EF-18 was up in the air.
Despite the western touch a lot of eastern and still exotic acts were flying as well as the Hungarian organizers did very well in inviting the neighbouring countries: Slovakia provided a Mi-24 and a L-39 in "Biele Albatrosy" colours, raising the hope that this display team might see the light of the day once again in the future, the Croatian AF did send their "Krila Oluje" ("Wings of Storm") display team flying 5 PC-9 and another PC-9M solo display came from Slovenia. But the highlights were surely the Serbian participants with three displays: the "Flying Stars" with 4 Galebs, a J-22 Orao and Super Galeb G-4 solo displays. Adding to new colours on the display team and the Super Galeb were also the new roundels on their military aircraft.
Slovak Mi-24 & L-39
Serbian "Flying Stars", Super Galeb & Orao
Not very often seen at airshows is also the Belgian A109 and the "Baby Blue" team from Denmark flying four MF-17. But the crowds favourites were for sure the big jet display teams, at Kecskemet the Turkish Stars and the Patrouille de France were present, fascination the people with their precisely flown figures. Though the Turkish Stars were not seen quite often during their routine, a point that will hopefully improve in the future and lead to a much smoother and more appealing display. Really breathtaking in contrast to that was the really, and I mean really!!, low fly-by of a Malev Boeing 737. It came in so low that most people were quite surprised when it appeared fro behind the trees.
Baby Blue Team
L-29, L-39 & L-159
The day was finished with a lottery of table tennis balls being thrown out of an An-2 overflying the crowd. People ran to the balls like crazy as – I only learned about that after the show – the main prize was a flight in the MiG-29UB two-seater. Later on the aircraft took of with the lucky winner on board and flew a race against a Formula car as did also the Red Bull Cobra helicopter and an Extra 300 which ended a fantastic and exhausting day!
Best of the rest
The evening was then once again spend in the nice city centre of Kecskemet reflecting the air show and having a drink on the weather forecast, that did not occur as foreseen.
Sunday was affected strongly by the weather with low clouds and heavy rain until midday that led to cancellations and a reorganisation of the flight program. In the afternoon however as the weather got better the sky was also a lot clearer than the day before and the flying was resumed, but unfortunately I had to leave early as I had to get my flight back to Germany.
Thank you for rating this article.