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SIAF 2011 at Sliac

Where? Sliac Airport, Slovakia
When? 27-28/08/2011

After the SIAD and the NLD it was this year that Slovakia's big international airshow came to light as the SIAF. Whereas in recent years the big yearly Slovak Airshow NLD has been held in Slovakia's Western part as Bratislava or Piestany, SIAF chose the Slovak MiG-29 home base Sliac in the Tatra region as the new location – and this was more than one good reason to come back.
Situated in a valley of the Tatra mountain region, Sliac is about a 2h drive from the capital Bratislava, with several picturesque cities nearby that make it easy to spent some nice evenings after the long and exhausting show days.

But of course at the end of August the main reason was to got there and see the show with some nice aircraft and to have a great day out. The showground opened at 8am with the first visitors already flocking in – however their first stop were not many aircraft in the static display, but the food stalls that already had their barbecue sausages or even a cold beer ready. Things really started getting busy between 9 and 10 in the morning, as the start of the flying program was announced to be at 11am.

The opening ceremony was followed by aircraft of the Slovak Air Force, and especially its pride, the MiG-29. A 3-ship formation overflew the runway to start the flying program, presenting a nice split at the end of the runway. The special thing about this formation was that two of the participating aircraft were the QRA jets, clearly visible by the pair of R-60 (AA-8 'Aphid') missiles they were carrying. A flag parade with a Mi-17, showing of the European, NATO, Slovak and SIAF flag was next, followed by parachutists out of an An-26.

As also shown during previous Slovak shows the Governmental Tu-154 from Bratislava was next, this time being escorted by two MiG-29s. What a beautiful orchestra of the Kuznetsov and Klimov sounds that was!

The L-39 solo display followed, with a red/blue/white Albatross performing aerobatics in the deep blue sky. Added to this scheme also previously worn by the Biely Albatrossy Team was the new writing www.2sqn.sk on the tail, attracting attention to the wings website. The big final of this one hour long lasting block of Sl AF performances was the MiG-29 solo demo. cumulating with a big flare ejection at the end of its display on Sunday. Showing this huge variety of Slovak AF aircraft and demonstration it proved to be a wise move to move the event back to a military airfield and building on the direct cooperation with the military.

That was a big start of the flying activities at Sliac, with the only drawback that this most interesting part was being held under non-favourable photographic conditions around midday with a runway being orientated North-South, but the intention regarding the organizational aspect and choosing this timeslot is more than understandable.

On Saturday midday temperatures did also easily exceed 30°C, reaching up to 36°C during the afternoon. Queues along the barbecue stalls around this time were long and countless, and even free drinking water was being provided – at least for those who could withstand beer prices of 1€ for half a litre of delicious tasting Slovak amber liquid.

Exactly on time and zipping by was the Austrian Eurofighter Typhoon that came in directly from Zeltweg for some fly-bys. Unfortunately it did not present the full-blown display, though the Austrian AF did show of what it is capable at the Zeltweg airshow. The same applies for the Czech Gripen from Caslav, who were present at the same time with their ALCA and Gripen display at the Polish airshow at Radom.

This coincidence of the SIAF and the Radom show did for sure detract the participation for any of the two for many acts. A consultation regarding this aspect might be a wise move for the future.
A more or less sad occasion was the Slovak Mi-24 Hind display as this helicopter is due to retire from Sl AF service at the end of this year. The Mi-17 series helicopter will remain in strength and did show their versatility during a SAR, evacuation and fire-fighting scenario.

A lot of entertainment was brought by the "Retro Sky Team" from Kosice (http://www.retroskyteam.sk/), performing a mock-up WWII dogfight between German Messerschmitts and Russian aircraft. In this case however the Warbirds were Zlin and Yakovlev aerobatic aircraft, but the Polikarpov Po-2 was real and nice to see and hear in the sky. Zoltán Veres in his MXS was next with a sheer endless aerobatic routine swirling around and using the time before the afternoon's highlight: the MiG-29 dogfight.

Being a highlight in previous years this display became a bit slow recently and was more a solo routine flown by two aircraft in succession. This year however it became definitely visible that more preparation was involved and the two pilots obviously enjoyed their flight as well. And the dogfight included the use of flares again. How great it was to see this Slovak MiG-29 display back in the air again!

At this time it was only 2pm, but for many visitors the airshow was finished and they decided to leave after having once again seen their "local heroes", the MiG-29s. And the high temperatures on Saturday have certainly also contributed to these early departures.

However, the airshow was far from over and many more acts did follow: for example the "Red Bücker" or "The Victors" formation team from Belgium and many more aerobatic displays. Furthermore SIAF has been able to attract the "Baltic Bees", which unfortunately were only present with 4 aircraft this time due to a landing mishap at the MAKS airshow only some days before.

Regarding the military displays the Slovak Air Force did present a scenario with a Mi-17 and L-39, the Austrian PC-7 did fly and the Czech Mi-35 did also perform. However I have to admit that the heat also took its toll on my and regarding the not so favourable photographic conditions I decided that it was time to go for a touristic trip and visited some nearby places. These photos here were thus partly taken during the rehersals for the show.

Returning to Sliac I saw the Belgian Demo Team F-16 performing over the airfield at half past six. Two aircraft flew in from the Radom show, taking the chance to fly and perform at SIAF as well before returning again to Poland the next morning.

Sunday's program was identical to the Saturday show, but with a cloudy sky in the morning and not so hot temperatures, a good tie to wander arond the static display, and remember the sunny conditions during Friday's fly-in.

Looking back at this week-end it was great to see SIAF back in strength again, being hosted on Slovakia's main jet base and presenting Slovak's aviation in style. There was still a lot of free space in the static display and also along the flightline, but it was filled with a nice variety nonetheless. Not to imagine what could have been set-up if it wouldn't have collided with another major airshow.

But an estimated 40.000 on Saturday alone did well prove the public's high interest in such an event and it seems to be pretty sure that the event will be continued like that.
And if you have the chance, take your time and havce a look at the beautifull and most interesting cities such as the capital Bratislava, and Zvolen and Banská Bystrica just nearby Sliac:

Thanks a lot to all my Slovak friends who helped me during the preparation of my visit to Sliac. I have had a great time there for sure!

Some more photos are linked here and are availabel in higher resolution:





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