|The Czech International Air Fest (CIAF) at Hradec Kralove struck lucky in 2013, with a very early confirmation of a mouthwatering star item most organizers would happily sacrifice body parts for. The Czech Airforce Agency should be applauded for not being a one trick pony with that show-stopping participation announced as they had made sure they had plenty more to offer.
Internet forums were rife with scepticism in the run-up whether the announced star would even materialize, but CIAF delivered, and then some. The star item in question was the Ukrainian SU-27 solo demonstration. SU-27s have been rare sights at airshows for a while now. Even with a G-limit on the older aircraft, it remains an impressive performer, both for its size and its agility, and the combination of these two factors obviously.
The Czech airforce supported the event extensively, with a power-demonstration by 2 Gripens and 2 ALCAs, Gripen and ALCA solo demonstrations, a Mi-24 solo performance, W-3 firefighting and search-and-rescue simulation and a combat search-and-rescue demonstration by two Mi-17s, in addition to livening up the static park with several special colour schemes. Visitors on Saturday could also see a VIP Mi-8 in the air.
The Slovak airforce had withdrawn its Mig-29 from the flying demonstration due to limited flying hours left on the airframes but still sent over a static example, in addition to a static Mi-17.
Foreign fast-jet power came from Hungary with their JAS-39 Gripen and the Danish airforce with their F-16 solo demonstration. The Royal Jordanian Falcons and the Polish Iskra team, with a 4-ship routine, completed the foreign military line-up in the flying display.
Watch the complete report above (68 minutes)
As always at CIAF, there was plenty of quality civilian action, in 2013 with a Cobra, Martin Csonka and Peter Besenyei flying solo aerobatic routines and the Slovak formation gliding team OcovskÝ Bacovia to name but a few.
In the static, there was a rare opportunity to see the Breitling Jet Team's Metroliner support aircraft. The team had returned from an Asian tour earlier than planned and appeared at CIAF on their way back to France. The Baltic Bees were the second L-39 team at CIAF.
And what about the Ukrainians? They certainly arrived in style with a wide formation of the 2 Su-27s and their An-26 support aircraft. The single-seat aircraft was positioned in the static display, as was the An-26 (and all other support aircraft). The doubleseater had no trouble stealing the show, everyone standing in awe at the beast being thrown around the sky seemingly effortlessly. And as if to stick it to all the nay-sayers prior to the show, in contrast to its appearances in Slovakia and Poland, the display included flaredrops, adding to the excitement.
Perhaps the most extraordinary moment of CIAF is the end of the show, as the audience is urged to leave the airfield in a considerable hurry, closing all drink and food stands, but as a foreign visitor, it offers the opportunity to explore the wonderful city center, filled with exquisite bars and restaurants. The show certainly helps to raise the city's profile abroad! From a photographic point of view, there are several unusual vantage points, including one outside the airfield at a tiny lake where the W-3 refills its bambi-bucket. The sun is in a favourable position as of 12:00, so that means only about one hour of the flying display has light coming from the side.
In 2014, CIAF clashes with the massive Swiss Air14 airshow at Payerne, which will pose significant problems to attract foreign military participation. Recent developments also make any participation from Ukraine or Russia highly unlikely, so the organizers have their work cut out for them. Here's to wishing them all the best to rise to the challenge. Long may CIAF continue!
by Chris Janssens
Lay-out and content by Chris Janssens, 2005 - present