|The Czech International Air Fest 2014 was faced with 2 problems: Following up on a very impressive 2013 edition of the show and secondly, gathering a full programme despite clashing with Air 14 at Payerne, the Swiss Air Force Show.
The first signs didn't bode too favourably, with every airforce and their dog sending massive delegations to Switzerland. Even the ever-faithful Slovak support was absent from CIAF in 2014, the Slovak air force also supporting the second weekend of Air 14, having been unable to send aircraft to the first weekend of Air 14 because of their own airshow at Sliac a week earlier.
Apart from the Czech air force, two other airforces supported CIAF, even with their national display teams, so that was still a commendable result. The first was the Belgian air force who sent the Red Devils display team flying 4 SIAI-Marchetti SF-260. These joined 2 Belgian F-16s from 31 squadron in the static park. The second foreign military participation in the flying programme came from Croatia, with the PC9 solo display and their always-stunning Krila Oluje with 6 PC9Ms, once again demonstrating why they should be counted among the very best display teams in the world with their superbly thought-out routine of demanding maneuvers. The support aircraft for Krila Oluje was a Mi-17, which was one of th highlights in the static park. Other foreign static participants were 2 Dutch F-16s and a German Eurofighter Typhoon. The static was further filled with Czech air force aircraft, like the JAS-39 Gripen, Casa 295, Let 410 and Mi-24.
The Czech airforce also sent strong support for the flying display. As usual, they kicked things off with their opening flypast, including Casa 295, a pair of Gripens and an L-159 ALCA. The L-159 and Gripen also performed their solo displays twice on both days, obviously to help fill some gaps in the programme. In addition, they also presented the Flying Hippos pair of Mi-17s showing a simulated pilot's rescue operation and Mi-24 in the air.
Watch the complete report above (70 minutes)
With the Breitling Jet Team tied up at Air 14, it was left to the Baltic Bees to demonstrate the L-39 in a formation display, the only jet display team of the weekend. The solo pilot of the team also flew a solo performance.
The Czech aeroclub presented a stunning glider aerobatics solo display with Polish-built Swift. The flying display also featured an L-29 solo display from Slovakia, 2 Piaggio 149s in a somewhat bizarre set of solo go-arounds and the local company Heliczech which started its display with 2 R22s and Bell Jetranger led by their AH-1 Cobra, which flew a solo display.
Before the flying programme got under way, there was even a pre-show about an hour before the official display, performed by the Pterodactyl Flight using 2 replica World War I aircraft, a German E3 and British Sopwith Camel.
Also worth mentioning is that one of the planned highlights could not go ahead: the planned premiere of the newly restored Mig-15 of the Czech Flying Legends based at Hradec Kralove. The paperwork sadly did not allow the plane to get airborne, but it did taxy by the crowd to allow them to enjoy the sight of this exciting new addition to the airshow scene.
SHospitality and transport were once again outstanding. Transport in particular deserves praise with a dedicated bus service supplementing the already outstanding regular service to the airfield.The entrance fee may be a bit steep by Czech standards, but for this, the audience gets a full 6 hour flying programme with foreign highlights. Let us also not forget that civilian participation does not come cheap and that securing foreign participation is very difficult if the official Czech Air Force show takes place 2 weeks later at Ostrava.
For all these reasons, the organizers deserve every praise for pulling this edition out of their hats. It may not have been a classic, but for an airshow against the odds, this was certainly a good one! Combined with the lovely city of Hradec Kralove, it is recommended to anyone who enjoys a mix of displays rather than just military hardware.
by Chris Janssens
Lay-out and content by Chris Janssens, 2005 - present