|In 2019, the organizers of the Slovak International Air Fest returned to the airfield at Piestany, where their airshow was held until a few years ago. This time, they set up a new airshow, which they described as an airport festival. For a first-time event, it was quite a bit bigger than could be reasonably expected.
The event would commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of general Milan Stefanik on 4 May 1919, a Czechoslovak politician, aviator, diplomat and even French war minister during the First World War. His importance in the Czech Republic and Slovakia is hard to overstate owing to his struggle to ensure the independence upon the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian empire.
The commemoration included a stage play which was put on twice during the day during breaks in the flying display, and a commemorative flypast which included participants of the Slovak air force, but also from the Czech, French and Italian airforces, underlining his place in history.
The weather forecast leading up to the show did not bode well with strong winds, cold temperatures and driving rain forecasted. As it turned out, Saturday was mostly overcast with cloud of varying thickness, but it stayed dry until the end of the show. Sunday however was a completely different matter and early in the morning, the organization rightfully decided to cancel the event entirely, a decision which was quite surprisingly met with unanimous praise by the audience already on their way. Clearly, nobody relished standing in the weather that dominated the whole region that day, so the two day event was limited to just one day in the end.
Adjacent to the airfield lies a military history museum with an outstanding collection of armoured vehicles and (Czecho)Slovak aircraft. Entrance to the museum was free for airshow visitors. The showground was very large and included a small static display, as well as an area where Slovak police forces demonstrated an intercept operation, and a Slovak army camp where they showed off their current weaponry. The catering was extensive and appeared of high quality. The stands were spread around the rear of the crowd area, which was not only very long but also very wide, ensuring nobody had to feel cramped. For children, there was also a giant playground so the whole family had plenty to keep busy throughout the day.
Watch the complete report above (35 minutes)
The flying display ran from 10:00 until around 16:00, with breaks for lunch and the commemorations of general Milan Stefanik. The Slovak air force took part with a limited delegation, while the Czech air force sent its JAS-39 solo display. The remainder of the programme consisted mainly of high-energy aerobatics and classic aircraft, thanks to the growing collection of warbirds and vintage jets in central Europe. All in all, a varied flying display which felt very relaxed, also thanks to the breaks. Apart from the commemorative flypast, the participants operated locally.
For a first-time event, this was a very good way to start the airshow season, also owing to the warm welcome visitors tend to get in Slovakia. It is not for hard-core military enthusiasts, but those looking for a fun and laid-back aviation weekend full of variation, should keep an eye on this show.
|Report by Chris Janssens
Lay-out and content by Chris Janssens, 2005 - present