A Nagy Futam / The Great Race 2016

Budapest, 1 May 2016


Budapest is of course the capital city of Hungary, an economic and political powerhouse in Central Europe It is not the place you would expect to see an airshow at. Still, it is one of the best-known venues of the Red Bull Air Race, with the iconic view of the parliament building and Chain bridge. Amazingly, the city is also the site of a second, real airshow.


Perhaps it is not a true airshow in the strictest sense. On 1 May, Hungaroring, the company behind the Hungarian F1 circuit, organizes “The Great Race” in downtown Budapest. This is an event that includes two major parts: an event showcasing all kinds of race cars and trucks racing round a circuit on the Buda-side of the Danube between the famous Chain bridge and the Erzsébet bridge. The vehicles are also available for close viewing near the Varbazar, along with a host of trade stalls and catering trucks.


From 14:00, there is also a 2 and a half hour flying display over the Danube between the Erzsébet bridge and the Chain bridge, so just south of the Red Bull Air Race venue. The practical consequence of this difference is two-fold: the aircraft do not fly in front of the parliament building and the river is not as wide at the northern end of the display line, which means the aircraft cannot turn there like during the Red Bull Air Race as they would break the display line. This means aircraft exit the display area at both ends to make a wide turn over the city at a greater altitude, or reposition with a vertical manoeuver to stay inside the narrow display box.
It does give the opportunity to watch the action from two elevated positions: from in front of Buda castle, or from the citadel. This unique vantage point looking down at display aircraft makes it a popular choice with aviation enthusiasts.


Most of the display aircraft are part of the Flying Bulls fleet, like the Alpha Jets, B-25 and Corsair performing in close formation and solo routines, the Cobra and Bo105 performing their pair’s routine or the Czech Flying Bulls display team flying a massively altered but still impressive routine. No show in Hungary is complete without Peter Besenyei performing an aerobatics display and he opened proceedings, complete with passes underneath the Chain bridge. Other local favourites include a Wizzair A320 flying low over the Danube, Goldtimer foundation with part of their fleet and an impressive performance by a low-flying Mi-2.


At the end of the programme, things almost turned into a drama in 2016. Hungarian aerobatics pilot Zoltan Veres led a one-off formation with South-African pilots Jason and Larry Beamish, who fly with the Chinese Firestar aerobatics team. At the end, they attempted a formation pass under the Chain bridge in a record attempt, when one of the two South-Africans hit the water with its landing gear and kept bouncing off the surface, forcing them to end their display and return home.


The programme varies little from year to year, so visitors usually know what to expect for the most part. It is worth a try, if for no other reason than to spend some tourist time in Budapest and enjoy a unique view of a flying display once though.