36°under reheat in Hungary
Amazing Kecskémet : simply the best one …
Having practiced aviation photography for twenty years on, I got used to watch airshows where finally, most participating items were similar from one place to another. But surely most of the airshows have always included one rare historic aeroplane, or an ‘ unseen before in Europe ‘ military display team. This should always be enough to content most aviation fanatics. But last summer in Hungary, the airshow lineup included a bonanza of rarities, all packed in a ‘ Mammoth ‘ sized air display. And to speak simply, Kecskémet international airshow daily air display on August 3rd and 4th was about twice the size of current british Tattoo. It should question the future of ‘ historic’ western military events.
It should question the future of ‘ historic’ western military events.
Airplanes and helicopters from Hungary, Romania, Czech Republic, Russia, Poland, Belgium, Netherlands, Turkey, Serbia, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Italy, Spain, Croatia, and a NATO E-3, all participated. Most countries took part to what looked as a ‘ very much exotic air display ‘ for me. On Thursday and Friday arrival days, I felt privileged to photograph a Su-25 UBK and a Aero L-29 Delfin from Bulgaria, a Soko Galeb from Serbia, and the Sukhoi Su-27 UB (display aircraft number 56) from the Ukrainian Air Force 831 IAP. This Flanker was not allowed to fly by the Hungarian authorities, apparently for safety measures, though finally it was to be the star of the air display at Radom in Poland, three weeks later with a perfect and spectacular routine (!) ( www.sky-lens.com/articles-airshows-europe.php?recordID=130 ). Amazingly I saw a Sukhoi Su-22 M3 duo from the Poilish Air Force, and also a MiG-21 Lancer from the Romanian Air Force, all on fantastic display routines, that both alone, where worth the travel from France, to Hungary.
Even more exotic was the weather. I admit to have felt as the luckiest photographer on the display scene anywhere this year, under 36 degrees daily in shadow. Yes, I agree that huge temperatures raised ground heat creating like a desert ‘mirage’ beams along the airplanes moving along the flightline, and in fact these natural effects were disturbing autofocus systems on the cameras … But it is undoubted, for once I had benefits from a typical desert and dry atmosphere in Europe, being blessed with real sunny light : it promised for once, I would not have to deal with possibilities of rain making me fight to save pictures from my preferred subjects. As a result it was my first time ever in Europe, I had packed pictures - with Nikons - that simply seemed to have been shot in the Middle East in winter time. Sunlight was so gorgeous after 6-00 PM, that you’ll understand the result for photography, below in that report …
As it would become very hard to summarize each display there was, how about the Hungarian Air Force show, at their home station, to start the review ? With no doubts, Kecskémet was at first and foremost THE Jas-39 Gripen Display. This is also the reason why Sweden’s Royal Family attended the airshow, landing on the air base in a Flygvapnet Learjet, just for a few hours stay on Saturday show. I don’t recall how many locally based Gripens flew each day, some taking part to exciting role demos. Flares were not saved, and helped spectators to be focused on these potent but rather ‘ small ‘ size single-engine 4th generation fighter aircraft to watch. F-16 solos from Belgium and the Netherlands also acted as regulars on the scene, but a ‘first’ for me, by ‘desert’ light conditions … All engines reheat launched and grapes of flares ejected by these jets, added even more heat to a rather strange tropical atmosphere. I felt amazed by my new dress to protect myself from the sun : a white shirt all over head and neck, and I felt looking like ‘Laurence of Arabia’ , drinking my 4 litters of water drunk daily.
flares ejected by these jets, added even more heat to a rather strange tropical atmosphere
The gathering of military teams was awesome : Patrulla Aguila (Spain) seemed nearly at home conditions by such weather, while the Baltic Bees (flying five L-39s), Wings of Storm (Croatia), and Frecce Tricolori (Italy), all offered the best as they could. Notice that Frecce Tricolori foreign appearances schedule in 2014 was rather limited, with a show at Zeltweg and one at Kecskémet, as the only events outside Italy this year, apart from Patrouille de France airshow last May. During the Hungarian show, I had kept in mind the then M-346 already promised to be the next aircraft to equip the team in the near future, and that was according to former Italian air force official plans until then…, but in September 2013, italian MoD officially announced Frecce Tricolori to fly the one engine Aermacchi M-345 instead of the twin engines M-346. Political and debt crisis once more ‘ reduced ’ a military equipment plan. But luckily, that team will not be killed. On commercial grounds, I believe it would have seemed more relevant to equip Frecce with the M-346, as this one is the main advanced jet trainer bound to attract headquarters in the world, better than any other jet trainer would do – including the chosen M-345. Not at threat by military budget cuts are the Turkish Stars. The türkish show has always been dynamic and powerful, but hardly have I been so much disappointed by a military team, for the sole reason it was deliberately overflying the crowd all the time. This is not fair and the Türkish Stars excellent show would not be armed if flown further away from people. Once I will have been explained why they were the only team allowed to cross over the crowd so often, by local safety committee, I will publish an update on the matter. Strangely I have an opinion on Türkish Stars, that is fully opposite from that I have on fantastic and professional F-16 SoloTürk from the same Air Force ( www.sky-lens.com/articles-airshows-europe.php?recordID=130 ).
... it is thanks to the EU neighbors - and friends – that flying displays are still being strong.
Obviously the Türkish Stars could not compete against the Russian Knights as the best display act in that airshow. It was probably a very long time since the russian team had last taken part to a military airshow held on a NATO airfield. But international situation in Europe completely changed at least, in the last six or seven years. Hungarian government has built economic ties with the Russian Federation on the basis on mutual strategic investments in both countries. Probably linked to that fact, the russians made it to Kecskémet. They stole the show to all other participants. On a public relations basis, I would say with no doubt, that compared to the Knights, too many of the EU display items looked quite ridiculous. It is not insulting to say that the EU countries tend too much to display as if they had not much to show, just in order to spare money. But I guess this is not helping European people feel like being well defended, to deliberately display a low profile defense system on the old continent air events, by showing few helicopters or training items to fill the flying program gaps. I mean, who else in Europe, than Russia, will make a four combat jets display ? Please, wake up, everyone ! As a result of all this poor situation, it is thanks to EU neighbors - and friends – that flying displays are still being strong.
... five Flankers executed a perfect formation inside a glamorous golden light, under Lt.Col Andrey Alexeyev’s now very experienced leadership.
Finally, the Russian Knights had a late display schedule time on Saturday 3rd, and they flew at 6-30 PM, to my personal enjoyment. Then the sun was low over the horizon, and the five Flankers executed a perfect formation inside a glamorous golden light, under Lt.Col Andrey Alexeyev’s now very experienced leadership. As a result I could record my best Russian Knights shots here at Kecskemét, since ( www.sky-lens.com/articles-airshows-europe.php?recordID=64 ) Kauhava in 2008. The light was so perfect for photography, that at day end, I would say, of course without any scientific proof, that the 5 x 2 Luylka Saturn sound reverberated even better with low sun. Then a four aircraft formation making several 360°s with different engine regimes (what a concert), and the amazing solo Su-27s ending their own sequence with tight turns - and tail slides with hundreds of flares - all remain (to me) some of the “ must see “ acts at airshows in the world. The bad point was this team flew rather far from the public and media line, further away than they normally do in other airshows. As a matter of facts, I even less understand then, why the Türkish Stars were allowed to overfly spectators … Worth noticing, more than 100.000 people attended on Saturday. I saw most families did did not leave the ground, until the Knights had performed. Also worth saying is that they were the only team to be acclaimed by the public. Once the Flankers had landed, people flooded to the fence around the place where the aircraft came back to park. I share part of the general public’s point of view, but I think about so many more participants such as the “Wings of Storm” amazing aerobatics, achieving inverted loop with several airplanes in formation (!), or the dutch KLU “Orange Lion” (as always ...), and also the excellent Polish Air Force two Su-22s team, to name but a few ..., that should have been acclaimed the same way by everybody. No matter who will display at next show, be there in 2015.
The author sends many thanks to the Kecskémet airshow photo team for having been so helpful with everything needed, and for offering good photographic facilities. They have been so efficient with logistics matters, that they managed to keep providing many tons of fresh bottles of water all days long …