Leonard van den Broek, Four Aces Aviation Photography reports on the Hungarian Airshow 2007, held at Kecskemet Airbase on 11-12 August. Photos by Lucien Blok, Leonard van den Broek and Paul Mali, Four Aces Aviation Photography
Although the weather forecast wasn't very postitive for the day, the Saturday of the seventh Kecskemet Airshow started off quite sunny. Located some fifty miles southeast of Budapest, Kecskemet Air Base is home to the 59th Fighter Wing, Hungarian Air Force. The airshow promised to be a good opportunity to see some new Hungarian Gripens, as well as what's left of the old Soviet-built stuff. Some interesting neighbouring countries had been invited - even rumours about Chinese participation...
Unfortunately, these rumours remained just rumours. The weather forecast turned out to be more or less correct however; overcast from midday onwards, but at least it remained dry! Both static and flying displays weren't easy to photograph - the crowd could walk closely on both sides of the static display, and the helicopters displayed in the field could even be looked at from ALL sides. Along most of the crowdline ran a seven-foot high fence, obstructing a clear view of the runway.
So you might ask, were there some good things about the airshow then? Well... yes. It was well worth the trip, despite the downsides. With some creativity and patience, much could be photographed rather well. As it was warm and dry, all you can do is accept the overcast and be happy it's not raining! On the southeast corner of the airfield there was a small hill where you could climb on top - or you could stay down, away from the crowds on the hill, and try to shoot through the seven-foot fence. And if you waited long enough, the crowd disappeared at the show's end...
The Croatian Air Force 'Wings of the Storm' display team, with its five PC-9 aircraft, was one of the treats of the show. Not stunning, but still very nice to see, as the Croats are not often seen in Europe. The Serbian Air Force was there as well, displaying its new roundel on the J-22 Orao and G-4 Super Galeb, which even wore a special paint scheme - presumably for display purposes.
The Hungarian Air Force itself showed just about everything it had. Starting off with several interesting formations (An-26 with a MiG-29, three-ship formations of Yak-52, L-39, JAS-39 and MiG-29, Mi-24 with a Mi-8 flying the Hungarian flag), these were followed by solo displays of MiG-29, Gripen and Mi-24. Wearing a special paint scheme, the Hungarian Hind (from the 86th Helicopter Wing at Szolnok) even used flares to light up its display!
The civilian 'Galeb Flying Club', based at Belgrade Airport, operates a number of demilitarised ex-Serbian AF aircraft, including four G-2 Galeb jet trainer aircraft, performing as a civilian display team named 'Flying Stars'. Though not very spectacular, these four jets wear an attractive colour scheme and provided a nice interlude between all the loud military hardware. Originally, 'Flying Stars' was the name of the Serbian AF display team, once operating G-4 Super Galebs. During the 1999 NATO air campaign agains Serbia, all seven aircraft of the team were destroyed and the team ceased to exist.
What is an international air show nowadays without a sponsor? With the 'Flying Bulls' team listed as one of the participants, it will be obvious which company sponsored this air display. The immaculate DC-6B N996DM was one of the 'flying cattle' performing at Kecskemet. This airframe, built in 1958, has once been the personal aircraft of Yugoslav Marshall Tito and was previously used for pleasure flights in southern Africa.
On behalf of the sponsor, an 'air race' was staged at Kecskemet, though slightly different from the aerobatics competitions previously held at other locations, including Zeltweg in Austria. This time, a MiG-29, a TAH-1F Cobra helicopter, an Extra 330 aerobatics aircraft and a Formula 1 race car were up against each other! Unsurprisingly, the MiG beat them all (as far as could be observed). The Flying Bulls' TAH-1F is the first Cobra to fly in Europe for many years - it actually is a 'newly' built airframe, reassembled from separate parts. Though obviously not an original airframe, it still is a delight to see this helicopter type fly again - even if it has sponsored nose art...
For a change, the next airshow at Kecskemet will not be held in two years time, but next year, celebrating the Hungarian Air Force's 70th anniversary, scheduled on 16-17 August 2008.