Photo: Cees-Jan van der Ende

Interview with Marian “BUKER” Bukovsky – Slovak Air Force MiG-29 Solo Display Pilot

First of all, could You please say some word about Your career in the Slovak Air Force?

My way to become a pilot started in 1998 when I visited aero club Martin during school trip.  As I remember I was quite lazy took part this excursion, but It was probably the best decision in my life J. I started being interested in fly activities immediately.  Consecutively I flew gliders, then propellers. I joined Slovak Armed Forces in 1991. Firstly I flew L-29 Delfin, then L-39 Albatros and after the graduation in 1996 I reported to fighter squadron the 2nd, Fighter wing Sliač as a MiG-21 Fishbed pilot. I flew this A/C for 3 years, and in fact it has been the best experience ever. Finally, at the end of 2000 I was retrained to MiG-29. I have got more than 1100 flying hours on this type, close to 1600 totally. Currently I am full combat ready pilot, flight instructor and test pilot as well. I was assigned as the Slovak Air Force MiG-29 display pilot for the seasons 2010 -12. I´ve been commanding the Fighter squadron based on Sliač AFB nearly 3 years and I am responsible for Air Policing as a part of NATINADS.  

How does it feel flying demonstration with the MiG-29 Fulcrum?

I am really proud of an occasion to perform MiG-29. Although this aircraft is not the newest one I think it´s still worth seeing. On the other hand it is a big deal of responsibility to by the representative of this aircraft, which is quite rare in the western Europe.

By what kind of aspects and how did You assemble Your display programs?

Mig-29 is known by several unique maneuvers such a tail drop or the “cobra” maneuver, but unfortunately in the last several years we haven´t performed them during displays. The main priority is a flight safety and we must have taken it to the consideration. SAF MiG-29 is a basic version, without fly-by-wire control system, so it is just about the pilot skill how to control maximum AOA during low level, low speed flight, there is no computer to stall contravention. This is the reason why our minimal performing speed and maximal AOA is incomparable to newer aircraft. My way how to assemble display is to perform agility and power of the aircraft, minimum radius of turn, possibility to proceed to vertical maneuvers immediately after low speed flight and try to fly display as precisely as possible. My favorite maneuver is “knife flight” where I fly initially close to 500 kts with 90°+ bank angle alongside the runway.

Besides air shows did You attend any operations in last years?

The Slovak Air Force abroad activities have been restricted lately due to insufficient budget. I think, this problem is not just in the Slovak republic, but I agree, it has the significant influence to the quality of our training. SAF currently has enough aircraft just to provide Air policing and emergency assistance as a part of NATINADS. We are not able to cover another abroad activities such a Baltic mission. So we are concentrating on training. SAF organized MACE XIII exercise in 2012, we could fly with F-16, Rafale, Mirage 2000, F-4. Several last years we have regularly participated on EAGLE TALON exercise in Poland, we can train our tactics there in bigger groups together with polish guys on MiG-29 and try to defeat F-16. And finally, in 2011 we took part on the NATO TIGER MEET in Cambrai, France, it was our first and I hope not the last participation.

Could You please say some word about the Slovak Air Forces’ MiG-29 Fulcrums? (modernization, average flight hours on the type per year,etc)

In years 1993-2004 we had 25 MiG-29 (22 in version 9.12 in NATO called Fulcrum A and 3 double seat version 9.51 in NATO called Fulcrum B). Some of them were inherited after CS split up in 1993 and some of them were bought approximately in 1995-96 from Russian Federation. You know, as we entered in NATO in 2004 the compatibility with “new friends” 🙂 was needed. So the government decided to upgrade 12 pieces (10 single and 2 twin seat A/C). The basic requirement was to be compatible with NATO on the basic level at least and another thing was to be able to fly abroad as GAT (general air traffic) – that represents to be compatible with ICAO standards. So essential avionics had to be rebuilt and we changed everything to imperial units (I mean elevation in feet, speed in knots, distance in nautical miles, fuel in pounds. So the result is that we have new navigation systems like TACAN, VOR and ILS as well. Great step forward and big help for the crew is the multifunctional display (MFI), which can work in several modes like Head-Up Display, Navigation Mode and operational options. Via this multifunctional display IFF (friend or foe system), radio and other avionics system can be operate.

Just a few people can say that they fly solo demo and dogfight on an air show both day. Please tell us in a few word, how did You feel it and what is needed to get prepared for such displays?

To became a display pilot at least 600 flying hours on type is needed. Then the Air Force commander can approve the pilot for performance, based on the squadron commander or the wing commander election. The training consist of two special flights to be familiar with all A/C limits and then (first year) at least 10 flights are needed to be ready for display.

Dogfight demonstration – NATO Days 2012
Which air show was the most memorable event for You, where You flew display till now?

Unequivocally the most memorable event was Airpower Zeltweg in July 2011. The mountains so close to the runway axis, great atmosphere based on 290 000 visitors and great air crew and ground crew support as well. To fly there was very exciting and I really appreciated it.

3 years ago You flew a solo demo on Kecskemet Air Show. How do You remember back for this time?

Yeah, the next perfectly organized air show, despite a bit difficult weather conditions. The first day my display was postponed and shortened because of the cloud layer under my limits. I remember that Hungarian MiG-29 finished in service at that time, so the air show was dedicated to this event, it was sad not only for them, but for me and our guys as well. Beautiful leisure officer, really perfect crew party, nice people around, not just due to flying was pleasure to be there.

What are Your plans in the Slovak Air Force for the year 2013 in connection with air shows? Would You visit the Kecskemet Air Show again?

The Slovak Air Force MiG-29 team will participate traditionally several abroad air shows in 2013, Kecskemet Air Show included. Even, hot information, we are going to fly to Hungary few days earlier to participate Mini Tiger Meet organized by 59/1 Squadron HUNAF. We are looking forward to it. Besides this show, we are going to perform MiG-29 on the AIRPOWER Zeltweg, Austria,  the Czech republic CIAF and NATO Days, and we have confirmed Luchtmachtdagen (RNLAF Open Days), Volkel AB, Netherlands. The most important air show for us is SIAF (Slovak International Air Fest) organized at our home base Sliač from August 31st to September 1st.

What is Your message for the readers of Airshowinfo?

Thanks for the opportunity to say few words to the readers. I would like to wish them many nice moments during 2013 air show season, good weather, many good shots for spotters and strong health. We always do our best to represent the Slovak Air Forces and it is really hard job, but we do it with passion. The community of people who like flying is wide and personally I really appreciate all of them. So, have a nice season 2013.

LTC Marian “BUKER” BUKOVSKY

Combat SQN Commanding Officier

Slovak Air Force MiG-29 display pilot 2010-2012