Kecskemét Airshow 2013 – Heat and Sukhoi-parade

It has been a little over half a year since we have witnessed – after two years of break – the Kecskemét International Airshow and Military Exhibition of 2013. Our site remembers the hottest airshow of 2013 with long, discussed, illustrated report spiced with spectator comments.

If we think about an airshow in Hungary, it is obvious that Kecskemét comes to the mind of everybody. The air parade, that has now 14 years of history, has established a great reputation and appreciation throughout Europe as well as around the World. In 2013 it was the 9th time that an airshow was held at Kecskemét, and if we take into account all the country’s airshows, then it was the 14th time an international airshow took place in Hungary.

“Great organization, wonderful programs, a super weekend! Who cares about the heat? I don’t!” – E. Norbert

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The date of the 2013 airshow waas set to the 8th and 9th of August in the previous year by the military leadership. For the first news about the event, we had to wait until the end of 2012, when they announced that they have officially invited the Russian Air Force and its Su-27 display team. Many people were sceptic about this news, and were so until the Russian Knights arrived on the 31th of July. They arrived at kecskemét coming right from their home base at Kubinka using drop tanks. Before landing – and due to being late almost 3 hours – they practiced their display right away. Hundreds of people followed this historic moment excitedly both inside and outside the fences of the airbase.

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The airshow was really hot, in every sence of the word. There was desert like heat on both days, which the tarmac of the airbase reflected back fro the ground. This, and the water supplies, which were running low quickly, gave plenty of work to the health care teams, who have done their job tirelessly during the whole weekend. The extreme dryness caused chaos in the parking lots too, as spectators tried to find their cars in conditions seen in disaster movies. Unfortunately, there was only one parking lot established in the northern part of the town and this was where the problems were. For this mistake, the event got some mixed reflections from many people. It is true that for such a huge event, there will always be faults and things to improve, but altogether, the spectators could withness a high quality airshow once again. One has to acknowledge the mistakes and learn from them. Due to the good reputation earned in the previous years, and also due to the visiting Russian Knights, many international spectators came to the Hungary on this hot August weekend.

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The 2013 Kecskemét Airshow was mostly about the display teams. In the previous years, we got accustomed to the modern jet displays, like the F/A-18 Hornet, the Rafale, or the Eurofighter Typhoon, which were lacking in 2013. These gaps were filled with aircrafts coming from the eastern part of Europe. However, regarding the display teams, the event preformed well, as from the 7 teams present, three has never visited Hungary before this occasion.

“I’m one of the luckier people who are able to approach the Russian Knights ” Aleksandar V.

The dynamic program started in the morning where primarily the civilian participants showcased their talents. We could see, for the first time in Hungary the unique Polish MiG-15UTI Sb-Lim2 flying in civillian hands, made flyable by the Polskie Orly Fountation.

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The Hungarian Air Force has also showcased all its flyable technology, from which the Gripens got the most role. During a dynamic display 6 of them took in the air. The rotary wing section was unfortunately only represented by a single Mi-17. From the Gripen pilots, apart from the high quality air-to-air and air-to-ground battle simulations, we could see – with ‘smokewinders’ – solo displays too. On Saturday from major Varga „Vargasz” Szabolcs and on Sunday from captain Langó Viktor. Our two display pilots have done a lot for the success of the air show, as they performed a similar flight display throughout Europe many times, in return to the exhibitors and aircraft coming from more than 20 countries. From the exhibition of the air force the HAW C-17 Globemaster III from Pápa could not be left out either, which took part in the capability display taking place in the afternoon. The aircraft have Hungarian insignia, although they are mostly operated by personnel from fellow NATO countries. On the ground, in the static display, the air force represented itself with a stronger variety of types. Aircraft and helicopters once used by the Hungarian Air Force were exhibited, thus for the pleasure of many people, we could see the former pride of the air force, the MiG-29 Fulcrum. Although only one Fulcrum was exhibited in the static display line. The others were kept in the back, in the so called “Jurassic Park” area, far from the visitors.

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The favourite of many enthusiasts, the Fulcrum did not fly a dynamic display during the air show, not even under an other country’s insignia. The Slovak Air Force represented itself with a refurbished MiG-29UBS in the static line, and as part of a „Mini Tiger Meet” it was put into a hangar. It is sometimes a problem for our northern neighbour to keep the aircraft flying, so it was not permitted to fly a dynamic display, mostly due to financial reasons. For the „Mini Tiger Meet” came two Belgian F-16s, an Austrian Saab-105, a Czech Mi-35, and the Germans were supposed to come with a Tornado, but they did not arrive until Friday. On the ground, apart from the Hungarian MiG-29, the biggest interest was in the Ukranian Su-27UB and the Bulgarian Su-25KUB. The sociability of the Bulgarian pilots left many people with unique memories, as they could take a look at the aircraft from very close or could even see the cockpit of the strong, Russian fighter plane! From the Ukranian Flaners, it was a double seater, the number 69 which visited Kecskemét, and which represented the Ukranian Air Force in all the air shows in 2013. Our north-eastern neighbours flew breath-taking displays in three countries, but unfortunately they were not allowed to fly at Kecskemét. Of course the question of ‘Why?’ interests many of us, but we do not have an inside look into the reasons.

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The well represented fast jet park of the air show consisted of 5 types. There can be no air show without an F-16. Some say, it is like the Ferrari in Formula-1, it would be really missed. During last year’s air show, the American type was represented in the dynamic program by two planes in special liveries, one from the Royal Netherlands Air Force and one from the Belgian Air Force. It was also the first time that the Polish Air Force Su-22M4 Fitter fighter-bombers flew in Hungary. Three of these honored airplanes made it to Kecskemét. Here in Hungary, the type last flew in 1997, but in Poland they will fly for many years to come. On Saturday, the crowd could see a pair of them flying, but on Sunday, presumably due to technical difficulties, a solo display was flow by our Polish friends. Representing the aviation of the “eastern-block” was a two-seater MiG-21UM LanceR B of the Romanian Air Force too. The very dynamic display of this aircraft created a sense of nostalgia in many people. The refurbished MiG-21s of the LanceR program, which have 4th generation technology thanks to Israeli cooperation, are rarely seen in European air shows, and to add to that, there are talks about their replacement too. The real 4th generation was represented by the Czech and Hungarian Jas-39 Gripens. The C type, fighter version of this plane flew solos displays in the hands of Czech and Hungarian pilots too. it was the second time a Czech Gripen flew over Kecskemét, the first being in 2007

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The helicopter displays in the program were of the Czech Air Force, the Belgian Air Force and the Italian Air Force. The first of them brought the modernised version of the Mi-24, now retired from the Hungarian Air Force, thus making up for the lack of Hinds.

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There was no shortage of bigger, multi engined airplanes either. Although the promised B-1B Lancer did not arrive, as the whole USAF fleet stayed away from Kecskemét, but there were many spectacular other types. Many people criticised that some of these aircraft were kept at an other part of the airbase and were unreachable. These, far away from the spectators included a Rumanian and a Bulgarian C-27 Spartan, a Polish and a Czech CASA C-295, a Russian Il-76, a Ukranian An-26 and the E-3A Awacs of the NATO Air Component. Amongst today’s most modern transport aircraft, the Italian Air Force’s C-27, coming from the RSS test squadron, flew a dynamic and extremely spectacular display. One can not see barrel rolls and other acrobatic maneuvers from a transport aircraft everyday. The Hungarian crowd did not forget to show its appreciation with a round of applause towards the Italian pilots.

“Just wonderfull. Wish it was annual! Thank you Hungary for the memorable experience!” Nikos D.

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Who could have represented the Hungarian civilian aviation better than Péter Bessenyei? Despite the heat, and the oil temperature close to the boiling point, our world champion pilot showed once again why he is one of the best pilots on the world! Right after his display, Peter gave a short interview to the commentator Gábor Gundel Takács in the VIP stand. Following Péter’s program was Tamás Nádas, an equally successful pilot’s flight. Zoltán Veres, the second best known Hungarian pilot, did not fly on Saturday, but did show his talent on Sunday.

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The lovers of the display teams couldn’t feel cheated either. Apart from the above mentioned Russian Knights, the Latvian Baltic Bees, the Italian Frecce Tricolori, the Turkish Stars, the Spanish Patrulla Águila, the Croatian Krila Oluje as well as an Italian and a Romanian civilian team were all present.

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“What a fantastic show and experience, I felt very privileged to be there and to see many aircraft not normally see by Brits let alone most westerners. I was fortunate to sit in the seat of an SU27 and have my photo taken, but I think that was really beaten by the immense amount of flying displays my favourite being the Russian Knights” Alan H.

The Russian Knight took to the air in the late afternoon hours on Saturday, and in the early afternoon hours on Sunday. Their display way characterized by slow but very precise maneuvers, but some extreme head-to-head flights spiced up their almost half an hour long program too. This team is a very rare visitor of European air shows, so it wasn’t a surprise that many people came just to see them. The noise of ten AL-31 jet engine and the enormous size of the Su-27s together made a long lasting impression in those who watched their show. Some said it was slow and boring, but ‘behind the curtain’, in the cockpit it was a different story. The planes are forbidden to exceed 6G-s in turns as their ages are over 20. There are talks about the replacement of the team’s equipment. The replacement will be either the Su-35S or the Su-30SZM in the upcoming years.

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It is a daunting task to show in a written report all the excitement of an air show. One of the biggest open air events in Hungary, it has attracted more than 100000 spectators, but the future of it is still not visible. The Hungarian Defense Ministry told Airshowinfo.hu that in this year there won’t be an air show, it is possible next year or in 2016 at the latest. At this state we can only hope that the system of ‘air shows every two years’ will come back and we can report next year, in August from the Kecskemét International Air Show and Military Exhibition once again.

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