Out in the sunshine – SIAF 2016

The 6th edition of the Slovak International Air Fest took place at Sliač airfield, on the last weekend of August. Despite its short history, the airshow already became the biggest open-air events in Slovakia, regarding the number of visitors. Although the 2015 edition record of 130,000 spectators was not broken this year, almost 115,000 people visited Sliac airfield on 27th and 28th August 2016.

Mi-17 – Slovak Air Force.

The programme of SIAF airshow is usually showing the wide variety of military and civilian airplanes, without focusing on any particular kind of aviation. The 2016 edition followed this rule, the spectators could see modern military jets, training and transport aircrafts, aerobatic specials and helicopters.

Belgian Air Force F-16 solo display. 

One of the most visitor-attracting aircrafts was the B-52 Stratofortress, from the 307th Bomb Wing (Air Reserve Component) in Louisiana. B-52 returned to Sliac after four years and that huge strategic bomber easily dominated the static display of SIAF 2016. There was no surprise it was chosen by the visitors as the best static display of the airshow.


Sliač-based Slovak Air Force Mig-29.

The Stratofortress was not the only return among the participants of SIAF 2016. The visitors could see again the Ukrainian Su-27 fighter (both static and flying display) and the Spanish aerobatic team Patrulla Aguila – both participants already visited the Slovak airshow in 2013.

Patrulla Aguila.

There was something special about the 6th edition of the SIAF airshow and it was the number of flying and static displays performed by the aircrafts with the Soviet origin. The Su-27 fighter was already mentioned, but the visitors could also see MiG-21 from Romanian Air Force (both static and flying displays), MiG-15UTI (restored and operated by Czech Flying Legends, flying display), Su-22 and MiG-29 from Polish Air Force (both on static display), An-26 transport aircraft from Ukrainian Air Force (static display) and, finally, the Slovak Air Force MiG-29 fighters and Mi-17 helicopter.

Su-22 Polish Air Force at the static display.

All those aircrafts together made SIAF 2016 a very interesting event for every aviation fan, and there was no surprise that many foreign visitors arrived to Sliač just because of those aircrafts. The nostalgia was in the air, definitely. And the fly pass of MiG-15, MiG-21 and MiG-29 was something that now is rarely seen. Another addition to this nostalgia part of the airshow was the flying display of L-29 Delfin.

MiG-21 – Romanian Air Force.

The aerobatic flying displays were performed by Očovskí Bačovia, Zoltán Veres (both are the usual SIAF participants), the Flying Bulls Aerobatics Team, Red Devils and Jurgis Kairys. Making a heart during the team aerobatics display now became a mandatory figure and those hearts are no longer a surprise for the spectators. However, Veres and Kairys moved a step forward here – Veres created the heart himself, flying only his airplane and Kairys followed with a funny emoticon.

Heart and the sun – Zoltán Veres.

The number of the aircrafts displayed during the 2016 edition of SIAF reached one hundred, and beside the above-mentioned ones, the spectators could see the Belgian Air Force F-16 solo display, flown by Tom ´Gizmo´ de Moortel and solo display of Czech JAS-39 Gripen. The Slovak Air Forces performed a few flypasts and flying displays with L-39 Albatros, MiG-29s, L-410s Turbolet and Mi-17 helicopter, there was also a parachute and police display. The Slovak Government Flying Service showed its recently bought Airbus A-319 with an interesting low pass over the Silać runway.

The Slovak Government Flying Service – A-319 low pass.

The static display included Tornado, Eurofighter and CH-53 from Luftwaffe, Austrian and American Black Hawk helicopters, Belgian and Dutch F-16 fighters, Romanian C-27J Spartan, Hungarian JAS-39 Gripen. There also was an interesting presentation of Slovak Army, including the famous S-300 anti-aircraft system (another treat for the visitors who came there to see the equipment of Soviet origin).

S-300 missile system at the static display.

There was no surprise that Patrulla Aguila team won the Smik Trophy for the best flying display of 2016 edition. And surely this was one of the best performances during the 6th SIAF airshow, but there were many great displays there – Slovak MiG-29, Gizmo and his ´Blizzard´, Jurgis Kairys, the uncommon display of two L-410 Turbolet and many others. On the other hand, one of the disappointments was the Su-27 display – comparing to the previous visit in 2013, the display was lacking the dynamics, a huge part of it was performed away from the airfield and the abilities of this Sukhoi fighter weren´t fully shown.

Su-27 takes off to perform the flying display.

With just 6 editions of the SIAF airshow this is obvious that the organizers are still learning how to run the airshow event. A lot of small bugs could be noticed, including the organization itself, the airshow webpage or information process. They might be annoying, but easy to fix during the future editions. Whereas the quality of the SIAF airshow was slowly getting better year by year, now the general feeling was that the 2016 edition seemed as a small step back, especially when comparing to SIAF 2015 that could be considered so far, the best edition of Slovak airshow. This sometimes happens at the annually organized events and I hope this was just an accident and the future editions would keep the level set by the 5th edition (or even would go beyond). Those issues, luckily, were not related to the flying and static displays, the choice of the participating aircrafts was also satisfactory and interesting.

´The most beautiful tail contest´ – what would be your choice?

Keeping the high organizational and participation levels is especially very important now, as the airshow and its organizers were recently facing a wave of presumptive criticism related to the financial part of the event. SIAF became the biggest event in Slovakia, as already mentioned, and this caused the additional attention was paid to the airshow, focusing on the fact this is not organized as a self-financing-event.

Into the sun – Su-27 flying display.

And finally, there are just a few lines about the weather. Those of you who read the report from SIAF 2015  would certainly remember that it was hot, sunny, and generally with the tropic weather. The 2016 edition was the same – and probably even worse. Both days of the airshow weekend were extremely hot, the air was not clear and the light conditions were harsh, burning out the colours and details. All flying displays as seen from the official airshow area were flown against the sun, that´s why the hot and sunny days are not the best weather for SIAF airshow. Fortunately, the schedule of flying displays is different each day and switching the displays allows see them with a bit different light conditions. And if you´re not rushing to the gate exactly when the last airplane touches the runway after the final display, there is still a chance to take some pictures at the static display, with the orange rays of the afternoon sun.

The Belgian F-16 from 350(F) Squadron in the special 75th Anniversary ´Spitfire IX MN-B´painting.

In summary – the 2016 edition of SIAF was another interesting aviation spectacle, with many remarkable displays. It already became a significant event in the European airshow calendar, offering the visitors a good and quality choice of the participating aircrafts in the flying and static displays.

Isn´t she lovely? – CH-53 in the evening light.

Slovak Air Force MiG-29s during the opening flypast.

Su-27 Ukrainian Air Force at the static display.