Kecskemet Air Show, Hungary

16 August 2008



Wow, what an air show

Such would have been the wording had this scribe been asked to describe the experience in just one sentence. Fortunately, there is more than just a single sentence available on this page to report on Kecskemet's 2008 Nemzetközi Repülönap (Air Show). Normally, Kecskemet opens its gates once every two years, but in order to celebrate the Hungarian Air Force's 70th anniversary, this year saw a Kecskemet show as well.

The day started out rather dull, as examplified by the image of this Greek Air Force A-7E Corsair, however, later in the day conditions improved considerably. Like in 2007, the static park was rather densely packed and accesible from two sides making photography a challenge. The same could be said for the special historic static which included most if not all of the Soviet types operated during Hungary's communist days.



One of the highlights in the static park for many was this Polish Air Force Su.22UM-3K two seater. A type which is now in the twilight of its career in Poland, having already been retired by the other Eastern European users. It sat among a gaggle of Turkish F-16's, US A-10's and Greek A-7's. The helicopter field among others held a Croatian Mi.171. 


However, the purpose of an airshow has to be the flying aeroplanes and those were plenty to be seen at Kecskemet. Apart from the force's 70th anniversary, 2008 is the final year of MiG.29 operations in the Hungarian Air Force. 

For this reason, the MiG.29 depicted above left and center was given a paint scheme in order to commerate the event. Apart from the specially painted single seater, a formation of MiG's flew as well, including the two seater seen top right.

The MiG.29's place has now been taken by a fleet of 14 leased SAAB JAS-39C/D Gripens, one of which can be seen taxiing past top left. Apart from the Hungarians themselves, the Swedish Air Force displayed the type in flight as well. Unlike in 2007, there was no Czech Gripen in the show this time. 

The show organisers were blessed with many countries eager to show off their fast jet hardware in flight. Among the more unusual participants was the Finnish Air Force F-18C Hornet seen top right. Note the kicking mule emblem on the nose of HN-424. The origin is not completely clear, as no Finnish F-18 squadron is known to have a kicking mule in its design.

More fast jet action, the Eurofighter Typhoon was displayed in flight by the Spanish Air Force, with a German one in the static park. Surprisingly, and much to the dismay of the UK enthousiast community which have been without this for the last two years, Kecskemet did have a Harrier display. Officially, the RAF's Harrier solo display team was disbanded because of the type's high operational tempo in Afghanistan. A Harrier in the flying display was thus especially welcome. France's Armee de'l Air demonstrated the Mirage 2000, in a tightly packed schedule which also included both a Dutch and a Belgian F-16.

Apart from the Western European hardware, there were a couple of Eastern European gems. To the left, a Serbian Air Force SOKO G-4 Super Galeb advanced trainer can be seen during its display. Another Serbian aircraft was the SOKO J-22 Orao. A joint development from Yugoslavia and Romania, the Orao is now solely in service with the Serbian Air Force. Note the colour scheme which includes a tailfin decorated with the Serbian national coat of arms. The four C's meaning "Samo Sloga Srbina Spasava" or "Only Unity Saves The Serbes". The phrase was much quoted by Serbian nationalists during the Yugoslav civil war giving it a somewhat dubious distinction.

A sight not much seen nowadays in a flying demonstration is the MiG.21. The Romanian Air Force is to be complimented for putting one of its MiG.21MF Lancer-C´s through its paces.

Among all the thunder of the fast jets, the display of the Austrian Pilatus PC.6B2/H2 Turbo Porter was sedate to say the least. However, the aircraft´s display was attractive on two accounts, its amazingly short take off and landing runs for which it is famous as a modern day Fieseler Storch and the fact that it carried a surprisingly large amount of water for use as a fire fighter.



Not often seen in any flying display, if ever, the Boeing C-17A Globemaster III. NATO will establish a flight of three of these airlifters on the Hungarian Air Force base of Papa. 

Known as the NATO Strategic Airlift Capability, it is a cooperative project by Bulgaria , the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia and the United States, later joined by NATO members Norway and Hungary as well as by partner country Sweden. Denmark later witdrew from the program. Anyway, the prospect of the C-17 to be based in Hungary must have driven the appearance by this USAF machine.

The Hungarian forces displayed their helicopter force of Russian origin in two separate shows. First, there was a CSAR style action by Mil Mi.17 transports backed up by Mi.24 combat support helicopters. Specially painted Mi.24V 714 flew its display which included some impressive flare action as can be seen here.

A most peculiar participant was this Eurocopter EC.145 clearly intended for the French Gendarmerie, but still wearing its German manufacturer assigned civil registration. Securite Civile and Gendarmerie helicopters are nothing out of the ordinary during flying displays in France, but to see one in Hungary was a bit unexpected.

Four demo teams displayed over Kecskemet. A civilian team from Serbia flying SOKO G-2 Galebs, as well as the Italian Frecce Tricolori (top left), the Krila Oluje (Wings of Storm) from Croatia with their Pilatus PC.9's and the Turkish Turk Yildizlari (Turkish Stars). 

With the weather playing along from the late morning hours and much to be seen in the air, Kecskemet's 2008 Air Show was a fine day out. All this is for free, although it might be advisable to levy a small entrance fee next time in order for the organisers to be able to procure some descent crowd barriers, especially for those onlookers which are a bit "vertically challenged", as it was fairly difficult to view over the fences separating spectators from the action.


All pictures (c) Hans Rolink