Originally billed as a weekend event this airshow only opened to the public on the Sunday in temperatures approaching 40 degrees. With private cars banned from 8 am the special buses soon became hot houses crammed with eager visitors who showed extreme tolerance given the access problems.
However, with record crowds, the show itself was very good. It gave an opportunity to view indigenous types that are rarely seen, let alone photographed, in action. The Utva 75 piston trainer is being replaced by the Lapsa 95 which made its public debut. Examples of the Super Galeb and Orao showed impressive flight characteristics though, unfortunately, much use was made of the far runway which was partly lost in the heat haze. Having heard rumours that only three Serbian MiG-29s were airworthy, and seeing one in the interesting static park, it was a pleasant surprise to see three more start up and fly with a sole MiG-21 in a top-cover demonstration. It was unfortunate that neither the MiG-29s, nor that solitary MiG-21 performed close to the crowd line given their spectacular reputation. Two extra MiG-21s graced the static display and, for those that ventured out the eastern gate, a glimpse was to be had of some Iraqi Fishbeds in long term external store.
The static display comprised a good variety of types. Homebuilts, light helicopters and business jets stood beside the fast jets and transports. Of particular interest was the presence of Mikoyan’s MiG-29 demonstrator, fresh from Zhukovsky and accompanied by the firm’s support An-12 which is never seen at close quarters in Moscow. An Il-76 supported three MiG-29s from the Swifts making the Russian presence a significant and notable one.
Other foreign participation was mainly from local Nations, a Bulgarian C-27, Austrian Saab 105s and S-70, Romanian Puma, Slovenian Cougar and PC-9s and an Italian Typhoon supported by a C27 from Pratica that thrilled the crowds tumbling around the sky. An inverted pass towards the crowd might not have passed muster at more regulated shows. The Turkish Stars Transall came alone and two Danish F-16s flew whilst two USAF examples from Aviano sat in the static line with a KC-135 tanker. Apart from some GA types, the only exhibitor not to land was a Hungarian Gripen.
Helicopters were present in significant numbers; mainly Gazelles; a four ship tail-chase at low level was highly entertaining. The show opened with parachutists jumping from an in-service Antonov An-2; possibly one of the last in active service in Europe.
All in all, a pleasant show despite the chaotic travel and excessive heat. Had it spread over two days it might well have been better but it was good to see evidence of military cooperation and harmony in a region with such a troubled history. Let us hope this becomes a regular event; visitors were made to feel very welcome by all concerned.