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Czech Int. Air Fest, Brno, Czech Republic - 8-9 September 2007

After fighting the rigors of Ryanair, Stansted Airport and a plane load of Eire football supporters I finally met my two traveling companions in the terminal at Brno Airport. They were on the same flight, but I just didn't know who they were.

Our hotel was very clean and modern. The rooms were sparse, but had everything you needed and I slept well.

We caught a bus from outside the hotel, which also happened to be the main bus terminus, to the airfield which is only a couple of miles away - the bus was free for the airshow.

Halfway to the airfield the road was closed to non public transport to save any parking issues and huge traffic jams. Cars were parked in the adjacent industrial estates and along the main road at 45 degree angles, half on the grass and half on the road so as many could park as possible, all with the blessing of the police. As this was the weekend this would cause no issues.

This is a civil airfield with only a handful of flights per day, but has a single runway that exceeds 2600m.

The airfield was opened in 1958 and in the late 60's handled the largest amount of domestic movements in Czechoslovakia. During the 80's the civil traffic was severely reduced due to the increase in military traffic. This military traffic was terminated in 1991, and most flights now are charters and low fare operators.

What surprised me the most was that the majority of the static display comprised Western nations and aircraft, with no fewer than 6 RAF Tornados. The special coloured NATO AWACS and the the two French Air Force Mirage F.1s being the highlights.

Unfortunately the sun is in your face for this airshow, so I decided to walk around the base to shoot from the other side. Easier said than done!

I could have walked around the perimeter fence, but with all the security it looked a little dicey, so I took a track through the fields of dying sunflowers which probably tripled my journey, but felt safer. Parts of this trek were through varying depths of wet mud, and I walked for around and hour and fifteen minutes before getting to a spot by the fence on the other side of the runway.

I hung out with some Dutch photographers for the rest of the day, before walking back into the airshow via the perimeter fence, which only took about 25-30 minutes - ouch!

There were two highlights for me in the flying display. The Slovak Air Force MiG-29 put on a very impressive display. I have not seen one of these fly for a long long time.

The other was the strange Soko J-22A Orao of the Serbia and Montenegro Air Force. This was a new type to me having never even see a photo of one before. It was developed in the early 70's and from certain angles looks like a beefed up Jaguar. Strangely for an Eastern Bloc aircraft it is powered by two Roll Royce Viper engines.

The pilot put on a very low and sprightly performance. Lets hope this machine can be kept flying.

There were other strange sights at the show - one guy was walking around with a dog in his jacket and a goat on a lead!

Getting back to the town was slick and easy. I have never seen so many buses ready to transport people. Line upon line of bendy buses - as each filled up, another would pull up behind. Western show organizers could learn a lot from this.

I purchased a very nice Slovak Air Force MiG-29 t-shirt from the crew, and got mistaken for one of them twice.

The first time was traveling on the bus to the show on the Sunday. A guy from the back of the bus tapped my on the shoulder and started to talk to me, and it wasn't until he realised that I only spoke English that he realised his mistake.

The second time, we were waiting for our flight in the restaurant at the top of the terminal. We noticed that a lot of the display air crew were using this as a meeting place to eat and drink.

A guy walked in with a radio and clip board, looked around, saw me and started to talk in Czech pointing at his clip board. As soon as I spoke he laughed, and I pointed in the corner to the Slovak Air Force display pilot and off he went.



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