2016 Event Review

Croatian International Air Show, 23-24 July, 2016
Location: Varazdin, Croatia
Admission: 30,00 HRK per day, free for children under 13, VIP ticket 400,00 HRK for 2 days.
Parking: Free
Value:: Good for a small air show
Rating out of 10: 5.5
 

 

Varazdin is not the center of Europe, not even Croatia's, but the Croatian Air Force organizes its international air shows more-or-less frequently here. The small airport of the town (LDVA Varazdin Airport) is only 5676x98 feet, not able to support larger aircraft, with limited places for viewers too, but its sufficient for smaller civilian aircraft.

The Croatian Air Force could be in a better shape by 2016. After Croatia ceded from the former Yugoslavia, they elected to maintaine only 23 of their MIG-21BiS and UMs and only upgraded one fighter squadron (8 single seat BiS and 4 two seat UMD) at the Bascu airplane factory in Romania. Since then, they flew all the flight hours with the upgraded ones. While they planned to upgrade additional jets in Ukraine, but due to the incorrect storage procedures, the repair costs would be much more expensive than their budget available for upgrades. The Ukrainian party (Odesaviaremservis) proposed to repair 7 planes which were in better shape & upgrade/refurbish 5 Algerian MiGs originally proposed for Yemen. The Croatian Air Force agreed for the repairs/upgrades. In the spring of 2014 they arrived, but that was just the beginning of ther problems. One crashed during the welcome parade (the pilot successfully ejected in time) and another had to make an emergency landing on the same day. The investigation following these accidents concluded that the ID numbers of in the Ukrainian documentation couldn't be reconciled back to the actually parts used. The additional 5 planes bought turned out to be Bulgarian, with only wings originated from the Algerian MiGs. The origin of 2 engines couldn't be identified at all. As a direct result of this fiasco the Croatian Air Force can only provide minimal air policing with their MiG-21 BiS.

During the show the demo pilot Brigade General Ivan Selak flew one of the MiG-21 UMDs painted to the national colors (red and white checkers) of Croatia. The aircraft nickname: Kockicza (Little Cubes).The MiG-21 landed on the small airfield after the display on Saturday and flew back to its home base on Sunday
Their small national team known as the Krila Oluje (Wings of Storm) flying the Pilatus PC-9 trainers also went under a major change. Most of the experienced pilots and engineers quit the Air Force and left for Oman to form a new team there. The only remaining senior pilot, Lieutenant Colonel Damir Barišić Deputy Squadron Commander and Team Leader, was joined by five new wingmen. The new team, after a considerable time of practise, now can perform the same spectacular routines safely as their preceding team did. Their performance during the air show showed a high quality of professionalism.

Most of the invited international participants such as the USAF, Belgian, Austrian, & Slovenian Air Forces declined their participation. The only modern high speed – high tech aircraft that participated was the JAS-39C Gripen of the Hungarian Air Force, that flew on Saturday. Other jet at the show was the Soko Galeb 2 trainer and light attack plane that was produced originally by the former Yugoslavia. Speaking of former Yugoslavian aircraft, there was a Soko J-20 Kraguj flying too, first manufactured in 1962. The Soko J-20 Kraguj is light military, single-engine, low-wing single-seat aircraft with a metal airframe, capable of performing close air support, counter insurgency, (COIN) and reconnaissance missions. The powered by a 340 hp Textron Lycoming GSO-480-B1J6 piston engine and Hartzell HC-B3Z20-1/10151C-5 three-blade metal variable-pitch propeller.

One Croatian Mi-17SH medium transport helicopter was on display. The Croatian Mi-17SH helicopters will probably be sold to Ukraine with US help as Ukraine no longer can source new ones from Russia, since the Ukrainian technicians, pilots and air bases are familiar in the maintenance of the Mi-17s. The Croatia Air Force will receive used Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior light attack and liaison helicopters as replacements from the USA. A Lockheed C-5M Galaxy heavy transport aircraft on July 30th, 2016, transported four Kiowa helicopters to Croatia.

Civilian aircraft that attended the event included two old Russian designed planes. One of them a Polikarpov Po-2 biplane used in WW2 as a liasion and as night-light bomber. Approximately 30,000 were built originally. Only a few Po-2 can be seen flying as the stars of air shows. The other one was an AN-2 light transport aircraft. Used for civilian transportation and as a platform for parachute jumpers, due to its good speed and cheap maintenance costs. It can carry up to 12 parachute jumpers and during in the air show these capabilities were illustrated by the parachute drops.

Italian Luca Bertossio sponsored by Red Bull, performed a dynamic show with his Swift S-1 glider. Another pilot of the day was Stefano Landi who flew a Russian Yak -11. The 2 seat trainer version of the famousYak-3 fighter. Approximatly 4500 were built throughout the years. Currently about 120 only remain capable of flying, and sometimes it is used to play Russian fighters on air shows.
Slovenian Red Bull Air Race pilot Peter Podlunsek has flown with his EDGE-540V2 solo and in formation with the Soko Galeb 2. There were several modern touring, and ultra-light aircraft as well as the local police's Bell 212 helicopter performed during the air show.

While it was not the biggest air show in Europe, but to see the MiG-21 UMD and the Galeb G-2 fly, it was worth the visit

Brigade General Ivan Selak
Lieutenant Colonel  Damir Barišić
Performers included:

Krila Oluje (Wings of Storm) Pilatus PC-9

MiG-21 UMD

JAS-39C Gripen of the Hungarian Air Force

Soko J-20 Kraguj

Soko Galeb 2

Polikarpov Po-2 biplane

Yak -11

An-2

Slovenian Red Bull Air Race pilot Peter Podlunsek EDGE-540V2

Luca Bertossio Red Bull, Swift S-1 glider

MTO sport

Agusta Bell

Diamond DA-20A-1 Katana

Extra EA-300

Report and photography by István Kelecsényi for The Aviation Magazine, translated by the Editor

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