Photo Report – 24th Zagreb Kup Precision Landing Championship

By me
All photos me too, copyrighted

Looking back on it (even though it still has a month and a bit left to run), this year has, aviation-wise, been almost a complete joke. One of the rainiest years since record keeping began in Croatia some two centuries ago, it has produced no less than three major floods, interspersed with unusually frequent (and surprisingly violent) cyclones and depressions that had – in some cases – dumped a year’s worth of rain in just a few weeks. Scenes such as this and this had kept most of our grass airfields closed and flooded for days on end, trapping all of our money-making aircraft and rendering them unable to flee to the paved safety of the country’s major airports…

Likewise, man-made disasters had conspired against us as well, with the country’s long-standing economic crisis now running into its seventh consecutive year – with very little light only dimly visible at the end of the tunnel. Apart from a general reduction in life standard, spanners thrown into Croatia’s GA works include soaring fuel prices, increased maintenance costs – and, not least of all, stepped-up efforts by several operators of popular paved airports to collect increasingly exorbitant fees and charges in order to alleviate their own financial difficulties.

An yet, despite all of this, the local GA scene is operating like there’s no tomorrow (likely because if the weather continues like this, there probably won’t be 😀 ), with a new bizjet, new skydive Cessna, new glider and towplane all having arrived in country within the past few months. Flying clubs are on a roll as well, with mine already having beaten its previous flight time high, set – ironically – in 2013 :). Skydive flights, airshow performances, panoramic flights, private rentals… all seem to be coming back on track despite the worsening living standard (with only flight training letting the side down).

Much of the same could have also been seen during the 24th Zagreb Cup precision landing championship, held at Lučko Airfield (LDZL) on Saturday 11 October :). A yearly small-town event whose sole purpose is to have some good-natured fun (and enjoy a good BBQ afterwards 😀 ), the competition had this year attracted an all-time record in aircraft and competitors, numbering at four Cessna 150s, three Cessna 172s and 24 competing pilots respectively. While this doesn’t sound like much compared to some of the larger and more formal competitions held elsewhere in Europe, it is still of one of the main aviation (social) events of the season, and had this year easily topped the 2013 competition, where we had a showing of only five aircraft and just 18 pilots.

A handy visual guide to everything you need to know about the competition. Closest to me is the landing field used for the purpose, drawn up in lime powder on the right side of RWY 28L. 72 meters long in total, it is marked off in several 5 meter wide grids, plus a two meter wide "zero mark" that represents the ideal touchdown point. For 20 meters on either side, the grids are further split into one meter wide segments - as shown here - to aid the judges in determining the exact point of contact. Further back behind the field are three of the seven competition aircraft - parked on RWY 28R - with the competitors monitoring progress on the runway's edge.
A handy visual guide to everything you need to know about the competition. Closest to me is the landing field used for the purpose, drawn up in lime powder on the right side of RWY 28L. 72 meters long in total, it is marked off in several 5 meter wide grids, plus a two meter wide “zero mark” that represents the ideal touchdown point. For 20 meters on either side, the grids are further split into one meter wide segments – as shown here – to aid the judges in determining the exact point of contact. Further back behind the field are three of the seven competition aircraft – parked on RWY 28R – with the competitors monitoring progress on the runway’s edge.

As nearly every year so far, the competition had been blessed with beautiful summer-like anticyclonic weather, sporting clear blue skies, temperatures of around 25 degrees Centigrade – and lighting conditions to die for :). The only thing missing compared to last year was a stiff 15 knot crosswind, replaced this time by a light, variable and refreshing breeze – quite welcome when standing in the sun for several hours :D.

Even though this meant we’d miss out on the visually attractive landings of 2013, my shutter finger was not left to stand idly by, with my role as assistant judge allowing me the occasional opportunity to play around a bit… 🙂

The first group of competitors (minus C150 9A-DMI standing to my left) prepares for take-off down RWY 28L. Since they were departing individually, for reasons of safety the lead ship had to be the fastest of the group - C172 9A-DFH - with the three slower C150s at the back sequenced by their pilots' precedence on the competition roster. Of note, since the competition field took up half the width of the runway, all competitors had to take off from an intermediate position - roughly 200 meters from the threshold - to avoid blowing the flags and lime away...
The first group of competitors (minus C150 9A-DMI standing to my left) prepares for take-off down RWY 28L. Since they were departing individually, for reasons of safety the lead ship had to be the fastest of the group – C172 9A-DFH – with the three slower C150s at the back sequenced by their pilots’ precedence on the competition roster. Of note, since the competition field took up half the width of the runway, all competitors had to take off from an intermediate position – roughly 200 meters from the threshold – to avoid blowing the flags and lime away…
To avoid running over the above - and the occasional judge - on the way to the intermediate position, the competitors had to taxi past the field on the left side of the runway, which had conveniently brought them to within a few meters of my position - thus allowing me plenty of opportunity to play with various compositions as they rolled by. One of these had inadvertently ended up being a study of the minute differences and options available on the Cessna 150 during its production run...
To avoid running over the above – and the occasional judge – on the way to the intermediate position, the competitors had to taxi past the field on the left side of the runway, which had conveniently brought them to within a few meters of my position – thus allowing me plenty of opportunity to play with various compositions as they rolled by. One of these had inadvertently ended up being a study of the minute differences and options available on the Cessna 150 during its production run…
One of life's rare opportunities to stand in front of a (slowly) taxing aircraft on the primary runway of a (somewhat) busy airfield with a camera in one hand and a cool beverage in the other!
One of life’s rare opportunities to stand in front of a (slowly) taxing aircraft on the primary runway of a (somewhat) busy airfield with a camera in one hand and a cool beverage in the other!
A crowd on final like we're at a proper airport! Even though the competition specified a separation standard of one and a half minutes between successive aircraft - enough to have four machines evenly spaced around the circuit all at once - different piloting techniques and approaches had invariably eroded it from time to time...
A crowd on final like we’re at a proper airport! Even though the competition specified a separation standard of one and a half minutes between successive aircraft – enough to have four machines evenly spaced around the circuit all at once – different piloting techniques and approaches had invariably eroded it from time to time…
"Caution wake turbulence". They may not be fast jets and there's no smooth tarmac under their tires, but it nevertheless makes one happy to see them! Interestingly, by the time CCG had turned onto the crosswind leg, the lead ship of the group - Cessna 172N 9A-DHL - was already turning final...
“Caution wake turbulence”. They may not be fast jets and there’s no smooth tarmac under their tires, but it nevertheless makes one happy to see them! Interestingly, by the time CCG had turned onto the crosswind leg, the lead ship of the group – Cessna 172N 9A-DHL – was already turning final…
Even though it happens only rarely, it is not unseen for contestants to have occasional tailstrikes during these sorts of competitions. Thankfully, in this case the actual strike was very light and brief, with only the tail tie-down ring making contact with the ground. Had it not been there to kick up the grass, we likely would have never noticed...
Even though it happens only rarely, it is not unseen for contestants to have occasional tailstrikes during these sorts of competitions. Thankfully, in this case the actual strike was very light and brief, with only the tail tie-down ring making contact with the ground. Had it not been there to kick up the grass, we likely would have never noticed…
Deja-vu from 2013... even though there was almost no wind for the entire duration of the competition, occasionally some of the contestant had made a hash of their final "no flaps, no power" approach, forcing them to stretch their glide as much as possible and plonk the aircraft down on its last few Newtons of lift. While this does look somewhat dramatic, the competition rules allow it up to a point, provided the wheel in the air is at a height less than its diameter and not for more than 5 meters horizontal distance.
Deja-vu from 2013… even though there was almost no wind for the entire duration of the competition, occasionally some of the contestant had made a hash of their final “no flaps, no power” approach, forcing them to stretch their glide as much as possible and plonk the aircraft down on its last few Newtons of lift. While this does look somewhat dramatic, the competition rules allow it up to a point, provided the wheel in the air is at a height less than its diameter and not for more than 5 meters horizontal distance.

Airshow Report – Batajnica Airshow 2012, Serbia

By me
All photos me too (copyrighted)

Even though most large airshows on the European continent seem little affected by the world’s economic woes, out here on the periphery things are not going so well. Despite 2012 marking the centenary of aviation in many countries of the Balkans (as did the preceding 2011), celebrations are by economic necessity curtailed, unimpressive and in many cases held just for form’s sake. Case in point in Croatia is the yearly Lučko Airshow, which will – by most accounts – be degraded this year to a “rump airshow”, held simply to avoid breaking its continuity :D.

However, one event that has always seemed more resilient is the Batajnica Airshow, held at Batajnica Airbase (LYBT) just outside Belgrade, Serbia. Like Hungary’s own Kecskemet Airshow – held just a hundred or so kilometers north – Batajnica is primarily a military affair, though civilian aircraft do make up a sizable amount of the static display. Having been deprived of any serious airshow all year – the last one being MAKS in August 2011 – I was naturally quick to plan a trip east and see what has the Serbian AF managed to cook up for its de facto 100th birthday… 🙂

MiGs at 6 o’clock!

In common with many air forces on the Balkans, the chief attraction of the Serbian AF is the rarity of its aircraft, most of which are of Soviet and Yugoslav make. Alongside various transports such as the An-26 – which can still be occasionally seen on cargo runs across Europe – the SerbAF also operates a handful of much rarer MiG-21 and MiG-29 fighters, types which are nowadays generally endemic to the Balkans. To drive the point – and attraction – home, in Europe airworthy (more-or-less :D) MiG-21s can only be found in Croatia, Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria, while the potent MiG-29 only in Serbia, Bulgaria and Poland. Locally-produced types from the heyday of Yugoslav aviation are hardly less attractive and feature some of the world’s last airworthy Soko G-2 Galeb (seagull) and G-4 Super Galeb trainers, and the Jaguar-lookalike J-22 Orao (eagle) strike aircraft.

However, while the above list sounds juicy even to the locals, accustomed to seeing these aircraft on a frequent basis, there is a catch attached: like their counterparts in other air forces of the region, SerbAF combat aircraft are quite old and near the ends of their service lives (a mounting problem faced by the Croatian MiG-21 fleet as well). Consequently, their crews have neither the available flight hours nor the mechanical security to take the aircraft to their limits, resulting mostly in tame and lackluster displays (as was most evident during the MiG-29 interception demo).

Snap Inspection

But, flight routines aside, the show is still an excellent opportunity to simply enjoy the sight, sound – and smell 😀 – of some good ol’ proper aircraft :). And while there were some obstructions to quality photography even with generous access – lots of visitors swarming around static aircraft and horrid heat haze out on the runway – the following gallery I believe captures the essence of the show and its aircraft quite nicely…

A formation that hasn’t been seen in European skies for a long time. A twin-stick MiG-21UM is seen leading an echelon formation including two single-seat MiG-29Bs and a two-seat MiG-29UB. The only remaining examples in Europe (and its proximity), B models are downgraded export versions, and feature a less powerful radar and simpler avionics
In contrast to the B model, this unmarked M2 – operated by the Russian AF – represents the opposite side of the MIG-29 spectrum. A comprehensive, new-built rework of the classic MiG-29, the M2 – sometimes known as the MiG-33 – includes fly-by-wire controls, improved aerodynamics, more powerful and (slightly) less smoky engines and vastly improved avionics that can carry a wider range of modern air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons. The M2 also addresses the Achilles’ heal of the original design, its woefully poor range, by introducing a larger fuel capacity
Looking resplendent in its special paint scheme, the SerbAF solo display J-22 Orao is seen taxiing past the press area on its way to the main apron. A design outwardly very similar to the Anglo-French SEPECAT Jaguar, the J-22 was designed as a lightweight, low-level strike aircraft that would use the maximum amount of “home-grown” technologies. Developed in cooperation with IAR of Romania – whose own version is called the IAR-93 Vultur – the Orao is powered by two Rolls-Royce Viper Mk.22 turbojet engines, produced locally under license and fitted with a locally-developed reheat system. Subsonic like the Jag, the Orao is in service only with the Serbian and Bosnian AF, and is one of the last dedicated ground attack aircraft serving anywhere in Europe
Following the MiG-29M2 wherever it goes is this shabby-looking An-12 transporter, operated by the MiG design bureau. One of the Soviet Union’s most successful turboprop workhorses, the An-12 can still be seen at Europe’s cargo hubs, flying freight charters to and from Africa and the CIS
By contrast, this Il-76 support aircraft is immaculate, seeming like it had just rolled off the production line. The most successful Soviet transporter, the Il-76’s successes and exploits – as well as its durability and versatility – is on par to that of the C-130 Hercules
Fast, agile, tough and armed – quite a combination for a light combat helicopter. A license-built version of the venerable Aerospatiale Gazelle, the GAMA – a contraction of “GAzela MAljutka” – can be armed with four 9M14M Malyutka wire-guided anti tank missiles, known in the West as the AT-3 Sagger. Quite probably the Soviet Union’s most successful light anti-tank missile, the 9M14M has also been license produced in Serbia, making the GAMA almost a fully “self contained” product
For a hopeless GA geek like me, a visit to this cockpit was more attractive than seeing a MiG-29. One of Germany’s first post-WW2 aircraft, the twin-engine Skyservant is an incredibly rare sight today. This example is still airworthy (just) and is normally used for surveillance and aerial mapping. Quite a clean shot otherwise, this photo was ruined unfortunately by dust on my UV filter (very dusty conditions), which I’d failed to notice until after taking the photo…

Airport Report – Gubaševo Glider Airfield

By me
All photos me too, copyrighted, w/assistance from Google Earth

The sudden arrival of the county prefect, no less, had signaled an anticipated change in tempo. All morning journalists and TV crews – some even from national TV – were milling around the open field, filming and interviewing whomever important they could find. A brass band was playing gently in the background. Well before the start of the festivities, the caterers had broken out local wines and beer, and everything had taken on a jolly tone. Now, eyes and cameras pointing skyward, the hundred or so people attending turned toward the drone of an incoming aircraft, tracking it intently as it landed at the far end of the runway. Taxiing up to the crowd, the plane shut off its engine and moments later, an unfazed prefect stepped out to greet the press…

What could definitely pass for a grand opening of a major international airport was, in fact, just the official opening of Croatia’s newest sport airfield near the village of Gubaševo :D. Marked with quite a bit of (perhaps unwarranted) pomp and circumstance, Gubaševo is the first proper, permanent airfield in the area, and a source of much local pride :). Located in the rolling hills of the region of Zagorje, just a dozen miles north of Zagreb, the field is intended primarily for use by gliders, capitalizing on the area’s frequent and strong thermals, occasional mountain waves – and an almost a complete lack of strict altitude and airspace restrictions. Away from any major airports and well below their approach paths, the field features a single grass runway measuring 650 x 30 meters, and stretching in a 36-18 direction at an elevation of 450 ft AMSL.

Still just an open field in this dated image on Google Earth, Gubaševo is conventiently located near one of the country's main highways (visible bottom right) and easily and quickly accessible - the drive from my house to the field had taken just a tad over 40 minutes along local cheapskate-avoid-toll roads, while along the highway it takes as little as 25 minutes...

Interestingly enough, and despite the fact that it had been officially opened this day (24 September 2011), the field is not yet fully certified, and landings there are still treated as off-field operations (though with the blessing of the CAA). For the same reason, Gubaševo still hasn’t got an ICAO location indicator, but it is hoped that one will be allocated in the future :).

However, none of this had dampened the spirits at the ceremony itself, which, after the formalities had been handled, had kicked off to a mass gliding session by pilots of Aeroklub Zagreb and Zagorski aeroklub :)…

The first powered aircraft ever to land at Gubaševo - and incidentally the aircraft on which I'd logged the most flight hours 🙂 - Triple Delta is seen taxiing towards the waiting crowd, with the prefect of the Krapinsko-zagorska županija (county) on board. Officially named Krapinsko-zagorski aerodrom Gubaševo (roughly translated as "Krapina's and Zagorje's airport Gubaševo"), the airfield was quite a big thing that day :).
AK Zagreb's C150 lined up on RWY 18, posing for a perfect postcard shot with typical Zagorje scenery in the back - low cut grass, corn/maize fields, wooded rolling hills, the inevitable church (every town has one)... and, normally, gazebos with plenty of local wine :D.
One of the day's many aerotows climbing up slowly - but surely - from RWY 18. The glider in tow is a Polish-designed and built PZL-Bielsko SZD-41A Jantar Standard - the only one of its type in the country - registered 9A-GJA.
Caught in an almost perfect profile shot while landing on RWY 36 :). Though 650 meters may seem a bit short, identical aerotow operations from Lučko - with the same gliders and the same towplane, at roughly the same elevation (404 ft vs 450) - need pretty much the same runway length.
Eat my dust? Kicking up clouds of loose cut grass on the takeoff run, far from an ideal operating environment for an aerotow. Apart from reducing visibility in the cockpit of the glider - Zagorski aeroklub's Ka-7 in this instance - this also increases the pair's takeoff run by increasing surface friction.
Freshly refurbished, 9A-GZA is seen returning from a joyride. Coming from an airfield where airspace and altitude restrictions rarely allow flights of more than 20-30 minutes in duration, pilots from Lučko were having a ball here, with individual flights having had to be curtailed to one hour in length to allow others to have a go :D. The gliding situation was so good in fact that I've seen - for the first time with my own two eyes - four gliders circling in the same thermal :).
Launching out of RWY 18 for an hour-long joyride. The mountain in the background is Medvednica, at whose opposite base lies the city of Zagreb... and a bit to the right, out of shot, Lučko :).

Photo Report – The “Off-road” Diamond Star

By me
All photos me too, copyrighted

Whenever I happened to catch a Diamond Star rolling down Lučko’s rough, uneven runway, I’d always felt sorry for the little thing. Pitching and rolling and yawing like it was out of control, it had suddenly seemed fragile and very much out of its element – a sword at the proverbial gun fight, an aircraft that really should steer clear of all but the smoothest surfaces… in essence, and despite the type’s incredible underlying toughness and depth of engineering, almost an accident waiting to happen…

However, a casual stroll down the display line at the 2011 Paris Air Show would quickly prove my impressions wrong :). Sitting in the open away from the big jets and fighters was an oddly different, beefed-up, more purposeful looking Star – not quite like any I’d ever seen before. Its information board, largely ignored by passers-by, identified it simply as the DA-40 Tundra Star. Intrigued, I’d naturally stopped to take a look… 🙂

While it is no PC-6, the Tundra Star does look more than capable of handling the average dirt strip. It certainly does seem to be a nearly ideal mix for the owner who operates out of an unpaved runway, but desires the economy of the Diesel and the sophistication and cruise performance of the clean carbon-fiber Star...
One of the Tundra Star's party pieces is its engine, Diamond's own Austro Engines AE300 Diesel, spinning a three-blade constant speed prop. Developed in response to Thielert's Centurion 2.0, the AE300 is also a 2.0-liter automotive Diesel engine converted to run on Jet A - however, unlike the Centurion, the AE300 produces 168 HP (33 more) and can maintain this power all the way to 10,000 ft thanks to an improved turbocharger. Once settled into the cruise, it burns just 5.5 USG/h at 75% power (also a note about the HP rating: while 135 and 168 HP seem ludicrously small amounts for a four-seater, what actually matters here - and in every other prop - is the torque... and few engines have more of it than a turbo-ed Diesel 🙂 )
Another noticeable change was the new bubble canopy, previously seen only on the company's Airborne Sensing fleet. As well as improving overall visibility in tight spots, the new canopy also permits taller people - like myself - to finally sit comfortably up front 😀
Like many modern light aircraft, the new-generation DA-40 has been fitted with LED nav and strobe lights, which significantly increase the aircraft's visibility in the air - but also, at the same time, noticeably reduce electrical consumption. This light cluster also includes the landing lights (visible to the right), which provide much better illumination than the old - and frequently temperamental - light bulbs 🙂
But the bread and butter of the Tundra Star is located under the fuselage :). The type's normal pavement tires have been replaced with large low-pressure units, which go a long way to absorbing the bumps of uneven runways. Their greater diameter has also added to ground clearance, while the increased contact surface has reduced the aircraft's surface loading, allowing it to operate from soft, damp or muddy strips (where the mud scrapers come into their own)

Airshow Report – 2010 Lučko Airshow Highlights

By me
All photos copyrighted

While the traditional Lučko Airshow had often enough ended up being little more than a “village airshow” – despite the good intentions of everyone involved – this year’s event, celebrating the centenary of aviation in Zagreb, was showing a lot more promise from the get-go :). The initial participant list alone was enough to get the blood flowing – and the photo finger itchy 😀 – with the likes of the DeHavilland DH.89 Dragon Rapide, and the extremely rare ex-Yu Ikarus Kurir, on the headlines; not to mention the first public flight of a lovingly built replica of the first aircraft designed in Croatia, way back in 1910 :).

Even though a few organizational issues, and the dreary and foul weather on 28 August (the original show day), had distilled that list somewhat – the Dragon Rapide and Kurir sadly dropping out – there still remained a number of very interesting aircraft to see and photograph :). So on 29 August, hoping for clear skies and good light – and with the assistance of Ms. Matea Makek, manning my old Canon 20D 🙂 – I set course for the field to see what’s what…

This after all being "Achtung, SKYHAWK!", I had to start off with... well some Skyhawks :D. Incidentally, these three N models and one R - representing my university's aviation department - are all the 172s I've flown so far, with 9A-DDD (in the bottom right corner) the aircraft on which I've logged the most hours 🙂 (normally owned by Ecos Pilot School - where I got my wings - but currently on loan to the university)
The afternoon's building cumulus clouds had provided some outstanding backdrops...
... which were at all odds with the morning's thick fog and single digit temperatures (in August!). All covered up about four hours before the start of the show, this Mil Mi-171Sh - coded 227 - was the only Air Force aircraft up for display, the rest of the fleet being parked at the far end of the apron (out of harm's way 😀 )
At long last, finally photographed in the air! 🙂 Even though it had first flown about two weeks ago, this is the first time I've seen it in flight. Makes a pretty nice noise too...
But by far the biggest attraction of the show was the CA-10 "Penkala", a modern replica of the Penkala P-3, the first Croatian aircraft :). Designed by famed inventor Slavoljub Penkala - the father of the fountain pen - the P-3 had attempted to take off in 1910, but never made it beyond a few hops due to some deficiencies in its design. Intending to set that right, the CA-10 was conceived as "modernized" P-3, upgraded using today's aerodynamic laws (and an 80 HP Rotax, with four times the power of the 24 HP engine that Penkala had used). Interestingly enough, the whole aircraft was built by hand using only archive photos because the original blueprints have long been lost. Unfortunately, due to its paperwork not being ready, it had not flown at the show, a huge source of disappointment for many...
Another beautiful sight: the first jet aircraft to land at Lučko in more than 20 years! 🙂 Part of the Stars aerobatic team hailing from Serbia, this Soko G-2 Galeb - the most famous aircraft produced by the Yugoslav aviation industry - was one of the absolute attractions of the show. Mind you, it did have less than an elegant entrance - especially for a type designed to operate from unpaved strips - when it ran over a huge bump on the runway, ramming its nose wheel strut all the way to its stop. But some manpower later - a couple of us to lift the nose and allow the strut to extend back into normal position - and all was right again! 🙂
A shot inspired in part by a popular F-104 Starfighter photo on Airliners.net... 🙂
Taxiing out for its display, with its nose strut again at its stop. Despite the G-2's fantastic low-speed abilities, YU-YAK had used up virtually every meter of Lučko's 880 m (2890 ft) runway for the takeoff run. Powered by a Rolls-Royce Viper turbojet - a design from the late 50s - the G-2 needs some time and distance to accelerate when on the ground...
Another gem at the show was this Polikarpov Po-2 from neighboring Slovenia. The second most produced aircraft in history, the Po-2 is often nicknamed "The Flying Sewing Machine" due to the specific sound of its 125 HP 5-cyl Shvetsov M-11 radial. I've always thought that to be an understatement - until I first heard it... :D.
Operated in great numbers by virtually every air force in the Eastern Bloc, the Po-2 can - despite its age - be often seen on airshow circuits in Eastern and South-eastern Europe. This example, registered S5-MAY, was produced in 1937 and is still happily flying 73 years later :).
Further up the performance range, international aerobatics champion Zoltan Veres (Hungary) was showing off just what the fantastic MX Industries MXS could do. Seen here in a knife-edge flyby, with his right wing just a foot - confirmed! - off the ground...
Mr. Veres tearing through the skies in the most impressive and exciting display of the show
The only participant with a mostly vertical display, Mr. Veres had also flown the impressive "pierced heart" maneuver - not at all easy to do when you have only one aircraft and little time before the smoke blows away!
Up close with N540XX, painted in the shades of the Hungarian flag. One of the first aerobatic aircraft built entirely of carbon fiber - without an underlying metal structure - the MXS weighs less than 600 kg, but can have up to 350 HP up front, making for utterly bewildering performance in the vertical plane. Its agility in the horizontal is hardly less impressive, with a demonstrated roll rate of 450 degrees per second 🙂
Willing to participate every time, the Air Force "Krila Oluje" aerobatic team had put on another fine display. Four of the team's Pilatus PC-9Ms are seen here holding under increasingly impressive skies while the team's two solos (out of shot) position themselves for a low-level crossing pass
Always the show-stopper, "Kockica" - or "little square", named for its "ILS shack" Croatian coat of arms paint scheme - thunders loudly away at full bore :). One of the three remaining MiG-21 operators in Europe - with Romania and Bulgaria - Croatia is fast becoming one of the last sanctuaries of this fantastically charismatic jets on the continent...
An elevated overview of the field an hour before the start of the show, with two beautiful classics, an UTVA Aero 3 (left) and the Po-2 (right) facing off across the main taxiway (with the former to be covered in more detail in my next post 🙂 ). Complimenting them is An-2 9A-DIZ in the background, while in the distance the Medvednica mountain range - and a wall of puffy cumulus clouds forming atop it - complete the scene

Short Photo Report – My First Ever Flying Spitfire!

By me
All photos me too, copyrighted

Like many Spitfire enthusiasts, over the years I had gone through all the “fan-boy” motions: I’ve watched the movies, read the books, saw the photos… collected a bit of memorabilia even, the lot. But, as is often the case with these things, my involvement with the Spit had always stopped short of actually seeing a real, flying example. Sure, I’ve seen one in a museum – an ex-Yugoslav Mk.Vb in Belgrade’s Aeronautical Museum – but static, toy-like and lifeless, its beautiful Merlin silent, it just didn’t cut it at all.

Determined for years to right that wrong, last Saturday (26 June) I sat in the car and set off for La Comina airfield in Northern Italy. Just a few miles south of Aviano airbase, this small grass field – one of the oldest in the country – was the venue for the La Comina 100 airshow, part of a series of shows across the width and breadth of Italy, celebrating its first century of (practical :D) aviation. On this occasion, the aircraft line-up had included a mouth-watering selection of precious warbirds, including my “target for the day”, my first ever flying Spitfire! 🙂

Owned by the Jacquard Collection of France, F-AZJS – a post-war photo-reconnaissance PR.19 – is perhaps not the most exotic Spitfire around, but it is among the very few surviving examples of what some call the most capable Spitfire mark of them all. The last of the land-based Spitfires – powered by the monstrous 2035 HP Rolls-Royce Griffon 65 borrowed from the 1944-vintage Mk.XIV – the light, unarmed PR.19 can zip along at a fantastic 740 km/h, along the way touching altitudes in excess of 50,000 ft; heights that put most modern civil jets to shame! 🙂

That day though, F-AZJS would (thankfully) be touching just – 500 ft :D. Already excited out of my skin – and set and ready to experience the grace, power and charisma of the immortal Spit – I had readied the camera and waited…

I learned an important lesson that day - NEVER EVER stand behind a WW2 fighter when it is starting up :D. It might not be so bad behind a meek Cessna, but behind a Spitfire with its huge five-blade prop...
Looking very imposing and purposeful with its long, pointy nose :). As well as being the fastest of all the Spitfires in level flight, the PR.19 also holds the title of the fastest Spitfire in any sort of flight - as demonstrated by a one example operating above Hong Kong in 1950 :D. During an inadvertent dive from 50,000 down to 2,000 ft, the aircraft had managed to reach a whopping Mach 0.94 - without suffering any structural damage whatsoever!
Surely one of the most famous shapes to ever take to the skies! And I must admit it's larger than I thought...
North Italy or North Africa? :)... Despite being significantly more powerful than the Merlin, Rolls Royce had managed to make the Griffon only a third larger, allowing it to be installed in the tight airframe of the Spitfire. Apart from the big spinner and five-blade prop, the most obvious resulting changes were the raised humps on the upper cowl, accommodating the taller engine block

As an added bonus feature – and in the interest of serving a balanced dose of irony 😀 – I’ve also decided to include a few shots of the unique Fiat G.59-4B two-seater that had also appeared at the show, currently the only flying example in existence. Though it outwardly looks like a bastard cross between a Spitfire, Bf.109 and Yak-1, it is actually based on the curvy Fiat G.55 Centauro, hailed by many as the best Italian wartime fighter. Powered by a 1475 HP Fiat Tifone inverted V12 – a license-built version of the Daimler-Benz DB 605A-1 – it had proved to be a formidable opponent, taking on Spitfires and Mustangs without a second thought. Stunningly maneuverable – but slightly under-armed – the G.55 had some notable combat successes, but their low numbers meant that the type couldn’t make much of a dent in Allied air fleets.

An advanced design that was ahead of its time in a number of respects, the G.55 was – like the Bf.108 previously featured here – returned to production following the end of WW2. However, again like the Bf.108, it soon started facing a serious shortage of engines, with the stockpiles of WW2-vintage Tifones – and even imported DB 605s – dwindling fast. In a bid to keep the production lines open, the design team started looking for a replacement engine – but, unlike with the Bf.108, their choices were very limited. The only realistic option in the required power range was none other than – the RR Merlin :D.

Re-designated as the G.59, the new aircraft was comparatively successful, though was in the end built only in modest numbers (with almost half intended for Argentina and Syria, the type’s only foreign customers). Two versions were produced, the single-seat A models and the two seat Bs, to whose last batch our example – I-MRSV – belongs…

Its G.55 heritage completely blurred under the "right-way-up" Merlin and extended canopy, the G.59 almost looks like a disordered mess. However, with only 10 G.59-4B's ever produced, I-MRSV is pretty much a bigger attraction than the Spitfire 😀
Rolling gently onto its back amid the roar of the mighty Merlin. Quite an interesting combination too...
Almost looks like a Yak-1 from this angle...

Airshow Report – Red Bull Air Race Budapest, 20.08.2009.

By Boran Pivčić
All photos author

Finally succumbing to the mass of enthusiastic photos and texts about the RB Air Race, I decided to finally sit in the car and go see it – especially now that it was on it’s closest approach to Croatia, 350 km away in Budapest. Given that most facts about the whole event are well known – we all know the efficiency of Red Bull’s PR department – and the fact that I’ve been studying meteorology like mad for the past month and am not poetically inclined right now, I’ll just shut up and let the photos do the talking for now :).

Coinciding with St. Stephen's Day every year, the Air Race normally kicks off with some non-racing airborne festivities. First on the scene was the airforce, with this Mil Mi-8T flying the national flag
Coinciding with St. Stephen's Day every year, the Air Race normally kicks off with some non-racing airborne festivities. First on the scene was the airforce, with this Mil Mi-8T flying the national flag
Right on its tail were two - more aggressive - Mil Mi-24V gunships, flying the NATO and EU flags
Right on its tail were two - more aggressive - Mil Mi-24V gunships, flying the NATO and EU flags
Interestingly, having checked their codes in my photo database, all the helos appear to be regular participants at other airshows in Hungary, most notably Kecskemet
Interestingly, having checked their codes in my photo database, all the helos appear to be regular participants at other airshows in Hungary, most notably Kecskemet
In a bout of recessionism, the traditional Malev flyby had been downgraded from a 767 to a 737-700
In a bout of recessionism, the traditional Malev flyby had been downgraded from a 767 to a 737-700
Possibly having more fun than the race participants themselves was this media Bo.105CBS. Operated by Red Bull but owned by Skymedia from Switzerland, this helicopter - equipped with a Cineflex V14 HD turret cam - was tasked with providing real-time upclose video footage of the race
Possibly having more fun than the race participants themselves was this media Bo.105CBS. Operated by Red Bull but owned by Skymedia from Switzerland, this helicopter - equipped with a Cineflex V14 HD turret cam - was tasked with providing real-time upclose video footage of the race
Held on the banks of the Danube river in the center of Budapest, the Race would feature some amazing backdrops - the most prominent of which was the Parliament building, located on the Pest side of the river
Held on the banks of the Danube river in the center of Budapest, the Race would feature some amazing backdrops - the most prominent of which was the Parliament building, located on the Pest side of the river
Clipping the wavetops, Yoshihide Muroya, flying Zivko Edge 540 Race Number 31, zips under the Lanchid bridge. With only 10 meters of clearance between the river and the bridge, this is one of the best start gates in the whole race
Clipping the wavetops, Yoshihide Muroya, flying Zivko Edge 540 Race Number 31, zips under the Lanchid bridge. With only 10 meters of clearance between the river and the bridge, this is one of the best start gates in the whole race
Rocketing along the tightest and one of the most difficult tracks of the whole Air Race season
Rocketing along the tightest and one of the most difficult tracks of the whole Air Race season
Pete McLeod of Canada, flying the Edge 540 Race 84. This guy is my hero - as tall as I am and just one year older, now flying with the best of them :)
Pete McLeod of Canada, flying the Edge 540 Race 84. This guy is my hero - as tall as I am and just one year older, now flying with the best of them 🙂
"Grandpa" Nigel Lamb, 53 and flying the stunning MXR Technologies MXS-R Race 9, on the closest approach to the Paliament. Painted in a simple - but very effective - yellow/black scheme, Race 6 was by far the coolest looking aircraft on the track :)
"Grandpa" Nigel Lamb, 53 and flying the stunning MXR Technologies MXS-R Race 9, on the closest approach to the Paliament. Painted in a simple - but very effective - yellow/black scheme, Race 6 was by far the coolest looking aircraft on the track 🙂
In the interlude between races (the race is composed of the Top 12, Super 8 and Final 4 runs) a number of flying displays kept the adrenaline flowing. The Breitling Jet Team, flying their beautiful L-39s, were one of the highlights
In the interlude between races (the race is composed of the Top 12, Super 8 and Final 4 runs) a number of flying displays kept the adrenaline flowing. The Breitling Jet Team, flying their beautiful L-39s, were one of the highlights
Flying through their own smoke during a mass formation maneuver. The world's first all-jet civilian display team, the BJT is composed entirely of former French Air Force pilots - some with flight hours running into 5 digits
Flying through their own smoke during a mass formation maneuver. The world's first all-jet civilian display team, the BJT is composed entirely of former French Air Force pilots - some with flight hours running into 5 digits
One of the "big names", Mike Mangold flying Edge 540 Race 11, shows off the 540's insane 420 degree/sec roll rate
One of the "big names", Mike Mangold flying Edge 540 Race 11, shows off the 540's insane 420 degree/sec roll rate
The one picture that best summarises the air race: speed, some and insane action! Michael Goulian in Edge 540 Race 99
The one picture that best summarises the air race: speed, some and insane action! Michael Goulian in Edge 540 Race 99
Smoking like a missile, Paul Bonhomme in Edge 540 Race 54, enters the circuit in style
Smoking like a missile, Paul Bonhomme in Edge 540 Race 54, enters the circuit in style
A confusion of red and white as Bonhomme goes through one of the vertical gates
A confusion of red and white as Bonhomme goes through one of the vertical gates
Nicholas Ivanoff of France, piloting Edge 540 Race 27, seen low in front of the Parliament. Ivanoff would later be disqualified for a (if I remember correctly) too fast entry into the track (one of the new rules caps the entry speed at 370 km/h, going above which means immediate disqualification)
Nicholas Ivanoff of France, piloting Edge 540 Race 27, seen low in front of the Parliament. Ivanoff would later be disqualified for a (if I remember correctly) too fast entry into the track (one of the new rules caps the entry speed at 370 km/h, going above which means immediate disqualification)
Peek-a-boo! Oz bloke Matt Hall in the MXS-R Race 95, emerging from behind a pylon
Peek-a-boo! Oz bloke Matt Hall in the MXS-R Race 95, emerging from behind a pylon
As the afternoon progressed, the light just got better and better
As the afternoon progressed, the light just got better and better
Hannes Arch of Austria (Edge 540 Race 28) was one of the favourites. Always very stable and precise, he nevertheless missed the podium by less than half a second
Hannes Arch of Austria (Edge 540 Race 28) was one of the favourites. Always very stable and precise, he nevertheless missed the podium by less than half a second
The man, the legend and the spiritual father of the Air Race - Peter Besenyei in MXS-R Race 4
The man, the legend and the spiritual father of the Air Race - Peter Besenyei in MXS-R Race 4
A small, but none the less interesting, closing act - the Flying Bulls from Czeczhia
A small, but none the less interesting, closing act - the Flying Bulls from Czeczhia
Sliding into formation under the expert hand of team leader(ess) Radka Machova :)
Sliding into formation under the expert hand of team leader(ess) Radka Machova 🙂
One, two, three, four...
One, two, three, four...
A negative G formation loop... niiice :)
A negative G formation loop... niiice 🙂
The Flying Bulls' trademark maneuver - a barrel roll around the mirror flight duo
The Flying Bulls' trademark maneuver - a barrel roll around the mirror flight duo
You gotta love city centre airshows... the Flying Bulls solo pulling up just above me
You gotta love city centre airshows... the Flying Bulls solo pulling up just above me
And what Red Bull event would be complete without a flyby of RB's "dreamfleet" from Hangar 7?
And what Red Bull event would be complete without a flyby of RB's "dreamfleet" from Hangar 7?
This shot simply made my day :)
This shot simply made my day 🙂
A new dish is being served - shishAH1Cobra :)
A new dish is being served - shishAH1Cobra 🙂
DC-3 Power! The world's only airworthy Lisunov Li-2 - a DC-3 built under licence in the USSR - in retro Malev colours going at max power (meaning slow :) ) above the Danube
DC-3 Power! The world's only airworthy Lisunov Li-2 - a DC-3 built under licence in the USSR - in retro Malev colours going at max power (meaning slow 🙂 ) above the Danube
Completing the Breitling offensive was their immaculate DC-3
Completing the Breitling offensive was their immaculate DC-3

Airshow Report – Croatian International Airshow Varaždin, 11-12.07.2009 … PART 2

Continuing on…

The guys are back! The CroAF aerobatic team - the Krila Oluje - were normally invited and put on an excellent show in their new (several months old) six-ship routine
The guys are back! The CroAF aerobatic team - the Krila Oluje - were normally invited and put on an excellent show in their new (several months old) six-ship routine
Despite flying "regular" PC-9Ms used for flight training when the team's not flying, the Krila Oluje have quickly risen to become one of the regions best teams. If only the AF would stick a couple of smoke generators on them...
Despite flying "regular" PC-9Ms used for flight training when the team's not flying, the Krila Oluje have quickly risen to become one of the region's best teams. If only the AF would stick a couple of smoke generators on them...
The traditional "wow" maneuver, the mirror flight. This one keeps getting tighter and tighter with each show :)
The traditional "wow" maneuver, the mirror flight. This one keeps getting tighter and tighter with each show 🙂
Flying follow the leader in perfect symmetry. At various points during their mass maneuvers, the aircraft are less than 2 meters apart
Flying follow the leader in perfect symmetry. At various points during their mass maneuvers, the aircraft are less than 2 meters apart - which in the propwash from the aircraft in front takes considerable skill
And the "coup de gras" - the triple mirror!
And the "coup de gras" - the triple mirror!
The final break, as attractive as always! Not as glamorous as the jets used by the world's big teams, the PC-9 more than makes up for it in agility
The final break, as attractive as always! Not as glamorous as the jets used by the world's big teams, the PC-9 more than makes up for it in agility at low speeds
062 ticks itself cool under a dramatic sky as Damir Barišić, the Krila Oluje lead, packs the plane up
062 ticks itself cool under a dramatic sky as Damir Barišić, the Krila Oluje lead, packs the plane up
Thanks to whoever turned on the Sun at that moment! :)
Thanks to whoever turned on the Sun at that moment! 🙂
A special treat at the end of day two - a formation display by the previously pictured CitationJet and the Krila Oluje
A special treat at the end of day two - a formation display by the previously pictured CitationJet and the Krila Oluje
Heading out for a flyby above the "Radar festival" music event being held nearby. Don't know what was better - listening to Santana or watching this lot fly low overhead :)
Heading out for a flyby above the "Radar festival" music event being held nearby. Don't know what was better - listening to Santana or watching this lot fly low overhead 🙂
Mother CitationJet leading her flock of PC-9s :)
Mother CitationJet leading her flock of PC-9s 🙂
One of the stars of the show, the CroAF Antonov An-32B, firing off flares during a low pass
One of the stars of the show, the CroAF Antonov An-32B, firing off flares during a low pass
Normally, flares burn up completely about a dozen or so seconds after they're fired. But given the how low the big Anushka was, one near-expired flar almost hit me in the head :).
Normally, flares burn up completely about a dozen or so seconds after they're fired. But given how low the big Anushka came in, one near-expired flare almost hit me in the head 🙂
Though not part of the aircraft's standard equipment, flare packs have been retrofitted to the CroAF's two An-32s during maintenance a couple of years back
Though not part of the aircraft's standard equipment, flare packs have been retrofitted to the CroAF's two An-32s during maintenance a couple of years back
The two 5110 HP AI-20DM turboprops on the An-32 are very efficient - at turning fuel to smoke :). Honestly, I don't see why the AF bothered painting them in air superiority grey... you can see the smoke trail for miles away!
The two 5110 HP AI-20DM turboprops on the An-32 are very efficient - at turning fuel to smoke :). Honestly, I don't see why the AF bothered painting them in air superiority gray... you can see the smoke trail for miles away!
With its high.mounted engines, the An-32 is certainly a powerful sight. The navigator seems to be having fun :)
With its high-mounted engines, the An-32 is certainly a powerful sight. The navigator seems to be having fun 🙂
Okay, concussion and loss of hearing in 3, 2, 1...
Okay, concussion and loss of hearing in 3, 2, 1...
The most aggressive -21 display I've ever seen. Usually - given the age of the jets - they fly relatively timid displays of mostly passes with the reheat and landing gear and flaps down. This time, they've outdone themselves - a sprint down the runway on full reheat at 20 meters height, pulling up into the vertical and rolling all the way up to commercial flight levels :). W-O-W
The most aggressive -21 display I've ever seen. Usually - given the age of the jets - they fly relatively timid displays of mostly passes with the reheat and landing gear and flaps down. This time, they've outdone themselves - a sprint down the runway on full reheat at 20 meters height, pulling up into the vertical and rolling all the way up to commercial flight levels :). W-O-W
108, pictured here, is a frequent guest at airshows. Originally a MiG-21bis, a couple of years ago it was upgraded to the MiG-21bis D standard by Aerostar of Romania
108, pictured here, is a frequent guest at airshows. Originally a MiG-21bis, a couple of years ago it was upgraded to the MiG-21bis D standard by Aerostar of Romania

Airshow Report – Croatian International Airshow Varaždin, 11-12.07.2009 … PART 1

By Boran Pivčić
All photos author

Still under impressions from Paris, I kept viewing the yearly CIAV airshow as something of a “village show” – a small, unambitious country gathering compared to the grandeur of the world’s biggest and oldest airshow. However, sunny weather – and a need to get out of town – saw me attend the show on both of its days, in part also to practice my hand with my new bulky and heavy 100-400 mm lens. In the end, owing to runway-side access I had managed to secure on both days, the show – despite cursed with rickety organisation – turned out to be quite a nice and enjoyable event.

1. The 2009 event:

Despite the a-bit-too pretentious “international” epithet, this year’s show hosted more foreign visitors than before. Among the usual Slovenian and Hungarian participants, there was also a French Air Force AlphaJet trainer, which was – unfortunately – relegated to the static display, despite being scheduled to fly. The rest were oft-seen local aircraft, including half a dozen aerobatic ones.

The flight display itself was a mix of aircraft types, from flexwings and Extras all the way to Citations, Pilatus PC-9s and even an Antonov An-32 and MiG-21. So without further ado…

Note: given that I intend to post quite a few photos, I thought it best to split this report into two parts, with about the same number of photos. This part is – mostly – civil-oriented, while the second will contain the big bad mil stuff.

Rutan's "pocket rocket" LongEZ still looks futuristic today, despite being almost a 30-year old design. This model, built by an airline pilot for Croatia Airlines, is the most powerful, 160 HP version.
Rutan's "pocket rocket" LongEZ still looks futuristic today, despite being almost a 30-year old design. This model, built by an airline pilot for Croatia Airlines, is the most powerful, 160 HP version.
Just one look at the LongEZ and you see how far ahead of the pack Burt Rutan is...
Just one look at the LongEZ and you see how far ahead of the pack Burt Rutan is...
An Extra 300L previously owned by Slovene aerobatic champion Peter Podlunšek rolling down Varaždin's RWY 16
An Extra 300L previously owned by Slovene aerobatic champion Peter Podlunšek rolling down Varaždin's RWY 16
Though the paint scheme on S5-DPP is a generic factory one, I must say it looks awesome against a blue sky
Though the paint scheme on S5-DPP is a generic factory one, I must say it looks awesome against a blue sky
Fun is definitely not a straight line!
Fun is definitely not a straight line!
Goooing up!
Goooing up!
The meaner and more powerful Extra 330SC with Mr. Podlunšek at the controls slicing low above the runway
The meaner and more powerful Extra 330SC with Mr. Podlunšek at the controls slicing low above the runway
Our own I-3 was in attendance too :)
Our own I-3 was in attendance too 🙂
The locally grown (ex-Yugoslavia) Soko G-2 Galeb (Seagull) trainer is a must for every show
The locally grown (ex-Yugoslavia) Soko G-2 Galeb (Seagull) trainer is a must for every show
Closeup of the smoke system. As with most such systems, the smoke is generated by injecting Diesel or paraffin into the exhaust (which can also be tinted to change its color). On the G-2, the exhaust comes from a licence-built Rolls-Royce Viper Mk.22 turbojet, developing 11.12 kN of thrust
Closeup of the smoke system. As with most such systems, the smoke is generated by injecting Diesel or paraffin into the exhaust (which can also be tinted to change its color). On the G-2, the exhaust comes from a license-built Rolls-Royce Viper Mk.22 turbojet, developing 11.12 kN of thrust

Owned by Varaždin-based WinAir, this Cessna CitationJet CJ2+ was the only bizjet performer at the show, finishing its display with a few very un-bizjet-like low passes
Owned by Varaždin-based WinAir, this Cessna CitationJet CJ2+ was the only bizjet performer at the show, finishing its display with a few very un-bizjet-like low passes
A significantly older, but none the less interesting, Citation II was in the static display (seen here taxiing in after a positioning flight on the second show day)
A significantly older, but none the less interesting, Citation II was in the static display (seen here taxiing in after a positioning flight on the second show day)
The Man - Peter Besenyei - showing just what an Extra 300 can do :)
The Man - Peter Besenyei - showing just what an Extra 300 can do 🙂
Some impressive flying! The display finished off with Peter's trademark "drunken flight" low above the runway... so low in fact that at one point I thought he'd shear off a wingtip :).
Some impressive flying! The display finished off with Peter's trademark "drunken flight" low above the runway... so low in fact that at one point I thought he'd shear off a wingtip :).
The sleek and curvy Dassault-Dornier AlphaJet E. What a beautiful machine!
The sleek and curvy Dassault-Dornier AlphaJet E. What a beautiful machine!
Not much of a motive, but the cockpit isn't all that big and I'm not really the shortest person in the world :). This was about the only angle that worked...
Not much of a motive, but the cockpit isn't all that big and I'm not really the shortest person in the world :). This was about the only angle that worked...

Airshow Report – Some more GA at Paris

By Boran Pivčić
All photos author

Time again for another update, one which proves I have “a couple of planks missing” as the saying goes – of all the Learjets, the Global Express, Avanti, Dassault Falcons… I was most excited to photograph a Cessna 140 and Luscombe 8! 🙂 Found them by accident when I took a shortcut past the Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace to avoid the crowd on Saturday. Given I have a fancy for bare-metal GA oldies, I couldn’t not stop and take a photo :).

The two gems together behind the Dakota Hall at the museum. The intruding tail on the right belongs to a Canadair CL-415, in a bit of an odd shade of yellow
The two gems together behind the Dakota Hall at the museum. The intruding tail on the right belongs to a Canadair CL-415, in a bit of an odd shade of yellow
F-AZOC, a Cessna 140, was first in line. I just adore bare-metal singles... if they have polished metal props and red stripes, I'm sold! :)
F-AZOC, a Cessna 140, was first in line. I just adore bare-metal singles... if they have polished metal props and red stripes, I'm sold! 🙂
Rear quarterview. I've long been waiting to nail a C140... this is the first one I've ever seen in person :) (after narrowly missing one at Lučko)
Rear quarterview. I've long been waiting to nail a C140... this is the first one I've ever seen in person 🙂 (after narrowly missing one at Lučko)
F-PMCD, what at first thought to be a Cessna 120, turned out to be a rare Luscombe 8A Master (of the Silvaire family). Beautiful thing, the bright red really suits it
F-PMCD, what at first thought to be a Cessna 120, turned out to be a rare Luscombe 8A Master (of the Silvaire family). Beautiful thing, the bright red really suits it
GA taildraggers look so awesome in bare metal!
GA taildraggers look so awesome in bare metal!

In addition, I managed to beg my way aboard the Avanti II again, this time with the avionics turned on :).

Showing off the Collins Pro Line 21 suite. An increasingly common solution in biz aircraft, the Pro Line 21 is used also in the King Air and CitationJet families, as well as the DeHavilland Canada Dash 8 Q400 regional prop
Showing off the Collins Pro Line 21 suite. An increasingly common solution in biz aircraft, the Pro Line 21 is used also in the King Air and CitationJet families, as well as the DeHavilland Canada Dash 8 Q400 regional prop
Closeup of the pilot's side, showing the PFD (Primary Flight Display) and MFD (Multi-Function Display), showing an airport chart of Le Bourget
Closeup of the pilot's side, showing the PFD (Primary Flight Display) and MFD (Multi-Function Display), showing an airport chart of Le Bourget
The copilot's side, with the other PFD, radios and announciatior panel
The copilot's side, with the other PFD, radios and announciatior panel
Pedestal view. An FMS (Flight Management System) is also included, giving this amazing prop some serious equipment punch
Pedestal view. An FMS (Flight Management System) is also included, giving this amazing prop some serious equipment punch

Airshow Report – GA Cockpits at Paris Air Show 2009

By Boran Pivčić
All photos author

In another first for my blog, I bring you the “Paris Air Show GA” series – almost live :). Since I hauled my laptop along, I might as well use it and post some photo action from the show. Blessed with press access – and a number of very friendly representatives of several major bizjet manufacturers – I had the opportunity to sneak around the insides of some of the most modern bizjets in the sky. All of the photos in this specific post were taken on Thursday, June 18, the fourth and last trade day (the next three days is the open public part). So here goes…

First up is the Italian beauty, the Piaggio P-180 Avanti II. Unfortunately it was not plugged into a GPU when I visited...
First up is the Italian beauty, the Piaggio P-180 Avanti II. Unfortunately it was not plugged into a GPU when I visited...
A lot of glass and class :). The impressive Bombardier GlobalExpress XRS was the largest bizjet at the show (alongside the Falcon 7X)
A lot of glass and class :). The impressive Bombardier GlobalExpress XRS was the largest bizjet at the show (alongside the Falcon 7X)
What show would be complete without Learjet's pocket rockets? The 60XR - cockpit pictured - is, according to its pilot, the fastest climbing civil aircraft without afterburner. On a good day, he said they can reach 41,000 ft in 12 minutes! On one flight - with little fuel and no pax - they even managed to reach 13,500 fpm for a brief moment!
What show would be complete without Learjet's pocket rockets? The 60XR - cockpit pictured - is, according to its pilot, the fastest climbing civil aircraft without afterburner. On a good day, he said they can reach 41,000 ft in 12 minutes! On one flight - with little fuel and no pax - they even managed to reach 13,500 fpm for a brief moment!
And I'm proud to bring you an exclusive - the cockpit of the Learjet 85 mockup :). The all-carbon fibre aircraft is still in development and is promising to be a world beater. Judging from inside the cockpit, it certainly will be impressive. Many thanks to Bombardier's Mr. John who showed me around!
And I'm proud to bring you an exclusive - the cockpit of the Learjet 85 mockup :). The all-carbon fibre aircraft is nearing completion and is promising to be a world beater. Judging from inside the cockpit, it certainly will be impressive. Many thanks to Bombardier's Mr. John who showed me around!

Unfortunately, neither Gulfstream nor Cessna were in attendance, both dropping out due to the recession and the fact that they had appeared at the EBACE business aviation event in Geneva, Switzerland a couple of weeks back… which was a major letdown as I was looking forward to seeing the Citation X and any big Gulfstream…

Dassault’s Falcon division was also present at the show, but access to their aircraft was “Invitation only” – a marked difference to the “come in and look around” attitude of Piaggio and Bombardier (and Pilatus)…

JUNE 19th UPDATE: not to needlessly open another post, I’ll just continue in this one. Have two more GA cockpits to add today, some more glass :):

The Cirrus Perspective - by Garmin - suite on this specced-up SR-22 G3 demonstrator. The aircraft was also equipped with the TKS deicing system and ballistic recovery chute
The Cirrus Perspective - by Garmin - suite on this specced-up SR-22 G3 demonstrator. The aircraft was also equipped with the TKS deicing system and ballistic recovery chute
Everyones favourite aircraft fitted with the omnipresent G1000
Everyones favourite aircraft fitted with the omnipresent G1000

Airshow Report – Susreti Za Rudija, Gornja Stubica, May 10, 2009.

By Boran Pivčić
All photos author

While not a “proper airshow” in itself, the “Susreti Za Rudija” (roughly translated as “Meetings for Rudi”) commemoration includes a strong air presence, which traditionally comprises a number of light aircraft, in addition to the airforce fast jets and helos. This year – after missing out last time – I finally managed to hitch a ride on two of our club airplanes that were scheduled to take part in the proceedings. Naturally, my camera never left my side so, with plenty of photographic evidence, here goes…

1. Background to the show

The “Susreti Za Rudija” event first started several years ago to commemorate Rudolf “Rudi” Perešin, our most famous military pilot. Born in the town of Gornja Stubica near Zagreb, he was one of the best MiG-21 pilots in the former Yugoslav Air Force, who in 1991. (at the start of the Yugoslav Civil Wars) defected to Croatia with his MiG-21R. Unfortunately, he couldn’t land at Zagreb’s Pleso airport, so low on fuel – when isn’t a MiG-21 low on that? – he proceeded, without any form of clarance, to Klagenfurt, Austria and landed there. His jet, coded 26112, was impounded, but Rudi was allowed to return to Croatia where he continued flying for the nascent Croatian Air Force.

Airliners.net photo of 26112, now in a museum in Vienna

He was killed on May 2, 1995. when his MiG-21bis was hit by AAA near the town of Stara Gradiška during Operation Flash. Flying close to the ground, he ejected at low altitude, but hit the surface of the Sava river before his chute opened.

The present day meet consists of a wide variety of activities, including the aforementioned air program, which was for this occasion to include flypasts by Air Force MiG-21s and Mi-8/171 helicopters, a police and military parachute team demo, aerobatic flights – and light aircraft flypasts, where we come in.

2. Showday – the aircraft

Despite the flying program scheduled to start at 15:00 – with our first takeoff around 16:00 PM – a friend and I arrived at the field early at 9:00, hoping to make ourselves useful in the mean time. The day for one of our airplanes – Cessna 172N 9A-DDD – was packed full in addition to appearing in the flypast, so we came early to prep the birds and start things off as soon as possible. All in all, three of our planes were due to take part in the show: 9A-DDD, 9A-DMJ and our Seneca III, 9A-DMO.

Registration: 9A-DDD (ECOS Pilot School)
Type: Cessna 172N Skyhawk II
Mfd.: 1980.
Engine: Continental O-320, 4 cyl, normally aspirated @ 160 HP, driving a two-blade fixed pitch prop

Registration: 9A-DMO (ECOS Pilot School)
Type: Piper PA-34-220T Seneca III
Mfd.: 1981.
Engines: 1x Continental TSIO-360, 6 cyl, turbocharged @ 220 HP, driving a three-blade constant speed prop & 1x Continental LTSIO-360 with the same specs but spinning in the opposite direction

And you’re already familiar with 9A-DMJ from a previous post :).

3. Showday – scenes from Lučko

Since most – if not all – aircraft involved in the meet would be launching from Lučko, I got the opportunity to catch several of them during either practice or departure.  Though most of the types involved would be GA birds, I’ve decided to skip over them – for despite this being a GA blog, I’ll be the first to admit that prepping a C172 isn’t all that a thrilling experience. Much more interesting were the various military and police helicopters that decided they might just catch some air on this beautiful – though humid – spring day.

Mil Mi-8MTV-1, coded H-211, crossing low overhead during an ingress/egress practice session
Mil Mi-8MTV-1, coded H-211, crossing low overhead during an ingress/egress practice session
Waiting for their bus :). Almost 50 army skydivers wait patiently in line during rapid entry/exit exercises. As a bonus they would also get to fly a bit, as the air force prudently combined their exercises with the aforementioned ingress/egress flights to keep the pilots on their toes
Waiting for their bus :). Almost 50 army skydivers wait patiently in line during rapid entry/exit exercises. As a bonus they would also get to fly a bit, as the air force prudently combined their exercises with the aforementioned ingress/egress flights to keep the pilots on their toes
A newer Mil Mi-171Sh blasts low over the field toward Gornja Stubica to catch its display slot. Unlike the stock airforce Mi-8MTV-1s, the -171Sh - Sh for "shturmovoj", or attack - can carry four B8V 80 mm rocket packs under removable pylons. Only equipped as such once - during their unveiling ceremony - they now mostly fly completely unarmed
A newer Mil Mi-171Sh blasts low over the field toward Gornja Stubica to catch its display slot. Unlike the stock airforce Mi-8MTV-1s, the -171Sh - Sh for "shturmovoj", or attack - can carry four B8V 80 mm rocket packs under removable pylons. Only equipped as such once - during their unveiling ceremony - they now mostly fly completely unarmed
Lifting off with a company B.206B-3 in the background warming up. Both helos were on the invited list
A Police AB.212 lifting off with a company B.206B-3 in the background warming up. Both helos were on the invited list

4. Showday – the first run

Normally, an airshow wouldn’t be an airshow if it ran flawlessly :). Due to the way the meet was organised, each participant would be performing solo – which meant that all three of our planes would fly their displays individually and at different times. DDD would be first with a flyover at 16:05, DMJ second at 16:40 and DMO last at 17:55 to close the show. Though it certainly appears a bit nonsensical – having 5-6 Skyhawks pass one at a time over a stadium that was sure to attract a significant number of people – the reason behind it was that the aircraft would get points for being on time over target, points that would be added to their scores in the upcoming precision landing championship to be held at Lučko in two weeks. In the end – as is usually the case – it all went awry quite early in the game :).

As previously mentioned, DDD had a full day in addition to this, with several panorama flights and a banner towing mission stacked end to end. Due to a breakdown in coordination, a skydive flight also appeared out of nowhere, necessitating the use of the more powerful DMJ – which then, by some mechanism that I didn’t quite get, threw the whole plan into disarray. In the end, DDD missed its display slot, but with a quick call to the organisers, we managed to squeeze it in along with DMJ in the latter’s slot. This in the end was fortunate for me, because apart from securing myself a seat on DDD, I’d get another chance for some air-to-air action :). And I desperately needed to get into the front seat of something, as I hadn’t flown for a couple of months and wanted to get my bearings back :).

The route we were to fly is pretty similar to the one we flew in the last Trip Report I posted, but significantly shorter. Gornja Bistra is just behind the Medvednica mountain, a pifling 10-15 minutes away as the Skyhawk flies. After passing Zaprešić – or November point, the exit out of Lučko CTR (I should really post a map here) – just turn right and keep low for the next 5 minutes… and you’re there.

Our departure was scheduled for around 16:20 and surprisingly we made it on time! Given the manageable difference in performance between DDD and DMJ, our formation takeoff was more successful than last time, with DMJ leading the way up until halfway to Zaprešić. There we switched roles and the slower DDD took up the lead.

The well-worn route to Zaprešić. Some beautiful weather up front - excellent news after the rainshower we went through right behind us...
The well-worn route to Zaprešić. Some beautiful weather up front - excellent news after the rainshower we went through right behind us...

Unfortunately, DMJ came up on our left, so I couldn’t get a clear shot of it – not through an open window as I had originally hoped. But the short flight time to Stubica – as well as continual communication and sequencing with a provisional ATC unit set up down there – meant we really didn’t have time for fooling around, so I had to make do with what I had.

Holding station to our left. With half tank and two people aboard, DMJ can keep up with anything we could throw at it :). And the green tint to the photo is from the green rear windows on DDD, didn't want to manipulate the photo much to get rid of it
Holding station to our left. With half-full tanks and two people aboard, DMJ could keep up with anything we could throw at it :). And the green tint to the photo is from the green rear windows on DDD, didn't want to manipulate the photo much to get rid of it
A little dynamic break to spicen up a tight formation
A little dynamic break to spicen up a tight formation

The event itself was held at a sport stadium, which is quite difficult to find if you’ve never been there before. Even aerial photos with drawn approach and flyover routes aren’t of much help, but thankfully both pilots had been here a number of times before, so it was a relatively straightforward job of lining up for the run. The only problem is that apparently nobody notified the ATC that we’d be coming in formation, so there were a couple of on-frequency changes in lineup to be made.

Keeping a stacked holding pattern while we wait for some slot problems to be sorted out... we were supposed to wait more than 10 minutes for some reason, but finally managed to get our 16:40 slot
Keeping a stacked holding pattern while we wait for some slot problems to be sorted out... we were supposed to wait more than 10 minutes for some reason, but finally managed to get our 16:40 slot

As we lined up for our run, our formation – predictably I could say – broke up and we ended up chasing each other down toward the stadium, DDD first and DMJ about 100-200 meters behind us (as far as I could see over the tail). Don’t know how it looked like from the ground, but from up here the whole flypast – as well as the next two ones – looked a bit shabby.

Diving on the stadium that can be seen just above the nose
Diving on the stadium that can be seen just above the nose
Approaching from the east this time, as opposed to the Souther Approaches from the past photo :)
Approaching from the east this time, as opposed to the Southern Approaches from the past photo 🙂

Between snapping a few photos and constantly craining my neck and looking for DMJ, I didn’t pay much attention to the rest of the display, but it involved normal flypasts at Warp Skyhawk – in other words, slow :). The presence of numerous hills on all sides of Gornja Stubica percluded anything more aggressive, especially in an relatively underpowered Skyhawk on a hot +25 C day. Our time slot of just 4 minutes didn’t help either, so after our three passes, we set back for Lučko.

DMJ on our left again - after a brief fast pass to our right - with the Sljeme TV and radio tower visible in the distance
DMJ on our left again - after a brief fast pass to our right - with the Sljeme TV and radio tower visible in the distance

5. Showday – the second run

After we landed, I harrassed my flight instructor – who was supposed to fly DMO – to hitch a ride on it as well, as the first run didn’t really live up to my expectations. Thankfully, little persuation was necessary, so I found myself in the front right cabin seat at our revised 18:10 launch (I wanted to be up front, but a Seneca-rated pilot from our club was flying the left seat, with my CFI on the right). With four of us aboard and about 3/4 fuel, the takeoff run was more lively than I expected and we were soon off the ground and keeping our heads low toward Zaprešić.

Flying low at around 1500 ft above western Zagreb. Traffic returning from the show normally kept at 2000 feet, so this was a welcome bit of separation
Flying low at around 1500 ft MSL (1000 AGL) above western Zagreb. Traffic returning from the show normally kept at 2000 feet, so this was a welcome bit of separation

As the traffic around Gornja Bistra had already cleared, we proceeded pretty much straight in, with no holding or orbits – picking up speed along the way for a smashing high-speed low pass.

Diving down toward the stadium, with the airspeed needle creeping into the yellow arc. On our first pass we hit in excess of 185 knots indicated
Diving down toward the stadium, with the airspeed needle creeping into the yellow arc. On our first pass we hit in excess of 185 knots indicated
Tight right after the first high-speed pass. The hills around the stadium meant we had to pull some G getting out and I'm pretty sure this was in the 3-3.5 range
Tight right after the first high-speed pass. The hills around the stadium meant we had to pull some G getting out and I'm pretty sure this was in the 3-3.5 range

As is standard for every DMO display, the first pass was followed by a slower “dirty” flyover with flaps and gear extended, while the third – and last in this case – was a surprise low pass from a different direction.

Trees!
Trees!
Going up. Bleeding off airspeed from the fast pass
Going up. Bleeding off airspeed from the fast pass

After the third pass – and the impressive-ish climb after it – our work was done, so we set off back to Lučko for another 10 minutes of uneventful flying. The total flight time for this run – calculated from the photo timecodes – was about 35 minutes, bringing the overall time up to 1 hour 15 minutes.

Another nice spring afternoon in flight
Another nice spring afternoon in flight