Radom Air Show 2018 report.
Last week, on Aug. 25. and 26., the Polish Air Force celebrated its 100th Anniversary, during a special Centenary edition of the Radom Air Show. Even though the occasion was quite spectacular, the event left somewhat a bittersweet taste with the audience. The Polish Air Force, the celebrant who had his 100th birthday organized in Radom, was not fully present at the show. Due to the richness of the programme, the airshow had its flying organized from two airfields: whilst most of the display aircraft were taking off from Radom, some of the flying machines had to use a nearby airbase in Dęblin (home of the Polish Air Force Academy, which is the main pilot training facility of the Polish Air Force)
Most of the Polish fighter force – the MiG-29 and Su-22 fighter aircraft – have been grounded, hence they did not participate in the flying portion of the show. This is quite significant – Su-22s have been in service with the Police Air Force for 35 years, and the MiG-29 has been the prime fighter of the service for almost 3 decades. Neither were present in the static display.
When it comes to the Polish presence, the honor of the service had to be saved by the aerobatic teams: Team Orlik and Team Biało-Czerwone Iskry – both of them staged a usual breathtaking performance in the air, with the Orlik Team making a double appearance, one with a regular program, and the second one in formation with the Harvard trainer aircraft, commemorating their being used as a historic training platform by the Polish pilots in the old days.
The fast jet community of the Polish Air Force was underrepresented, solely by the F-16 Tiger Demo Team stationed at the Poznan-Krzesiny airbase. M-346 Master trainers, known under the name ‘Bielik’ in Poland (white-tailed eagle), which also are the latest acquisition of the service, also made an appearance at the event, performing a formation flypast. Finally, the Polish Aviation Museum from Cracow brought the only surviving example of the P.11C pre-war fighter aircraft to Radom. The vintage airframe has had its engine restored and, being a highlight of the Polish portion of the show, performed a taxi run in front of the audience.
The special treats, in case of the Centenary-related portion of the show, also included a formation flypast involving a PLL LOT Polish Airlines 737 and the White-Red Sparks aerobatic team.
The civil participants included aerobatic teams such as Cellfast Flying Team, 3AT3/Fundacja Biało-Czerwone Skrzydła formation flying team or Żelazny aerobatic teams. The program also included displays made by autogyros or a night display of paraglider team featuring pyro elements, closed the display on Saturday. Artur Kielak, on the other hand, performed his always stunning solo display routine.
The list of foreign participants of the show was quite rich. However, despite the rumors, the F-22 Raptors, the participation of those was very much hoped for in Radom, did not attend the show. The organizers announced that the United States would be involved in the event. Apart from a C-130 Hercules in the static display, no signs of American presence could be noted in Radom. NATO sent its E-3A Sentry AWACS platform to Dęblin and this aircraft made a flypast over the Radom field during the show.
However, certain highlights still appeared in Radom, with the Pakistani JF-17 Thunder being one of the most important and rare points of the flying display. This jet, whose roots go back to the times of the MiG-21, uses a single RD-33 engine, which is evident when we look at its back. It is surely a rarity in the European skies, and it has been a nice addition to the flying program. The Pakistan Air Force has quite significant historic connections to the Polish Air Force who virtually established the Pakistani service following the WWII.
Foreign aerobatic teams that showcased their display in Radom included the Baltic Bees Jet Team, Croatian Wings of Storm, Finnish Midnight Hawks, Patrouille Suisse, Frecce Tricolori, and Royal Jordanian Falcons. Here one should refer to the Swiss team, as the soloist of this group has inspired a round of applause around the Skaryszewska street ( spotting location south of the airport) breaking the sound barrier slightly and causing a sonic boom, accidentally on Saturday. Frecce Tricolori’s show announcer, also made the audience love her – she actually was performing the whole commentary in Polish.
When it comes to the remaining soloists, the Radom show also included displays of F-16 demo teams, including Belgian, Greek and Turkish solo displays. Out of the three, the Belgian display flown by ‘Vador’ is undoubtedly the most spectacular one and, in the author’s opinion – the best one of the showcased.
Czech Air Force has presented a very interesting role demo display involving its Mi-171 and Mi-24 helicopters, demonstrating a CSAR operation. Poland’s southern neighbours also brought their Gripen solo display to Poland, with the jet wearing the Czech Air Force’s centenary livery.
The RAF sent its Typhoon demo display to Radom. Considering the upcoming Polish Harpia programme, Radom has been a perfect arena to showcase the products that could be potentially offered. Within the static display Lockheed had its stand deployed, with F-16 and F-35 mock-ups and an F-16 simulator. Typhoon and Gripen were both a part of the flying display. Additionally, Leonardo brought its M-346FA aircraft to Radom, which was showcased on the stand of the Italian company that is also responsible for marketing the Typhoon in Poland.
A separate paragraph needs to be devoted to the Ukrainian Air Force’s involvement in the show. First, the Ukrainians came with a rarity to Radom – the Su-25UB Frogfoot jet that was displayed in the static display. Secondly, they also brought the classic Su-27 Flanker to Poland, this time in a two-seater variant (Su-27UB). It has to be said that the Ukrainian display in Radom has been much better than the one we have witnessed in the UK during the Royal International Air Tattoo, and it seemed that the pilot handled the aircraft much better. During the rehearsals on Friday the Ukrainian crew even performed tailslides.
When it comes to the vintage flying gear, Red Bull has brought its display to Radom, including Corsair, Mitchell, Trojan and Alpha Jets.
When it comes to the weather mentioned above – we need to admit – it was not perfect. Low cloud cover and rain on the weekend made the Air Show less pleasant, also leading to cancellation of several displays on Sunday. We also attended the show on Thursday and Friday, during which all of the rehearsals took place, hence some ‘sunny shots’ in our report. This, however, is force majeure that lays beyond the organizer’s scope of influence.
What could have been done to make the show more attractive?
Maybe the Polish Air Force could think of including more role demos in the display schedule. For instance, the Polish 25th Air Cavalry Brigade has a role demo prepared, which is quite spectacular for the audience. A question remains as to why it was not included in the Radom programme. Also, the presence of the Celebrant was quite limited – not only because of the grounding of the Fitters and Fulcrums (role demo and solo displays), but also due to the fact that most of the attention was paid to the foreign participants. Obviously, the organizers are limited by time and daylight, thus it is hard to assess whether any compromise could have been reached within that regard, for instance considering the number of the aerobatic teams involved in the show. Also, the Polish rotary-winged helicopters were not flying in Radom at all, which is also a pity – they were only showcased in the static display. Considering Radom was a centenary event for the Polish aviation per se, this may also be viewed as a certain omission. Another factor which was somewhat omitted was the Polish Air Force’s history and heritage. Apart from the P11.C taxing, no historic aircraft with direct and obvious connection to the service were presented (such as Spitfire, for instance, considering the Polish involvement in the Battle of Britain).
It also should be noted that the static display also featured numerous assets of the Polish land forces, including the latest artillery platforms (Rak self-propelled mortars and Krab self-propelled howitzers or air defence systems, such as radars).
Images: Jacek Siminski/The Aviationist