Everything you need to know about Aeros 2021 – South European show and Exhibition, in Slovenia.
Aeros 2021 airshow was held in Maribor, Slovenia, on Aug. 15, 2021. The flight program started at noon with the presentation of various RC models and continued with general aviation and military aircraft. The meeting was also the first international appearance of Frecce Tricolori since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
This was also the team’s first public exhibition this year, if we exclude flyovers. The excitement for their performance was, because of this, even higher both for the public and the Frecce Tricolori team. The ten-ship formation landed at Maribor airport in the morning on Friday, August 13, and performed a spectacular training flight on Saturday afternoon.
Five of the MB339s showed their special tail arts, dedicated to the five Italian Air Force aerobatic teams that represented Italy before Frecce Tricolori were established. The team is celebrating their 60th birthday this year. The public was thrilled by the many acrobatic figures they performed.
The soloist, Pony 10 – Maj. Massimiliano Salvatore, surprised the spectators with a low “volo folle” (crazy flight) and other precise maneuvers. The exhibition was scheduled to close the air show but, because of deteriorating weather conditions, it was anticipated, so tgat the team could perform at their fullest. The speaker of Frecce Tricolori, Maj. Riccardo Chiapolino, presented the entire programme in Slovenian language and thanked SSO and SKGZ, two leading organisations of the Slovenian minority in Italy, for the help that provided him to perform the task (and considering how difficult is the Slovenian language Riccardo performed just great). Frecce Tricolori traditionally painted the biggest Italian flag in the world also over Maribor, while accompanied by Pavarotti’s recording of Puccini’s aria Nessun dorma and confirmed, once again, that are one of Italy’s best ambassadors.
The Czech Air Force took part in Aeros 2021 with the Alca Display team, consisting in two Aero L-159 Alca aircraft. One of them is a stunning artwork – a special color dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the introduction of the Alca in the Air Force. The livery was first presented at Ostrava NATO days last year. The aircraft is painted in the camouflage of the Pandur II APC used in the Czech Army, to symbolize the CAS (Close Air Support) role of the L-159. On the right part of the tail there is an artistic representation of František Peřina, a Czech fighter ace during WW2 and patron of the 212. Tactical Squadron that operates the Alcas, and his Spitfire, while the left part of the tail celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Alcas in the Air Force. The special color was flown by Captain David “Dave” Byrtus, the other Alca by Captain Aleš Seidl.
The team showed to the public a dynamic programme, flying the jets to their limits. The display itself is really interesting, hopefully they will be present at many other air shows in the future. The team is really proud to represent their nation and the locally designed and manufactured L-159, the successor of the L-39 Albatros, that unfortunately did not equalize the sales of the predecessor. The pilots particularly enjoyed the exhibition in Maribor as they said that the area around the airport is similar to their home base in Čáslav, that hosts also the Gripens. Usually they also drop flares during their exhibitions, but unfortunately this was not the case. That’s, on the other hand, a good reason to go watch them another time in another place.
The Slovenian Army (Slovenska Vojska) showed the majority of the aircraft types in the fleet. At the static display area it was possible to see the Zlin 143, a Bell 206, a Bell 412 and a Pilatus PC-9M with the weapon systems that could be mounted on it. A Pilatus PC-6 dropped some parachutists and performed a nice low pass over the airport, before landing on the runway.
The Bell 412 showcased an operation of the Military Police (Vojaška Policija), the Bell 206 also performed a brief flight presentation. The same Bell 412 and the same crew that was flying it at Aeros helped the Slovenian firefighters to put out a wildfire in the Karst region on August 17. A Pilatus PC-9M was used to simulate a CAS mission, supporting a Valuk APC (a license built Pandur 6X6). The air show was closed by the exhibition of a Pilatus PC-9M Hudournik (Swift) flown by Andrej Fiorelli, winner of the Sir Douglas Bader Trophy for the best individual flight display at the Royal International Air Tattoo in 2017. Fiorelli left everyone speechless, as he mastered the plane, flying his aerobatic display in harsh weather conditions with wind gusts. Unfortunately the light was not suitable anymore for photos and many people were already running to their cars to avoid a storm that at the end did not arrive.
The Slovenian Police flew a simulated police operation with its Leonardo AW169 and used the winch to evacuate an injured person. The pilots said that they are really satisfied with the AW169 as it is a modern and efficient helicopter. The Ministry of the Interior recently announced the purchase of another one. Leonardo was also selected by the Ministry of Defence to supply a C-27J Spartan II. Let’s hope that they will fly it at some air shows too…
The Hungarian Air Force Saab JAS-39C Gripen flew directly from Kecskemét AB and after performing over Maribor airport for Aeros 2021 returned to its base. Mate Majerik, the Hungarian demo pilot, delighted the crowd with a programme full of spectacular maneuvers and the use of flares. It was also the loudest display of the day, but no one complained about that.
The civilian displays at Aeros 2021 were also interesting, from some Cessnas of the local aeroclub to gliders, and I will mention just some of them. Jozef Pivarči took off with his Aero L-29 Delfin. The aircraft was first delivered to the Soviet Air Force in 1971 and was bought from another private owner in 2019. Pivarči flew as a military pilot also on the MiG-21 before continuing his career in civil aviation. Benjamin “Bendžo” Ličar, a legend among Slovenian flight instructors that started flying back in 1972, presented an aerobatic programme with a Zlin Z-526. Ličar is a well known star of local airshows and, among other achievements, he flew under Solkan’s bridge, the world’s longest single stone arch bridge, in four occasions. Zoltán Veres, one of the best known Hungarian pilots and Guinness record holder (in 2007 he executed 408 continuous rolls) delighted the crowd with some crazy low flying and high g maneuvers. Nejc Faganelj, Pipistrel’s test pilot, demonstrated that also ULs can do aerobatics when he skillfully flew the Pipistrel Virus SW121. Not agile but a classic beauty, the Ryan PT-22 owned by Dietmar Grosz, that attracted admiring glances when he slowly flew some low passes over the runway.
The flight program was various and high quality. Aeros was one of the few events of 2021 that was not cancelled and, as mentioned, it was also the first international appearance or the first exhibition after the pandemic for many participants. The mix between RC planes, general aviation, civil and military performances created an afternoon for different tastes, but the real avgeek enjoyed them all. The static display was all about general aviation and the aircraft in use by the Slovenian Army. Several companies and small businesses came to present their products too. The challenging times did not stop the organizers, so the public and performers were all just too happy to be back at an air show. Hopefully the event will become a regular meeting point for the aviation lovers and professionals of this part of Europe.