Report and photos by Łukasz Lipka

December 1, 2017

Slovak International Air Fest (Medzinárodné letecké dni) – the biggest airshow in Slovakia – has taken place every year since 2011. The 7th edition was organized for last weekend of August at Sliac airport where military and civilians operations take place.

One of the stars of SIAF 2017 was aerobatic group Al Fursan represented United Arab Emirates Air Force. The team which uses very strong and unusual colours of smoke, made his debut in Slovakia. Al Fursan came back to Europe after a three year break. The group from United Arab Emirates uses 7 Italian jet trainers, Aermacchi MB339A with the same modifications as MB339NAT used by well-known Frecce Tricolori.

One of the most important aspects of SIAF is strong support from Slovak Air Force – the main organizer. As usual, both on static and dynamic displays we could admire all kinds of aircraft used by Slovak Air Force and Slovak Army, including their new acquisition –  the UH-60 Black Hawk, which was delivered two months before airshow. For flying displays they presented two demos with Slovak jets: the MiG-29 and L-39 from squadrons based in Sliac. In addition, all Slovak Government aircraft (Airbus A319, Fokker 100, Tu-154M) were displayed doing some marvelous flypasts and it was the last chance to see the last flying Tu-154M in Slovakia. Tupolev OM-BYO in the end of September executed the last flight to Kosice airport where nearby aviation museum is located.

The Czech Air Force sent strong support this year to perform flying displays. Like last year we could see the JAS-39C Gripen and additionally demo on Mi-24(35) Hind helicopter (Alien Tiger livery) and a pair of L-159 ALCA’s. One of the L-159s had a special “Spitfire” livery to commemorate Czech war heroes who flew Spitfires during World War II.

Another participants were soloists from Turkey (Soloturk flying on F-16 C Block 40), Austria (Eurofighter Typhoon), Spain (EF-18 A Hornet) and Belgium (Agusta A-109).  The Soloturk won the Best Display Smik Trophy for the best dynamic show.  Saturday’s demonstration, just before noon, the Spanish Hornet gave superb display for aviation photographers.  Thankfully there were appropriate weather conditions for the EF-18, especially during the high speed pass, which produced plenty of vapour which resulted in spectacular photos.

The USAF participated with bomber flypasts. On Saturday the audience could watch the legendary B-52H Stratofortress which performed, unfortunately, only one flypast. The next day, instead of the B-52, another USAF bomber was presented – the B-1B, which unlike the BUFF took two passes.  Both planes flew directly from RAF Fairford (United Kingdom), and apart from SIAF, participated at the Radom Air Show (Poland) which took place at the same time.

Al Fursan was not the only group on SIAF 2017. The Croatian Air Force sent their aerobatic team Krila Oluje (Wings of Storm).  The group flies on Pilatus PC-9 turboprop trainers and this time performed on 5 planes due to minor injury one of the team members. Besides that, as usual in Sliac, the Slovak civilian group Ocovski Bacovia flying on four gliders L-23 Blanik performed.

Exclusively on Saturday we could see the largest passenger jet in the world – the Airbus A380, which flew strait from Toulouse, France without landing in Sliac. The majestic display showed the maneuverability of this beast which delighted the audience.

There were also representatives from the World War II era: the Spitfire, Yak-3 and the Great War – Pterodactyl Flight with a great show both on air and on the ground. The group flew replicas of historical machines like the Sopwith Strutter and Fokker E-III and performed a combat demonstration with some pyrotechnics.

Those are not the only civilian participants we could watch during SIAF 2017.  There were soloists from Slovakia: Dušan Šamko (Zlin Z-526), František “Frankie” Pytlík (Extra 300) and Hungarian daredevil Zoltan Veres (MXS).

The static displays were not extensive for the 2017 show, but some interesting aircraft with special liveries connected to the NATO Tiger Meet were exhibited: including the the Slovak MiG-29, German Tornado and the Spanish EF-18 Hornet which won Best Display Smik Trophy for the best static show.

Great weather, scenery around the airport, and a wonderful line-up made the SIAF 2017 very successful event. During the two day show, 150,000 visitors came to the Sliac airport, with the record of 100,000 aviation enthusiasts in the first day. Now we can only wait for next edition which will be connected with anniversary of 100 years of Czechoslovak Air Force and will take place on 1st-2nd of September 2018.

Now, we take a look ‘THROUGH THE LENS’ at SIAF 2017…

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Łukasz Lipka
Photojournalist at Aviation Photography Digest
Łukasz is an aviation enthusiast and photographer from Poland, currently living in England. He grew up near Radom Airport where the biggest Polish air show takes place, so he has been interested in aviation since the early stages of his life. He especially enjoys military aircraft but he also appreciates and is fascinated by everything that flies. At the beginning he was only watching planes. Since 2012, Łukasz has taken up aviation photography, which now is a very important part of his life. He is constantly looking to improve his skills as a photographer and photojournalist. Every year he visits military bases and air shows in the whole Europe and beyond. Łukasz uses Canon equipment.

Łukasz can be reached at: [email protected]
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