Gary Watson reports on Brno's CIAF 2007, held over 8-9 September
If you are looking for a very good military airshow that is well presented and easy to get to, how about the one held in the Czech Republic at Brno, just south of Prague, reached in around one-and-a-half hours from Stansted by means of a well-known outfit called Ryanair. We flew out on the Friday, had all day there Saturday and saw most of Sunday's show until around 15:00, when we made our way to check-in for the trip home at 17:00, so there's loads of time to take in what's on offer.
When you land at Brno, to get into the city and your hotel, there are two ways of getting there. One is a taxi, which takes around fifteen minutes at around six quid; or rough it like we did for twenty-five pence on the bus and get to know the locals, who are very pleasant people. The tribe I went with was booked into the four-star Hotel Grand Brno, right where you need to be for an early ride up to the airport for the airshow.
If you go by bus, you need to get a bus ticket from the newsagent kiosk in the airport terminal - if you don't pay and you get caught by inspectors, they can come down heavy on you... The bus runs every twenty minutes and drops you opposite the Grand Hotel; you also actually get a seat, which is a good start because the locals start boarding en-mass further along the route.
For show days, the desk at the hotel sells the bus tickets, so it's pretty easy. Once at the airshow, you pay just over £6 to enter - programmes are obviously in Czech, but have some nice shots and you get a show timetable which runs pretty much to time. As Brno is also a civilian airport, it continues to operate during the airshow, but it didn't cause any bother it seemed.
The flying programme is well presented and has an airfield attack by L159s with lots of pyrotechnics; the latest fighter of the Czech Air Force, the JAS39 Gripen, was much in evidence too, but we thought the 'Man of the match' was the Slovak Air Force Mig-29AS. There were aerobatic teams in the form of the Breitling Jet team, which was great to see with their blue and yellow L39s. Rubbing shoulders with them were the Galeb G-2 'Stars' team, who were enjoyable to watch and smart looking too, as were the Mi-24V Hind attack helicopters that prowled around during the show. Red Bull air-race star Peter Besenyei chucked his Extra 300S about and certainly captured the crowd's attention.
But the real treat for us was the static line-up - heavies included a B-1B Lancer and C-17A Globemaster, the Greek Air Force sent a Texan II which rubbed shoulders with the likes of a single-seater MiG-29A from Slovakia and twin-seater MiG-29UB from Hungary. The French Air Force sent two Mirage F1s, a single and two-seat version of this ageing Dassault design. The pilots of two F-15E Eagles from the 'Panthers', the 494th Fighter Squadron from Lakenheath, were happy to talk to the public and gave a good account of themselves, as did the Tornado boys and girls from XIII Squadron at Marham, who seemed pleased and surprised how many Brits were at the show.
Best of all there was no 'Ron's Burger Bar' parked in the background like at many airshows in the UK - just a fence as a backdrop, and very few hi-viz jackets walking about. That's not to say there wasn't loads of food available to eat and plenty to drink to bridge the energy-gap. Although the weekend was mainly overcast, we all came away happy and will return next year on 6-7 September, so see you there?