Radom’s Superlative 2013 Air Show
Radom is a city a little more than an hour’s drive south of Warsaw, Poland. On the southeastern edge of town is the Radom-Sadkow airport; home to a Polish Air Force training base. Originally built in the late 1920s as Poland’s first civilian pilot training field, today it houses Poland’s 42nd Aviation Base School, instructing fledgling aviators on PZL-130 turboprop airframes. Every other year, the base plays host to an international air show; this year’s 13th edition of the air show was nothing short of spectacular. The August 24-25 weekend saw a frenzy of activity not normally seen overhead the airport.
Poland has a rather robust aviation manufacturing industry, with companies aligned as subsidiaries of global corporations such as Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, EADS CASA, and Augusta Westland. Polish designers have fielded a number of fixed wing and helicopter designs over the years that have been produced locally for Polish civil and military operators; many models received export orders too. This year there were multiple new helicopter designs on display on the ground and in the air, hoping to garner future orders The Radom air show is an excellent opportunity to witness the past, present and future of Polish aviation, especially from a military and government point of view. All of the Polish armed forces display their equipment, both in the air and on the ground, and other government agencies like the national police forces are represented too.
The air show invited a large number of European military display teams, and a smaller group of local civilian aviators, to display their flying prowess. The producers, in an after-action media review, stated that the show presented a staggering 13 military demonstration teams, and 26 soloists. Some were full-blown multi-jet acrobatic teams, others were short aircraft handling demonstrations, but equally entertaining. Over 220 aircraft participated in the show on the ground and in the air, attracting 180,000 spectators. Flying began at 9AM as the gates opened to throngs of eager attendees; many were still watching at sunset, 11 hours later as the final acts were completing their routines at 8PM. That’s right, eleven hours of flying, with only 30 minutes of non-flying ceremonies just before noontime each day. During the flying displays, as one act landed, another was already in position to depart, through a deftly-planned choreography of ground and aerial control personnel.
There were highlights galore. The Polish military presented a 45 aircraft parade as the mid-day ceremonies ended, which included formations of trainers, transports, helicopters and fighter jets. Radom airport’s ramp space was so packed that many of these aircraft departed from nearby bases to take part in the review. There was a great deal of variety of aircraft types and aviator techniques in the air throughout the day. Even the larger jet teams had different styles to their presentations. Many used decoy flares during their routines, adding to the creativity. Photographers had a field day with the many aircraft carrying special color schemes for various anniversaries and benchmarks, or for just “showing the flag” of its home country. The show was a great opportunity for non-European spectators to view seldom seen Warsaw Pact aircraft designs in the air too. One very satisfying opportunity at the show allowed maximum visibility for all but the largest of performers. Aircraft were parked at either end of the single runway, and had to taxi past the crowd either going to the runway, or returning to their parking space after flying. Spectators and pilots could make eye-to-eye contact less than 100 feet away from each other due to the proximity of the taxiway.
Afterwards, the organizers acknowledged that the show was most likely the largest event of its kind in Poland. Their methods of planning and execution will be used again, not only for their next air show, but by military planners before upcoming large-scale exercises too. It was a great weekend that showcased Poland’s aviation communities (civilian and military), and provided spectators with an enormous amount of flying excitement.