After an hours drive from Skavsta Airport at Nyköping we arrived to our hostel at Stockholm. As I always like to try something different I chose the Langholmen hostel, which is in fact an ex-prison converted to less sinister use these days. Langholmen was the largest Swedish prison and was in use until 1976. A fact that it had its parking lot was significant as well.
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First off a few words about this airshow. Kecskemet is located some 80kms south from Hungary’s capital Budapest. It is home to a fighter base and it’s history goes long way back. Organizers managed to organize some of the best airshows in Eastern Europe in the last decade. However this years program was a bit pale compared to previous shows. However, what they managed to accomplish was the display of Russian aerobatic team Russian Knights with the mighty Su-27 ‘Flankers’. Definitely a highlight of the day and the reason why so many people attended the show and waited till the end. Hungary being a rather flat country, when the weather heats up, it stays that way until the next major weather change – and we were “lucky” to attend the show right in the middle of the heat wave that still burns most of central Europe at the moment. Upon arrival at 8am, the outside temperature was already at 33C while during the day it rose to around 40C – in the shade which led to another problem – there was none of it. Press representative cars went through a thorough check I have never experienced before at the airshow anywhere in the world, which involved even a K9 check of the car.
A few water sprinklers for several tens of thousands of people were simply not enough and the water tanks that were placed around the airfield were emptied in an instance. The rare arrivals of water tank trucks reminded me of “The Living Dead” scenes, where people were walking numb behind the truck like a bunch of zombies waiting for a bite of fresh human flesh. To top it all, as I understood the water was not drinkable, yet most of the visitors were forced to ignore this warning as the fear of dehydration was far worse and I had to admit, even I resorted to it, drinking about 1.5L of that water (of more than 6L that day total) without consequences. What troubled me the most was the lack of any information in the language other than Hungarian. Claiming to be an international airshow, I would expect at least some warning or directional signs in English or at least German language, but to no avail. Another problem was if you arrived without their local Forint currency. Even if you were prepared to pay double for a bottle of water, they wouldn’t take the money. I’ve heard of some non-profit vendors like local museums, that if they wanted to participate at the show, they had to pay unreasonable amounts of fee and therefore most if not all of them refused to participated so beside’s the flying display and a few static aircraft, there was not much to see at the show. While the show was unfolding by the schedule, in the afternoon the slipping started, some unannounced aircraft appeared (some biplanes and a C-17 that flew in, probably from Papa airbase) and longer intervals between the displays meant that by the time of Russian Knights display, there was already more than 1 hour of delay and the sun was getting quite low already. Even Hungarian Air Force is just a shadow of its former glory – Fulcrums and Hinds were retired in the recent years and during the opening flypast, only Gripens, An-26, Mi-17 and a couple of ancient Yak-52s performed.
To conclude this summary – it was not all bad, despite the many shortcomings and as I understand this was a new team of organizers so I expect they will improve until the next show. Despite the massive heat, which was obviously out of control, the displays were nice, light was great for photography most of the day, and the evening Russian Knights display made it worthwhile barbequing all day in the middle of Hungary.
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