Aerobatic masters and a lot more exciting displays – Aviation Fair 2023

On the last weekend of May 2023, the Pardubice airfield once again hosted the Aviation Fair (Aviatická pouť) air show. It was already the 31st edition of the biggest civilian aviation event in the Czech Republic that, as usual, was marked by great atmosphere of aviation festival, offering a broad range of static and dynamic displays.

The Aviation Fair is organized for more than three decades now and every single year it attracts tens of thousands of visitors from the Czech Republic and abroad. Over the years, the show became famous for its combined formula that merges the flying performances with simultaneous ground displays by reenactors and related to years the historical aeroplane was in regular service.

As every year, the programme of the Aviation Fair 2023 chronicled the aviation history, from its pioneering years to modern military jet aircraft. Visitors to the event could enjoy five and a half hours of flying displays that included replicas of aeroplanes from the Great War, iconic aircraft of the interwar period, warbirds of the World War II, modern helicopters and training aeroplanes, as well as military aircraft from the current inventory of the Czech Air Force.

Nevertheless, they were aerobatic pilots and their aircraft that earned the privilege to become the icon of the 31st Aviation Fair. Although aerobatic displays always were among the highlights of the Pardubice air show, the 2023 year´s list of Aviation Fair participants included even more world-class aviators, widely known for their amazing stunts and aerobatic performance.

Polish aerobatic pilot, Łukasz ´Luke´ Czepiela, was among the stars of the 2023 edition of the show. On 14th March 2023, he went down in aviation history by landing an aircraft on a helipad of Burj Al Arab Jumeirah hotel in Dubai. It was the recent, but not only, aviation stunt made by Czepiela who is known for breaking aviation records and pushing beyond the boundaries (click here to learn more about Łukasz Czepiela and his stunts).

Łukasz Czepiela, Aviation Fair 2023

At the Aviation Fair 2023, Czepiela performed a dynamic flying display with his already famous STOL aircraft, Carbon Club EX, he used for his incredible stunts. Czepiela´s performance in Pardubice was related to his helipad stunt in Dubai and included a sharp take-off and extremely short landing. The Carbon Club EX was also a part of the static display where it attracted dozens of aviation enthusiasts.

Martin Šonka, the famous Czech aerobatic pilot and World Champion of the former Red Bull Air Race series, belongs to regular participants of the Aviation Fair. Over the past years, Šonka presented in Pardubice a broad range of displays, flew with a few different aircraft.

This time, his performance at the Pardubice air show included a new dynamic display flew  with Šonka´s own aerobatic special, Extra 300SR, and based on his freestyle set used at aerobatic championships. Additionally, he also flew  the second display, this time at the controls of Z-142C training aircraft. That aeroplane is used on daily basis by Centrum leteckého výcviku (Flight Training Centre – CLV) in Pardubice. For many years, Martin Šonka is working for that company as flight instructor, training there the new military pilots.

Petr Kopfstein was another Czech aerobatic pilot – and also a former participant of the Red Bull Air Race series – that showcased his skills to the Aviation Fair spectators. During the show, he performed the aerobatic display with his Edge 540 but also an interesting race against Ferrari 458 Italia, especially tuned for extreme speed performance.

Another famous participant of the 2023 Aviation Fair was Lithuanian aviator, Jurgis Kairys. During his nearly fifty-year-long aerobatic career, Kairys stood three times on the podium of European Championships and seven times earned a medal of World Championships in Freestyle and Unlimited class. In addition, he has also received numerous awards for his achievements in other aerobatic competitions.

A smiley, painted in the sky by Jurgis Kairys

Over the years, Jurgis Kairys has developed his own distinctive style of flying. He is also the godfather and co-founder of AirBandits group, within which he performs joint displays with a formation of Yak-52 aerobatic trainers.

In Pardubice, Kairys performed an amazing aerobatic display with his no less famous aircraft, Sukhoi Su-31 (click here for even more information about the pilot and his aircraft).

Felix Baumgartner is known worldwide as the man who did a free fall from the edge of space. On 14th October 2012, he skydived from the stratosphere, jumping out of a capsule lifted into the air by a helium balloon. That incredible stunt made Baumgartner the first man to break the sound barrier in free fall, with the speed of approximately 1,357.64 kph (Mach 1.25) he achieved during the fall. In addition, he also set the world record for skydiving of thirty-nine kilometres.

During the Aviation Fair 2023, Felix Baumgartner performed an outstanding aerobatic display with Bo 105 C helicopter. That aircraft is one of only a few rotorcraft allowed to fly aerobatic manoeuvres, as well as the first helicopter in the world capable of performing inverted loop. And exactly that manoeuvre was a highlight of Baumgartner´s daring and incredible display he flew in Pardubice.

Finally yet importantly, there was the well-known Czech group, the Flying Bulls Aerobatics Team. This time, due to technical reasons, the team flew with only two aircraft formation, commonly known as the Flying Bulls Duo. The XA 42 aerobatic specials were flown by Jan Rudzinskyj and Stanislav Čejka, who delighted the spectators with thrillingly beautiful performance. In addition, the display was also a good way to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Flying Bulls Duo.

Contemporary military aircraft are another spectator-beloved category of flying displays. This year, the modern combat aviation at the Aviation Fair was presented by the Czech Air Force (CzAF) that also belongs to regular participants of the show.

Mil Mi-24V, Czech Air Force

The military part of the flying programme began with a flypast of two JAS-39 Gripen fighters that were followed by search-and-rescue display flew by W-3A Sokół helicopter. And once again, demonstration of the SAR procedures was merged with presentation of the W-3A capabilities, resulting in another breath taking show that was awarded by cheers and applause of the spectators.

Another rotorcraft display was flown by Mi-24V of the CzAF. It was also a farewell of the famous ´flying tank´ with Pardubice and the Aviation Fair, as that type of attack helicopter was being retired from active service in the Czech Republic in 2023 (check our article from June of 2023 for more details on the Mi-24 service and retirement).

The Mi-24 farewell display in Pardubice was performed by probably the best known example of that helicopter in Europe – the so-called Alien Tiger. This special painting was made for NATO Tiger Meet 2016 that was held in Zaragoza, Spain – and was the winner of the ´Best Painted Tiger Aircraft´ trophy there. This remarkable aircraft livery design was created by Jan and Josef Rükr, and was inspired by the biomechanical style of Hans Ruedi Gigern, the Swiss painter whom works were the basic for making the Alien movie creature.

The solo display of JAS-39 Gripen fighter was another performance of modern combat aircraft included in the programme of the 2023 Aviation Fair. Capabilities of the Gripen aeroplane were showcased by the CzAF display pilot, Captain Ondřej Španko and his performance was warmly welcomed by the air show audience.

What´s more, the aforementioned displays were not the only military performances at the 31st Aviation Fair. As usual, the flying display programme included a few displays flew  by already mentioned CLV. The military flying school from Pardubice showcased not only their current inventory – such as Mil Mi-17 and Enstrom 480B helicopters, Aero L-39 Albatros jet trainer – but also C-11 historical aeroplane. The latter was a Czech variant of Yakovlev Yak-11 training aircraft, manufactured under license in LET Kunovice between 1953 and 1956. In 2018, the C-11 was restored by LOM Praha, the parent company of CLV, and since then is the regular participant of domestic aviation events (click here for more information about that aircraft).

LET C-11 (Yak-11), CLV

In addition, the CzAF and CLV aircraft could be seen at dedicated military sector of the static display. The air force exhibition included the Mi-24V and Aero L-159 ALCA, while the CLV showcased the Mi-17, the Enstrom 480B, the Zlín Z-142C, L-410UVP, L-39 Albatros and Evektor EV-97 Eurostar. Moreover, the main static display included two more aircraft from the CzAF inventory – the W-3A and CASA C-295M.

As mentioned above, the programme of the 31st Aviation Fair offered a few flying displays performed by historical aircraft and warbirds. They included two de Havilland DH.82 Tiger Moth biplanes, Miles Magister training aeroplane, Lockheed Model 12 Electra Junior airliner, AT-6C Harvard and Zlín Z-381 trainers, as well as Polikarpov Po-2 (U-2) biplane.

Traditionally, in the programme of flying displays of the Aviation Fair, the aircraft from Hangar 7 in Salzburg could not be missed. In 2023, the Flying Bulls aviation collection was represented by F4U-4 Corsair, B-25J Mitchell and P-38L Lightning. The warbirds were accompanied by two helicopters, the aforementioned Bo 105 C and Bell 209/AH-1F Cobra combat rotorcraft.

The 31st Aviation Fair was also marked by the first public flying display of P-51D ´Little Rebel´ in the Czech Republic. The aircraft was a recent addition to the aviation collection of Hangar 3 / Classic Trainers association Plzeň-Líně airfield (click here for detailed history of that aeroplane) and the show performed by Dan Griffith in Pardubice was the premiere air show presentation of that Mustang, since its arrival to the Czech Republic, at the beginning of May 2023.

The list of flying displays performed by historical aircraft was concluded by the biplanes. Firstly, there was a solo performance of Bücker 133 Jungmeister, followed by a formation of three aircraft. It included two CASA 1.131s and one Aero C-104S – all being derivatives of Bücker Bü 131 Jungmann, famous German trainer from the 1930s – as well as two variants of Stearman /Boeing Model 75, American training biplane from the same era.

Aero C-104S

There is no Aviation Fair without replicas of historical aircraft and the 2023 edition was no exception of the rule. As usual, the air show was officially opened with a display flew by Blériot XI, the replica of aeroplane inextricably linked with Pardubice and history of the Czech aviation (check our article from February of 2024 for more details).

The Great War aerial warfare was presented in a dynamic and eye-catching show performed by a group of airworthy replicas of famous aeroplanes from the era. It included Aviatik Berg D.I, Nieuport 12 and 17, Morane-Saulnier BB, Fokker D.VIII and Pfalz E.I. In addition, their outstanding performance in the air was complemented by re-enacting display on the ground.

Last but not least, the visitors to the Pardubice airfield could see yet one more remarkable rotorcraft performance. It was just another spectacular show flew  by Dan Tuček of the DSA company and his Eurocopter AS350 B3e Écureuil.

The flying programme of the 31st Aviation Fair was concluded by another extraordinary display, performed by Let Z-37A Čmelák cropduster, with Radek Klimeš at its controls. It was, in a way, an aerobatic show of its own kind that showcased amazing capabilities of that iconic agricultural aeroplane, as well as outstanding skills of its pilot.

In addition to the aforementioned flying displays the visitors to the Pardubice airfield could enjoy the static exhibition of aircraft. It included most of the aeroplanes and helicopters that performed the dynamic displays with addition of a few more interesting exhibits, such as ŠK-1 Trempík amateur-built aircraft, Zlín Z-226MS Trenér, Focke-Wulf Fw 44 Stieglitz, Stinson Reliant, Noorduyn AT-16 Harvard II and North American T-6G Texan.

ŠK-1 Trempík amateur-built aircraft

As you may know, the Aviation Fair means not only the static and dynamic aviation displays. Similarly to previous editions, the show included captivating exhibition of the Czech Army that showcased in Pardubice several examples of its current and historical inventory – Dingo armoured vehicle, special-operations tailored Land Rover, main battle tank T-72, BVP-1 armoured carrier, modern ambulance vehicles, as well as L-29 Delfín training cockpit and control panels from various variants of MiG-21 fighter aircraft. In addition, there was also the latest Czech-made military ´bestseller´, an inflatable tank decoy developed by Inflatech Decoys.

The visitors to the Pardubice airfield could also enjoy exhibition of classic cars, visit historical military camp built and operated by re-enactors, see fire-fighting and police vehicles, as well as check a broad range of stands with presentation of various associations, foundations and aero clubs.

For the second time, the Aviation Fair was merged with so-called Air Food Festival that offered huge and varied number of stands with food and drinks. Last but not least, there were plenty of attractions focused on children, as well as several sales stands with (not only) aviation souvenirs.

Contrary to the changeable spring weather that marked the previous edition of the event, this time both air show days were hot and sunny. That, in turn, had a very positive impact on number of visitors that was noticeably bigger than in 2022.

The upcoming edition of Aviation Fair air show will take on 1st and 2nd June 2024. Organizers of the show already disclosed some highlights of the air show programme that is going to include Martin Šonka aerobatic display, presentation of the Aviation Fair Squadron, including its recently acquired replica of the Blériot XI, as well as displays flown by the CLV aircraft, Royal Jordanian Falcons and the Flying Bulls Aerobatic Team.

More images from the Aviation Fair 2023: