Czechoslovak Air Force exhibition in Hradec Králové

Já, UPÍR, přistání povoluji! (English: This is Vampire, you´re cleared for landing) is a temporary exhibition at the Museum of Eastern Bohemia (Muzeum východních Čech) in Hradec Králové. The display is dedicated to Czechoslovak Air Force in Hradec Králové, between the years 1945 – 1992.

There is no coincidence such exhibition was arranged in the Museum of Eastern Bohemia. In the times of socialist Czechoslovakia, Hradec Králové and the nearby Pardubice were both important air bases of the Czechoslovak Air Force.

The airfield in Hradec Králové was established in the late 1920s. During the World War II it was used by Luftwaffe training units and received its first concrete runway. After the war, the air base initially was a site of the Czechoslovak military aviation academy and then, since the late 1950s, was turned into an active combat airfield.

For more than three decades, the Hradec Králové was one of the major bases of the Czechoslovak Air Forces and a home for its fighter and bomber squadrons. It was also a subject of a few modernisations and significant upgrades.

That stage of active air base lasted until 1993, when the last Hradec Králové-based squadron was disbanded. Then the newly established Czech Air Force managed the airfield until 2003, when it was abandoned by the military and assigned to Hradec Králové municipality.

The beginnings of Pardubice airfield – located only approximately twenty-kilometres south from Hradec Králové – are very similar, apart from the fact that the first aviation activities there took place already in 1911, by Jan Kašpar. Construction works on the airfield started in the early 1930s and it was officially opened in 1932. During the war, it was initially a base for a German fighter unit flying with Messerschmitt Bf 109s and then used by Luftwaffe military aviation school and other training units.


During the post-war years, the airfield in Pardubice was used by both training and combat units of the Czechoslovak Air Force. In 1994, newly formed training unit of the Czech Air Force was established there and since the early 2000s, Pardubice are the home of Centrum leteckého výcviku (Flight Training Centre). In addition, the airfield is also being used as military transport airport, as well as reserve base for combat squadrons from Čáslav. In 1995, civil aviation activities were allowed at Pardubice and nowadays general aviation and charter flights to holiday destinations complete the list of aviation activities there.

The exhibition focused on the Czechoslovak Air Force in years 1945 – 1992 is displayed in the main building of the museum, located in the centre of Hradec Králové city. Therefore, size of the exhibits is limited to smaller items such as armament, aviation components, photos and similar artefacts. The aircraft are displayed only as scale models.

Nevertheless, the exhibition is still interesting enough that the abovementioned limitation is not a flaw. Visitors to the museum may see different kinds of aviation armament – from onboard cannons through bombs and rockets to missiles, some of them displayed as a cutaway profile. The exhibition also includes ejection seats, uniforms and G-suits, as well as onboard radar station from MiG-21.

A separate part of the display is dedicated to aviation accidents. The guests may see an original black-box from a MiG-21 fighter, a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine from a Spitfire fighter and other original elements coming from aircraft that crashed during the Czechoslovak years.

 Another section of the exhibition focuses on everyday life, showing documents and artifacts related to aviation – toys, scale models, posters and leaflets.

As it is already standard nowadays, the exhibition is supported by significant interactive section. It includes voice-recorded memories of military pilots, model of an airfield and flight simulator for the youngest visitors, as well as collection of multimedia created between 1945 and 1992 by then existing army movie section and the Czechoslovak television.

The artifacts at the exhibition originate not only from the Hradec Králové museum stock but many of them were also deposited by private collectors.

In conclusion, it can be said that the Museum of Eastern Bohemia arranged the small-sized, but still very interesting, aviation exhibition that is worth a visit. It may be especially interesting for young generation and other non-expert visitors who would like to extend their knowledge of the Czechoslovak Air Force and history of both local air bases. Items known from the books, newspapers or multimedia – such as aircraft armament, ejection seat or engines – may be seen there up close and almost touched.

Nevertheless, also aviation enthusiasts can find something interesting there, for example items as aforementioned cross-section views of aircraft missiles, or original documents from the era. Scale modellers certainly will be attracted with possibility to examine details of a MiG-15 engine or ejection seats that are including original description and name plates.

The exhibition of the Czechoslovak Air Force years in the Museum of Eastern Bohemia will be open until 23rd April 2023.

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