European air show season kickoff at Plasy – Den ve vzduchu 2023

During the last weekend of April, Den ve vzduchu, the traditional aviation event of the West Bohemia region, had returned to Plasy airfield after an annual break. As usual, the show brought two days of fun and joy, including more than two hours of awesome flying displays.

Den ve vzduchu (English: Day in the air) is the biggest aviation event in the West Bohemia and traditionally opens the air show season in the Czech Republic. Similarly to other events of that kind, Den ve vzduchu is not only an aviation show but includes also a broad range of side events and displays, therefore offering for whole families an interesting day to be spent at the airfield.

Just like last year, the event started in the morning hours, with several activities focused on the youngest visitors. At the same time, their parents and aviation enthusiasts had the opportunity to watch aircraft arriving to Plasy. It should be noted here that Den ve vzduchu allows the visitors to fly in with their own aircraft, therefore the arrivals include not only the air show participants but also a variety of sport and light aeroplanes from the entire Czech Republic.

And, similarly as the participants, the visitors´ aircraft are lined up next to the public area and available to be seen up close. It must be admitted that several attractive aeroplanes could be found among them this year. The list includes Spacek SD-1 Minisport, ultralight, amateur-built aeroplane; Piper PA-28-180 Cherokee, the fourth most-produced aircraft in history of aviation; Loehle 5151 Mustang, ¾ scale replica of the famous World War II fighter; de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver; Czech Aircraft SportCruiser, modern light aeroplane manufactured in the Czech Republic; autogyros and powered Rogallo wings.

The morning hours at the airfield belonged to firefighters from Plzeň Region. The local fire brigade performed a series of interesting and dynamic displays, including a simulation of rescue procedures during car accident, cooperation with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, as well as presentation of articulation platform truck with rope rescue display. Near midday, the central display area was taken over by the police. The K-9 team performed several dynamic displays focused on drug prevention and various detention procedures.

PZL W-3A Sokół, Czech Air Force

Flying displays started in the afternoon, with performance of Polikarpov Po-2, the famous Soviet multirole biplane from the World War II era. In fact, we should say U-2, as that particular example was manufactured in 1937, a few years before the change of the aeroplane official designation. The aircraft, worldwide known by its nickname ´Kukuruznik´, was produced between 1929 and 1952. Although initially developed as training biplane, the Po-2 was then used as ground attack aircraft, light bomber, reconnaissance and liaison aeroplane, as well as for psychological warfare and crop dusting.

In Plasy, the Po-2 crew performed the impressive display, including several low-passes over the runway and elements of ground attack mission – with simulated live-fire of submachine gun performed from the back seat.

The Po-2 was followed by another legendary aeroplane, Lockheed L-10A Electra. The aircraft, on daily basis being a part of aviation collection at Točná Airport, is not only closely related to Czechoslovak history but also the sole airworthy example of the L-10A in the world. Full history of that particular aeroplane, as well as role that the L-10 Electra played in aviation history can be found in our previous articles – L-10A Electra / Amelia Earhart.

The following display was flown by PZL W-3A Sokół (English: falcon) helicopter of the Czech Air Force. Without any doubts – and similarly to previous edition – it was one of the best and breath-taking performances at Den ve vzduchu air show. The W-3A flown two separate displays, the first was a presentation of fire-fighting mission with water drop from ´bambi bucket´ attached to external sling of the helicopter. Then, at the end of the day, the second, even more dynamic and awesome display of search and rescue mission, was again performed by the W-3A crew.

That energetic and forceful helicopter display was followed by a completely different kind of aviation performance. Quiet, but dignified and elegant, that could be say about the aerobatic show flown by Schleicher ASK 21, two-seat glider with a characteristic T-shaped tail.

U-2 / Polikarpov Po-2

Next, another aircraft belonging to the Točná collection took over the skies in Plasy. This time it was the famous trainer from the World War II era, North American AT-6C Harvard.  Used by the USAAF, the US Navy, the RAF and other air forces of Commonwealth countries, the T-6 Texan (also known as AT-6, SNJ or Harvard, depending on its operator) was a popular military training aircraft that remained in active service until the 1970s. Then it became a no-less popular warbird, that could be also seen in many movies, playing a role of a real combat aeroplane.

The aircraft based at Točna was manufactured in 1942 for the US Navy, as SNJ-4. In 1952, the aeroplane was converted into Harvard version and sold to the South African Air Force.

The sound of Pratt and Whitney engine still echoed over the airfield when another aircraft with its history related to the World War II took-off from the Plasy runway. This time it was a modern replica of Piper J-3/L-4 Cub, the American light aircraft manufactured between 1938 and 1947. The aeroplane, officially known as Mara Wing Piper L-4U, was built by Czech aviation enthusiast and aircraft developer, Petr Mára.

One of Czechoslovak iconic aeroplanes, Mráz M-1D Sokol (English: falcon), performed the next flying display at Den ve vzduchu 2023. The M-1 was the first Czechoslovak aircraft developed and manufactured after the World War II. It was produced between 1946 and 1950, with almost 300 examples of the aeroplane built. Nevertheless, just a few of them survived until today in airworthy condition and are among the rarest participants of aviation events.

Although the Blanix Team is well known to any aviation enthusiast, they never performed at Plasy airfield before. Their premiere show there was eagerly awaited by the air show spectators and it should be emphasized that the amazing performance of two L-13 Blaník gliders brought them no disappointment. It was merely another elegant and majestic display that, despite the lack of usual sound of aviation engines, could be followed with bated breath.

Mara Wing Piper L-4U

The Blanix Team was followed by another premiere performance – the display flown by Bell AH-1S Cobra attack helicopter. The rotorcraft is owned by HeliCzech company based in Hradec Králové and is a quite frequent participant of domestic aviation events. Nevertheless, the spectacular performance and characteristic sound of that legendary helicopter always belongs among highlights of any air show it appears. Den ve vzduchu was no exception from that rule and presentation of that rotorcraft was one of the best displays that could be seen during this year´s edition of the event.

The high-powered Cobra display was followed by another rotorcraft, although of completely different role and design. That´s because Guimbal Cabri G2 helicopter that was the next to perform at Plasy airfield, belongs to light helicopter category and is powered by Lycoming O-360-J2 piston engine, generating 145 hp – less than a tenth of power generated by Lycoming T53-L-703 turboshaft engine used in the AH-1S.

Nevertheless, the small two-seat Cabri G2 performed another attractive display, flying a different routine than its predecessor. Major part of its display was flown in the central runway area in front of the spectators, much lower than the Cobra and with presentation of exceptional manoeuvrability of that small rotorcraft.

Over the next couple of minutes, the skies over Plasy belonged to the Czech Air Force and its JAS-39C jets. The pair of Gripen fighters performed two flypasts over the runway, enthusiastically greeted by the crowd of spectators.

The roar of jet engines was then followed by another characteristic sound, this time generated by Extra 300SR aerobatic special. It meant the time has come for another spectacular and breath-taking performance – the display flown by Czech aerobatic champion, Martin Šonka.

Last year, Martin Šonka performed at Plasy with the newest variant of the aeroplane, Extra NG. This time, he arrived with the well-known Extra 300SR but completely new display. All in all, it was a delightful and magnetic show, perfectly performed by renowned world aerobatic champion.

Martin Šonka / Extra 300SR

Martin Šonka´s performance was followed by the aforementioned, the second display flown by the W-3A rotocraft.

The flying displays during the 2023 edition of Den ve vzduchu were concluded by another amazing aerobatic performance, the display flown by the Flying Bulls Aerobatics Team. Four XA42 aircraft of the team are being based in Jaroměř and are among the best aerobatic formations in the world.

In 2020, the team celebrated its 60th anniversary. In the beginning, the group was known as ´Box Trener´ or ´Sky Box´ and was flying with Zlín Trenér and Zlín Z-50 aircraft. In 2014, the XA42 was introduced into the team.

It should be also added that all abovementioned aircraft were not the only ones that could be seen flying over the Plasy airfield. During the day, excluding the time of official flying displays, sightseeing flights were offered for everyone. They were performed by GA aeroplanes, such as Cessna 172S or Zlín Z-42, but also by two MD 500E helicopters of the HeliCzech company. That offer was met with a very warm reception of the air show visitors and all the aircraft, especially the rotorcraft, tirelessly worked until the evening.

In summary, the 2023 edition of Den ve vzduchu offered the great aviation experience for any aviation enthusiast. The show offered an attractive range of displays, from military aircraft, through historical aeroplanes to modern aerobatic specials and gliders. Although the show included a few regular participants, it was also extended with some interesting new displays and aircraft that are not so often seen at similar aviation events. In addition, Den ve vzduchu offered an intriguing journey through aviation by the aforementioned mix of categories and origin of participating aircraft.

Attractiveness of the show was also confirmed by its spectators. During the two days of the event, the Plasy airfield was visited by almost 15,000 people.

More images from Den ve vzduchu 2023: