Lotnicza Majówka Iława 2019 – the aviation show small in size, but big at its soul

On May the 11th in Iława, a city in the Warmia-Masuria region of Poland, another edition of Lotnicza Majówka Iława (May Aviation Picnic of Iława) took place. That was one of the opening events of this year’s air show season in Poland. It was also the very important event for us, because it was the first air show we visited as Afterburner – The Aviation Magazine.

Lotnicza Majówka in Iława had debuted three years ago, in 2017, and immediately draw attention not only among the local inhabitants, but also among aviation enthusiast from all over Poland. There are few things that make this event unusual – the venue, where the air show takes place and offered attractions, when compared to the scale of this event.

Lotnicza Majówka is organized on a shore of the picturesque Lake Jeziorak, the longest lake in Poland, and it is what makes the difference, as air shows organized by the water are not exactly popular in Poland. In addition to Lotnicza Majówka, there are only three other events organized near the water: Mazury Air Show, with the lake location; Płocki Piknik Lotniczy (Płock Aviation Picnic) on the Vistula river – after a few years gap, this event will be reactivated in 2019 – and Aerobaltic in Gdynia, on coast of the Baltic sea.

One of the vintage stars of the event – Boeing N2S-3 Stearman

The second factor attracting the aviation enthusiasts to Iława is the varied programme of this small-scale aviation show, that offers the visitors many displays usually reserved for much larger and well-known air shows. Starting with its very first edition in 2017, Lotnicza Majówka every year provides the wide range of aircraft – from ultralight aeroplanes, floatplanes and flying boats, through vintage biplanes and warbirds, helicopters, aerobatic aircraft, to military supersonic jets. Additionally, this offer is not limited to the Polish-based aircraft, but also the foreign participants could be seen at the display area over Lake Jeziorak.

As already mentioned, the show is organized on the lakeshore and even just for the reason of this uniqueness there is no usual aircraft static display there. That doesn’t mean, however, the flying displays are the only attraction there. Certainly, as everywhere else, there are many stands with food and souvenirs, but it is important to point all those aviation-related and interesting exhibitions available in the show area. In short – Lotnicza Majówka Iława is an air show small at its size, but with the great spirit. And the current edition was, again, proving it.

On 11th May 2019, the day of the event, a large crowd of local inhabitants and the aviation fans from all over the country gathered on the shore of the charming Lake Jeziorak – a little impatient and excited to witness another aviation experience after the long winter break. And once again, the organizers of the air show did not disappoint their expectations, as the offered display programme was interesting and sufficiently well diversified.

Undoubtedly, the greatest star of the current edition of Iława show was Jurgis Kairys, the Lithuanian aerobatic master-class pilot, a multiple world and European aerobatic champion. Already being one of the well-known and admired aerobatic pilots in Poland, Kairys again performed the fantastic display, flying his radial engine powered Sukhoi Su-31.

Łukasz Czepiela – one of the best Polish aerobatic pilots and the first (and so far, the only) Polish pilot competing in the Red Bull Air Race, and the winner of the race Challenger Cup championship in 2018 – was another participant of the air show. The spectators gathered at the Jeziorak shore could enjoy watching his aerobatic skills during the display Czepiela flown with his Zivko Edge 540 painted in the Red Bull livery. The aircraft is very similar to the race special used during the Red Bull competition and the fun fact is that Czepiela nick-named his aeroplane ´Edward´.

Łukasz Czepiela and ‘Edward’ in action

A further great flying experience to be mentioned was performed by Maria Muś, helicopter pilot and member of the Polish National Helicopter Team. She could be seen in Iława flying the display with her Bölkow Bo 105 helicopter and, in view of the fact that Muś is flying the helicopter aerobatic in just the two last years, her displays are becoming increasingly better and more exciting one after another.

While on aerobatics, another participant from abroad should not be forgotten – The Flying Bulls Aerobatic Team from Czech Republic, which is another well-known aerobatic group in Poland, and widely appreciated by Polish spectators. The team performed a fantastic display, enjoyed by the visitors, flying their Red Bull logoed, silver-red-blue XA-42 aeroplanes.

Two more teams were also seen in Iława – however not purely aerobatic ones – the Cellfast Flying Team from Krosno, flying three Morane Rallye aeroplanes (in three different variants, MS-880B, MS-883 and MS-893A), and The Flying Dragons, the group of seven powered paraglider pilots flying in formation. Those paraglides were, definitely, the lightest aircraft seen during the air show, and the formation display experience was increased by the smoke system they used.

As in the previous editions of Lotnicza Majówka, several vintage aircraft could be seen in Iława this year. Starting with Yak-3U R2000 ´Czech Ride´, the Reno Air Races veteran from 1990s and currently the most powerful and the fastest piston engine powered aeroplane in Poland, in the display flown by one of its owners, Piotr Kowalski (if you would like to learn more about this aircraft and read the story told by the Yak-3U owners, please read our interview with them). Then the famous Boeing N2S-3 Stearman followed, often considered as the most beautiful biplane ever made. This 1941 made training aircraft is, at this moment, the only airworthy Stearman in Poland.

Yak-3U R-2000 ‘Czech Ride’ scorching over the Lake Jeziorak

Among the other participants of Lotnicza Majówka 2019 were Hatz Classic (another beautiful biplane, the construction that was inspired by WACO aeroplanes), Midget Mustang (a really small, single-seat aeroplane, painted as the Supermarine Spitfire used by Jan Zumbach, the World War II fighter ace from No. 303 /Polish/ Squadron RAF), all-yellow Aviat Husky floatplane and ultralight flying boat Super Petrel.

Considering that it was only the third edition of the Iława air show, there was an interesting and diverse presentation of the Polish armed forces there. In 2019 the military participation included Mi-17 and W-3 ´Sokół´ helicopters from the 25th Air Cavalry Brigade from Tomaszów Mazowiecki, W-3RM ‘Anakonda’ helicopter from the Naval Aviation Brigade from Gdynia, as well as Mi-24W from the 56th Combat Helicopters Regiment from Inowrocław. It’s worth noting, that the mentioned Mi-17 helicopter was operated by the Polish Navy until March 2019, when it was withdrawn from the service in the 43rd Air Base of Naval Aviation in Gdynia and assigned to the 25th Air Cavalry Brigade.  However, in Iława, we still could see this aircraft in the Naval Aviation livery and signage. The helicopters were also ‘supported’ by the Polish Air Force and the display of Sukhoi Su-22M4 ´Fitter´ from the 21st Tactical Air Base in Świdwin.

As mentioned earlier, Lotnicza Majówka Iława, is the event not limited to the flying displays only. Each year, there is a number of aviation or armed forces-related exhibitions arranged there. And there are the few interesting examples to be mentioned, starting with a museum exhibition.

The Muzeum 303 (Lt. Col. Jan Zumbach museum), paying tribute to the history of the famous No. 303 (Polish) Squadron RAF, presented the uniforms and equipment used by the pilots and the ground crew from No. 303 Squadron, their personal badges, medals, documents and other belongings. Furthermore, just few steps away from their stand, the visitors could see a beautiful Aston Martin, painted as Supermarine Spitfire with code letters RF-D – that was flown by Jan Zumbach, one of the Polish leading air aces during the war. The car is the museum’s another, quite unique way, to promote their activity and commemorate the Polish World War II pilots. The Muzeum 303 is also the owner of the aforementioned Midget Mustang aeroplane.

Husky landing on the surface of the Lake Jeziorak

The ground exhibition of the Polish armed forces offered the possibility to see the presentation of uniforms, light arms and vehicles, with ´DANA´ (a 152mm self-propelled howitzer model 77) and WR-40 ´Langusta´ (self-propelled multiple rocket launcher) among them. The vehicles as well as most part of the other mentioned equipment were provided by the 20th Armoured Infantry Brigade from Bartoszyce and the 11th Masurian Artillery Regiment from Węgorzewo.

And, finally, the statement that there was no static display in Iława turned out to be only a partially true, thanks to Maria Muś and her trick to land the Bo 105 on a temporary landing pad at front of Grand Hotel Tiffi (the air show headquarters), that allowed the visitors of the show to see this helicopter up close. Additionally, there was a possibility to purchase a sightseeing flight over Jeziorak and beautiful countryside of Iława with Robinson R44 helicopter – and it should be said, that this opportunity was appreciated by many visitors.

Finally, it should be emphasised that Lotnicza Majówka Iława offers not only the flying displays and the mentioned exhibitions, but also there is a possibility to meet with some interesting people there. This year, apart from the participating pilots and their teams, three unique, aviation-related persons visited the air show, and first of them was Mirosław Hermaszewski – Brigadier General (retired) of Polish Air Force and until today the only Polish cosmonaut. In 1978 he spent almost eight days on board the Salyut 6 space station, flying to space with Belarussian Pyotr Klimuk, on board the Soviet Soyuz 30.

The second special guest was Tadeusz Sznuk, a famous and popular radio journalist, TV presenter and movie voice actor. Being also a pilot, he became a legendary air show commentator, performing the commentary in his own, unique style. It is said, that he is the best pilot among journalists and the best journalist among pilots in Poland.

Mi-17 from the 25th Air Cavalry Brigade

And last but not least there was Witold Sokół among the special guests in Iława – the former MiG-29 pilot in Polish Air Force (including the MiG-29 solo display in 2003-2005), a great air show commentator and currently working as the instructor of aerial tactics and flight rules of Military Aviation Academy in Dęblin.

At the opportunity of Lotnicza Majówka Iława, another aviation event was organized nearby, at Stary Kamień airfield. The Aviator Prabuty association, at the chance that this airfield was a base airfield for the Lotnicza Majówka participants, held the ´Od Skrzydła´ (Away From The Wing) meeting. It was the great possibility to see some of the air show participating aircraft and also, with a bit of luck, to meet the pilots, with Jurgis Kairys among them.

And lastly, on 12th May – the day after the show – the boat parade took place at Lake Jeziorak, as the side event of Lotnicza Majówka Iława 2019.

At the conclusion, it is important to mention the really good work done by the organizers on the preparation and operation of this great air show. Even being relatively young aviation event, with still many possibilities to grow and develop the base idea, Lotnicza Majówka Iława already found its way to become a significant event in the Polish air show calendar.

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On 31st May around midday, exactly while writing the conclusion of this report, we unexpectedly became acquainted with the sad information about the fatal aviation accident. The Midget Mustang aeroplane, recenty participating in Lotnicza Majówka Iława, crashed into the forest in the vicinity of Napoleon village, in southern Poland (nearby the Muzeum 303 site).

We are deeply saddened to report that Patryk Kwiatkowski, the pilot of Midget Mustang aircraft, was pronounced dead at the scene. The exact cause of the accident in Napoleon is still unknown and the State Commission on Aircraft Accidents Investigation is working to determine the cause of the crash.

Patryk Kwiatkowski was a glider and aeroplane pilot, with 15 years´ experience. In his professional life he flew PZL M18 Dromader fire-fighting aircraft, but his passion was the aerobatics – he was a member of Ziemia Mazowiecka Aeroclub, where he used to fly with Zlin 526F. Patryk Kwiatkowski was also associated with Muzeum 303 and flew the museum-owned Midget Mustang. The flying display during Lotnicza Majówka Iława was, sadly, his last official performance.

Patryk Kwiatkowski and Midget Mustang during their last display in the sky of Iława

More images from Lotnicza Majówka Iława 2019: