The rain and the sun – 30th anniversary of Memorial Air Show

The jubilee, 30th anniversary edition of Memorial Air Show took place on 25th and 26th June 2022, at Roudnice nad Labem airfield in the Czech Republic. That year´s event was really exceptional, and this was not only because of its 30th anniversary but mostly because the show had two completely different faces, due to weather conditions.

The first edition of Memorial Air Show in Roudnice was organized in 1991 and since then the event is held there every odd year. Also the 30th anniversary edition was initially planned to take place in 2021, although it had to be postponed until next year, due to coronavirus pandemic and related restrictions.

The air show in Roudnice is one of the best-known aviation events in the Czech Republic and usually attracts approximately 30,000 spectators, not only domestic but also from neighbouring countries like Poland and Germany. It should be also mentioned here that the first edition of the event was organized to commemorate the World War II veterans, especially those from the then Czech and Slovak Federative Republic. It was one of the first opportunities, after more than forty years of socialist regime, to bring the Western warbirds to the country and to show them again to their former pilots, as well as to general public. That was largely due to Vlastimil Dvořák, president of Roudnice Aero Club, who was the godfather of the initial show and then took care about the event, its participants, guests and spectators over the next years.

At the beginning, the Roudnice show was focused on historical aircraft and warbirds, but then successively changed its formula to be a comprehensive review of aviation – from gliders and general aviation aircraft, through warbirds and aerobatic specials to modern military helicopters and aeroplanes. The show already has its own regular participants, including the Czech Air Force, aircraft from the Flying Bulls collection, Czech-based historical aeroplanes, as well as warbirds from near and far abroad. And exactly one of the warbirds – Hawker Sea Fury – was among the highlights of the 2022 edition of the show.

Vought F-4U4 Corsair, the Flying Bulls

The Sea Fury formerly served with the Royal Navy and the Iraqi Air Force but currently is being based in Italy and owned by well-known Italian aerobatic pilot, Stefano Landi. Since 1984, the aeroplane wears the Royal Australian Navy markings, recalling the Sea Fury combat service in the Korean War, when it was operated there by British and Australian navies.

Apart from the aforementioned Sea Fury, the list of Memorial Air Show 2022 participants included: B-25J Mitchell and F-4U4 Corsair from the Flying Bulls collection at Hangar 7 in Salzburg; two Red Bull-branded aerobatic teams – Blanix team flying two L-13 Blaník gliders and the Flying Bulls Aerobatic Team flying four XA42 aircraft; the Czech Air Force display flown with W-3A Sokół helicopter; as well as other warbirds and historical aircraft – P-51D Mustang, AT-6C Harvard, C-11 (Yak-11), OV-10B Bronco, Yak-18T, Beechcraft C-45H, Bü 131 Jungmann (CASA 1-131E) and AH-1S Cobra.

In addition, one of the most interesting and dynamic displays was performed by Martin Šonka – the 2018 champion of the former Red Bull Air Race World Championships series, European aerobatic champion and world´s vice-champion – flying his Extra 300SR aerobatic special. The list of flying displays was concluded by L-13 Blaník and Swift gliders, Enstrom 480B helicopter from CLV Pardubice training centre, two Robinson R44 rotorcraft, as well as parachute display.

For both air show days, the flying displays were scheduled to start at 14:00 hours in the afternoon. Similarly to previous edition, the morning hours were intended for family and cultural events, including the concert of famous Czech pop star, Lucie Bílá, on Saturday 25th June.

Nevertheless, the weather conditions caused that show was completely different than planned. In the Czech Republic the weather in May of 2022 was highly unstable last year and, after a few nice days, it started to rain cats and dogs during the Friday night.

Bell 206 L3 LongRanger III

The shower continued the whole night and Saturday morning, slowly turning the grassy runway and taxiways of the airfield into a swamp. Nevertheless, despite the really crazy weather conditions, thousands of spectators came to Roudnice on 25th June to see the aviation show. The hours around midday were marked by intense discussions and lot of uncertainty. Although the forecast was that the rain should stop to pour in the afternoon, it was still not clear if there would be the proper conditions to perform the air show safely.

Around noon, the organizers made the final decision about cancellation of the Saturday show, with all tickets already sold to be valid for the next day. Although such decision was met with a bad attitude by several visitors – and they made it clear on social media – it was the right decision, the only possible with the then existing weather conditions.

There is no surprise that many open air events are dependent on weather conditions, especially the air shows. Condition of the Roudnice runway on Saturday merely did not allow to perform the show for safety reasons and this was beyond any social media disputes.

However, it should be emphasized here that the organizers of Memorial Air Show made another, unorthodox and great decision to open the hangar for visitors. In this way, air show visitors that already came to Roudnice on Saturday had an exceptional opportunity to see several interesting aircraft up close.

And it really meant up close. Aeroplanes as Corsair, Bronco, Fury, Mustang, C-11 or Harvard were available to be examined and photographed without fences or any other obstacles. In addition, there was also an opportunity to meet and chat with their pilots or buy some souvenirs. With no doubts, it was an exceptional possibility for all scale model builders who could see any details of those aircraft, look into their cockpits, read all service notices on the fuselage and check what is hidden in technical hatches.

Taxiway of the Roudnice airfield on Saturday afternoon

That possibility to walk around the aforementioned famous aircraft fully rewarded the fact there was eventually no air show on that day, if not even overcame it.

What´s more, a few displays were, after all, flown that Saturday. They were performed by helicopter crews, as their aircraft were able to take-off directly from the apron and did not need to use the swamp-like taxiways.

Those who decided to stay until the afternoon hours could watch the amazing SAR display flown by the W-3A Sokół of the Czech Air Force, then the eye-catching and dynamic show by Jaroslav Špaček of the CLV Pardubice and his Enstrom 480B, no less exciting display of Bell 412 from the Czech Police, as well as several other rotorcraft.

Fortunately, the weather next day was exactly as it should be for an air show, therefore the flying displays of the 30th anniversary edition of Memorial Air Show were executed as scheduled.

As usual, the show was opened by parachute jump display, with parachutists carrying a huge Czech national flag and an air show banner. It was traditionally followed by the Czech Air Force flypast, that year performed by two JAS-39 Gripen fighters.

Another highlight of the Sunday flying programme was a flypast done by a formation of sixteen helicopters, including R22, R44 and Bell 206 Long Ranger. The flying displays lasted until 18:00 hours and were concluded by another parachute jump.

More images from the show: