Air Show Report : NATO Days & Czech Air Force Days 2019 - Ostrava, Czech Republic
NATO Days in Ostrava & Czech Air Force Days 2019
Helmut Richter provides his report on the NATO Days in Ostrava & Czech Air Force Days held on September 21-22, 2019. All photos by the author.
The NATO Days in Ostrava & Czech Air Force Days claims itself to be ‘the biggest security show in Europe’, comprising air and ground demonstrations as well as meetings, presentations, workshops and seminars.
The NATO Days event was established in 2001, i.e. two years after the Czech Republic had become a NATO member. In its early years, the annual event remained rather small with limited international participation and just a few 10,000 visitors. At the end of the last decade, international participation had grown significantly and the number of visitors for the first time exceeded the 100,000 mark. Since 2010, the NATO Days are held together with the Czech Air Force Days and are regularly attended by more than 200,000 visitors during the two show days in September. In recent years, participation has also been extended to non-NATO European countries like Austria, Switzerland and Finland. Each year, a Partner Nation is appointed, which can present itself more extensively with its exhibits and demonstrations. In 2019, the Partner Nation presented was Romania.
The Leoš Janáček Airport Ostrava at Mošnov, where the NATO Days are held, presents some peculiar conditions for photography, because the main display line for the air displays is perpendicular to the runway and is also quite distant from the show ground. Additionally, light conditions are only acceptable during the first displays in the morning. So, many enthusiasts populate the harvested fields outside the show ground to find the best spots for photography of the air displays.
For capturing arrivals and departures, access to the approach is reasonable on both sides of the 04/22-runway, but requires some walking. Also, there are a number of spots where photography at the airport fence is possible, preferably using a stepladder. Photography of aircraft on the taxiway is possible from the civil airport side, which also has the better light conditions until the middle of the afternoon. Unfortunately, the runway is quite far away from this side, requiring at least 400mm focal length with a DX-format camera for photos of the smaller aircraft. Overall, a large part of my photography at the show was at the 400mm DX limit of my equipment and some of the air photography I tried from the show ground even used a 1.7X extender.
As to be expected, the Czech Air Force sent examples of nearly all aircraft types in their inventory for the static and air display. My favourites were one of the two Yak-40s and the single remaining Mi-2 of the CLV flying school at Pardubice. Of the Czech Air Force displays, the joint display of the JAS 39C Gripen (9242) with the Red Bull Extra 300 SR (OK-SON), piloted by Martin Šonka, was probably the most spectacular. Other highlights were the presentation of Aero’s L-39NG, which will soon enter service with the CLV at Pardubice, and examples of the AH-1Z and UH-1Y, which were transported onboard of a C-5M Galaxy. The Czech Republic is procuring eight UH-1Ys for utility missions and four AH-1Z attack helicopters to replace its Hinds, the deal was finalised in December 2019 with deliveries planned for 2023-2024. Unfortunately, the C-5M and the helicopters were among the few exhibits that escaped my camera.
The Partner Nation Romania presented three aircraft types in the air and on the ground. While its MiG-21 LanceR-Cs have been seen visiting several European events in recent years, the presentations of IAR 99C Șoim and IAR 330L SOCAT in the air and on the ground were certainly major highlights of this year’s show.
On top of that there were a good number of other interesting participants. The Italian Air force sent an EA-200D Tornado ECR of 155° Gruppo and two AMXs of 51° Stormo, of which one came in a striking ‘AMX 30th anniversary’ scheme. A pleasant surprise for me was the participation of two Alpha Jets in Belgian colours. After the termination of Belgian participation in the French/Belgian Advanced Jet Training School (AJetS) in 2018, these were still flying for AJetS until the end of 2019, but are now up for sale. Participation of USAF ’heavies’ has become a trademark of NATO Days in recent years and besides the already mentioned C-5M, it was pleasant to see a B-52H Stratofortress and a KC-135R Stratotanker. Finally, the RCAF had announced a CC-150 Polaris and two CF-188 Hornets. However, only one CF-188 of 401 Sqn actually arrived, very late on Friday evening, minutes before the light became marginal.
Overall, my desire to catch most participants in reasonable conditions required the investment of five days, but when I left Mošnov at noon on Monday, I felt that this investment into one of the most interesting European air show events of 2019 had been worthwhile.
The next NATO Days in Ostrava & Czech Air Force Days will take place on September 19-20, 2020.
Report and photos by Helmut Richter ( view portfolio )
Last Modified: 26 January 2020