The Croatian aviation scene is slowly waking up and finally getting the promotion that this kind of industry needs and deserves. After an excellent program in Pula earlier this year, we now witnessed an air show of a more serious scale, which was visited by over 10,000 visitors, according to initial estimates.

What makes AIRVG special is its organization. The idea originates from the “Velika Gorica – Aviation City” initiative, i.e. the platform of all aviation industry stakeholders based in Velika Gorica. When, for Croatian terms, big names such as Croatia Airlines, Trade Air, Franjo Tuđman Airport, Crocontrol, ZTC, Rudolf Perešin Aviation Technical School joined together, together with the enormous support of the Croatian Air Force, a great show was guaranteed.

It was the Croatian Air Force that was the reason for the enormous interest of the public, as well as the media and spotters. Accredited media and spotters come from 26 countries, and some, according to the organizers, arrived in Zagreb from Canada, Taiwan, and South Korea. It didn’t take long to find the answer in their motive – the MiG 21 is no longer actively flying almost anywhere in the world, and Cro Air Force is saying goodbye to it this year. Perhaps AIRVG was the last public flight of the Croatian MiG, and in addition, they decided to perform something that you cannot see anywhere else – a formation flight of MiG 21 and Rafale.

What especially added to the atmosphere, but also to the content of the event, was the venue. Namely, the center of AIRVG was the old Franjo Tuđman Airport passenger terminal, the park in front of it, and, of course, the western apron of Zagreb Airport. Regular passenger traffic was not interrupted for the entire duration of the event, and due to the change in wind direction, the active runway was also changed, so that spectators could watch takeoffs and landings from both directions. It was especially nice to see how the passengers and crew from the plane waved to the spectators and vice versa.

On the static display, it was possible to view aircraft Zlin 242L, Pilatus PC9M, MiG-21 R designation 26112 (“Rudi’s” MiG), MiG21 UMD (“Kockica”), C3R-EC/DC Rafale, as well as MiG 21 designation 133 which was also open for viewing the cockpit. In addition, the helicopters OH-58D “Kiowa Warrior”, UH-60M “Black Hawk”, Bell 206B Jet Ranger, Mi 171Sh, and AS532 Cougar of the Air Force of the Republic of Slovenia were exhibited. Aeroklub Velika Gorica also participated in the static program with displayed gliders and a motor glider. It was interesting to talk with the military pilots cadets as well and to listen to the discussion on “How to become a military pilot”.

How interesting the flight program was is shown by the fact that on the eve of the start, the fence that connected the terminal to the planned airshow area was filled with curious people who wanted a view from the front row. The public area looked like an anthill when everyone looked up at the same time for the acrobatic group “Wings of the Storm” who opened the flying program. With their full 25-minute performance, they also delighted all of us. After the acro group of Croatian Air Force, Zlin arrived on the sky stage with a demonstration flight, after which the “Pilot RESCUE” exercise was shown, i.e. a demonstration of helicopter capabilities of joint action in rescuing pilots from a hostile environment, in which OH-58D, UH-60M and Mi-171Sh helicopters participated.

The air, filled with the smell of kerosene, was filled with impatience in anticipation of the stars of the day, the formation flight of MiGs and Rafales. Organizationally, and the pilots themselves made an effort to get closer to the spectators, in such a way that they taxied right next to the fence. After aligning with runway 04, the Rafale was the first to take off and then moved away from the airport. After takeoff, the MiG performed an independent flyover and a flight program over the audience and later regrouped with the Rafale for several joint flyovers over the audience, which ended with spectacular separation. There is a saying in aviation circles that the MiG does not make noise, but the sound of freedom. For the last 32 years, it has kept our skies free and safe, and the audience could not help but feel gratitude and reverence for that aircraft. The symbolic parting that marks the transition of generations and the retirement of MiGs is what everyone was obviously waiting for because after the landing of the aircraft, there was a crowd at the platforms’ exit. It’s a pity that most of the audience dispersed and missed the demonstration flight of the Bell 206B Jet Ranger helicopter as well as another, this time shorter program of the “Wings of the Storm”, which after takeoff thanked the audience with several maneuvers that ended with the “fan” parting.

An enviable level of organization, an excellent flying and static program, and perfect weather conditions were the recipe for a great air show. We hope that we will watch a new edition of AIRVG again next year.

Photo © AvioRadar

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