The weather through March was truly enjoyable here in the South Moravian region of the Czech Republic. Needless to say, such weather is very welcoming to flying activities.
As I live a short walk from Brno’s Medlánky airport, I visit it regularly. The lovely March weather created a notable uptick in activity there and I’m happy to share some of the month’s action with you here:
It takes a fair bit to make me political. Recent events in Ukraine have managed to put me in such a frame of mind.
In the most general of senses, the vileness of the attack on Ukraine and the regime that’s carrying it out are more than enough to justify global outrage. However, it also hits me from a very personal direction and I can’t be silent about it.
Since the outbreak of attacks against Ukraine, my mind’s been bouncing back and forth between the tragedy currently unfolding and memories of growing up on the Canadian prairies, an area that’s been heavily influenced by over two centuries of Ukrainian immigration. There is nowhere you can go on the Canadian prairies and not see some sign of Ukrainian influence, perhaps in a place name on a road sign or a distinctive domed Ukrainian Orthodox church seemingly in the middle of nowhere in the vastness of the prairies. From a young age, my life has been affected in one way or another by people of Ukrainian heritage who were proud to share it; teachers, schoolmates, friends and many others have had some influence in shaping the person I am today. I have received the gifts of education and friendship from Ukrainians and now it looks like the time to give back may be here. There’s lots of Ukrainians in the Czech Republic and the country fully expects refugees. I will definitely be looking for opportunities to help where I can.
Using my websites will serve as a start to what I can do. Hopefully, I can encourage you to look into what you can do from wherever in the world you may come to my websites from.
Help at Home
If you are among my Czech based readership, the following links will take you to the websites of charities and other groups that have already set up programs to help Ukrainians:
ADRA CZ monitors current events at the border and in cooperation with ADRA Ukraine now wants to help distribute vouchers for food and hygiene supplies. Financial assistance will be aimed at direct assistance to residents affected by conflict.
Care.cz together with the global network CARE is working intensively to solve the situation in the country. In accordance with her humanitarian mission, she is preparing opportunities to help civilians who found themselves in the middle of the war. Currently dealing with a proven partner organization on a specific form of help on the spot and immediately releases resources from its reserves and announces a collection for aid of Ukraine.
Člověk v Tísní – People in Need has released a million crowns for quick help to Ukraine, people can contribute to the collection SOS Ukraine. If the military escalates, it will inevitably cause a big wave of refugees. People in Need in Ukraine closely monitors the situation in Ukraine and prepares various scenarios on how to provide refugees with the fastest possible humanitarian aid.
Český Červený Kříž – Czech Red Cross delivered at the beginning of February on 14. a shipment of humanitarian aid intended for the sick and wounded in Ukraine. Now he is sending out further assistance – it should be additional vehicles, surgical sets, tents, carriers, navigation and other material for the operation of medical teams of the Ukrainian Red Cross worth about 10 miles. Kč. Donors help contribute to a special account for Ukraine.
Diakonie – Diaconia in response to the attack of the Russian army in Ukraine, announces a public fundraiser to support people affected by armed conflict. The proceeds from the fundraiser will be used to support refugees and internally displaced residents as a result of conflict and to help vulnerable groups.
Charita – Caritas in cooperation with Caritas Ukraine for immediate assistance to the residents of Ukraine affected by the war focus on providing basic supplies such as water, food, hygiene supplies or shelter Eish. A part of the intervention is also providing psychological assistance. The proceeds of the fundraiser will help the people affected by the war provide basic life needs.
Lékaři bez Hranic – Doctors Without Borders in Ukraine provide health care and humanitarian assistance to residents affected by long-term conflict and patients suffering from tuberculosis. They provide help to everyone regardless of their origin or political preference.
Help Around the World
If you are not among my Czech Based readership and do not have a local branch of any of the above mentioned organizations, please reach out to the nearest Ukrainian cultural organization you may have to you for advice on what you can do to help:
If you are Russian, or of Russian heritage, and can speak out against the attack on Ukraine without worry of retribution against yourself or family and friends you may have in Russia, please speak out.
If there was ever a time for the world to see that not all Russians agree with Vladimir Putin and his policies, including the attack on Ukraine, that time is now. Be clear and be visible about it.
The world at large needs to see you speak out. Ukraine needs to see you speak out. Perhaps, most of all, Russia needs to see you speak out.
Normally, I would not mark the Lunar New Year. However, 2022 is a bit different as it is the Year of the Tiger.
Tigers are a very common motif for air force squadrons the world over. In particular is the NATO Tiger Association; a group of squadrons from the air forces of NATO nations that are bound together by having tigers in their unit heraldry.
To bring in the Lunar New Year of 2022, I’m happy to share with you a selection of pictures I’ve taken of NATO military aircraft from “Tiger” squadrons. Mostly, they are Czech air force machines, but there are also Austrian, Belgian, Hungarian and Slovak jets in the mix:
Mandy Hickson became only the second female fast jet pilot in Royal Air Force history when she qualified in 1999 as a pilot on the Panavia Tornado, an aircraft she would fly until 2002. Her RAF career spanned 17 years in full, the bulk of it in flying roles.
While women flying in combat roles in air arms in many nations is no longer the groundbreaking news it once was, military flying is still seen as primarily a man’s world. That goes double for the fast jet community.
“An Officer, Not a Gentleman” is an enjoyable book about one woman’s experience in the fast jet community at a time when the RAF was facing the reality of women wanting to fly combat jets and the policy and attitude changes that it needed to make to facilitate that.
What you will find in this book is memoirs rather than mantras. Hickson makes it very clear from an early point that she wanted to be a pilot since childhood; this book puts the fulfilment of her personal dream ahead of feminist rhetoric. This is a very personal story.
As expected, this book goes into good detail about the trials and tribulations the author contended with in the RAF from the time she took her entrance tests to becoming qualified in the Tornado aircraft and flying it in combat over Iraq.
While she recalls a number of more old school thinking male officers that felt women had no place flying combat jets and went to efforts to make things more diffucult for her than need be, she gives significantly more time to those men who went through training alongside her and her squadronmates that were very supportive of her from the start.
A great example of the support she received is a recollection from her training. She was experiencing troubles with some formation flying and was at risk of failing the course. One of her fellow trainees took her to the parade ground, where the rest of their training squadron was waiting, and they all practiced the formation with bicycles until she was confident with it.
Such positive stories are refreshing and contrast well against another incident where she attended a pub party night with her squadronmates. She drank some beer, danced and generally had a good time fitting in with the group and becoming a member of it. The next day, she was subjected to a double standard when her commanding officer reprimanded her for not acting enough like a lady at the event.
The book also explores adjustments and trade-offs she had to make in her RAF career to accomodate getting married and starting a family. This included the difficult decision of leaving the fast jet community for less strenuous assignments that presented her with fewer chances of promotion in rank.
The book gives as much time to experiences that are common for anyone, male or female, who goes down the route to military fast jet flying. As with many other memoirs of such pilots, this one follows an individual who was very physically active in childhood and was bitten by the aviation bug early in life. This individual also excelled in school, showed an aptitude for flying in their teens and had their flying license before they had a driving license.
Where this book really shines is in the humanity, humility and humour with which it was written. Hickson never comes across as bitter when she recalls individuals who tried to hold her back and freely concedes when a bad situation she found herself in was the result of an error on her part. She also keeps the tone of the book upbeat with a good amount of wit in the mix.
The only negative point about this book, and it’s a small one, is that it contains quite a bit of British English slang that can be confusing if you’re not familiar with it. The book has a good glossary to cover the technical jargon, it could benefit from having a glossary or footnotes to explain the British specific slang as well.
Since leaving the RAF, Mandy Hickson has been very active as a motivational speaker and business navigation consultant. This link will take you to her website, where you can find out more about her and purchase a limited edition copy of “An Officer,Not a Gentleman”
This is definitely a book you can buy with confidence.
The 2021 season for outdoor museums in the Czech Republic ended on October 31, but that doesn’t mean the museums are idle.
In my 2021 update post of the Kunovice Air Museum in September, I mentioned that the museum had made an agreement to restore and display a former Czech air force MiG-23 fighter that the Prague based LOM Praha company had on display at their Prague-Malešice facility for many years.
Recently, a crew from the museum went to Prague to dismantle the aircraft and prepare it for transport to Kunovice. December 4 is the sceduled date of transport.
The following is an English translation of the museum’s press release:
Supersonic fighter with variable geometry wing “flies” from Prague to Kunovice
In a very brief period of time, a crew from the Kunovice Air Museum successfully disassembled a MiG-23 MF (NATO codename “Flogger B”) variable geometry wing, supersonic fighter which was located in the area of LOM Praha s.p. They prepared the “Twenty-three”, with hull number 7184, in a short time for land transport from Prague-Malešice to Kunovice. This was possible due to a loan agreement between LOM Praha s.p. and the Kunovice Air Museum which was recently signed by the directors of both institutions, Jiří Protiva and Martin Hrabec.
“It helped us a lot that it was not necessary to dismantle the aircraft into smaller pieces. The carrier, Universal Transport Praha, has agreed to provide us with equipment that will allow the fuselage to be transported as a whole. Thanks to them, we didn’t have to disassemble the aircraft too much.” explains museum director Martin Hrabec.
The transfer of the aircraft is planned for Saturday, December 4. Jiří Tůma describes the action plan from Universal Transport: “We still have to remove the wings and remove the plane from its pedestal before we move it to the transport vehicle. After that, we will set out on a journey to Kunovice.”
“Our thanks go out to the aircraft owner, the state-owned company LOM Praha. Big thanks also go to Universal Transport, who will take care of the transport of the aircraft. Last but not least, the company Hanyš Crane Work, who took care of loading the aircraft and its parts. Without them, this event could not take place.” adds the director of the Kunovice Air Museum.
The MiG-23 MF (fuselage number 7184) will be the first aircraft in the Kunovice Air Museum that belongs to the so-called third generation of fighters, and also the first with variable geometry wings. At the same time, it was an important type of aircraft in the inventory of the former Czechoslovak Air Force. Additionally, it will be the first in the museum to represent the Žatec air base, where the aircraft served in the 11th Fighter Air Regiment.
7184 was the last example of the MiG-23 MF delivered to Czechoslovakia. Together, with two other aircraft, it arrived from the USSR on December 3, 1979. During its active career, it served at bases in Bechyně, České Budějovice and Žatec with the 1st and 11th Fighter Air Regiments, which belonged to the PVOS (State Air Defense) units. The aircraft was retired at the end of June 1994 and has been owned by LOM Praha s.p. since 1996.
The MiG-23 was created in the late 1960s as a successor to the better known MiG-21. In the end, however, both types were produced simultaneously. In the Czech Air Force, the last MiG-21s were retired later than their “successors” due to the challenging maintenance and lower reliability of the structurally complex MiG-23.
The MF version of the MiG-23 ended its Czech Air Force service in 1994, the last MiG-23 versions in Czech service, the BN and ML, were retired from the Czech Air Force in 1998.
You can see a bit of the disassembly work in this gallery the museum posted online.
Some followers of Pickled Wings may also be aware of my other website, Beyond Prague, where I write about various aspects of living in the Czech Republic.
In Autmn of 2018, I was contacted by an editor of UK based Kuperard Publishers who told me they had seen the Beyond Prague website and liked the content and writing style. They offered me the opportunity to write the second edition of the Czech Republic volume of their “Culture Smart!” series of books. I’d never imagined writing a book in my life, but I didn’t say no to the chance.
Three years later, the writing and editing are done and the book has gone to the press. The realease date for the paperback edition is January of 2022 with the eBook edition to be releasesed in February of 2022. The book is available for pre-order here:
Long term followers of Pickled Wings will know I’m a big supporter of the Kunovice Air Museum in the south-east of the Czech Republic.
I try to visit it at least once a year and keep my existing article about it updated.
The turnaround the museum has made over the past decade or so from a languishing collection of faded aircraft to a very respectable facility has been nothing short of astounding and a true joy to witness.
Every year, they make new progress and there is always something new to see. I paid my 2021 visit to them on September 26. Here’s some of what was new:
A Bridge to Brno
In 2020, the museum entered a partnership withthe Brno Technical museum.
The partnership allows for the loan of aircraft between the museums as well as access to restoration facilities between them.
In 2021, a late model MiG-21 fighter jet and a Yakovlev Yak-40 transport from the Brno Technical Museum were put on display in Kunovice in exchange for an early production model of a Let L-410 Turbolet from the Kunovice collection going on display in Brno.
Prior to the exchange, the MiG-21 and Let L-410 were cleaned up and restored. The Yak-40 was delivered directly from its retirement from the Czech air force to Kunovice.
A Stairway from Pardubice
A quite welcome addition to the Kunovice collection in 2021 was an airstairs vehicle donated by the airport in Pardubice, in the central part of the country.
The airstairs replace a rather shaky and less than aesthetic set of metal stairs that used to be in place to allow visitors to board the museum’s Avia Av-14 transport.
The new airstairs not only feel much more solid when climbing up and down, they also are exactly the sort of airstairs that would have been used with the Avia Av-14 when it was in service. As such, they improve the historic feel of the aircraft on display tremendously.
Little Things Mean a Lot
Not all changes are as visible as two full aircraft and an airport vehicle, sometimes you need to look to see some of the smaller changes.
Once such change is the museum’s move to secure a set of bombs used by aircraft of the Czechoslovak, and later Czech, air forces to their display stand with metal brackets and straps.
The museum has gone to much effort to restore the bombs over the years, so this move is certainly a prudent one in order to keep the bombs from being moved around, either accidentally or intentionally, by visitors.
A Look to 2022
Even before the 2021 season is over for the museum, we are getting a hint of exciting developments.
In September of 2021, the museum signed and agreement with LOM Praha that will see a MiG-23 fighter currently on display at the LOM Praha offices in Prague loaned to the museum.
The plan is for museum personnel to dismantle the aircraft and transport it to Kunovice, where it will be repaired and restored in the off season and then put on display with the museum’s other MiG fighters in spring of 2022.
LOM Praha is an aircraft maintenance, overhaul and modernization company that also is involved in flight training.
Please follow this link to visit my existing article about the museum.
September 18 and 19 of 2021 saw the return of the annual NATO Days public exhibition at Ostrava, Czech Republic.
Due to COVID concerns, the 2020 edition of the event was not open to the public and was televised instead. While COVID concerns kept this year’s edition smaller than some in the past, it was great to be able to go out there again.
In the spirit of quality over quantity, the 2021 edition of the event saw some first time visitors in the form of a Lockheed F-35 Lightning II fighter, and Airbus A330 MRTT (Multi role Tanker Transport) and the DC-3 Dakota from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.
I attended on the Saturday. The weather was overcast most of the day and made photography a challenge. However, I got some decent images from the day. Here’s a look: