September 17 and 18 saw the 2022 edition of the annual NATO Days show in Ostrava, Czech Republic take place.
I attended on the 17th. Despite the weather being overcast most of the day and making photography of flying displays tricky, it was an enjoyable show as always.
The 2022 show marked the first appearance of Brazilian and Latvian participants at the NATO Days event. It also marked the first time a Dassault Rafale fighter was in the static park, previous editions of the show have had Rafales in the flying program, and it was quite interesting to get up close to France’s most modern fighter.
On a somewhat bittersweet note, the 2022 edition of the show was the last public airshow appearance of the Czech air force Mil Mi-35 “Hind” helicopter. An iconic aircraft from the height of the Cold War to the present, the “Hind” is scheduled to be retired from Czech air force service in late 2022 or early 2023.
At that, here’s a selection of what was on view at the show in 2022:
September 10 and 11 of 2022 saw the annual Oldtimers Weekend event take place at the Medlánky airport in the northern reaches of Brno,Czech Republic.
The event was a mix of some familiar gliders, both contemporary and vintage that belong to the Medlánky Aeroklub, and visiting aircraft. The 2022 edition of the event had a surprize in the form of a Czech air force Mil Mi-35 helicopter on September 10, this was a very unusul aircraft to have on hand as the event is typically a fully civillian affair.
The weather forecast for the weekend was not particulary good, but the event went on anyway. I took these pictures during a practice for the event on September 9 and a window of reasonably clear weather on the afternoon of September 10.
Airpower is the largest airshow in Europe and takes place on a roughly tri-annual cycle at the Austrian air force base at Zeltweg, located in the state of Styria. On September 2 of 2022, I attended the Airpower show for the first time since the 2013 edition of it.
It was a well balanced show between military and civilian aviation and a very well run show in all aspects. It’s a show I would definitely recommend attending if you have the opportunity.
As it’s a big show, I’m giving it a larger than normal gallery. Fix a beverage of your choice, take your time and enjoy:
On August 31 of 1947, the prototype of Antonov’s An-2 took to the air for the first time. An instantly recognisable aircraft, the An-2 was given the name “Colt” in NATO’s code naming system for Soviet military aircraft during the Cold War.
Holding the distinction of being the largest single engine biplane ever to be put in production, the aircraft was in production from 1947 to 2001; an astoundingly long period for any aircraft.
Over 18,000 examples of the type are known to have been built between production lines in the former Soviet Union, Poland and China.
Here’s a selection of pictures I’ve taken of An-2s at various times and locations:
Located approximately 50 Kilometres north-east of Prague, Mladá Boleslav is a very important city to the Czech Republic in both historical and contemporary contexts. First and foremost, it is home to the legendary Škoda automobile company and their main factory. It was also home to Laurin & Klement, the ancestral company to today’s Škoda Auto; the collective history of the two car makers stretches back to 1895, making Škoda one of the oldest still operating automobile manufacturers in the world.
The city is also the home of the Methodius Vlach Air Museum (Letecké Muzeum Metoděje Vlacha).
Why would a city with such a deep connection to automotive history have a dedicated aircraft museum? For the answer to that question, we need to spend a bit of time getting to know the namesake of the museum, Methodius Vlach (1887-1957):
Methodius Vlach was an industrial designer by training who worked for several companies in his professional life. In 1909, he arrived in Mladá Boleslav and took up work with Laurin & Klement; between 1909 and the outbreak of the First World War, Vlach experimented with aircraft design.
Vlach’s is certainly not a household name in aviation history. While he had no formal training in aviation and he did not spend long experimenting with aircraft, he can certainly be considered a pioneer in the rich fabric of Czech aviation history as he designed and built the first fully Czech aircraft between 1910 and 1912.
Designed by a Czech, built on Czech soil from fully Czech sourced materials that included an engine from Laurin & Klement; Vlach took the aircraft into the air for the first time on November 8 of 1912. Throughout the day, he made six short flights and managed to reach a speed of 100 kph. On the sixth flight, the aircraft crashed and Vlach sustained minor injuries.
While it was Vlach’s own inexperience in piloting that caused the crash, he had made it clear that Czechs could create their own aircraft.
A Dynamic Collection
The collection at this museum comprises around 28 to 30 aircraft that represent eras from the dawn of powered flight up to the present.
Made up of both replica and original aircraft, the bulk of the museum’s collection is flyable. During the summer months, the museum displays some of its aircraft at airshows in both the Czech Republic and Germany. It also hosts air display days of its own from time to time.
The museum includes a very spacious caffeteria with an outdoor terrace that faces directly onto a runway, so you can enjoy drinks and snacks while taking in whatever aircraft movements might be happening at the time. The museum building also includes a viewing tower and some grandstand style seats to watch airport action from as well.
With its angular exterior, which the architect said was inspired by the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter, the museum building is an exhibit in its own right. Completed in 2014, the building has won awards for its design.
Building on what is already something of an immersive aviation experience for the visitor, it is also possible to purchase time on a gyroscopic simulator as well as flight simulators or a parachute simulator. According to information on the museum’s website, sightseeing flights can also be arranged.
It should be kept in mind that I visited the museum on a basic ticket and all my interactions with museum staff were in Czech. If you wish to try any of the activities listed in the above paragraph when you visit the museum, I’m not sure what sort of linguistic flexibility you could expect there and it would be best to contact them ahead of your planned visit to see what’s possible if you don’t speak Czech.
Planes Renowned and Obscure
The selection of aircraft at the museum includes both world famous and well known types as well as some quite obscure types not typically known about to those without a deep knowledge of Czech aviation history.
On the famous end of things, the museum’s most valuable aircraft is a flyable Polikarpov PO-2 biplane of original Soviet production that was built in 1937. At the time of writing this article, July of 2022, less than ten examples of the type are known to be flyable worldwide.
Other famous machines in the collection include a Bucker Jungmann biplane and a Zlín Z-50 aerobatics aircraft.
On the more obscure end of things, you can view the Verner W-01 Brouček. First flown in 1970, it was the first modern Czech amateur aircraft design.
You can also find a Zlín Z-50M, a rare version of the Z-50 aerobatics aircraft that was fitted with an inline engine. Only 5 of the Z-50M version were ever made.
Another aircraft of more localised significance in the collection is a flyable replica of a 1909 Grade monoplane. In 1911, Božena Láglerová earned her pilot’s license in this type of aircraft. In doing so, she became not only the first Czech female pilot, but the first female pilot in the entire Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Getting Above Things
The upper floor of the museum building is a mezzanine that gives one a nice look down at the aircraft on the ground floor and brings you nose to nose with aircraft that are displayed in hanging fashion.
The upper floor is also taken up by a number of display cases filled with a variety of aviation artifacts like flight instruments, scale models and uniforms.
The museum also has a small gallery of aviation art that’s tucked away out of immediate sight, but is very worth making a point to find and take in.
Paying a Visit and Learning More
Buses run regularly between Prague and Mladá Boleslav. If you’re travelling by bus from Prague, you will need to take a bus from the Černý Most bus station which is the eastern terminus of the B (yellow) line of the Prague metro system.
The average travel time between the cities is 45 minutes to an hour depending on the bus you take.
Mladá Boleslav does have a public transport system and there is a line that stops at the aviation museum, but my experience in using it to get to the museum was confusing as the route had many turns and the stop announcement system on the bus wasn’t working well. Additionally, the line that goes to the museum only runs once an hour.
I took the chance on walking back to the centre of town and found it quite easy in both navigation and physical effort. If I paid another visit and the weather was nice, I’d probably just walk from the station to the museum.
As the museum also has a good sized parking lot and bicycle racks, you can come by car or bicycle if you like.
To find out more specific information about the aviation museum, its operating hours and ticket prices, you can visit its official website. While the website is only in Czech at the moment, it responds reasonably well to online translators.
On a final note, Mladá Boleslav has enough on offer to keep a visitor busy for the bulk of a day. Beyond the aviation museum, there is also the historic centre of town and the Škoda Museum. If you’re going there from Prague, go early and make a day trip of it.
The Rallye (“Rally” in English) family of aircraft is a prolific one, with a number of twists and turns by way of corporate takeovers, product renamings and license production to create a rather convoluted history.
What is not unclear, however, is that the Rallye family represents the most successful French designed single engine general aviation aircraft of the latter half of the 20th century. Perhaps that should come as no surpize considering the origins of its pedigree: Morane-Saulnier.
When talking about French aircraft producers, few names are as well known as Morane-Saulnier. The Morane-Saulnier name has been around nearly as long as powered flight and is attached to some very pioneering aircraft from the pre World War I era, successful fighter aircraft in both world wars and a number of successful training and aerobatic aircraft in the interwar period. At the time the Rallye prototype first flew, in 1959, the company had nearly half a century of aircraft design experience behind them.
The company existed independently from 1911 to 1962, when it became a subsidiary of the Potez aircraft company. In the late 1960s, state owned Sud Aviation took over Potez and inherited the Rallye design in the process. After the Sud Aviation take over, the Morane-Saulnier name was replaced with SOCATA (Societe de Construction d’Avions de Tourisme et d’Affaires) and continued French production of the Rallye family took place under the SOCATA name.
Giving Wings to the Public
Just as it was in the post First World War period, there was a significant upsurge in aviation mindedness among the public of many nations in the immediate post World War Two years. This led to the need for modern general aviation designs to satisfy the requirements of both individual pilots and flying clubs.
America had staked its claim on the market with the Cessna 172, which first flew in 1955 and experienced almost immediate widescale success.
Not to be left out, the French government opened a competition in 1958 for French aircraft manufacturers to design a light single engined aircraft suitable for training and touring as well as glider and banner towing. Morane-Saulnier won the competition with their MS.880 design and the prototype Rallye took to the air for the first time in 1959.
The Rallye was immediately successful at home and flying clubs across France took the new aircraft on in quantity. Before long, the aircraft experienced success more widely in Europe and points abroad. Over 3,300 examples of the Rallye were built across various family models, and the type saw export to no fewer than 65 countries. Aside of civilian use, members of the Rallye family were used by the air arms of 14 countries.
Part of the Rallye’s success can be found in its pilot friendly nature, it has a reputation as a very forgiving aircraft that is quite tolerant of novice mistakes. The same pilot friendly handling, along with the generous view outward provided by the large cabin canopy, also makes the Rallye pleasant for longer flights associated with touring.
A Look at the Rallye
Two key qualities of single engine general aviation aircraft are affordability and maintainability. In achieving these qualities, simplicity is paramount. The Rallye certainly fits this description; it has proven itself to be a very economical and dependable machine at the flying club level.
At a glance, the Rallye can be described as an all metal, low-wing monoplane with a fixed landing gear. It seats up to four people, depending on the model.
On closer inspection, the Rallye has a few features that are rather unusual for an aircraft of its class:
As opposed to traditional doors, the cabin of the Rallye is opened and closed by a sliding canopy. This is an unusual feature on aircraft of the Rallye’s class and it allows for the aircraft to be flown up to a certain speed with the canopy left a bit opened. This means it’s possible to experience the sensation of open cockpit flying in the Rallye.
The Rallye was also designed to have near STOL (Short Take Off and Landing) qualities to it. To this end, it features slats on the leading edges of its wings that extend automatically at lower speeds to improve handling during low speed flying and at landings.
Aside of the leading edge slats, the Rallye also has quite large flight control surfaces for an aircraft of its size. This makes it very responsive in flight and lends to its forgiving flight characteristics. The trade off for the larger flight control surfaces is higher drag; accordingly, the Rallye is not the swiftest of aircraft in its class.
As part of the STOL features, the Rallye has quite robust landing gear that can handle not only short landings in the STOL regime, but also hard landings by student pilots.
The Rallye Family
As mentioned at the start of this article, the Rallye family has a rather confusing looking family tree. This confusion comes not only from which Rallye variants were produced under the Morane-Saulnier brand versus those built under the SOCATA name, but also members of the family that began life with one designation, but were renamed later for marketing purposes.
There is also the license built versions by PZL, in Poland, to consider. In the late 1970s, PZL was granted a license to produce the Rallye as the PZL-110 Koliber (“Hummingbird” in English) and Polish Rallye production continued for several years after French production ended in 1984. Eventually, the Koliber diverged far enough from the Rallye to be able to constitute its own aircraft family.
The best way to look at this aircraft family is to separate it by the lightweight (MS.880) and heavyweight (MS.890) series, as all variants fall into one of those two categories. The main difference between the two series is that the MS.880 series was initially designed with two seats and later modified to have three or four seats, while the MS.890 series was designed with four seats from the start.
MS.880 / MS.880A
These two aircraft were prototypes. The MS.880 was the two seat version while the MS.880A was the three seat version. Additionally, the MS.880A had a swept vertical tail fin.
MS.880B Rallye Club
The MS.880B was the first full production version of the Rallye. It was a two seat aircraft with a 100 horsepower engine. A total of 1,100 of this version were built.
MS.881 / MS.883
These were two seat versions with slightly more powerful engines than the MS.880B had. The MS.881 was fitted with a 105 horsepower engine while the MS.883 had an engine of 115 horsepower.
MS.885 Super Rallye
The Super Rallye was available in two and three seat versions and had a 145 horsepower engine. Slightly over 200 of this version were produced.
Powered by a 150 horsepower engine, only three of this version were made.
Rallye 100S Sport
This was a two seat trainer version with a 100 horsepower engine. 55 of this variant were built.
Rallye 100T / Rallye 125
The Rallye 100T was essentially an MS.880B with some minor revisions. the Rallye 125 was a four seat version of the Rallye 100T with a 125 horsepower engine.
As the Rallye 235 designation suggests, this variation was fitted with a 235 horsepower engine. This model was later redesignated as the SOCATA Gabier.
The SOCATA R235 Guerrier was the military version of the Rallye 235.
SOCATA 235CA was the designation for a handful of Rallye 235 aircraft that were modified for agricultural work. The modifications included a tail wheel landing gear arrangement and a hopper to hold material for spraying.
The Rallye Today and Learning More
With around 3,300 built, there are still a good number of the Rallye family flying. However, they are not spread evenly around the world and your best chance of seeing one is likely to be in Europe.
A number of attempts were made to market both the Rallye and Koliber in America, but only a modest number were sold there due to the fact that there were already plenty of American made aircraft of similar capabilities saturating the market there.
You can find two good articles about flying the Rallye at the Achtung, Skyhawk! website. This article covers a flight from Spain to Croatia in an early MS.880 model and this article covers a flight in the later Rallye 150 model.