Pardubice Aviation Fair, 2023

The 2023 edition of the Pardubice Aviation Fair took place on May 27 and 28. The show is a primarily civilian show with a strong focus on vintage aircraft.

This year’s show was to the usual high standard and the weather was sunny all day. Photography was a challenge due to the sun travelling parallel to the runway and being overhead all day. It caused a lot of photos to be backlit and heat distortion played havoc with distance shots on the ground.

However, I managed a good set of shots that gives a taste of the event:

Čáslav Base Open Day – 2023

On May 20 of 2023, the Czech air force base at Čáslav hosted an open day.

It was the base’s first open day in four years, and it was very much worth the wait.

The weather was fantastic for the most part and the program was pleasantly varied.

Here’s a taste of what was there:

Kunovice Air Museum Update

A general view of the Kunovice Air Museum collection during my visit in April of 2023.

Long term readers of Pickled Wings will know of my existing article about the Kunovice Air Museum in the south-east of the Czech Republic.

This museum is a special place to me as I’ve seen it change so much since my first visit there in 2008, and all the changes have been for the better. The museum business is not an easy one, but the Kunovice Air Museum is a great example of how a struggling museum can become a flourishing one when networking opportunities for partnerships with companies and other museums as well as government support at both national and local levels are made available.

I try to visit the museum at least once a year and post an update of the recent developments there. I was not able to visit during to 2022 season, but here are some notes from a recent visit I paid at the end of April, 2023:

The museum’s restored Z-37, returned to public display in 2022.

A Bumblebee Refreshed

The museum has had a Z-37 Čmelák (Bumblebee) in their collection for many years.

When I saw this aircraft on my first visit to the museum in 2008, it was in such a sad state that I didn’t even take a picture of it.

The museum took the aircraft off of public view for several years to perform an extensive restoration of it.

Beyond the tremendous talent pool among museum volunteers, the restoration was made possible by the Kunovice based Let aircraft company donating hangar space for the work to be done in as well as funding from the Czech Ministry of Culture.

The completely restored aircraft was rolled out and put back on public display in summer of 2022. The aircraft was restored precisiely to the markings it wore when it operated on the civil register of the former East Germany. This is very fitting as the aircraft spent the bulk of its flying career in that country.

The MiG-23 fighter, on loan to the museum from LOM Praha.

Meet the New MiG!

LOM Praha is a Prague base aviation services company that the museum has a partnership with.

In autumn of 2021, the company loaned a former Czech air force MiG-23 fighter to the museum wit hthe intent for the aircraft to be displayed at the museum and eventually restored.

From late 2021 to early 2022, museum staff went to Prague to disassemble the aircraft, which had been sitting for many years in front of the LOM Praha office, and transport it by road to Kunovice.

Following reassembly, the aircraft was placed on public display at the museum in summer of 2022.

The Education Interactive Zone for Children.

Something for the Kids

The loan of the MiG-23 was not the only recent museum project that involved LOM Praha. The company was one of several contributors to the creation of the Education Interactive Zone for Children that the museum introduced at the start of the 2022 season.

The area takes up a small area and has three friendly looking aircraft for kids to explore and play around on.

However, it’s not simply a playground. One of the aircraft has a functioning control stick and foot pedals, so kids can see the control surfaces on the wings and tail responding to how they move the controls.

There is also a presentation board with examples of common materials that aircraft parts are made from, so a tactile experience is available without touching the museum’s display aircraft.

There is education as well as fun in this part of the museum.

As with the Z-37 restoration, the Ministry of Culture also provided some funding for this project.

An engine pod, complete with the thrust reverser visible at the back end.

The “Nagano Express” Revisited

The centrepiece of the museum’s collection is, without a doubt, their Tupolev Tu-154 airliner, “Nagano Express”.

In the 2021-2022 time period, engines were installed in the aircraft’s two outboard engine pods. The engines were provided and installed by the Slovak Technical Museum.

These new engines may not be the most immediately visible of the new developments at the museum, but they give a lot in the way of completeness to the Tu-154 when you get up close to it.

Now, when you look towards the tail of the aircraft from the top of the airstairs, there is a real engine turbine face looking back at you.

When you walk around the back of the aircraft, you can know see the thrust reverser machanisms at the back of the engine pods. The thrust reversers were very distinctive and visible features on the functioning aircraft.

That’s Just a Taste

What I’ve written in this update touches on the most visible of new developments at the Kunovice Air Museum in the 2021-2022 timeframe.

If you want to know more about what you can expect to see at the museum, please visit my existing article about it via the link in the start of this article. You can find links to the museum website and Facebook page there for more information.

Happy Birthday, Aeronautica Militare!

In a few days, March 28 to be exact, the Italian air force will be celebrating 100 years.

The Aeronautica Militare, the modern Italian air force, was formed as the Regia Aeronautica in 1923. It was given its modern name following the Second World War.

Here’s a few photos of modern Italian air force aircraft I’ve snapped here and there:

The Golden Hour

The “golden hour” is that small window of time at sunrise or sunset, where the sun is at just the right spot to cast a warm golden hue over everything it touches. It adds an ethereal feel that is much sought after by many photographers.

Today, it was my good fortune to be taking my afternoon walk to Brno’s Medlánky airport as the “golden hour” struck while this Socata Rallye was heading out.

Have a good weekend everyone, I’ll let the photos do the rest of the talking.

Douglas DC-6 at 77!

February 15 of 1946, 77 years ago today, the Douglas DC-6 took to the air for the first time.

The DC-6 is considerd by many to be the pinnacle of propliner aircraft. The last of the piston engine driven airliners before turboprop and jet airliners took over. Even after its days as an airliner were finished, the DC-6 soldiered on for many more years as a freighter and even a firefighting aircraft.

A small handful of DC-6s are still flying today, including the immacualtely maintained example owned by Red bull in the photos below:

To learn more about this legendary propliner, visit my Douglas DC-6 article.

Hawker Sea Fury – Tempest tossed

A Sea Fury FB.11 at Pardubice, Czech Republic in 2022.

Piston Powered Purity

Few names in British aviation history are more legendary and storied than Hawker.

Co-founded in 1920 by Harry Hawker (1889-1921), an Australian aviation pioneer who relocated to the United Kingdom in 1911, H.G. Hawker Engineering was created from the liquidated assets of the Sopwith Aviation Company following the end of the First World War. In fact, the principal people in both companies were the same and the new company was effectively a continuation of Sopwith.

The company changed its name to Hawker Aircraft Limited in 1933 and built a name for itself in aviation worldwide until 1963, when it was absorbed into other companies through a series of business mergers that reduced the British aviation industry from many to a handful of companies during the 1960s.

Today, the Hawker legacy is held by BAE Systems.

In the interwar period, Hawker was a primary supplier of combat aircraft to the Royal Air Force. At the outbreak of the Second World War, the Royal Air Force’s primary fighter was the Hawker Hurricane.

While the Sea Fury came too late to have a role in the Second World War, it served as a very important intermediary fighter between piston and jet driven types for the Royal Navy of Great Britain and the air arms of nine other nations.

The Sea Fury would be the last piston driven fighter operated by the Royal Navy and is representative of the apex of piston driven fighter development.

Driven by an 18 cylinder Bristol Centaurus radial engine of 2,480 horsepower, the Sea Fury had a maximum speed of around 740 kmh (460 mph) at an altitude of 5,500 metres (18,000 feet). This performance gave the Sea Fury a place in history as one of the fastest piston driven aircraft put into mass production.

Let’s spend some time with the Hawker Sea Fury:

A Sea Fury FB.11 at Pardubice, Czech Republic in 2022.

Building the Storm

As the Second World War progressed, Hawker created the Typhoon ground attack aircraft and developed the Tempest fighter from the Typhoon.

It is in the Hawker Tempest that we find the origins of the Hawker Sea Fury.

Designed by the legendary Sydney Camm, the Hawker Typhoon entered service in Autumn of 1941. Widely remembered as one of the best ground attack aircraft of the Second World War, the Typhoon had initially been intended as a medium to high altitude fighter. Due to a number of design flaws, the Typhoon had poor high altitude performance and could not carry out the air-to-air fighter role it was intended for.

The Hawker Tempest entered service in early 1944 and was the result of much redesign work to address the shortcomings of the Typhoon.

The biggest change between the Typhoon and Tempest was a completely redesigned wing that was thinner and broader than the Typhoon’s wing. With the new wing and other adjustments to the design, the Tempest was a fearsome low altitude fighter-bomber and interceptor.

The Tempest was heavily armed, agile and powerful. Tempest pilots scored a number of victories against Germany’s Messerschmitt Me-262 jet fighter and made many successful intercepts of V-1 flying bombs that Germany launched at Great Britain from the European mainland.

While the Tempest was a definite improvement on the Typhoon, it had the drawbacks of being too big and heavy to be a truly well-rounded fighter aircraft.

Even before the Tempest had entered service, Sydney Camm and his design team had begun work on a lightened version of the aircraft. The new aircraft used a shortened version of the Tempest wing and had a redesigned fuselage that was much lighter than the Tempest’s. Additionally, the new aircraft had the cockpit raised to give the pilot a better view outward than with the Tempest.

The efforts of Hawker to improve the Tempest were noticed by the Air Ministry. In early 1943, the ministry was so impressed by the new aircraft that it issued a specification designed especially for it. The initial specification was for a land based fighter for the RAF, a different specification was issued for a carrier based fighter for the Royal Navy.

The two specifications were eventually merged into one after Sydney Camm showed that the new aircraft could satisfy both the air force and navy requirements.

The air force prototype, named the Fury, first flew in Autumn of 1944. The naval prototype, the Sea Fury, took to the air for the first time in early 1945.

Responsibility for design and development of the Fury remained with Hawker, while Boulton Paul Aircraft were contracted to develop and produce the Sea Fury.

A Sea Fury FB.11 at Pardubice, Czech Republic in 2022.

Saved by the Navy

In spring of 1944, orders were placed for 100 examples of the Fury for the RAF and 200 of the Sea Fury for the Royal Navy.

However, with the Allied victory in Europe, the RAF order was cancelled completely and the navy order was reduced by half.

The result of losing the RAF order was that Bolton Paul’s contract for the Sea Fury was cancelled and further work on the aircraft was consolidated at Hawker.

While the RAF was in the process of introducing jet fighters and reducing the number of active squadrons it had in the post war period, the Royal Navy had a much smaller air arm and did not have time to wait for a new jet fighter to use on their aircraft carriers.

At the time, the Royal Navy’s carrier based fighter fleet was made up of Supermarine Seafires, a navalized variant of the legendary Spitfire fighter, and Vought Corsair fighters that were received from America via the Lend/Lease agreements that America had with other Allied nations.

Both the Seafires and Corsairs were war weary machines that desperately needed replacing. The Seafire had always been an aircraft of compromise; while it functioned, it showed that the Spitfire design did not adapt well to the rigours or the aircraft carrier environment. An ongoing issue with the Seafires was the tendency for their landing gear to collapse upon landing on the carrier.

In accordance with the Lend/Lease agreements, any equipment sent to an Allied nation from America had to be returned to America, or purchased or destroyed by the borrowing nation at the end of hostilities. The Royal Navy Corsairs were well used by the end of the war, America did not want them back and Britain did not have the means to buy them. Most of the Royal Navy Corsairs were pushed overboard from their aircraft carriers or scrapped when the war ended.

The Sea Fury entered Royal Navy service in 1947. It also entered service with the Royal Netherlands Navy, the type’s first export customer in the same year.

While the Royal Navy would place jet fighters on their carriers before the 1950s were out, the Sea Fury was an appealing interim type that would give them a capable and relatively modern fighter type to see them through the late 1940s and early 1950s

A Sea Fury FB.11, formerly of the Royal Canadian Navy. Seen preserved in 2019 at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum, Ottawa, Ontario.

Sea Furies Abroad and in Anger

The Sea Fury not only bridged the gap between piston and jet fighters on Royal Navy aircraft carriers; it also served the same purpose on the aircraft carriers of the Royal Australian Navy, Royal Canadian Navy and Royal Netherlands Navy.

Beyond naval users, the Sea Fury was used by the air forces of Burma, Cuba, Egypt, Iraq, Morocco and Pakistan.

In addition to military users, a fleet of Sea Furies was operated by Deutscher Luftfahrt-Beratungsdienst (DLB), a civilian firm in the former West Germany that was contracted by the military to carry out target towing duties.

In addition to Hawker built examples of the aircraft, a production license was granted to Fokker to produce some of the aircraft for the Dutch navy Sea Fury fleet.

The non-naval users of the aircraft received versions with a significant amount of carrier specific equipment, such as tail hooks and launching gear, removed.

While the Aircraft used by Burma, Cuba, Egypt and West Germany were Former Royal Navy aircraft that had beeen refurbished by Hawker, the Sea Fury fleets of other users were factory fresh machines.

As mentioned earlier, the Sea Fury came too late to have a role in the Second World War. However, it did see its share of combat.

The first combat use of the Sea Fury was by the Dutch navy against insurgent forces in the Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia, in 1947. The Dutch attempt to hold onto the colony ended in December of 1949, when the Netherlands officially recognised Indonesia as an independant nation.

Sea Furies of the Royal Navy and Royal Australian Navy were very effective ground attack aircraft in the Korean War. They were a difficult target for enemy jet fighters as well as ground based anti-aircraft crews due to their speed and agility. Those factors in combination with the Sea Fury’s ability to carry a significant amount of armaments on a mission made the aircraft a threat not to be taken lightly by North Korea and its allies.

On August 9 of 1952, a formation of four Royal Navy Sea Furies were attacked by a group of North Korean MiG-15 jet fighters. While none of the Sea Furies were lost in the ensuing air battle, one of the Royal Navy aircraft was successful in shooting down one of the MiGs. In doing so, the Sea Fury became one of the very few piston driven fighters after World War Two to claim an aerial victory over a jet fighter.

The next major combat that involved Sea Furies was the Cuban Revolution and the unsuccessful Bay of Pigs invasion. The Cuban military took delivery of the Sea Fury in 1958, shortly before the dictatorial regime of Fulgencio Batista was overthrown by revolutionarly forces led by Fidel Castro.

Due to a lack of experienced pilots and ground crew, the Cuban Sea Furies proved difficult to keep in servicable condition after Castro took over. However, the few that were kept in running order gave a good account of themselves against the American CIA backed ships, aircraft and ground forces that made up the force sent to take Cuba back from Castro in April of 1961. Cuban Sea Furies were credited in part for the sinking of two major ships and shooting down of a number of attack aircraft of the invasion force.

Through much of the 1960s, Sea Furies of the Iraqi air force were used against frequent Kurdish uprisings during the First Iraqi-Kurdish War. The conflict lasted from 1961 to 1970 and ended in a stalemate.

Sea Fury T.20S seen at Čáslav, Czech Republic in 2013. This aircraft has a four blade propeller, typical of aircraft refitted with American engines.

Off to the Races

The Iraqi air force was the last military user of the Sea Fury, replacing their fleet with the Soviet built Sukhoi Su-7 attack jet between 1967 and 1969.

However, the end of military service was not the end of the Sea Fury. By the mid 1960s, the Reno Air Races had been inagurated in Reno, Nevada, USA.

A growing interest in restoring and maintaining historic aircraft, known popularly as the Warbird Movement, began to take hold in many places around the world at the same time.

It wouldn’t take long after the last Sea Furies were retired from military service for the air racing and warbird communities to take an interest in them.

A number of Sea Furies with a good amount of flying hours left in them had found their way into civilian hands before the 1960s were out.

By the mid 1970s, Deutscher Luftfahrt-Beratungsdienst were selling off their T.20S Sea Furies to civilian buyers and replacing them with North American OV-10 Bronco aircraft.

In the late 1970s, several former Iraqi air force Sea Furies were recovered from Iraq and shipped to America and sold off to different buyers. Many of these aircraft were able to be restored to airworthy condition as the dry desert air they’d been kept in since retirement had kept corrosion to a minimum.

In the context of the Reno Air Races, the Sea Fury has proven popular in the Unlimited category. The basic requirements for an aircraft to be in the Unlimited category are that it must be piston driven, able to sustain a speed of 805 kph (500 mph) and be able to withstand turns of at least six times the force of gravity.

The Sea Fury is not only popular in air racing due to its flight performance, it’s also popular for being adaptable to engines other than the Bristol Centaurus it was originally powered by. Any Sea Fury entered into the Reno Air Races has been refitted with an American engine comparable to the Centaurus and a four bladed propeller designed to work with the American engines.

Most racing Sea Furies are refitted with the 18 cylinder Wright R-3350 Duplex-Cyclone or the 28 cylinder Pratt and Whitney R-4360 Wasp Major.

The primary reason for the engine change was one of availability of not only spare engines and parts, but also availability of skilled technicians to work on the engines. Air racing is incredibly hard on aircraft engines, so a reliable source of replacement engines and parts is essential. As Centaurus engines were never used in American aircraft, both they and people knowledgable in working with them are rare in America.

Sea Fury T.20S seen at Čáslav, Czech Republic in 2013.

The Sea Fury Family

Approximately 860 examples of the Sea Fury were built across nine variants:

Sea Fury F.10

This was the initial single seat fighter version delivered to the Royal Navy

Sea Fury FB.11

The FB.11 was a fighter-bomber version. It had many improvements over the F.10, including better weapons and hydraulically operated wing folding mechanisms.

The FB.11 was the most numerous of the Sea Fury variants, with over 600 being built. They were used by the Royal Navy, Royal Australian Navy and Royal Canadian Navy.

Former Royal Navy FB.11 aircraft were refurbished by Hawker and used by the air forces of Burma, Cuba and Egypt.

Sea Fury T.20 and T.20S

The T.20 was the two seat trainer version of the Sea Fury that was made for the Royal Navy. As with the FB.11, a number of T.20 aircraft were refurbished and taken into service with Burma, Cuba and Egypt.

Ten former Royal Navy T.20 aircraft were converted to the T.20S version. The T.20S was a target towing version specifically used by Deutscher Luftfahrt-Beratungsdienst in the former West Germany.

Sea Fury F.50 and FB.51

These versions were built for the Dutch navy. The F.50 was a single seat fighter and the FB.51 a single seat fighter-bomber.

Fury FB.60 and and T.61

These were designations for the single seat fighter-bomber and two seat trainer versions built for Pakistan. They were built factory fresh with most of the navy specific gear deleted.

Fury I and Fury Trainer

These were designations for the single seat fighter-bomber and two seat trainer versions built for Iraq. Like the Pakistani versions, they were built factory fresh with most of the navy specific gear deleted.

Iraq donated a small number of their Furies to Morocco for use in their air force. However, those aircraft were not in a good state when delivered and the Moroccans ultimately did not use them.

A Sea Fury FB.11 performing at Pardubice, Czech Republic in 2022.

What Remains and Learning More

The Sea Fury has done very well for itself in its post-military life and of the 860 or so built, upwards of 50 are know to still be surviving as museum exhibits, active flyers, restoration projects, or in storage.

With its large size, high speed and agility relative to other single engine piston driven fighters, the Sea Fury is an unimissable presence on the ground or in the air at any show it appears at.

If you see a Sea Fury with a five blade propeller flying at a show, take time to savour the sight and sound and appreciate that you’re seeing one of the very small handful of Sea Furies that still fly on a Centaurus engine.

The majority of Sea Furies flying today are fitted with American engines and four blade propellers. While that does not make their performance any less spectacular, the sound is quite different from the original Centaurus and a little less authentic.

There’s a good amount of information on the Sea fury online:

This link will take you to the dedicated Hawker Fury and Sea Fury page on the BAE Systems website.

This link to a write up about the Sea Fury on the Royal Australian Navy website will give you some insights into the aircraft in the Australian context.

Similarly, this link will take you to an article about the Sea Fury in Canadian service. This article has lots of good pictures too.

This link to the Britain’s Small Wars website will take you to a very interesting first hand account of the Sea Fury victory over the MiG-15 in the Korean War. For many years after the event, it was a contested point who the credit for the victory should have gone to.

This link will take you to a condensed historical article about the Sea Fury at the Afterburner Aviation Magazine website.

In print media, “Sea Fury in British, Australian, Canadian and Dutch Service” by Tony Buttler is an excellent and well illustrated volume to read more about the Sea Fury in those air arms.

The MiG-15 hits 75 Years

Like its western counterpart, the F-86 Sabre, the MiG-15 needs no introduction.

December 30 of 1947 saw the maiden flight of the legendary Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 fighter.

To mark the occasion, here are some pictures of MiG-15 variants I’ve taken here and there over the years:

Happy holidays from Pickled Wings

The Last Post for 2022

As I always do, I’m taking this last post of 2022 to extend thanks and holiday greetings to the readership of Pickled Wings.

If you’ve followed me for several years already, thank you for your continued readership. If you’ve started following in 2022, thanks for coming on board and I hope you will stay for a long time to come.

Time to Reflect

The November/December timeframe of 2022 marked the tenth anniversary of Pickled Wings and my other website, Beyond Prague. I started building the websites at the urging of a friend and never imagined they’d become the long lasting and satisfying hobby that they have become.

Let’s take a look at where Pickled Wings is after ten years:

For most of the website’s existance, it was a free sub-domain of WordPress. A few years ago, I decided I’d put enough work into it and it had developed enough of a following for me to justify buying a top level domain name for it.

A few years ago, I decided to connect the website to social media via Facebook and Twitter. While Facebook works well enough, having Twitter really didn’t make any difference. In 2022, I shut down the Twitter connection and replaced it with Instagram. So far, Instagram is working better than Twitter did for bringing extra traffic to the website

After ten years, the top five most viewed pages on the site are:


    The top five countries for vistors to the site are:

    1. United States
    2. Czech Republic
    3. United Kingdom
    4. Germany
    5. Canada

    The Way from Here

    I don’t plan any big changes to the way I do things on the website, the current formula works well to bring in a steady flow of visitors to keep things from stagnating.

    2022 saw me buy a new camera with better zoom capabilities than my previous one. Hopefully, that will translate into better and closer images of aircraft in flight.

    At that, I close the hangar doors on 2022 and thank you once again for your readership.

    Happy holidays and a joyous New Year!