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.
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.
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.