Timisoara Air Show 2000
In 1999 I took the first photo of a plane, during the 93rd Aviation Regiment Open Day. As a photo camera, I used an orange mirrorless camera on film, made in China, obviously. Why orange? I have no idea. Maybe the Chinese manufacturer thought that if you somehow managed to lose the thing, it was almost impossible, with such a crazy color, not to see the it in the green grass. Where did the orange photo camera end up? I have no clue. What is certain is that after this episode, I got the “virus” … the aviation photography “virus.”
So, the following year, when it was announced that the biggest air show in Romania at the time would be held at Timisoara, I decided to go properly “armed” as a true “aviation photographer.” I bought a second-hand Russian single lens reflex camera (SLR), for the “astonishing” amount of 12 euros (at that time, we used Romanian currency or dollars, as the euro was not very common) – a Zenit 3 with a 35 mm/ f 1.8 prime lens. It is still not very clear to me how I imagined at the time that I would succeed to take photos of the aerial evolutions with a 35 mm lens. Luckily, I found a perfect photographing spot (which I still use today) right next to the aircraft parking area. And as most of the planes taking off had to pass me by, I managed to get some decent photos. That’s on the ground-to-ground photography side. As for the ground-to-air, I managed to photograph some of the planes flying in formation, such as the Hong H-5 and L-29 Dolphin. But the end result were a few airplane-shaped miniatures in the blue sky.
Fully equipped with my Zenit 3 camera and 3 Fuji films with 36 frames each, I was present near the aircraft parking area at seven in the morning. As for the camera, I still use it after 20 years, for portrait and landscape photography. Arriving so early at the airport proved to be a very smart decision because something always happens before the actual air show: aircraft arrive, such as the Antonov An-26, Antonov An-30 and Hercule C-130; a weather probe flies by – a Mig-21 Lancer B; planes are being moved into position, a MiG-29 Sniper, for example. This would be ideal to see and photograph some backstage activity! Since then, every time I go to an aviation event, I arrive at least 1 hour earlier.
At 09:00, the Timisoara Air Show 2000 started with the Romanian Air Force helicopters flying in formation while carrying the flags of each participating country. Timisoara Air Show 2000 was attended by staff and planes from Austria, Bulgaria, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Turkey, Ukraine, and Hungary. On the ground and in the air, I had the opportunity to see some interesting, and now very rare, airplanes: Yak-52, L-29 Dolphin, L-39 Albatros, IAR-99, MiG-23, MiG-29, MiG-29 Sniper, MiG-21 Lancer, Hong H-5, Hercule C-130, Antonov An-26, Antonov An-30, IAR-330 H, IAR-330 SOCAT, IAR-316B Alouette, Antonov An-2 & Extra 300 (Romanian Air Club); C-160 Transal & NF-5 Freedom Fighter (Turkish Stars); Hercules C-130 & F-16 (USA); Mil Mi-17, Sukhoi Su-25 & Antonov An-26 (Bulgaria); Panavia Tornado GR1 (United Kingdom); Ilyushin Il-76 & Sukhoi Su-27 (Ukraine); Saab-105 (Austria); Mil Mi-8 (Hungary).
Somehow Timisoara Air Show 2000 was the “swan song” of some aircraft that served for many years in the Romanian Air Force, such as the L-29 Dolphin, L-39 Albatros, MiG-23, MiG-29, Hong H-5, and Antonov An-24. In the following years, they gradually disappeared from the sky, then from the military bases where they were stored and later sent for scrap. It’s like time lost its patience with these “steel birds” from the Cold War. For me, Timisoara Air Show 2000 was a unique chance to capture on photo paper a world that no longer exists today. Although time has left its mark on the photos, they are still here, they are my first aviation photos.