The end of the First World War saw a newly independent Poland, so it should be no surprise that many of its institutions are celebrating their centenaries. Last year saw the Polish Air Force commemorate 100 years of military aviation and this year, it was the turn of the Polish Aero Club to mark their century of civil service.
This was done at the international airport at Rzeszow in South-Eastern Poland (despite the title of the airshow!) with a free extravaganza that included ten hours of non-stop flying, even if the displays were halted for the occasional passenger departure from the main runway behind the display area.
The temperature was in the mid-30's and with the sun directly in front of the crowd, it was not only hot, but difficult to get good photographs. However, this did not put off the large crowd who clapped and cheered throughout, while they enjoyed the end of summer.
The show opened with a parachute jump from an An-2, and the jumpers remained in their stacks until they were less than 200 feet from the ground, making a spectacular sight for the audience.
A pair of Piper Cubs were followed by a three ship of Morane-Saulnier Commodore 180's.
There was then a variety of displays, fast, slow, gentle, and aerobatic, before one of the highlights of the day was provided by Patrycja Pacak, the first woman to become world champion in glider aerobatics. Her display on the day was the one that won her the award this year - and it was mind-blowingly good, with manoeuvres that are normally only seen performed by the Extra community!
The next big display was by the Retro Team, who use a mixed formation of retro-painted Zlins, an An-2, and a Yak-15 to recreate WWII battles on the Eastern Front. While the aircraft are anachronistic, it did not dilute the fun.
The Polish Air Force contributed a ground display and a flying CASA-295 that was followed by Bialo-Czerwone Iskry, the oldest of the two air force display teams.
Despite the immaculate formations, the Iskra trainers are showing their age and their display at Rzeszow could well have been their last at a civilian airshow. It is likely that 2019 will be their final season.
While there was always something in front of the crowd, it was the F-16's that most of them were waiting for. The pair gave a simple, but noisy and impressive display.
The national airline, LOT, then gave a display from their flight academy.
It is always interesting to see new formations, and an An-2 accompanied by two aerobatic aircraft was a treat, as were the WWII trainers.
A pair of Yak-3's gave a spirited display and did the recently formed Firebirds.
A world first was then made by landing a paramotor on an aircraft!
While some of the crowd had left after the F-16, a surprising number stayed until the end and they were treated to an excellent evening performance.
A demonstration of balloons was followed by a night gliding display.
This was followed by the Flying Dragons - a paramotor demonstration that included many pyrotechnics, helped by fireworks and the burners from the balloons.
A night parachute drop was made into a landing zone lit by car headlights before the show was brought to a close by the British Atom team with their firework-laden Grob powered sailplanes.
While the Mil Mi-24 did not fly, it attracted a large crowd and the pilots were very happy to chat to enthusiasts. The type has been significantly modified since it entered service during the Cold War and is likely to soldier on for many years yet. There is a plan to purchase a new attack helicopter, but the need to replace the F-16's is likely to put the rotary wing programme on the back-burner. I was lucky enough to catch it fly over Stalowa Wola on the Monday after the show as it returned home, but I was holding an ice cream rather than a camera at the time.
With arguably the best airshow of the year in South Africa occurring on the following weekend, it is worth making comparisons between this event and what you see in South Africa. The quality of the flying in Poland was equally high and entertaining (and the gliding quite possibly the best in the world), but the distance from the crowd meant that you do not get the same experience as in SA. The food was probably not as good as we are used to, but this was soon forgotten with the evening/night show, which surpassed anything I have seen in Africa. So if you are ever in Poland and there is an airshow on, check it out!