Today is the day. Audience from all around the world will be invited into the belly of the “C-130 Hercules”, to chat with “F-15 Eagle” pilots and to peer at Unit 669’s special equipment. Our IAF site correspondent joined the delegation to give you a closer look
Israeli Air Force planes already landed in Ostrava, the third largest city in the Czech Republic, last Thursday. From the moment the representatives’ feet touched the foreign land, they worked without stopping to catch a breath. The technicians quickly conducted final checks of the “F-15 Eagle” planes, to arm them with dummy bombs and shine them for a finishing touch.
Everyone took part in the efforts to turn the equipment-filled “C-130 Hercules” into a one-of-a-kind presentation room that includes television screens, controls, a mobile analysis room and even mannequins from the Search & Rescue Unit (669).
Today, after completing the efforts, putting the planes into place and memorizing explanations for the audience, the moment of truth will come when the hoards of visitors will arrive to watch the IAF presentation in the “NATO Days” exhibition, one of the largest aerial events in Europe.
The Tally: 130,000 Visitors
Yesterday, Saturday the 24th, the exhibition officially opened without the representatives of the Israeli delegation. Armed with a camera, a pen and even a recording device, I was sent to acquire some early information from the exhibition area, in preparation for our arrival today.
The first things I saw were tens of thousands of people. Combat planes flew above us in spectacular structures, jet planes sketched for us heart shapes in the sky, transport helicopters landed fighters and paratroopers even suddenly pierced through the sky and slowly fluttered to the ground. The audience’s eyes didn’t rest on-ground either, but danced around watching foreign air crews dressed in flight overalls, a ground aerial show, admiring extinguishing equipment and tanks that quickly became climbing walls for the children of the group.
Only at the ends of the day do I find out the approximate number of attendants: no less than 130,000 visitors attended the exhibition on its opening day (a similar number visited last year’s exhibition over a two day period). It seems that we are expecting an even larger audience tomorrow and that it is awaiting our arrival.
The overall-clad Israeli representatives already felt like local rock stars for a moment when they were asked to take pictures, shake hands and even sign autographs on books, on which the Hebrew letters for “Air Force” are inscribed, albeit with some mistakes.
No less than our representatives, the exhibition organizers are pleased that they are receiving Israeli attendance for the first time. “We very much appreciate the IAF’s positive response to our invitation. In the beginning and to your request, we kept the knowledge of your participation a private matter, but from the moment we published it on our site, we’ve received many positive responses saying that it’s just great that you’re here and that they can’t wait to see the F-15 and the Hercules”, says the main organizer of the event in an interview for the IAF site. “I think that not only for us, but also for the State of Israel, this is an outstanding success. Everyone is excited that you’ve come to us for the first time and is adamant that it won’t be the last”.