Following up on my visit to the open day event hosted by the Kunovice Air Museum and Slovácký Aeroklub last weekend, I’ve put together this summary of some of the more visible progress that the museum has made between my last visit, in autumn of 2016, and now:
Bringing in the New
The museum used the open day event to give the public their first view of the newest addition to the museum collection, a freshly restored Let/Zlín Z-37 TM.
The Z-37 TM is a truly one of a kind aircraft that you won’t see anywhere else. In the mid 1980s, a Z-37 T agricultural aircraft was modified for testing the type’s suitability for military close support missions. The tests were unsuccessful and the aircraft was reverted to agricultural configuration and returned to cropdusting work.
After several years of flying on the Czech Register as OK-PJD, the aircraft was transfered to Hungary and languished in outdoor storage there.
In recent years, the museum has successfully worked towards locating and returning the precise aircraft used in the Z-37 TM tests to the Czech lands for restoration.
Over the break between the end of the 2016 season and start of the 2017 season, museum workers have transformed the faded and tired looking assemblage of components that they brought back from Hungary into a first rate restoration of a unique and not so well known chapter of Czech aviation history.
The Nagano Express
The big story of both 2015 and 2016 for the museum was the mind-boggling logistics and bureaucracy of securing and transporting a former Czech air force Tupolev Tu-154 airliner from Prague to Kunovice. This particular airliner was named “Nagano Express” as it was used to fly the gold medal winning Czech hockey team home from the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan
Through a lot of weekend trips to Prague by museum volunteers over a two year period to prepare the aircraft for dismantlement and ground transport and the most successful, to date, internet crowdfunding project in the Czech Republic to ensure not only the costs of transport but many costs relating to further restorations, the aircraft arrived at Kunovice in September of 2016 and placed on supports by a pair of cranes.
As one would expect of a larger aircraft, work on the “Nagano Express” will take some time to complete.
Since arriving in Kunovice, the aircraft’s inner wing sections with main landing gear units have been attached and she’s now off support blocks and standing on her own three landing gear legs.
Additionally, the aircraft’s vertical tail fin has been attached and I have no doubt that quite a bit of internal work has also taken place since arrival in 2016.
Meeting an Old Friend
During the 2014 season opening day at the museum, I purchased a sight seeing flight in a 1954 vintage Zlín Z-126 training aircraft known as OK-IFG on the Czech civil register.
OK-IFG and I spent 20 minutes or so flying over the local countryside and a couple of the more well known tourist attraction of the area. I even got about five minutes of “stick time” controling the aircraft.
After being built in 1954, OK-IFG spent much of the earlier part of her flying career in the Olomouc flying club. She was put in storage for an approximate ten year period before being brought back to flying status in the late 1970s or early 1980s.
OK-IFG spent the bulk of her later flying years in the hands of the Slovácký Aeroklub in Kunovice and was eventually painted in pseudo-military colours.
All aircraft must stop flying at some point and OK-IFG was struck from the register in early 2015 and given to the museum by the flying club.
The 2017 open day was the first time I’d seen OK-IFG since the 2014 flight. While her paint is looking rather faded, she looks quite solid and well looked after in all other aspects.
The Fresh Look is No Ilyushin
One of the museum’s longer term and most visible residents is the Avia Av-14 transport, the Czechoslovak license built version of the Ilyushin Il-14, that greets visitors just inside the museum’s entry gate.
Through the 2016-2017 off-season, museum workers gave the aircraft’s VIP configured interior a much needed refurbishment. Everything from the passenger cabin to the kitchen, lavatory and flight crew stations was refreshed.
For many years, the interiors were looking tired. Upholstery and carpets were looking tattered, faded, stained or otherwise less than presentable while the kitchen, lavatory and flight crew stations all needed a good clean up and fresh paint in places.
Walking through the aircraft interior in 2017, the visitor is presented with a much cleaner and brighter look that befits a VIP.
Fresh carpets, uphostery and paint are in and years of dreariness are out. The flight crew stations look appropriate to an aircraft that is still in service and awaiting the next mission.
Also important ot note. Improvements to the Av-14 didn’t stop with the interiors, both propellors got a much needed fresh coat of paint in the off-season.
Another long term exhibit at the museum is a selection of Cold War era bombs that sit between a pair of Sukhoi Su-7 strike aircraft and represent weapons typically carried by that aircraft type in service.
Prior to the 2016 season, when the bombs recieved a much needed restoration and repaint, they were a said sight indeed. Up until then, they had all been showing signs of corrosion and were positioned in a rather haphazard arrangement between the aircraft.
In 2016, after the repaint, they were arranged in a more orderly fashion based on size. However, they were still sat upon some unpresentable and deteriorating wooden loading pallets.
Happily, the 2017 season sees the collection of bombs presented on a very nice, new block of concrete that fits their recently refreshed appearances.
I have no idea what the plans for the Sukhois either side of the bombs are, but the only thing that could make the bombs look better would be to freshen their associated aircraft.
I hope one day to see that happen.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this update of the Kunovice air museum. In the near future I will be updating my main article on the facility.