Belarus popped up as a possible destination when rumours of an air show started surfacing earlier in the year. After mentioning our intention to visit this show in our newsletter a group of interested people was ‘created’. It then appeared that there would be no air show after all. We then turned our attention to the annual Independence Day parade. Each year, on 3 July, a parade is flown over Minsk for Independence Day. A local contact suggested that rehearsals for this would be flown the week before. We informed all that had shown interest in the air show that we were considering a visit to Belarus for these rehearsals, with the intention to do this ‘from the outside’. This resulted in a very small group but we decided to go ahead to find out the feasibility for a future (somewhat) larger group.
So, the tour to Belarus started on Tuesday 25 June 2019 with a small group of three flying LOT to Minsk (via Warsaw). Our plan for the first evening, after our arrival and first experiences with the Belarus environment and traffic, was to grab a meal, have a drink and prepare for our first ‘day out’ on Wednesday. This plan changed when we found out from our local contact that a rehearsal would be flown on Tuesday evening. We then decided to head for Machulishchy to see if we could see anything of what was going to happen that evening. A rehearsal in the evening seemed logical, since the official parade would start at 21.00 on 3 July 2019. We got to the base in under half an hour and were able to view the launch and recovery of all aircraft that took part in the rehearsal. Unfortunately, we were on the wrong side for both the launch (away from us) and the recovery (towards us from the other end). Still, we were happy with some of the shots and at least we wouldn’t end up empty handed.
While on our way to the base we found out that the NOTAM for the international airport gave clues for when the rehearsals would take place. This led to the conclusion that the next rehearsal would not take place until Friday 28 June at 16.00. While this sank in (it was still Tuesday…) we went for a late night pizza before going to bed.