Report of our third group visit to KADEX in Astana in June 2016.
Evening shots; Koos Heemskerk and Henk Broersma.
Despite the somewhat disappointing 2014 edition of KADEX, compared to the 2012 edition, no less than nineteen participants had gathered at Schiphol for the trip to Astana at the end of the morning of Wednesday 1 June. During the stopover at Kiev-Borispol another nine members joined the group. Two other participants had travelled to Astana a few days earlier.
On Thursday 2 June, around 4 AM, we arrived in Astana where the customs formalities went very smoothly and the luggage and the bus were soon found. So at around 05:30 we were already in the hotel of this this city with its spectacular architecture. After a few hours relaxing and a breakfast it was time to head for the airport at around 9 o’clock where the Kazakhstan Defence Exhibition (KADEX) was being held. Because there was hardly anything known about the program, most were curious to find out what the show would bring this year. At the visitors centre, near the entrance, the 30 passes for the show days were prepared quickly and we were walking the showground well 10 AM. The static again this year consisted of an assortment of Kazakhstan aircraft including a new Su-30SM and some Russian factory helicopters and Yak-130. There was a lot of excitement when a row of aircraft tails was noted in a new area around the corner. These appeared to belong to six beautiful blue Su-27s and two grey Su-30SMs of the Kazakhstan air force! With our access cards access was gained to the area where the Sukhois were. This was possible because of the nearby hangar that contained a small static display with an Air Force An-72, C295, EC145 and Su-25. At first it was not allowed to take photos in this area. But after half an hour, this was already not a problem in the hangar anymore and half an hour after that platform photos were allowed as well (as long as we did not go onto the platform). The Sukhois were worked on a lot, but during the day it became clear that the opening of KADEX would take place in the evening in the presence of President Nazarbayev. The Sukhois would perform during this opening and there was an anti-terror demonstration of the Army. Because this would start at about half past eight in the evening several participant preferred the hotel over the opening of the show. Most had been awake for more than thirty hours and just wanted a restaurant and a bed. For those who wanted to stay an extra bus was arranged so they could return to the hotel. The opening ceremony proved to be worth the wait. The group was allowed to remain at the flight line so beautiful pictures could be taken of the blue Flankers being lit by the platform lighting.
At 9:15 AM on Friday 3 June, we left for the exhibition site for our second day at KADEX. Because most of the static show had been photographed well the day before, the majority of the group headed for a spot in the vicinity of the ramp straight away. In addition to the static, the ramp and the Airbus Helicopter (Eurocopter) hangar were open to people with the right pass and photography was possible everywhere in these areas. There were several people working on the Flankers already and it was clear that all the aircraft were going to fly fairly early. First, the Su-30SM flew a solo demonstration followed by the demo team with four Su-27s. At 11:30 AM the position of the sun was still was not optimal but everyone enjoyed the great start-up sounds and sight of the taxiing Flankers which greeted the spectators by opening their speed brakes. After a fine show of the Su-30 and four Su-27s the silence returned and many used this opportunity to photograph the aircraft of the exotic airlines operating from and to Astana including Fokker 100s of Bek Air and some Yak-40 and An-24s. The show block in the afternoon was a show of Russian helicopters, a beefed up Mi-8 by a Ukrainian company and the Yak-130. The weather was again superb on this day but the strong steppe winds made it feel fairly fresh. In the evening some people enjoyed a meal in one of the fine local restaurants, some visited the town to have a close look at the extraordinary architecture, while others turned to bed early.
The third day was Saturday 4 June, and this was the first public day of KADEX. As a precaution we left the hotel a bit early, but this proved not to be necessary as most Kazakhs apparently chose to attend the show a bit later. The weather was fantastic, again, and due to the lack of wind, the temperature rose to 30 degrees this day. Today it was possible to stand on the other side of the runway in the grass, so that the aircraft could be photographed with the sun in the back when taxiing past. The flying program was similar to the previous day with the exception of the Su-30s which performed no less than three times this day. A bonus this day was the flying Tu-134 and Boeing 757 of the Kazakhstan government. Because the crowd this day was significantly larger than the previous days photographing the static was a lot more difficult. Around 3 PM it became very cloudy and by the time the coach would arrive it had become frighteningly dark with very spectacular cloud formations and ditto lightning discharges. Luckily our driver had sensed this too and he arrived fifteen minutes earlier. We were barely in the coach when the Armageddon erupted with wind and associated sand storms, torrential rain and lightning. A few hours later, it was already over and we could look for a nice place to eat in Astana. This day, three people had chosen to book a flight to Almaty in order to have a look in that area. These people had a great day as well and arrived in the hotel very satisfied!
Sunday 5 June, was already our last day on KADEX. Most had the “mission completed” feeling and anything we could add today was a bonus. The weather was perfect again and in good mood we went back to a spot near the control tower and then positon ourselves next to the taxi track. Unfortunately we could not stay here all afternoon and so we headed for our familiar spot near the ramp. Because the Flankers flew much later on Saturday and Sunday, compared to Friday, the sun was in a much better position and we all had a great final afternoon. At the end of the afternoon the Frogfoot was dragged out of the hangar and put on the flight line so that this great machine could be photographed well. Meanwhile, there were also reports of two planned An-12 to arrive, namely one from the Russian company Irkut and the last operational An-12 of the Air Force. Around half past four in the distance appeared an An-12 which “unfortunately” proved to be the Irkut machine. Because the event was about to end at 5 PM, the horizon was scoured for the second An-12 and the joy was great when this lovely machine was noted in the approach. At about the same time the only Su-27 that had not flown left home and finally also the Frogfoot went home. So, at 5:30 PM, everybody was back at the coach with a great feeling about the show. In the evening everybody enjoyed their last meal in town and went to their rooms early as the coach would be picking us up at 2 AM for the ride to the airport.
After a successful flight via Kiev we arrived in Amsterdam at the end of the morning (Monday 6 June), tired but very satisfied. In Kiev we had already said our goodbye to the participants heading home via Munich, Paris and Brussels. This brought an end to the third 4Aviation tour to KADEX. Also this show had a different structure, compared to previous editions, with yet again other opportunities and participants than the 2012 and 2014 editions. This destination will be definitely on the program for 2018, probably with a possibility to visit another destination in Kazakhstan!