In 1992, Zatec Air Base (AB) was in the country of Czechoslovakia, and since January 1, 1993 has been part of the Czech Republic – north west of Prague; and the area is known for a 700 year tradition of brewing beer – and of course for today’s Zatec Brewery.
The newly formed Slovak Republic eventually received the MiG-29, “Fulcrum” aircraft that had previously belonged to Czechoslovakia; and the, “1st SQN” or “1st Tiger Fighter Squadron” is now located at Sliac Air Base (AB) in the Slovak Republic – north east of Bratislava. http://www.1sqn.sk/
The 1. Letka Tiger Fighter Squadron participated in Sky Pageant ’92 at the invitation of the 79th FS; which hosted a Tiger Squadron Exchange with them – and the following year in 1993, the 79th FS flew two F-111E’s to the Slovak Republic for a Tiger Squadron Exchange there as well.
It was an exciting time to be in Europe, as freedom spread seemingly like wildfire after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, along with the “Velvet Revolution” in Czechoslovakia the same year; and the later formation of the Czech and Slovak Republics in 1993 proved that peaceful means can always be used to determine the future path and outcome for both people and nations.
A close-up of the side of the MiG-29, “Fulcrum” with Zaps (stickers) from the 1. Letka Tiger Fighter Squadron and the 79th FS; it has always been a fighter tradition to place Zaps as a, “calling card” of your visit.
Here’s a closer look at the Zaps on the side of the MiG-29, “Fulcrum;” and the opportunity for the 1. Letka Tiger Fighter Squadron to participate in a Tiger Squadron Exchange with the 79th FS was quite a historic event in those days.
This is the same MiG-29, “Fulcrum” photo from an earlier post, showing the MiG-29 with the sign in the background that reads, “Sky Pageant ’92.”
It is a NATO Tiger tradition to participate in squadron exchanges and Tiger Meets – where NATO Tiger squadrons participate in various flying training events and competitions.
The MiG-29, “Fulcrum” was now flown by various western Air Forces, and was soon to be a familiar sight at many western air shows around Europe as well – and a crowd favorite due to its outstanding performance.
The 1. Letka Tiger Fighter Squadron arrived with a two-ship of MiG-29’s (tail #’s 5918 and 9207 – the rest of the squadron arrived in a transport aircraft); and the 79th FS hosted them with a warm, “Tiger Welcome” to RAF Upper Heyford, UK.
The 1. Letka Tiger Fighter Squadron Commander (center in gray flightsuit), gave the 79th FS a hands-on look at the MiG-29, “Fulcrum” – and answered questions for 79th FS crews and their families – as we wanted to know more about the squadron and the events that were occurring back in their homeland of Czechoslovakia.
We were all given the opportunity to climb the ladder and look at the cockpit of the MiG-29, “Fulcrum;” and relished this new opportunity for peace and unity that the fall of the Berlin Wall and the “Velvet Revolution” in 1989 had created for Europe – and for the rest of the world.
In my mind, this is what the, “Peace Dividend” looked like that politicians in the 1990s gave speeches about; people and nations that should have been living all these years as “friends and neighbors” – were now “free” to be the friends and neighbors that they were never previously allowed to be.
Here I am standing on the ladder of the MiG-29, “Fulcrum” – wearing the patch of the 1. Letka Tiger Fighter Squadron; squadron members exchanged patches and souvenirs with each other to mark the occasion of the historic visit of the 1. Letka Tiger Fighter Squadron to RAF Upper Heyford, UK.
We all took a lot of photos to mark the occasion and enjoyed the moment with the 1. Letka Tiger Fighter Squadron – in a fun photo shoot in front of the MiG-29, “Fulcrum.”
The Commander for the 1. Letka Tiger Fighter Squadron in this photo is standing second from the left; and the pilot next to him (third from left, standing) and I traded patches with each other – and later I invited him to visit the house for a proper German, “coffee and cake” – in order to see the English countryside and how we lived in what was then, “the West.”
Most of the visiting 1. Letka Tiger Fighter Squadron members didn’t speak English (including the pilot I had over to our house for coffee), and the civilian officials in sport coats were there to help in the translation process; but we all spoke the same common flying language of, “Tiger, Tiger!”
The 1. Letka Tiger Fighter Squadron brought what must have been their Czecoslovakian Air Force Flag at the time (I couldn’t locate it in a Google search) – the “2-tailed white lion” on the red background (the star replacing the traditional national symbol of a crown) symbolizes, “Bohemia, Power and Sovereignty.”
The wind made it difficult to hold the flag straight for the pictures that were being taken, and a few different adjustments were made until they got it right.
In this photo are (from left to right): the 79th FS Commander, the 1. Letka Tiger Fighter Squadron Commander and the 79th FS Operations Officer – holding the flag for the final picture.
One of the great truths in life is, that no matter where you go or who you meet – people from around the world are just like the rest of us – and they deserve the opportunity to enjoy freedom and prosperity as much as you and I do.
I took pictures of our visiting 1. Letka Tiger Fighter Squadron members and as much of the activities as I could, because it was clear that the world was changing – and I wanted to preserve the history of the moment.
Everyone with a camera was taking pictures to mark the occasion, and trading cameras back and forth to ensure that they got all the photos that they wanted to have – resulting in a really nice occasion and opportunity for, “Tiger Squadron Camaraderie.”
In this picture I’m standing beside the MiG-29, “Fulcrum” – as my Squadron Commander tries in vain to avoid the camera’s field of view.
I’ve cropped the previous photo, and this picture shows the impressive features of the MiG-29, “Fulcrum” – it’s always interesting to compare and contrast the many different designs and features of modern aircraft.
The circle in “blue, white and red” was the symbol of Czechoslovakia and is today the symbol of the Czech Republic – and the yellow Tiger tail stripe is “NATO Common” for, “Tiger, Tiger!”
The MiG-29, “Fulcrum” is a beautiful plane in its own right, and was designed from the ground up for maximum performance – and is always a crowd pleaser at airshows around the world.
Perhaps someday, the day will arrive when everyone in the world will be able to enjoy the Freedom and Liberty that exists in free and open democratic nations; but until that day arrives, it is the military of free countries that preserves that freedom like a precious flame in a campfire – so that it may never extinguish – but one day spread to liberate all who seek Peace, Liberty, Freedom and Self Determination.
A set of stairs was brought over, so those with cameras could get a good viewing angle of both the MiG-29, “Fulcrum” and the F-111E, “Aardvark” together.
I took this photograph at a canted angle in order to get the entire MiG-29, “Fulcrum” into a single photo.
It was a historic time to be in Europe during the fall of the Berlin Wall and Czechoslovakia’s “Velvet Revolution” in 1989; and the impact of these events and others, has changed the face of Europe in a lasting and positive way – and expanded the opportunity for millions of people to live free and prosperous lives.
The key for the future will be to promote continued peace and understanding to all of the areas of the world that today are filled with unrest; and if those areas can be convinced to work through a peaceful and democratic process, then peace and prosperity will be spread around the world.
The 79th FS wanted to extend our, “Tiger Hospitality” to the 1. Letka Tiger Fighter Squadron, and after trading patches with this pilot I invited him over to our house in Bloxham for a German, “Coffee and Cake;” and despite the fact that we didn’t speak the same language – and my inability to take a better photo of him at the time – he was able to see the English countryside and our way of life in the west.