Wednesday, 4 June 2014

25th anniversary of Poland's freedom - aeronautically interesting

Today Poland celebrated the 25th anniversary of the day of the partially free elections that paved the way to the transition from communism to democracy. Over 50 politicians and dignitaries from around the free world flew into Poland for the celebrations, including Barack Obama. This meant a feast for plane-spotters!

On Sunday, Student SGH phoned me to say that a C-17 Globemaster was coming in to land. Indeed - it was one of three that touched down at Okęcie that day - bearing the presidential helicopter and armour-plated limos. I saw the second two flying over our house.

Air Force One, bearing Mr Obama, landed in Warsaw yesterday morning (though the weather was less than optimal for spotting). Top cover was provided by a pair of USAF F-16s. Overhead was a Polish police force Mil Mi-8 transport helicopter put to anti-terrorist use, with rear clamshell doors removed, and a guy dangling his boots out of the back, keeping a watchful eye on Warsaw.

Below: in profile, the lack of clamshell doors is visible; you can just see the toe of a boot sticking out! Two police helicopters were hovering noisily over Warsaw all day long.

Below: a Let-410 Turbolet of the Lithuanian Air Force on the military stand at Okęcie.

The main attraction at Okęcie, however, was Barack Obama's Boeing VC-25 - one of two VC-25s known as Air Force One (note the bulge ahead of the cockpit).

Below: A C-17 Globemaster, in front of which stand two F-16s armed with air-to-air missiles. To the right stands a Boeing C-32 (known as Air Force Two when carrying the vice-president).

Below - the presidential retinue (świta in Polish - nice word). In contrast with the smaller planes used by other country's leaders, this is a show of strength, a statement of the importance the USA accords to this significant Polish (and indeed European) anniversary. A few centuries, a ruler would ride into an ally's city accompanied by magnificently attired outriders; this is the modern equivalent.

Previous visits of US presidents to Poland were never accompanied by so much air power. Below: outside Warsaw's Royal Castle, the stage is set for today's celebrations.

By setting 4 June as the starting point of the chain of events that brought an end to communism in Europe, five months before the fall of the Berlin Wall, Poland is staking its claim as the initiator of the process. Will Mr Obama fly to Berlin in November...?

This time two years ago:
Poland's infrastructure progress

This time three years ago:
Wetlands in late-spring

This time four years ago:
Jeziorki's flood of floods: Puławska and Pozytywki
Jeziorki's flood of floods: Sarabandy and Karczunkowska
Jeziorki's flood of floods: Trombity and Kórnicka

This time five years ago:
Another time, another place


papageno said...

I've seen this helicopter circling above Belweder during the presidents' meeting. I've also noticed the lack of rear doors.

I think it actually is one of police (anti-terrorism unit?) MI-8s, see:

Michael Dembinski said...

@ papageno

You are right! Many thanks for the comment - duly noted and corrected.

Alexander said...

In the biggest newspaper of The Netherlands, De Telegraaf, of June 5th, page 13 mentions big changes in Poland. Not a word about the first free elections or the fight against communism.
Last year the fall of the Berlin wall was much bigger in the news, with Germans first called victems of the nazi regime, and the most spoiled communists heroic uprising against the regime. Not a word about what Merkel was doing in those days.

Best regards, Alexander