MLD SIAF Flight Director: Team work is basics

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MLD SIAF Flight Director: Team work is basics

When asking Ivan Chvojka, the former leader of  the legendary team Biele Albatrosy (White Albatrosses ) why he likes participating in preparation of the International Air Fest Days as the Flight Director apart from other reasons he may answer that it keeps him young. It seems to be unbelievable when looking through the long list of tasks the flight group under his supervision is responsible for to realize SIAF.


Preparatory phase of the new year starts shortly the last one finishes

A couple of weeks after finishing aviation days the whole team of the Slovak Aviation Agency immerse in preparation of the following  ones. The initial idea about participants is based on the effort to keep variety. “We are trying to choose something from the history, something quieter, with propellers supplemented with something noisier, with jet engines possibly with teams,“ says LtCol(Ret) Ing.Ivan Chvojka. Waiting for confirmations of possible participants basic documents following some regulations such as the NATO STANAG 3533 directive are processed. “It determines e.g. minimum weather conditions, minimum heights, distance of performing aircraft from visitors, distance of barriers and so on. These regulations are strictly kept during aviation days, “ continues the Flight Director.

Importance of a questionnaire for SIAF

Everyone confirming their participation in aviation days fills a questionnaire to provide the organizational team  with essential information for knowing the number of participants, their requirements for fuel, measurements of aprons, the length of runway and many other details.“We – members of the flight group – arrange the plan of aircraft arrivals according to this information. Everyone gives us estimated time of arrival  but in case more aircraft land in the same time we have to adjust exact intervals of landing. It is important for air traffic safety as well as for people working on the ground,“explains Ivan Chvojka.

Programme creation

The Flight Director of SIAF emphasizes the team work while preparing aviation days. He doesn´t say I, he says WE. However, the preparation of the programme of the event is his personal matter.“I always have a programme in three variants – for good weather conditions, for worse ones and also for zero ones. While making the programme I try to alternate fast and noisy aircraft with slow propeller ones or  parachute jumps or gliders. I have to take into consideration accompanying activities or charter flights.“

Tough atmosphere shortly before aviation days

At least two months before the event all invited participants are provided with all information and coordinates necessary for their performance at SIAF. After arriving in Sliač they are given also  Display Order. In the meantime information panels for static displays are prepared and additional communication with some pilots is in the process. “Flight Deputy Director Peter Hatalčík is completely snowed under with this work. He makes phone calls, sends e-mails, searches for details not mentioned in initial questionnaires of invited pilots. In case aviation days are organized by the military, such as in Zeltweg or Fairford, participants are provided with orders taken as commands. However we are a civil organization. Of course, if somebody arrives one day later because of work duties we have to comply with this requirement,“explains Ivan Chvojka.

Rehearsal  day is the most demanding

One week before aviation day the Flight Director moves in Sliač from Košice and returns home after SIAF. He together with his team checks markings of the airport according to approved rules and fixed coordinates. On an arrival day, Thursday before weekend aviation days, he is in a tower coordinating activities of individual sections.“Everyone landing at Sliač Airport must be provided with fuel, material from the information centre and a lift to the hotel. Also we have to check an aircraft. My people from the Flight Information Group give crews a training plan and a programme, arrange departure time, a track, offer help if neccessary. Friday is the most demanding day. In one day we have to execute all rehearsals and coordinate them with those who cannot arrive on Thursday. They are aware of  waiting in a holding pattern because a rehearsal is obligatory and  of top priority,“ says Ivan Chvojka.

Safety and weather: the highest priorities of aviation days

The Flight Director of SIAF as a leader of the aerobatic team Biele Albatrosy participated in more than  seventy aviation days. He is well aware that performers accommodate decisions of the organizers focused on safety and weather conditions.“Every flight day, in the morning and in the afternoon the pre-flight briefing is conducted. Everyone performing in given part of a day are briefed about weather conditions, weather forecast for several hours and restrictions. The briefing is recorded. The flight group includes four people alternating in checking lines of two air sectors to keep safety regulations. The display line for supersonic aircraft is farther from the audience than the line of slower aircraft. We have to take into consideration an unexpected situation so emergency services are at our disposal,“emphasizes Ivan Chvojka.

A breathing space comes the last aircraft takes off

On Monday after a weekend event the Flight Director coordinates departures of aircraft in order arranged in advance. Ivan Chojka leaves empty Sliač Airport. He has used all available  experience gained as a pilot, instructor, squadron leader, inspector of the Aviation Authority (currently the Transport Authority) for military pilots qualified for flying  L-39, leader of Biele Albatrosy, inspector of the Slovak National Aeroclub and also flight exeminator of the Aviation Authority of the Slovak Republic.“It is a  demanding post and requiers a professional. According to STANAG 3533 a flight director has to be a person with previous experience in participating in aviation days. It is an honour for me. I am in touch with surroundings I used to live for  many years. It brings a person in the past and they feel younger physically and mentaly, “ says the Flight Director of the International Air Fest Days SIAF.