Wings of Storm’s 50th international performance  

The participation of the Croatian Air Force's aerobatic team "Wings of Storm" in the air show in Poland was its 50th international performance; its story began 14 years ago, with an unofficial display on 23 July 2004

The participation of the Croatian Air Force’s aerobatic team “Wings of Storm” in the air show in Poland was its 50th international performance; its story began 14 years ago, with an unofficial display on 23 July 2004. The Team was officially inaugurated on 5 August 2005 – the 10th anniversary of the Military and Police Operation “Storm”. During the period the Team changed composition 12 times, and had 15 male and one female pilot – Major Diana Doboš, as the third woman ever in an aerobatic  team. The air show attended in Poland is the 180th public performance of the “Wings of Storm”(130 performances at home and  50 abroad). The international performances are far more demanding, lasting  longer and engaging the presence of technicians  and transporting the entire equipment, and along with trial flights require months of preparations and diplomatic clearances for landing on foreign airports.  The difference  also lies in the audience structures – air shows in Croatia are attended by some 10,000 spectators, mostly civilian pilots, compared to ca 150,000 to 200,000 spectators in international shows, attended by civilian and military pilots alike.

”Wings of Storm“ have performed in 15 countries in Europe – Romania, Slovenia, Hungary, Germany,  Austria, the Czech Republic,  Slovakia, Belgium, Italy, Turkey, Polandm Denmark, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and France. The largest audience – some 500, 000 spectators – watched them in Rialto (IT) in 2010, but the Team underlines the performance at the Royal International Air Tattoo in the Fairford Air Base in 2016.  It was the first performance of the current Team’s line-up – Cpt. Darko Belančić, Maj. Ivan Anđić, 1st Lt. Goran Grgić, Maj. Zvonimir Mravunac  and 1st Lt. Denis Živaljić), before a large audience (some 100,000 spectators and a number of colleagues from foreign aerobatic groups).

Meeting with various aerobatic groups is one of the biggest benefits of airshows, where teams can watch others and compare peformances. “Wings of Storm“ appreciate other aerobatic teams as audience, and have repeatedly won their admiration. Although the airshows are mostly non-competition events, some of them present the  participants  with awards for outstanding performances.

“Wings of Storm“ have received the best performance trophies at the Czech International Air Fest, (2012 and 2014), the Danish Air Show (2012) and at the Royal International Air Tattoo (UK, 2016), and the award for the most precise performance in Slovakia in 2017, and they value the King Husein Sword the most. The award – the shiny heavy sword – is stored in the Team’s office in the 93rd Airbase, among the many posters and awards, assuring them of the ability to successfully continue the tradition of the “Wings of Storm“ ; it has therefore been singled out as “the best and most succesful“. The awards even worthier bearing in mind that unlike their Italian colleagues of the Frecce “Tricolori“ and the British “Red Arrows, the “Wings of Storm“ are not a designated aerobatic team peforming at air shows and promoting the military but are primarily flight instructors in the Barracks “Pukovnik Mirko Vukušić“  at Zemunik. The path to the 50th international peformance was hard, “involving effort, hard work and sacrifice, and is therefore of great importance for us“, says Maj.  Mravunac. The Team began preparing in spring. Each performance is preceded by two trial flights.

The “Hrvatski vojnik“ magazine talked to the Team members during the rehearsals prior to the performance in Poland and observed them practice all 24 manoeuvres. The Team members and technicians left for the Radom Air Base on 23 August, where they took part in an air show marking the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Polish Air Force, with ten participating aerobatic groups from all over the world performing in 12-hour programmes during two days. It will be the 49th and the jubilary 50th international performance, but the Team are already looking towards the 100th performance.  In September they are taking part in another air show in the Czech Republic.  Their next goal is the 100th international performance and an even stronger wish to see the “Wings of Storm“ fly for long and young pilots continue their work. They would also like to include smoke effects in their sequences, but that will not affect their performance. “We shall continue doing our job as we have done it so far, with or without smoke; we shall continue doing our best“, says Captain Belančić. Their mission is not to promote themselves, but the quality of the  Croatian Air Force. “Every air show is an occasion to present the training in the Croatian Air Force  and our skills,” says 1st Lieutenant  Živaljić.