Redbull hangár

Redbull hangár

2011. április 5., kedd

Above the standards - Interview with Róbert Fekete, one of the main organizers of the Kecskemét Airshow

I promised to you recently, that I would make an interview with Róbert Fekete, on the occasion of the European Airshow Council chose last year’s Kecskemét Airshow to the best one in Europe.(See my last post about it.)

The interviewee

Robi – major Róbert Fekete, retired in 2010 – has been coordinating the organization of the airshow from the beginning. Our many years friendship is based on the same professional communication principles and began when I visited the airbase because of the interview with the first 5 Gripen pilots. He greeted the magazine’s staff very kindly and enthusisastically as the leader of the base’s communication department, and he did his best to fulfil all of our requests. I saw immediately, that he likes his job very much and perfectionist in performing his work, which amazed me. We kept contact later and once the extreme idea came up to my mind, that as a civilian volunteer, I would like to see him in action when he is managing the airshow. I knew, that it wouldn’t be easy, as a civilian is not allowed to hang around inside the fence, but Robi supported my plan and that’s why I could get the necessary permissions. You should ask him if I really helped their work, but I learnt a lot during this few days and it was an unforgettable experience to be in the middle of the event.

I didn’t have to beg him to give an interview either and and extra thank you for him for not refusing to make it on Facebook-chat, what meant the he also had to type a lot. But it was more efficient, than meet him set an appointment to a face-to-face talk, as he is still cahngeing his place very quickly J Here comes our chat:

Gabriella: Let’s start with the biography. You told me once, that you began your career at the Airforce as a jet pilot. How many years did you fly and on which types?

Robi: I’ve been made a lieutenant in 1986 November. Together with my college years, I flew 5 years on L-39 and MiG-21, I have 300 hours flight time altogether. Unfortunately I had to finish flying in 1989 because of medical reasons.

G: Did the communication officer position immediately follow it? And why did you choose this way when you had to think over your career?

R: No it wasn’t right after it at all…After disabling, I was ordered to the regimental cadre, where I served in differents posts. Among them, I was a raw recruit platoon and squadron leader – line infantry existed that time. After joining the NATO, I become a NATO TACEVAL (NATO combat readiness assessesment) supervisor. My communication career has begun – if we can name it like this – when brigadier István Pethő has become the commander of Kecskemét Airbase. He looked for a communication expert to his side, as in Western-Europe’s air bases. It began in 2005. In the first period, I was doing it together with my original position and later I became the leader of the communucation department.

G: t’s surprising to me, because when we met first time, I thougt, that you’d been the communication officer for 10 years at least. It seemed to me, if you had always done it. And when did you participate in the coordination of the airshow first time?

R: If we can call it an airshow, then in 1990. There was only some planes from the American and Soviet Airforce, beside the Hungarian ones.

G: And what were your duities? What memories do you have from that year?

R: Actually me and my colleague made the big part of the organizing: searching for sponsors, making presentations, planning the program, etc. That time we used typewriter, I drew the placing drawings the placing skectchs on tracing paper with clack ink.

G: Did it annoy you, that you have just missed the beginning of the airshow era as a jet pilot? And by the way: who was your mate in organizing?

R: My mate in organizing was also an former pilot, by that time he was also working in the regimental cadre, his name was István Thuróczy – as far as I can remember.
No, the situation didn’t frustrated me, because it wasn’t the real airshow era yet. And I have never wanted to be a  display pilot. There were better pilots and it wasn’t a shame to learn from them. And I was very young that time.

G: I see. I guess, it was an advantage, that you were ex-pilots, so you know the needs of the arriving planes and people. Did you also involved in the organizing, when the even move to Taszár Airbase in ’91?

R: No, I participated in those 2 events just as a simple visitor. With ticket like everybody else.

G: It must have been strange. Why was a five-years brake after that?

R: I cannot answer this question…

G: What were your respects when you build the structure of the first Kecskemét Airshows? Could you examine foreign airshows?

R: We built it from our own ideas, but honestly we cannot talk about a stucture at the beginning. I could visited only one airshow abroad, but I couldn’ see into the secrets of organizing and as it has turned out later, the Airtatto, which could have been a model for us, is situated on totally different basics and built up other way.

G: Returning to your previous answer just for a thought: do you still see major differencies between the big foreign airshows and the Hungarian one? If so, could you tell me examples? They can be positive or negative.

R: I guess, that the conrasts have disappeared, we are a match for big foreign airshows in every respect. Morover, I guess we overtooke them in some field.

G: The award prooves it. And how did you define the list of the invited aircrafts and the order of display programs?

R: Good question…Actually, we strove for being spectacular and for recoprocity. We tried to draw up the order of the display programmes, that a strong demo be followed by an even stronger. The morning hours gave the lead up programs - first of all, we wanted to ensure the opportunity for the Hungarian participants to introduce themselves to the public, and after the opening, the air was of the heavy aircrafts, helis, display teams.

G: Regarding the inviteds: some civilan friends of mine say, that the really exceptional aircrafts were here at the end of the 90s, when every aircraft factory made an effort to represent themselves with their top models, because of our jet tender. How do you see that? Could you confirm, that you didn’t have to beg them to participate?

R: There are some to whom we didn’t ask for so long, but there are others to whom we beg without avail…
We are often criticised on forums, that ’this aircraft didn’t come, that aircraft didn’t come’, but only we know how much we worked on arranging those planes’ arrival, who were here in a year. We also had some disappointments of course.

Szu-27 on last year's airshow

G: Could you tell me a concrete example, who was really hard to get?

R: We would have liked to persuade the Szu-27 with Anatoliy Kvocsur to go Kecskmét even earlier. We carried on advanced talks (telephone, e-mail), but they didn’t got the permissions finally. (Kvocsur is a famous Ukranian MiG and Szukhoj display and test pilot, a living legend. – Gabriella)

G: But fortunally an Ukranian Szu-27 came last year finally.

R: Yes, and it meant an unforgettable experince for us – to take it here. Otherwise we really wanted to persuade an American display team to go here, but unfortunatelly they have never been in Europe in that year when we had an airshow … even, it would have been a speacial reason to get them: as one of the mechanics at the Blue Angels was a lady with a Hungarian origin – Éva Takács

The Frecce Tricolori Italian aerobatic team

G: And the Red Arrows? I seem to remember that they were on your ’wish list’ several times, and they’ve been touring in Europe all the time.

R: We tried, but it wasn’t successful. The real reason of it – ant not just regarding the Red Arrows – maybe, that the display teams’ invitation must be fixed 1 year prior to the event.

Two very smiley members of the Breitling Team as evidence to the friendly pilots

G: A yellow press-like question: have the display pilots star affectations? Have they ever had special needs towards the organizers?

R: No, they are all friendly and informal.

G: Yes, that’s what I experinced too. I guess you made friendships during the past years.

R: I couldn’t name friendships, but it’s a good feeling when some returnees recognized me, knew who I am, none the less, that I’ve never met them personally before.

G: The Kecskemét Airshow is mostly in every second year. When do you begin to organize the next one and what is its process? How many people is involved in that? Is there a constant team?

R: I cannot talk about anything about the next airshow. As a pensioner, I see just a slight chance to participate in the event, maybe just like at Taszár…

G: You told me the same before the last airshow. :-) But then we can take the question referring to the recent past.

R: Usually we start it one year before – with the direct contacts. There was a small team who had been worked together for years – we even knew eachothers’ thoughts.

G: When I worked at the airshow as a civilian volunteer in 2008, I noticed only one thing from you: the vapour trail what was the result of your quick placechanging. If I remember well, you had two batteries to your mobile at the base, on of them was always on the charger. Which wasn’t a bad idea, as the mobile was always on your ear. Do you sleep at all in the week of the event?

Robi (on the right) is working hard

R: Yes, but not too much. Max 10-12 hours from the 72 hours of the last 3 days…3-4 hours per night, but it happened, that I jumped home only for a shower and fresh clothes and went back. One of the energy drinks – which was the sponsor of the event for years – and coffee makes miracles. Once I drank caffeine injection too.

G: How could you drink a caffeine injection?! :-)

R: I don’t understand the question. I put it into a glass of soft drink… :-)

G: What does the award mean for you what you get in Brussels recently?

R: The award is the crown of more than 10 years, but a I said it in Brussels, but the award is not for me, but everyone - soldieres, civilians – who add their work to this honours.

I Bruussels at the prize giving with Károly Vida

G: What do you consider the biggest success/achievement of the more than 10 years? Could you tell a memory what warms your heart when you recall it?

R: Success and achievement is, that the airshows have passed off without accidents. The award is a big appreciation that’s unquestionable and if we return the friendship, it was an amazing exeperience to meet the Dutch colleague personally, with whom I’ve been speaking on the phone and exchanging e-mails for many years. A lifetime friendship has taken between us.

G: There you are!

R: And I also liked those evenings, when sat down with the then base commander at the end of the day and beside one or two glass of wine we discussed those things which were behind or in front of us.

G: What are you doing these days as a pensioner and when you are not working on the airshow?

R: I live the everyday life of the pensioners. I’m not working – it’s not completely true, as I translating for 2 websites – I try to spend as much time with the family as I can, mostly with my younger son.

G: Now you don’t have to go to work, so you could come with us to the European airshows and could help to write a opjective summary about them. You should experince these events walking with a beer, sorry an icecream in your hand. :-)

R: I’m not a fan of icecream. :-) Yes, I could go…, but if Montecuccoli said regarding the war, only one thing I need: money, money, money…and you know, money is the least. But joking apart, I would like to see the Austrian, the Dutch and the Belgian airshow and maybe I can realize this plan one day.