Redbull hangár

Redbull hangár

2018. május 21., hétfő

Organization of the Hungarian military parachuting world championship event – interview with Colonel dr. Tamás Bali

Text: Gabriella Gulyás, photos: Nándor Emil Dudás

I’ve been always interested in the background of organizing a big event – it’s a professional harm to me -, because I know how perfectly coordinated team work and high level problem solving skill are necessary to it. In my work so far, I could participate in the preparation and the implementation of some smaller or bigger company events, and as a journalist, I attended a lot of well or not so well organized international autosport and military programme. In fact, once my curiosity came up to that I applied for a civilian volunteer position at the military air show at Kecskemét ten years ago. It was an unforgettable experience to see it from inside and participate in the protocol duties, thanks to the professional organizers then. When I had a talk with Tamás Bánszki, member of the Hungarian military parachuting team, about their training for the 42th Parachuting Championship in Hungary in August, I mentioned to him, that I would be happy to learn more about the background work of this event too. He advised to turn to Colonel dr. Tamás Bali, because he’s the head of it. So Emil and I visited him at the 86th Szolnok Helicopter Base, where he serves as a deputy base commander. During our conversation, he told us many interesting backstage secret about the preparation, the attendees, and his motivation and gained an insight into his busy workaday duties as well. After the interview, we could take photos of a renewed Mi-17 under the weekly check. We met the parachuting team and the new talents although not at the planned place but in authentic surroundings.

Let’s see the interview with the Colonel.

Has Hungary ever had a similarly big parachuting event like this?

Not a military one, but there was a civilian, but much smaller than ours. Taking the preliminary applications, we have 42 countries altogether, but the registration is not over. There are nations who represent themselves with judges. Even the team of Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela, the United Nations, Qatar is going to travel here.

Is the world championship based on invitational system?

Military sports and parachuting among them belong to the International Military Sports Council (CISM), which has 170 member countries. When a nation decides to organize a military sport event, it annunciates it at the yearly congress of CISM. It happened like this in our case too, we announced it 2017 in Athens, that we are planning the organization and implementation of the world championship, here in Hungary. The negotiations have started right after it. Other nations, for example Slovenia, weren’t able to organize this event individually, so they asked us to organize it together. It will be held in Hungary from Hungarian resources, they give two PC-6 aircraft.

As far as I know, this type is used at the Slovenian and Austrian Parachuting World Cup Series (PARAWCS) events too.

Yes, indeed.

It surprising to me, that this event will be commonly organized.

Commonly, but we have more to do, they give only these aircraft. It was a long and complex process to get here. Our parachuting team became world champion in accuracy landing in Russia 2016. When it happened, we have to write a report about it to the leadership of Hungarian Army, in which I wrote down, that the decision makers should consider the organizing of a world championship event in Hungary too, as we do this sport at a high level. It was a very serious decision, so it took a long time to make it. We had to do concepts with budgets and it took a year while the Minister of Defense made the decision and gave us the authorization us to announce the organization of the 2018 parachuting world championship in Athens.

You mentioned, that not every country is capable to hold a word championship. I guess, it has technical and other kind of criterions to do it. What does a country need to be on this list?

They need planes and helicopters first of all which ensure the implementation.

The colonel’s mobile phone is ringing, he apologized, but he must take this call. A colleague calls him regarding the organization.

Is see, that you are really busy with it.

Yes, the parachuting world championship rules my life these days.

So you obviously won’t go to holiday this summer.

I’ve just come back from holiday, but it didn’t have a sense, as I spent four hours each day with e-mailing with the participating nations and the parachuting division of CISM, where the leader is the Austrian Col. Gernot Rittenschober. We’ve been in a continuous discursion.

Returning to the topic, how does CISM decide about which country is capable to hold a world champion event. Aircraft are essential. Military parachuting has three parts: accuracy landing, formation skydive and style jump. (Accuracy landing means jumping out from 1.000 meters, touching a coin-sized spot on the ground with the heel as close as possible, formation skydive is about the jump of more paratroopers who have to cling together in strict formations during free fall. They get points by their preciseness and fastness. In style jump, only one person jumps out from 2.000 m doing an air ballet with pre-determined spins and sommersaults during free fall. Also the accurate performance and quickness what count. – the editor)

Good to hear, that the race program includes all of them. I know, that the Hungarian national team competes only in accuracy landing, but I saw a red style jump dress in their rest tent, when I visited them many years ago.

That was Tamás Bánszki’s suit for speed free fall, which is not part of the military parachuting world championship, but Tamás is the Hungarian champion in it.

Turning back to the criterions, they checked, that we have the territorial conditions for all of the three part of the competition. Obviously, we have everything for accuracy landing. Formation skydive doesn’t require too big technical background, because they film it in the air, the cameraman jumps out together with the team, and rating is based in the video footage. CISM checks if we have everything for the rating on the ground. We need a software to it, which is developed is South-Korea and we rent it from them. They supply it with a region code, so it works only at this race and this region. Style jump is even more difficult. It is recorded from the ground with a special camera, which we don’t have, so we asked the Germans to give us some. It was a long process to organize it. The leader of the parachuting division of CISM had been following it – we had to inform him about everything – he saw that I agreed with the Germans, so we could say then, that we’ve ensured the technical background to the three part of the competition.

Can you test these devices before the event?

Yes, of course. The teams will arrive on the 6th of August, start the jumps and we make a prolusion two day later at the Szolnok-Szanda airport.

Beside it, we had to make a written statement to CISM, that we ensure the system’s logistical and infrastructural conditions as well, which is very complex with the 44 countries and 700 persons so far.

It is almost the size of the Kecskemét Military Air Show as for the number of participants.

Yes, and it will be even more, because the Indonesians also registered and even North-Korea said, that they would come, but hasn’t applied yet.

It’s a big thing from a military diplomacy point of view, but I guess, that it won’t be easy to secure them.

There are others who need special guarding: the princes will come from the Emirates and Qatar. This is going to be a serious task.

Do you have enough accommodation in Szolnok or you are going to house some in Budapest as well?

No way, we won’t transfer them from Budapest.

I thought, because at Kecskemét Air Show, there is not enough accommodation locally usually, so the organizers use the hotels in Budapest.

It cannot happen. It would be impossible on route 4 on a daily basis. 

How could you solve it here at Szolnok?

The city supports us. This is a military event, the participants are soldiers, so they don’t need 4-5 stars hotel rooms, military accommodation is also fine. Our base is not able to ensure enough place, so the city’s help means a lot to us, because the competitors will be in three hostels. The Hungarian Army covers accommodation at two places, in the Peace Support Training Centrum for the 140 VIP guests and we are planning to place 30 persons at the base.

So accordingly to it, you accommodate the Arabian princes and the North-Korean delegations locally.

As it is a NATO base, we are not allowed to let them in, except the catering, because the canteen is only 50 m far from the gate and the route is secured. But the Kuwaiti for example, has special requests, so they arrange hotel rooms for themselves as always. Usually they book a whole hotel annex from their own budget.  

As for the budget, is Hungarian Defense Forces the pays the costs alone or are there civilian organizations who give money?

It’s clearly a military event, so it completely charges the Hungarian Army’s budget.

What other tasks do you have to count in addition to those above mentioned?

Our to-do-list is a 17 pages document, so we have a lot of work with the world championship. Taking the development of the race venue for example, in which we focus on the Szolnok-Szanda airport. We chose it, because it has free entry and can easily accessible from the city. But in order to ensure the conditions there, we need to build a huge tent camp and also the infrastructure for example the water with pipeline, the electricity with underground and ground cables. We also have to ensure the toiletry facilities, build parking places and bituminous road. It’s a huge work, what the Hungarian Army cannot solve alone. The separating and security of the competitors is also very important, because it cannot happen, that the spectators enter the competitioners’ zone. And it’s just one of the race venues. The accuracy landing and the formation skydive landing zone will be there, but style jump will be at the base. It’s not open for the public. The judicial evaluation offices will be also here. 

Will be traffic management at the Szolnok-Szanda airport race venue?

Military policemen will manage the traffic. A pylon will be moved in order to expand the access road to make enough place for two buses in the same time and for bidirectional traffic.

Are any other military units involved in the organization and implementation?

Basically, the 86th Szolnok Helicopter Base organizes it with its eleven units, decisively from our own recourses. Nevertheless, as for information technology, transportation and protocol point of view, the Budapest Garrison Brigade will participate in the work. We have to give English, Russian, French speaking attendant for the nations, whom will be appointed by the Hungarian Defense Forces Joint Forces from its own units. Catering will be our duty. Zrínyi Nonprofit Ltd. is taking part in the event’s identity design. There are so many things to do beside these.

You mentioned, that Slovenia will support the event with two PC-6s. What aircraft will the Hungarian Army is going to use?

Mainly with two Mi-17s, but there was a request from CISM to ensure a Mi-24 for the jumps. We are going to use it for style jumps, because of cost efficiency. It will be only two hours approximately.

So you cannot count with civilian aircraft.

 It’s a military competition, so we cannot involve civilian planes, but the airspace will be closed during the race anyway. There might be some who would film it from the air, but nobody will fly here except us, because if somebody would appear and fly into the airspace during the jumps, that would be very dangerous. 

Did you consult with other countries who held a world championship already about their best practices and weak points in organization and implementation?

I attend the Russian and the German world championship in 2016 and 2017. We just orientated in 2016 we went there to compete and I observed what methods they use. But by 2017, we had already decided, that we will organize the race this year, so we went there to examine how to establish the conditions of a race like this. But it’s not really relevant, as we know the competitions and how to coordinate it, how to operate the race. However, the conditions are different at each nation. There wasn’t a cost limit at the Russians, so they could spend any money what the organizers needed. The Germans had a 500.000 EUR budget. Russia, Germany, Hungary and the regulators are different. It was worth to see how they keep up the rules of the competition. It was also interesting how they solve the transportation and the accommodation of 700 persons – both the Russians and the Germans failed. They made a mistake when transported the participants from 60 and 80 km far accommodation. They both used nine buses, but they couldn’t solve it even so. We saw it and decided not to transport the teams from Budapest or even Kecskemét, because otherwise we cannot manage it smoothly.

Yes, I saw bad examples for it at some military air shows.

We see two weak points in implementation: accommodation and transportation. If we solve these two, then we are OK, because everything else is secondary, doesn’t make difficulties. That’s why we are very lucky to have the city’s support. We got a lot of help from the mayor. They vacated two hostels for us, the students will move their things to a third one in summer. 

If I got it right, the idea to host a military parachuting world championship is yours.

I wrote it first in my report, that we should consider it. I got the reply, that the leadership wants to see its details of the motion, how can it happen and the cost as well, before the decision. Then we sit down here at the base and made a plan, a cost estimation, what we submitted, but in two versions, because the Slovenians has appeared. So one of the versions was, that how it would be in Hungarian organisation only and the other with the Slovenians. We sent it to the Minister of Defense, who chose to organise it together with the Slovenians. We worked it out better, we submitted it again, he read it and said: an authority will made. Hungarian Army has an officer in the leadership, who keep contact with CISM, Col. dr. Zoltán Eleki. He got that document what authorized us to announce in Athens, that we organize and implement the world championship in 2018. It took a year what I tell you quickly. A very fast work started from now on. We started with the accommodation, because we knew, that if we cannot solve it locally, then it won’t work. We realized soon, that we are not able to manage it without the help of the city. We thought first, that we can solve it at the base, but we started to calculate, the leader of CISM’s parachuting division has come, checked everything and told us to find another place. Then the city came. Showing the size of the preparations, it’s a good example, that there was only one runway at Szolnok-Szanda airport, which is not enough, so we had to build two other one, so there are three runways altogether.

What was your motivation to host this competition in Hungary too?

Honestly, our men. I’m a pilot, so I fly, but I have some parachuting jumps as well. Not so many, only 15, but could look into the paratroopers’ life. It’s an amazing profession and I love it. Besides that I had some orientation to parachuting, we have those parachuting competitors and trainers who well deserve to appreciate them and also their profession with a competition like this. They really well deserve to work for them a lot. This competition will give such a boost to parachuting what lasts for the next generations. I tell you the truth, we have problems with the succour. This world championship is a big opportunity to ensure new blood for this profession in a long term.

Did it affect the decision of the Minister, that Hungarian military parachuting celebrates its 100th anniversary this year?

Not really. I would rather say, that the Hungarian Army is 170 year old in 2018 and this event fits to its programme series. It wasn’t clear at the first submitting, that it will be so huge, but now we can see it. I couldn’t find a similarly big event in Hungary in 2018. So we can say, that this will be the biggest sport event in Hungary in 2018. Although it’s a bit closed, as it’s military.

What result do you expect from the Hungarian team?

We don’t put stress on them, they are already world champions, so they don’t need to prove anything. We don’t want to force them at all to win at home too, we let them to enjoy it as hosts. When I was at the Russian event, they made a prestige question from winning it. We won it. It was painful for them. Germans do the same at their home event last year, but they finished 4th, we got the bronze medal. I told the team to take it easy. They have to compete against so strong nations, that they deserves respect. They reach excellent results against such countries who have different conditionals. The Russian team has an own airport with own helicopters and planes and they can train all day, every day. Our men do their military duties, train soldiers. They can jump only the 25% of the other nations’ and they are world champions. We don’t want to put too much expectation onto their shoulders, because as the press is growing the fault is more. They just need to bring their usual shape. They don’t have to stress them at all, as not the wind blew the world champion title onto their shoulders. The knowledge is in them, they just need to do their job, we appreciate them.

What other duties do you have on a daily bases besides competition organizing?

As a deputy base commander, I’m responsible to many fields. One of these is pilot basic training, the light aircraft pilot pre-selection and the transport helicopter professional direction, the training on helicopter, operational preparation, because we have transport helicopter pilots in Afghanistan as well. Parachuting is also one of my duties as a whole, not just the national team. Round diving and airplane parachuting training, pilot-saving parachuting training and pilot candidate training are also part of it. Now we host the National University of Public Service’s reconnaissance students and I’m responsible to their training too. Besides these, I supervise the base environmental protection as well.

What do you mean under environmental protection?

A lot of hazardous waste is generating here, because of the support of our vehicles and helicopters. We need to handle, store and transport it. We also inherited a landfill from that times when environmental protection was not so emphasized. One of our running projects is to liquidate it. We made a road make for it with the technical team of Szentes, we place the containers, then we need to transport and decontaminate it, because it contains some asbestos. So I have a lot to do with the environmental protection.

Do you have time to fly?

I have less than I would like to have. I had 30 hours last year altogether, but I don’t need to fly a lot, because it’s not my job. Those must fly a lot who serve in Afghanistan. When I went there I flew more. Or for example two of our helicopters went to Portugal to a big military exercise to the south part of the country. (We saw them from the train when we were near to Szolnok. – the editor) They are flying two days outwards. Twelve hours there and twelve hours back. They participate in the yearly big exercise of EDA (European Defense Agency) with other nine nations. The organization of these exercise participations is also one of my duties.

Flooding would even increase your duties I guess.

Yes, indeed. I’m responsible to every transport helicopter operation, so flooding means additional duties. We have a tough period in March, but we are over it. Experts said then, that anything can happen, but there was nothing more than a long high water level. This is usual these days, we have some snow in March, that the weather change to warm soon. The snow is melting suddenly. Somehow there’s no spring just summer immediately. 

Do you often travel abroad?

I’m constantly going to conferences to lecture. For example I was in Athens, Rome and Frankfurt during last May. A month ago I was in Washington.

And you wanted to organize a world championship besides it.

The team well deserves it and this profession too.

That was good closing remarks and I asked what I want, so we went to see the Mi-17.

Tamás Bánszki, the member and trainer of the team joined us in the meantime and brought bad news from the view of the report. It was after 11 o’clock, but they couldn’t jump that day due to heavy wind and the weather forecast didn’t predict a positive change.  Without a better option, we went to the parachute folding building, where other team members spent time forced to inactivity. However I could talk with them undisturbedly, a cheerful chance pondering has started and the colonel joined us in it. I saw, that they excited, because even though, they jumped many 0 and 1 cm, but this season will be a really busy one for them with the six world cup event, the military and the civilian world championship in Bulgaria. Their teammate, István Asztalos has a lot to do with these registrations.

With Tamás Varga Team member and his individually won cups

More cups

These are also Tamás's medals

Team members Tamás Varga on the left, Gábor Hirschler in the middle and Tamás Bánszki on the right with the colonel

Jump suits

We met the young guns too, Ferenc Horváth and Attila Boros. Ferenc is not that junior, as he’s been member of the team for two years. When I asked them how to find this sport, it has turned out, that they were engaged in their childhood, as both of their father is parachuting. They serves as contracted soldiers, in a parachute folding position and they try to jump as much as they can, they could 80 so far this year. They are happy to learn by watching the world champion team, their training is in the hands of Roland Olenyik, former team member. As for their military career, they want to get the parachuting trainer qualification.

The youngsters: Attila Boros és Ferenc Tóth

The program ended for us, we couldn’t take photos of jumps thanks to the bad weather, but I hope, that I can tell you good news about the guys before the world championship in August, Hungary.