Supercruise Aviation - Article
Albania Air Force and the Macedonian Air Arms
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When I heard that a trip to Albania was in the planning, I made contact with Koos Heemskerk. The plan was to go in week 17 of 2008, but due an explosion in a factory for disposal of unused munitions in Tirana, the trip was postponed until week 42. The group consisted of 12 persons. The flight to Tirana was not organized, so that was the responsibility of each person in the group it self. Because of the prize of the flight, most of us went from Brussel.

At the airport of Tirana, or contact man in Albania, Hashi Asllani, was already waiting for us. He organized a bus with a driver for are visits in Albania and Macedonia. Because or flight was on Sunday and the first base visit would be on Monday, we went to or hotel in the heart of Tirana.

The First day of or visit with the Albanian Air Force was at Rinas, alternatively named Mother Theresa, the International Airport of Tirana. At First we would have a meting with the commander of the Air Force, but the morning meting with the staff was taking longer then expected, so we took the pictures of the 3 preserved airplanes on the airfield.

This where a MiG-19S, a F-6 (Chinese build MiG-19) and a H-5 (Chinese build Il-28).

Because this not any more an active air base, the shelter areas is now out side the airfield. At this part of the formerly military air base, are 3 shelters where they have stored airplanes.
In the first one, there where 2 F-7A (Chinese build MiG-21). In front of this airplanes was truck, so there was no possibility to get then out of the shelter.

On the wall of the shelter where some drawings for maintains on the airplanes.

The next shelter housed 4 airplanes. This where FT-5, witch are Chinese build MiG-17’s. These shelters are long and narrow. In the back there is almost no light present. The airplanes are stored here now already for couple years, so there almost no air in the tires.

The last shelter with airplanes houses 4 F-6, witch are Chinese build MiG-19.

After that it was time for the trip back to the hotel, in the middle of Tirana.
The next we had to go very early, because we had to visit 2 bases, namely Gjader and Farkë

Like at Rinas, there are no active airplanes, only stored. These airplanes are stored in shelter. This shelter is carved in the mountain and two entrees. In one part you go in the tunnel and then after a couple 100 meters you’re back outside.

In this tunnel there are 3 type’s stored, namely FT-5, F-7A and F-6. In total there are 31 airplanes in this tunnel stored. The light conditions are poor to none. Only a couple lamps are working, so you have to light out the planes your self.

This is the only operation bases in Albania. They fly with helicopters and the last years they get some second hands ones from Italia and Germany. For the new types came, there where Z-5 (Chinese build Mi-4), but most of them are at dump area of the base. A couple of them are stored and preserved.

From Italia they got AB.205A and AB.206C and from Germany the Bo-105E. During ore visit there was a training with a AB.205A in using the winch. This was the only flying picture that we got during are visit in Albania. The Commander of the Helicopter Regiment at Farkë was Ltc. Plt. Frederik Beltoja and thanks to him, a AB.206C was taken out of the hanger, so that it was possible to make a nice picture.

I must thanks the Commander for a very nice visit at his airbase and showing us around the base.

Kucove air base is the larges air base in Albania. At this moment there are no operation airplanes present, but when we spoke with the base commander, he told us that after 2009 when Albania join NATO, that the plans are to make of his base an operation base with fixed wing airplanes. But now here are only stored airplanes.

These are stored outside and in the cave tunnel. Luckily for us, most are stored outside. The following airplanes are stored here; An-2, MiG-15UTI, MiG-15bis, F-5, FT-5, F-6, MiG-19S and PT-6 (Chinese build Yak-18).

At the gate, there are 4 preserved airplanes present, namely a MiG-15bis, MiG-15UTI, F-5 and an F-6. After we had a drink with the base commander, we got to Tirana, a drive of 2 hours.

The next day was the transfer day to Macedonia. But before the drive to Macedonia, we went to the logistic base in Tirana, where they had a MiG-19 on display. After that we also made a small stop at Laprake also known as Tirana Aerodrome. This now a civil heliport, but previous it was the airport of Tirana. It used to house air force regiment with Y-5’s. The helicopters that are now here are from the Albanian government.

Very early we got to the border of Macedonia, to meet with or contact person of the Air Arms. From the border to Petrovec was 3 hour drive.
When we arrived at the airbase, we got a small presentation about the Macedonian Air Arms. The Macedonian Air Force was constituted on 10th of April 1992. In 1994 the first flying equipment was acquired in the form of Mi-17 helicopters. During 2001 the fleet for the Air Force Brigade grew with the arrival of Mi-8’s transport helicopters, Mi-24’s combat helicopters, UH-1H’s and Su-25’s. At this moment there is also one An-2. For the training squadron there are the Zlin 242L’s and a Zlin 143L.

After the presentation it was time to take some pictures. When arrived at the platform, we so that or host made a small static. All of use in the group got a bad feeling, is this all?

But there was also some flying activities of the Mi-8’s, one Mi-24 and the Zlin 242L’s.

We also had requested to photograph the Su-25, with are now stored and the base. After some negotiating, we got the approval. When we arrived at the storage, not only where there the Su-25’s, but also the stored Mi-24’s and Mi-8’s. On or request the covers of the Su-25’s where removed.

The last part of the visit was on the other side of the airfield, where the Zlin 242’s and Zlin 143 are housed. When we arrived a Zlin 242 was made ready for its flight. After that we went to the hangars. In one hangar where two Zlin’s but the support crew got them out for use.

That was the last part of or visit at Petrovec and the Macedonian Air Arms. After saying thank you and goodbye, we headed back to Tirana, a 6 hour drive. The next day we would fly back home.

I would like to express my gratitude to Koos Heemskerk for organising this trip. Also my gratitude to the people of the Albanian Air Force and the Macedonian Air Arms for making this trip possible.

Text en photo's by François van Riel