DPRK’s first air show wows residents and foreign visitors
A scale model of a US Air Force F-16 is featured prominently
Now here’s something you don’t see every day: an F-16 fighter jet buzzing through the skies of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and launching— fireworks.
The plane roaring over people’s heads at the country’s first air show on Sunday was actually a remotecontrolled mock-up of the fabled US Air Force fighter.
The scale models of the F-16 and a Chinese J-10 fighter were featured on the second day of the Wonsan International Friendship Air Festival. Officials refused to comment on the origin of the model F-16.
The choice of flying a one-sixth scale F-16 at the show was an odd one considering the outrage the DPRK regularly expresses over the presence of US troops and Air Force bases in the Republic of Korea.
The DPRK was particularly outraged over recent flights by B-1B Lancer bombers, which are capable of dropping nuclear weapons, near the Demilitarized Zone that divides the Koreas in a display of power after the DPRK’s fifth nuclear test, conducted Sept 9.
The model fighters did, however, appear to please the crowd watching the air displays at Wonsan’s newly renovated Kalma Airport.
Thousands of locals and hundreds of foreign tourists and journalists invited to the event — which is intended to showcase Wonsan’s tourism appeal — were given a rare glimpse of DPRK’s own air force fighters, including a MiG-29 and SU-25 ground attack fighter, acquired from Russia.
“This plane is faster than other airplanes and can maneuver quickly, so there is little time to think, you must make fast decisions,” Rim Sol, aMiG-21 pilot said, standing beside her fighter on the tarmac.
Not part of the plan
When he booked his trip to the DPRK, Swiss lawyer Rafael Studer hadn’t seriously considered the option of jumping out of a Russianmade helicopter at 2,000 meters strapped to a DPRK military parachutist.
“It wasn’t really part of the plan,” the 27- year-old admitted after landing his tandem parachute jump at the two-day airshow, which drew foreign aviation enthusiasts who paid for brief flights in Soviet-era aircraft.
So it was that Studer found himself half-hanging out the door of a MilMi-8 helicopter, above.
“There was a ‘what the hell am I doing moment’ and then we jumped. Terrifying at first, but then surprisingly enjoyable,” he said.
Studer landed gently, unlike Dutch flight instructor Niels Linthout, who landed barefoot — “I lost my flipflops” — and face down underneath his tandem partner, much to the amusement of the large crowd.
A number of foreign professional sky divers took part in the show, including Douglas Jaques of the United States, a 68-year-old veteran of more than 11,400 jumps.
The US State Department strongly advises US citizens against traveling to the DPRK in any capacity, citing a “serious risk of arrest and long-term detention.”
Jacques said the travel advisory had given him “pause for thought” but the prospect of sky diving “in the most exotic location I could think of” had proved too shiny a lure.
“It’s like the warning on a drug label,” he said of the State Department warning. “They have to cover the worst-case scenario.”
Jacques and fellow pro-skydiver Klaus Renz from Germany said the equipment used by the DPRK parachutists was generally high quality.
“The canopy designs are copies, but they’re good copies,” said Renz. “They seem very well organized.”
DPRK aviation staff members watch a remote-controlled plane demonstration at Kalma Airport in the port city of Wonsan, DPRK, on Sunday.