DPRK’s first air show wows res­i­dents and for­eign vis­i­tors

A scale model of a US Air Force F-16 is fea­tured promi­nently

China Daily (USA) - - WORLD - By AGEN­CIES in Wonsan, DPRK

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.

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