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Letecké Útvar Ministerstva Vnútra; Bratislava June 11, 2010

Part 5: The Slovakian Government; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

The last visit during my trip through Slovakia was at Bratislava-Ivanka on June 11, 2010. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Slovakian Republic is based at the international airport. They use two Tupolev Tu-154 and two Yakovlev Yak-40 VIP aircraft for VIPs. Also a number of Mil Mi-171's of the police force are stationed here.

After the split of the Czechoslovakian Republic in 1993, the VIP fleet of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of this country was stationed at the international airport of Bratislava. The Letecké Útvar Ministerstva Vnútra (Ministry of Foreign Affairs Aviation) is divided into two units, namely: the VIP flight and the Police. The Slovakian government is using two Russian-built Tupolev Tu-154M and two also Russian-built Yakovlev Yak-40 aircraft for the VIP flight. This unit was for the first time incorporated under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a separate department in 2005. The unit transported primarily civil servants employed by the Slovakian government on diplomatic missions. The aircraft are painted therefore in the Slovakian national colors and the tail shows a big picture of the Slovakian national weapon. Besides transportation officials, the unit also performs functions which include commercial VIP passenger transport. But this is only allowed when those flights are in the advantage of the country. The ministry needs to approve these kinds of flights.

The second unit which is under the command of the government is the Police Aviation. This flight has four Mil Mi-171 Hip helicopters. There was an order for a number of Bo-105 Bölkow helicopters for the Police just before the split of the Czechoslovakian Republic in 1993. In general, the material of the Czechoslovakian Air Force was split in a ratio of 2:1 over the air forces of the Czech Republic and Slovakia. However, all the Bölkows went to the Czech Republic and the Slovakian police received a larger number of Mil Mi-8 Hip helicopters to compensate this. These helicopters were divided in a ratio of 1:2 between the two countries in favor of Slovakia. The Slovakian police then received four Mil Mi-8 and six Mil Mi-2 helicopters. All these helicopters are now retired. In the second half of the nineties, the Mi-8 has been replaced by modern Mil Mi-171. These machines were purchased under the repayment of Russian debt. These four Mi-171’s were delivered to the Slovakian government between 2001 and

2004. The Mi-171 is an improved version of the Mi-17. The Mi-171 has improved engines with more power which makes the helicopter better able to operate under difficult conditions like in the mountains. The Mi-2’s are recently retired and in the near future they will be replaced by the new EC145 helicopter from the European manufacturer Eurocopter. The helicopters of the police are mainly used for search operations, accidents and other police duties. Besides this they are also used for Search and Rescue (SAR) tasks in the mountains.

At the beginning of the afternoon we arrived at the airport of Bratislava for a visit to the VIP Flight and the Police. After a brief introduction by our guide we were taken to the platform where we found two Tupolev Tu-154’s. Of course I was ready for action on the platform, but our guide insisted that we first started making a few pictures on the inside of the plane. Once I got on the plane I went straight to the cockpit of this huge aircraft. The temperature was over 40 degrees Celsius because the air-conditioning was switched off. However, there was sufficient light present for some special photos of the cockpit of the Tupolev. After I had photographed the cockpit, I walked to the back of the aircraft to see the very luxurious interior of it. The luxury leather seats were made of high quality material. The whole plane is arranged to allow the president to do his job during an intercontinental flight. Once outside on the platform, the ladder in front of the aircraft was removed and I could see the two Tupolev's under very good photo conditions. For the second part of the visit, we walked to the big hangar which stood next to the platform. There were two Yakovlev Yak-40’s of the government and one Mi-171 of the police inside the hangar. Again we were allowed to take a look inside the planes. The entrance of the Yak is at the back of the aircraft. I came immediately in the passenger cabin of this aircraft when I entered it. This machine is as luxury as the Tu-154. It was very dark in the plane and therefore I had to take pictures with shutter speeds of more than thirty seconds. Luckily I had my tripod with me and this was therefore no problem. The cockpit of this plane was much tighter than the Tu-154. Also in this cockpit I was able to shoot some decent photos.

The third part of the visit consisted of a visit to the police which shares the complex with the government. When I boarded the Mi-171, I noticed how big the cargo bay of the helicopter is. The pilot who led us around switched on the power of this helicopter and we had light inside the machine. The pilot of the Mi-171 has a great view from his cockpit. The huge cockpit is almost entirely made of glass; the pilot can see everything around his helicopter. The pilot switched on the flight electronics for me, which was very nice for the photos. I also took some photos from the outside of the helicopter when I was finished with the interior of the machine. In the next hangar were two Mi-171's of the police. Also these machines were captured on photo by me. The previous hangar was a bit brighter than this hangar, but by using my tripod this was not a problem. There was a Mi-8 Hip in front of the hangar on the platform. This machine is stored here and is no longer in use by the Slovakian police. Next to the hangar were four more stored helicopters including a few Mi-2's. The little green helicopters were still in a perfect condition. They were retired at the end of 2009. The Mi-2 will be replaced by the EC145 in the nearby future. The four Mi-2's were on the platform without rotor blades. I was again allowed to look inside the helicopter. The cockpit is quite big for such a small helicopter. There was a stored Mi-8 next to the small Mi-2 helicopters. This Mi-8 was in a very bad condition if you compare it with the Mi-2’s. My journey through Slovakia was over after this short but very nice visit to the police in Bratislava. After thanking our guides we traveled to Budapest in Hungary where we would fly back home. My whole trip through Slovakia was a big success and I gathered a huge number of special and unique photos.

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