Flying Stars

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  1. Milos Sijacki

    Milos Sijacki Member

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    The Leteće zvezde (Croatian: Leteće zvijezde, English: Flying Stars) was the aerobatic team of Yugoslavia.

    Predecessors

    Yugoslavia has a long history of precision display flying which was first demonstrated to the public during and airshow at Zemun – Belgrade’s military airfield – in June 1938. After WWII, a pair of SFR Yugoslav Air Force Jungmeisters made regular appearances at air displays in the late 1940’s.

    These were followed by team of three Yakovlev Yak-3's, a five-plane grouping of the Ikarus S-49Cs (redesigned Yak-9s) and in the late 1950s, the Air Force’s first jet display team, flying F-84G Thunderjets. A new team formed by the 204th Fighter Aviation Regiment based at Batajnica (the unit’s Canadair Mk 4 Sabers being responsible for the defense of Belgrade) flew over a crowd of 200.000 spectators attending the 1960 Belgrade Air show held at Zemun.

    This team lasted for five years until a four –ship group using the indigenous G-2 Galeb basic jet trainer that performed for the first time at Ljubljana in July 1968, replaced it. The Galeb was replaced by single –seat light attack variant of the G–2, the J-21 Jastreb which was flown until 1979. In that year a pair of Czech Zlin Z-526 trainers, flown by Yugoslav Air Force instructors, took over and became the first postwar YAF demonstration team to an overseas invent, the Venice International air show in 1979

    The Flying stars

    By 1984 the team had reverted to flying six J-21 Jastreb, and the following year it was officially named the Flying stars, nicknamed Kanainci . Over the next five years, the distinctive red, white, blue and yellow Jastrebs of the Flying Stars became a familiar sight at air show throughout Yugoslavia.

    They were replicated by the G-4 Super Galeb advanced jet trainer and light attack aircraft which had made its debut in the West at the 1983 Paris air show.

    However, almost exactly a year after their first public appearance, at the 1990 Batajnica airshow – and just before they were to make their international debut in Italy – the Flying Stars were grounded by the outbreak of hostilities in Slovenia

    During the years of isolation and sanctions, the team’s Super Galebs were used for advanced training by the Air Force, although some the retained their red, white and blue color schemes. Once the decision to reform the Flying stars had been made at the end of 1996, Major General Blagoje Grahovac, Commander of the Air Corps, gave the 172nd Air Brigade – controlling units at Podgorica – the responsibility of choosing new pilots and working out new routines.

    Pilots were selected from a large number of volunteers, all of whom were experienced instructors and included two former members of the 1990 team, Major Istvan Kanac and Captain Sasha Ristic. Under the leadership of Major Kanac each pilot was put through five test flights of the Super Galeb, two solo flights with the “boss” in the back seat, and another three outings, flying as a member of the full team.

    By February 1997, the team manager and commentator (who is also the reserve pilot) and six pilots with varying backgrounds – one is a former MiG-21 pilot, while another flew the J-22 Orao – had been chosen and training begun in earnest. New routines were practiced using a basic formation of four, interspersed with a synchro pair. The display is flown at between 160-435 mph (260-700 km) with the main formation maintaining a separation of only 2 ft. (60cm)! A “flat” program for use in low cloud base condition was also designed and practiced. The final program, which lasts for 20 minutes, was demonstrated before senior officers in April 1997 after which approval for public appearance was given.

    The new Flying Stars, with the three – bar roundel replacing the former red star on an RAF-type roundel, were seen in public for the first time at the Batajnica air show in June 15, 1997. Other domestic shows followed at Podgorica, Nis and Vrsac, culminating in the first overseas appearance of a Yugoslav Air Force display team for nearly two decades. On September 27/28 1997, the Flying Stars and their support aircraft, a YAF An-26 with the ground crews and ground handling equipment, appeared at the Bulgarian air show at Plovdiv Airport – Krumovo Airbase in front of more than 50,000 enthusiastic spectators. General Velickovic, piloting his own Super Galeb accompanied them to Krumovo.

    All seven aircraft of the Flying stars team were destroyed on Podgorica airfield during the NATO air campaign in Yugoslavia. General Velickovic was killed on Batajnica airfield at the end of the war, he was a high ranking Yugoslav officer who was killed during the war.
     
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