Aeronautical Museum Belgrade
Aeronautical Museum Belgrade
Returning to the theme of unusual aeroplanes in off-the-beaten-track locations, a recent week's work in Belgrade provided the opportunity to visit the Aeronautical Museum Belgrade, which proved to be a real treasure trove. It appears that the museum is struggling for funds and this is apparent by the general decay of the external exhibits and infrastructure (beware of tripping on broken steps!), but the aeroplanes preserved here demonstrate both the rich aeronautical heritage of the Balkan region and evidence of the turbulent times experienced since the break up of the former Yugoslavia.
Yugoslavia was one of the earliest countries to field recognizable flying machines and both the aeroplanes displayed and period photographs show a vibrant period of aeronautical development prior to and during the First World War.
1910 Saric No 1
Early Balkan Aviation
Replica Nieuport XI
The 1930s and the World War Two period are represented by a number of familiar aircraft types displayed in - to us - unusual local markings, providing visual representation of the complex nature of geopolitics in this complex region.
Polikarpov Po 2
To us, the most interesting aeroplane of this period displayed is the futuristic-looking 1940 Ikarus 451, an early experiment with the idea of prone piloting to overcome G forces, the more better known example of which is the prone position Meteor displayed at the RAF Museum.
Bf109, Hurricane and Storch
The Post WW2 period reflects the independent path taken by Tito, with a mix of indigenous, western and Russian machinery on display; who knew that the Yugoslavs took delivery of a batch of Gnats?!
1946 Aero 2Be Trainer
1954 Westland / Sikorsky WS-51 Dragonfly
The real highlight of the 1950s display were the two experimental 'minijets', the tiny 1952 S451 Zolja ('Wasp') taildragger and the 1956 Ikarus J 451 MM Strsljen, looking for all the world like a miniature Meteor.
S451 Zolja ('Wasp') Minijet
Ikarus J-451 Strsljen
Cold War American Jets - T33, F84 Thunderjet and F86 Sabre
British Folland Gnat and Orpheus Engine
Utva 66H STOL Utility machine
Soko Galeb trainer / light attack aeroplane
Soko Orao ground attack / reconnaissance aircraft
Recent conflicts are represented by the wreckage of an Aviano-based USAF F16 shot down by the Serbs on 2 May 1999 during the Kosovo War. A Predator drone shot down on 13 May 1999 is also on display. The Serbs display a pride in their defence against what they describe in the National Military Museum as 'NATO aggression against Yugoslavia'. The local perspective was also displayed during one evening in a Belgrade 'Tito nostalgia bar', when the Finest Hour team quizzed the barmaid on what NATO's targets in Belgrade might have been; her reply: "Hospitals".
Remains of USAF F16 shot down during the 1999 Kosovo War
Predator Drone shot down by Serb forces 1999
The aeroplanes displayed outside the Museum are clearly in need of some attention, but are no less interesting for that. Highlights for us were what is apparently the world's only Short Sealand amphibian, a replica Mig 29 used as a decoy during the Kosovo War and an IL-14P 'Salon' VIP transport, as used by Tito.
Cold War Boneyard
Yugoslav Air Transport (JAT) Caravelle
IL-14P 'Salon', as used by Tito