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Aviation festival - The Birdman 2008

An Air show in Rojunai - with spirit of Vytautas Lapenas

In June 21–23 the Rojūnai airfield was full of recolections of Vytautas Lapenas. Of course, nearly a half year after the tragic crash, the efforts of the owner of the airfield Aurimas Bezaras and some other supporters to revive the Air show “The Birdman” harboured the memory of its godfather and the legendary pilot, but these few days of June were the culmination of all that and reached the hearts and feeling of thousands of people. 


It is a pity that the Air show was marked by a tragic crash of the 18th of June when a veteran of the Candian Military Air Force Verne Heiderich was killed and the pilot of a Su-29 Pedro Telleria was injured. But the Spanish aerobatic flying team pilots, the European and World vicechampions Castor Fantoba, Chuan Velarde, Anzelm Gamez and Chuan Socia having landed in Rojunai airfield at the same evening were the first to say that this sad crash should not disturb the events for commemorating Vytatas Lapėnas. No legal issues to cancel the planned show was seen by the CAA too. 

All planed events – international aerobatic flying, hot air balloon competitions, children gliding, children drawing contest, works of air scouts, program of Eriskis culture center kids group, an exhibition of photographer Andrius Repsys, an impressive air show, demonstration of movies about aviation and evening get-together parties – everything was surrounded by the spirit of memories. 


For two days 15 pilots from Spain, Russia, Ukraine, Estonia and Lithuania competed piloting Yak-52s for Vytaytas Lapenas Cup. Onutė Motiejunaite was the best in the compulsory program. Marija Gavrilina from Moscow was the best in free composition, while the unknown program was won by Anzelm Gamez from Spain. This student and close friend of V.Lapenas won the 3rd place when the total results were calculated, the 2nd place was won by Eltonas Meleckis and Onute Motiejunaite won the Vytautas Lapenas Cup. The Cup was awarded by Vytautas mother Stase Lapeniene. 

Onutė Motiejunaite: “Regarding the Cup… It is precious. It is not like other Cups as it is a Cup of my friend. We started together this difficult and twisty road. I am happy that the Cup stayed in Lithuania; however everyone of us was worth it. The Spanish pilots impressed me again. It was not only their friendly and sparky character but their will to compete in Yak-52. After Su-26 it must have been difficult to them. I was impressed by their persistence: getting used to the airplane, they were flying better in every exercise. I revived a lot of memories in these days. During all the competition I felt as if Vytas is somewhere nearby, that his spirit flying above all us.

Castor Fantoba: “We all felt that we do not only wish, but that we have to participate in the competition commemorating Vytautas. This competiton seemed to us more important that the coming European championship.” 


On Monday at 2 p.m., exactly on the time when the airshow was to start, a strong rain started. Hovewer this nature trick did not spoil the show. The spectators stayed in their places while Ramunas Stundzia, the flight controller from “Oro navigacija” and Sigitas Noreika, an aviator from Panevezys, managed to harmonize the capabilities of aircraft and their pilots with the elements.
After half in hour the cloud departed letting in the sun and then up till the evening the sun stayed on the wings of the airplanes.  


Most parts of the show were related in one or another way with Vytautas. He started flying in Birzai and now Yak-12 was flown above Rojunai by a former instructor Gediminas Venskus from Birzai. A helicopter Mi-8 was piloted by Gintautas Griauzde, who remembered that it was V.Lapenas who offered him to take a seat in the glider for the first time in Birzai.  

Impressive flights were performed by the Spanish pilots. Tha spectators saw the flight of the autogiro that was fatal to Vytautas. This autogiro was flown to Rojunai from Spain with fourteen landings on the way by Oscar Daniel del Rosario Vega who demonstrated vast capabilities of the autogiro. 

The Air show “The Birdman” was revived. It was felt that everyone in the show were full of pleasant impressions. 


And what were the organizers and participants thinking after the show?

Aurimas Bezaras: “Without any doubt, in future some things would be improved, but we understood, that people needed the air show. We had planned it together with Vytautas and it really came to life.”
Juan Socias: “We were together and managed to create a perfect atmosphere. It was easy, simple and pleasant.”
Castor Fantoba: “Our goal is to go Vytautas way and we will continue. It is good to feel here his spirit.”  

Edmundas Ganusauskas
Photos of Andrius Repsys

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