Zelazny Aerobatic Team History

Zelazny Aerobatic Group

In December of 1999, by the initiative of vice-chairman of Aeroklub Ziemi Lubuskiej (eng. Flying Club of Lubuski Land), Andrzej Kraszewski, and with a probate of the chairman of the club, Lech Marchelewski the idea of establishing an aerobatic team Zelazny (eng. Iron made, made of Iron), which was about to be sponsored by the (being created by that time) network of Iron shops with the same name. In May of 2000 the necessary deals between the AZL and the Zelazny Company, regarding the conditions of cooperation between the company and the uprising group.

Since it was created, the group possessed 2 Zlin Z-526AFS and one Zlin Z-50LA airplanes. By the early June of 2000 two pilots of AZL, instructors with great championship and instructing experience opened the selection of other pilots for the team. In the first year of team's activity 4 pilots were trained – 2 of them achieved qualification for higher aerobatics, and the other 2 for medium aerobatics (In Poland there are only 3 levels of aerobatic training – basic, medium and higher. The polish higher aerobatic level is lower than the European ,,Unlimited" level and can be performed on plane's such as Zlin Z-526F or Z-526AFS).

Just after few months of group's activity the pilots performed in the airplane aerobatic championship of Poland, as well as in the Airplane World Aerobatic Championship.

With a vision to develop the aerobatic business in Poland, and to achieve that, train new pilots in aerobatic, the AZL in cooperation with Zelazny shop network organized the "grape picking" aerobatic championship in polish medium class and international advanced class aerobatic. The championship was created for young, beginner pilots, and since then are constant annual event of polish airshow and air championship calendar.

Year 2001 was the year of intense training for the group. In July 2001 the team was equipped with a new plane, Zlin Z-526F, which increased the number of planes in the team to 4. The display sequence was continuously developed. The main event where the team was about to perform (and for the first time in 4 ship formation) was the international aviation picnic in Goraszka. Surprisingly, the number of airshows and events where the team was invited was much bigger than the team expected, as well as the fact that the team performed not only in Poland, but as well in Germany.

The 2002 airshow season was the first one in which the display sequence was systemized and kept in unchanged form till the end of the season. Also, in year 2002 the group has lost his main and only sponsor – the Zelazny iron shop network. That meant that all the costs of maintaining the team were left to AZL.

Although the sponsor was lost, the decision was made to keep the Zelazny name, as the group was already famous in Poland and abroad.

Year 2003 was one of the most important milestones in team's history. The team was once again invited to Goraszka international air picnic (the team received the constant invitation for the event, as the picnic main organizer, Zbigniew Niemczycki, said that he ,,does not see the possibility of organizing this, and all the future picnics in Goraszka without them". Surprisingly, 8 years later, at the 2010th Goraszka picnic, that promise was broken as the team had not been invited. During the picnic, the group performed a maneuver that had not been done in Poland for 70 years. Three planes – 2x Zlin Z-526AFS and one Zlin Z-526F – took off connected with 4-meters long ropes, and performed dive, climb 2 loops and landing without braking the ropes. This maneuver was done for the last time in Poland and the world by the polish aerobatic team known as ,,Trojka Bajana" (eng. The Bajan's Three") in 1930's.

The formation leader in the famous show was Wojciech Krupa, the left wingman – Sebastian Chrząszcz, the right wingman – Marek Dubkiewicz. The show was widely commented in the polish media.

Two weeks after this event, while training one engine failure landing procedure, an L-200 Morava crashed killing both wingmens of the team.

After difficult discussion, the other members of the team took decision to continue the team's activity. 2 new pilots were trained and the number of planes was reduced to 3.

At the end of the year Wojciech Krupa and Krzysztof Kossinski achieved a team bronze medal in European Aerobatic Championship in Sweden. Wojciech Krupa had also achieved a gold medal in Polish Aerobatic Championship in that year.

In year 2004 the main goal of the team was to return to 4-ship formation flying. Lech Marchelewski became the formation leader (Z-526F), Wojciech Krupa – left wingman, Tadeusz Kolaszewski – right wingman (both Z-526AFS), and Krzysztof Kossinski – slot and solo pilot (Z-50LA).

The display sequence was completely rebuilt, in order to stick with the group's possibilities at the time. In 2004 the team performed in many airshows in Poland (including the main one – Goraszka international air picnic), 2 airshows in Germany and one in Czech Republic, in Karlovy Vary.

In 2005 new member – Piotr Haberland joins the team.

In that year, Krzysztof Kossinski, solo pilot of the team, achieved 30th place in the European Advanced Aerobatic Championship. In the next season, the group was given a single Zlin Z-50LS, and members of Zelazny achieved 27th and 32nd places in World Advanced Aerobatic Championship, and Zelazny pilots #6 achieved 1st place in the Aerobatic Championship of Poland. During both years the team performed in approximately 18 air shows.

The 2007 season appeared to be one of the best for the team. During European Advanced Aerobatic Championship on 20-28th of July in Finland Zelazny #6 achieved 18th place.

The team has also performed in many airshows and events in Poland.

At the end of year 2007 the group finally managed to begin training in 6 ship formation (2x Zlin Z-50LA, 1x Zlin Z-50LS, 2x Zlin Z-526AFS, 1x Zlin Z-526F), which was about to be demonstrated in public during 10th Radom Air Show, the biggest airshow in Poland. The leader of the Team, col. Ret. Lech Marchelewski announced that after the Radom Air Show he is going to end his flying career in the group.

On Sept 1, 2007, during the first official show of the team in 6 planes formation, at 15:51 (local time), during the ,,rose" maneuver the planes #1 and #2 collided in the air, killing both pilots at the moment of impact. In the accident died Col. Ret. Lech Marchelewski, Zelazny #1, leader and founder of the team (3352h in the air), and eng. Pilot Piotr Banachowicz, Zelazny #2 (540h in the air). The burial ceremony of both pilots took place 6 days later, on the airfield in Przylep, Zielona Gora, the home base of the team. During the ceremony, 3 Zlin's 50 of the group performed a ,,missing man flyby" to honor tragically died members of the team.

Three weeks after the accident, during the 4th international aviation picnic of Euroregion Beskidy in Bielsko-Biala, Wojciech Krupa demonstrated solo aerobatics, which was the first show of the team after the tragedy.

On November 2007 the members of the group decided to continue the activity of the team, and Wojciech Krupa (Zelazny #6) was chosen as a team leader. For season 2008 the group was about to perform in 3 ship formation (2x Zlin Z-50LA – #4 and #5 - and 1 Zlin Z-50LS – #6), with plans to return to 6 planes in year 2009.

Also in November the internet forum of the team was opened (by the initiative of Wojciech Krupa).

At the beginning of the 2008 the official name of the team was changed to ,,Grupa Akrobacyjna ZELAZNY Aeroklubu Ziemi Lubuskiej i Aeroklubu Poznanskiego" (eng. Aerobatic Group Zelazny of AZL – Flying Club of Lubuski land – and Poznan Flying Club). Since then the Zelazny group is supported by both Clubs.

During the 2008 season, the team continued training of new pilots (began in 2007), in order to return to 6 ship formation at the beginning of 2009.

Except airshows in Poland, the Group performed also in Sacheon Aerospace Expo 2008 in Rebuplic of Korea, by this way being the first Polish aerobatic team to perform in Korea and Asia. The planes used in the show (2x Zlin Z-50LA and 1x Zlin Z-50LS) were disassembled and left Poland in August, 1 month before the exhibition, to be transported by a cargo ship.

At the end of the year the group possessed two new aircraft – Zlin Z-526F SP-EMF, and Zlin Z-50LS (SP-AUD), so at that time all Zlin's Z-50 in Poland were in possession of the team (currently there are 5 Zlin's Z-50 in Poland, 4 of them are possessed by the Zelazny group). The new aircraft was given #7.

Also, in the late 2008 the "Zelazny 6" Flying School began its activity (the school is one of very few pilot training and education facilities in Poland where training for higher level aerobatics is possible – at the time performed on Zlin-526F). In the 2008 season the team performed in 17 airshows and events.

Since January 2009, "Zelazny 6" Training Center took responsibility for the management of the group in all aspects.

In March 2009 two members of the team – Wojciech Krupa and Piotr Haberland – were chosen to be the members of Polish National Flying Club Management.

On June 2, 2009, on the Poznan Kobylnica airfield – current home base of the group – an Extra-330LC, with temporary reg. D-EXSP, piloted by Wojciech Krupa and Piotr Haberland, landed. The plane was later assigned in Poland as SP-AUP and was given side #8, becoming the first (and so far the only one) Extra of the team, as well as the best aircraft of Zelazny.

The new "Zelazna Extra" (eng. Iron Extra) was demonstrated in public for the first time during Glider picnic in Leszno, 3 weeks after delivery.

During the aerobatic championship of Poland in the same year, the pilots of the team achieved 2nd, 4th, 7th, 8th and 10th places, practically dominating the championship.

During the 6th aviation picnic in Krakow-Czyzyny, the team for the first time used the music of famous Polish musician, Marek Bilinski, as a background of the show, thanks to the agreement with the artist.

The team was about to perform on Radom Air Show 2009, which was symbolical as it would be the first edition of the show since 2007 tragedy. The Saturday display of the group (as well as most of the show program) was called off due to weather conditions. The next day the show was cancelled after the crash of Belarusian Su-27UBM and tragically death of both pilots – Col.Alaxandr Marficki and Col. Alaxandr Zurawliewicz.

Since 2012, the additional member of Zelazny Aerobatic Group is Jerzy "Jerry" Makula, 7-times World Champion in Glider Aerobatics. He flies his MDM Solo Fox glider painted in inversed Zelazny colours (red instead of white and vice-versa) with number 10 on tail.

Authors: Mirosław SZALKOWSKI EAGLE and jasiek03pl

Sept 1, 2007 crash video

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