AIRSHOW GUIDE: LESZNO
AIRSHOW GUIDE: LESZNO
GUIDE BY ADAM LANDAU | PHOTOS BY ALEX PRINS
Continually proving itself to be one of the best mid-sized airshows in the world, the Leszno Airshow is a must-attend event for any airshow enthusiast. Renowned across the continent for its imaginative approach to air displays, photographer-friendly showground and first-rate hospitality, it is a show sure to win a place in the hearts of anybody lucky enough to attend.
The Leszno Airshow began life in 2006 as the Leszno Glider Picnic, led by an enthusiastic team of volunteers and staff at Leszno Airfield. It quickly grew into a fully-fledged airshow – the Leszno Air Picnic – peaking in 2016 with its first military participation, the Polish Air Force’s new F-16 “Tiger Demo Team”.
After the hugely successful 2016 show, the event was scaled back due to funding difficulties, becoming the SoundAir Festival. Slated to return as the Leszno Airshow in June 2020, the event was cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic, but was re-organised in August under the name Antidotum Airshow Leszno.
The Antidotum Airshow came back for a second show in June 2021, attracting its first foreign military participation (the Swiss Air Force’s Super Puma) as well as hugely bolstered support from the Polish Air Force (C-130, F-16 and Aerobatic Team Orlik). The show plans to run each June under the Antidotum brand for the foreseeable future, and looks set to further expand its portfolio of military visitors. The show is also supported by Red Bull, who have contributed a number of acts (in 2020 and 2021, contributions included the Flying Bulls Aerobatic Team, four Flying Bulls warbirds, the Bolkow Bo.105 and Team Blanix, among others).
Recent airshows at Leszno have taken place on Fridays and Saturdays, with the flying display starting in the late afternoon, to avoid the heat of the day. Displays typically start at around 5pm and run for around three hours, before a short break at 8pm. A further two hours of flying then follows as the sun sets, mainly comprising pyrotechnic air displays. The show is accompanied by live music, performed on a small stage at show centre.
Ticket prices have fluctuated each year, but for 2021 standard advance tickets were set at 30zł per adult, roughly equal to £6, €6 or $8. Children under 12 could enter at the slightly discounted price of 20zł. These were available through Ticketmaster. Tickets were also available on the gate for a small surcharge of 5zł (£1, €1 or $1). People with disabilities can enter the show for free, but must contact the show to arrange their free ticket prior to arrival.
An additional 20zł parking fee (£4, €4 or $5) was levied per vehicle, although, due to limited parking capacity, the show may not offer on-site parking at future events in favour of a shuttle bus from Leszno train station.
Photographers may apply for Spotters tickets via the airshow website, at a cost of 100zł per day (£18, €21 or $25). This permits access to the Spotters’ Enclosure – a small enclosure at the western end of the crowdline. Although obstensibly far from show centre, this is generally considered to be the most photogenic location on the airfield, as pilots typically perform sweeping topside passes around the corner of the crowdline. The Spotters’ Enclosure is equipped with a small set of standing-only bleechers, allowing photographers to take images over each others’ heads. Aircraft are also less likely to be parked in front of the Spotters’ Enclosure, giving a clear line of sight to the runway.
The showground at Leszno is small and thoughtfully laid out, with most acts using the closest runway to the crowd (05R/23L). However, even in this small showground, there are three viewing spots that stand out from the rest.
SPOTTER ZONE: As many aircraft use the right hand corner of the crowdline for dramatic topside passes, this really is the place to be for photographers, especially during the daytime portion of the show. If you are not an accredited spotter, then the general spectator area to the right of the Spotter Zone will also do.
SHOW CENTRE: This is denoted by the live music stage. Leszno famously intergrates several of its performances with ground-launched pyrotechnics, and this looks by far the best from show centre. This makes the area around the stage one of the prime viewing spots, especially during the night portion of the show.
OFF-SITE VIEWING: Due to traffic congestion, it is not practical to park on the roads around the airfield on airshow days. However, the road passing the threshold of Runway 23R/L is generally quiet at other times and spectators have been spotted here for Thursday practices and Sunday departures.
In any case, we strongly advise bringing strong mosquito repellant, as during the evening, the airfield can also host a large number of unwanted flying visitors!
The nearest international airports are in Poznan and Wroclaw, with bus connections to the city centre. Both airports are served by various European low cost airlines, primarily Wizzair and Ryanair.
Lotnisko Leszno is easily accessible by car, located just 2km from the S5 Expressway. However, although most visitors drive to the airshow, local roads suffer from limited traffic capacity (worsened by long-running road works on the main route between the airfield and the town), causing severe congestion. For this reason, we recommend arriving at the show site no later than 3:30pm if using any mode of transport that can be affected by traffic.
To ease congestion, car parking facilities in 2022 are likely to differ from previous years, and on-site parking may not be available. We await further information from the organisers.
ON FOOT/BY BICYCLE:
The airshow is a 45 minute, 4km walk from Leszno railway station, and a 50 minute walk from the town centre. Free, secure bicycle parking is also available.
BY PRIVATE HIRE VEHICLE:
It is easily possible to take a taxi from the town centre to the airfield, but we don’t know how easy it is to find a return taxi after the show.
BY PUBLIC TRANSPORT:
Leszno is served by fast trains to Poznan and Wroclaw approximately once per hour, as well as less regular services to several other Polish cities. Generally, there are very few services after 10pm. However, for the 2022 airshow, a special train service will depart Leszno at 23:55, arriving at Poznan at 00:56. Tickets cost 5zł and can be purchased from the ticket office or train manager.
Free public buses will run between the airshow and railway station.
The most convenient accomodation options are immediately outside the airport. Ach To Tu and MO&JA Motel Leszno offer modest accomodation, including free parking and breakfast for guests, and are located opposite the airfield office, just a two minute walk from the airshow site. However, beware that both facilities sell out months in advance of the show, as they are used by the event organisers to accomodate visiting aircrew.
There are numerous hotel options in central Leszno to suit all tastes and budgets. With the airfield located just 3km from the railway station and 4km from the old town centre, it is within walking distance for visitors who don’t mind a little physical exertion.
There are no formal practice/arrival days for the Leszno Airshow, and the airfield is open as normal until the first day of the show. It is easy to find a spot on the airfield to watch the rehearsals, or, if not, it is possible to park on the road passing the Runway 23L/R thresholds.
Airshow-related activity can begin as early as one week before the show, but will ramp up on Thursday lunchtime. The bulk of the arrivals take place through Thursday afternoon and on Friday morning. Practice displays will continue until around 3pm on Friday. Gates open to the public at midday, so arrive as early as you can to catch some extra flying action before the show officially begins.
On Saturday, there is very little activity before the official start of the flying display.