Slovak International Air Fest Chief: You won´t prepare good aviation days without a good team
Knocking on the door of the Air Force Commmader in January 2005 with the idea of organizing aviation days he had no idea what it brings. In 2017 he is preparing the 11th airshow and the 7th year of SIAF in Sliač, he was given the offer to organize aviation days in Cuba and he owns the prestigious award for an outstanding contribution to the European Airshow World by the European Airshow Council. Director of SIAF Hubert Štoksa.
I heard the story you came to the office of the former Air Force Commander MajGen. Dunaj with the idea of organizing aviation days. Being asked how you might have answered,“There´s nothing to it.“ What is true about it?
Everything. It was my ignorance and nature what drove me on. Later I realized that I had had the luck to meet nice people, indeed. The idea was grabbed by professionals who helped me to organize the first aviation days. I was just learning from them and it wasn´t exactly a bed of roses. They said if I would collect money they would help me.
Why did you come up with the idea of organizing aviation days?
It was simple. I did business with Sliač Airbase, I made friends with many pilots. It was my first taste of flying and I wanted to continue with it. It failed but in years 2000 - 2004 I took part in aviation days in Bratislava – firstly as a visitor, then as an advertising partner and later I participated in safety works. I said to myself that there was no chance to become a pilot and this was something what I would like to do. The Air Force stopped organizing aviation days because they got professionalized. So in 2005 I established the Slovak Aviation Agency and since this year I have been engaged in it.
International Air Fest SIAF is the biggest public event in Slovakia and its preparation is extremely complicated. Could you briefly describe it?
Organization of SIAF is a result of perfect cooperation and support of the Ministry of Defence, The SVK Armed Forces, the Air Force of the SVK Armed Forces, Sliač Airport, the Ministry of Interior of the Slovak Republic, the Ministry of Transport and Construction of the Slovak Republic, the District Directorate of the Fire and Rescue Forces, the Road Traffic Department, the National Highway Authority, the Riot Police, the Financial Administration of the Slovak Republic, the Customs Authority of the Slovak Republic, the Public Health Authority, the Red Cross Slovakia, hospitals of the catchment area, the Museum of the Slovak National Uprising, the Institute of Military History, Banská Bystrica City, Zvolen City, Sliač Town and many other supporters. What is at issue is the relationship between the Ministry of Defence and the Slovak Aviation Agency as a winner of the public procurement in 2011. This relationship is defined by the general agreement signed for 4 years with an option for 3 years. We are in the last year of the option. Every year an independent realization agreement is signed.
How would you describe preparations of aviation days ?
Since the moment the Ministry of Defence via the Commander of the Air Force of the SVK Armed Forces receives the confirmation of invited participants the Slovak Aviation Agency, that is the main organizer and planner of the event, starts to communicate with them. It includes a large number of actions – from contracts with partners, through project documentation, ensuring participants´ arrival, negotiations with all partners, hiring people, workshops, crisis management training, taking over and construction of the airport, the flight part, the execution of displays, technical support to such details as drinking regime of temporary workers or right timing of mowing of areas used as parking lots. These tasks are shared by several centers: the flight group, the reception centre, the aviation-engineering service, sector managers, connections managers, the centre for VIPs and visitors, sales booth managers, also the marketing centre, the sponsorship centre. All is controlled by the executive director, the main organizer and me as the director of International Air Fest SIAF.
What is your role in these preparations?
First of all I have to find sponsors and money. I negotiate with ministries, the SVK Air Force, the SVK Armed Forces, suppliers, partners and sponsors. I make contracts with particular sections, I am responsible for some organizational and protocol matters and I promote aviation days in public. Of course, I am supported by the team of people who have might never been seen, but they have done plethora of work and thanks to them aviation days are on such a high level.
The team includes about 80 people. They are incredibly enthusiastic, loyal to each other and despite being under pressure during SIAF they are ready to do it with the same enthusiasm every year again and again. How did you manage to bring them together?
I always claim I usually have the luck to meet nice people. Our team consists of two groups: one group includes former professional soldiers or people who participated in organization of aviation days as part of their work duties. When I established the agency I asked some key poeple and they asked others. Aviation is addictive and many of those retired miss it. And there is another group of people, who had had no idea about aviation days before they started to participate in their preparations. They often say if they had known about this work they would not have started with it. But they have been cooperating since 2005, they have been getting better and better and often they take holidays due to SIAF. One of them told me,“Hubert, I´m so tired after SIAF, but I´m looking forward to next year.“
In the Convention of the European Airshow Council in March the Slovak Aviation Agency received the award for an outstanding contribution to the European Airshow World and also won the award in the category Media & Marketing. What does it mean for SIAF?
It is great satisfaction and pleasure for us that we are accepted not only in Slovakia but also abroad. We regularly receive feedback from our national authorities on our work that we are prepared 100 per cent. Moreover, recently the organizers of aviation days in Zeltweg, Austria expressed their interest in our services. In their opinion we have managed something better than them. It is a great honour for me because I used to go to Zeltweg to gain experience. A year ago we were offered by the ambassador of Cuba to organize aviation days there. The EAC awards grant international recognition and people with international reputation within aviation decide who will be their holder. It came as a shock. I´m not aware about any higher honour we could be given. But it is also a big commitment. We would like to cooperate with the EAC because they offer unique workshops regarding safety at airshows and experience we can exchange there are priceless.
In spite of this, have you ever thought to finish with it?
Regularly. Every year several times (laugh).
In which situations?
E.g. someone out of the organizational staff starts to complicate things or disturb planned time management. Or when reading discussions of people who are always criticizing everyone and everything. Or a journalist writing an untrue article with intention to harm us without any apologizing. In these situations I feel like packing it in. But later someone comes saying that we do a perfect job and I feel that it is worth it. And when we received the EAC award my eyes filled with tears.
How do you see the future of SIAF?
We set high standards of aviation days. Every year we pledge ourselves not to fail to reach these standards and we always try to improve something. I would be pleased with the interdepartmental agreement signed by the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Transport and Construction to support International Air Fest Days and their preparations. It is not possible to organize SIAF without the support of the state and the public. International Air Fest Days SIAF have gain international prestige so it is important to keep organizing the event periodically as well as to avoid complications during its preparations. I´m dreaming about plenty of groups and aircraft to be seen in Sliač – it is often the question of a great deal of effort lasting several years. But most of all I wish SIAF good weather and safe course of the event.