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Hamish Macdonald is an NK News contributor and has previously worked at The Korea Herald and for the Australia Centre for Independent Journalism in Sydney.
North Korea will host its first public international Air Show in September of this year, Juche Travel Services announced on Wednesday.
The “Wonsan International Friendship Air Show” will take place between September 24 and September 26 and will feature aviation aerobatics, skydiving and cultural events.
“We were just sort of finalizing all the arrangements with the ‘powers that be’ in Pyongyang … but it is all good to go and we have got the green light,” David Thompson of Juche Travel Services told NK News on Friday.
Juche Travel Services have long held aviation tours and engagement to North Korea and were working toward staging the event for a number of years.
The Air Show will feature a variety of aviation events including military aerobatic flying displays, scenic pleasure flights, skydiving, parachuting and model aircraft displays.
According to the official website for the Air Show, the events will likely involve flights from the Korean People’s Army (KPA) Air Force’s Mig-21, Mig-29 and Sukhoi Su-25 jets as well as a Hughes MD-500 helicopter.
“I haven’t spoken to anyone directly at the Air Force but from my understanding the whole air festival was widely welcomed as a concept and as an event,” Thompson said.
“They haven’t held anything like this before but they were aware of other air shows and other festivals around the world so they were quite keen to do their own.”
Participants will also see and be able to take part in pleasure flights aboard several of the national airline’s fleet, including the Ilyushin IL-18, IL-62 planes and IL-76 planes, the two Tupolev TU-134 and TU-154 planes, the Antonov AN-24, a light plane and the MIL MI-17 helicopter.
The event was arranged in conjunction with the Korean International Travel Company (KITC) as well as the Wonsan-Kumgang International Tourism Zone development committee.
“Originally we were thinking of doing it at the new Pyongyang airport but it’s not an ideal locations mainly because it’s their main airport and secondly the topography isn’t great,” Thompson said.
“Whereas when we saw the Wonsan (airport) being constructed we thought it was absolutely perfect and the ideal location because you’ve got this Wonsan-Kumgang development committee really pushing that area for tourism.”
The skydiving and parachutists displays will be conducted by the Pyongyang Air Club but international attendees will also be able to get involved in sky-diving.
“It will probably be helicopters but if we get enough skydivers we could always put up one of the Ilyushin 76’s because they’ve got a cargo ramp at the back so you can jump out of them,” Thompson said.
“It will be dependent on demand because that burns a lot of fuel that aircraft so it’s quite expensive to get up and flying so we will see.”
Recently North Korea’s aviation industry was the subject of provisions within the unanimously passed United Nations Security Council Resolution 2270 on March 2.
Resolution 2270 prevents UN member states from selling or supplying North Korea with aviation fuel, aviation gasoline, naptha-type jet fuel and kerosene-type jet fuel.
However this seemingly has not scuppered plans for the Air Show to take place seeing as it was recently confirmed.
“As far as we are concerned the resolution about the jet fuel isn’t relevant to the air festival. To the best of my knowledge they can produce some of their own fuel,” Thompson told NK News.
“This air festival was in the planning way before the resolution came in and that resolution hasn’t really changed anything from the Koreans side so I think that tells you all you need to know really.”
The two day event will also feature a Red Cross raffle to raise money for orphanages in the region and a series of cultural events.
Five North Korean breweries will also be taking part in a beer festival to run in conjunction with the air show, including the Taedonggang, Pyongyang and Kumgang breweries.