Choppers

There has been great furore in Budapest recently about a flight of two fighter planes over the city. A lot of someone elses were alleged to be terrified (no, it’s never the interviewee who nearly shat himself at the sound of twin jet engines overhead, but “I think it’s completely unacceptable, some people were surely frightened by it, you know.”) and there seems to be a general consensus now that the military should have announced it in advance, so the military felt compelled to answer this challenge.

Now, if the military start to explain something, you should always expect fun of some sort. It’s either such a ludicrous lie that you can’t help laughing, or it opens up a small porthole on the weird and wacky world of what for want of a better expression we should now call “military thought processes”.

The milit’ry man said that people shouldn’t have worried because everything was by the book, the planes, a Mig-29 Fulcrum and a JAS 39 Gripen had only been executing a flypast for a major’s funeral, which happened to take place in downtown Budapest. ‘Fair enough’, you were about to think when he adds: ‘And it was a training flight anyway.’

What a brilliant idea! The Hungarian air force is constantly struggling from lack of adequate funding, even flying the mandatory minimum hours poses a serious problem, so why not? Why not fly multi-purpose missions? In fact, why not take it even further? Take off, train a bit, then off to the funeral (strictly in the world-famous “Missing Men” formation, which is different from the classic “Missing Man” inasmuch as a complete pair of planes are missing right from the off). Then a bit of civilian business, unfurl the “Will you marry me?” marquees that posh guy had paid a fortune for, and to finish it off let’s bomb some smelly nation nobody had liked in the first place.

Alright, I’ve got carried away with that last one, we can’t afford real bombs anyway.

But in rare moments of magic, military PR can come up with the best comic material you can inadvertently produce. This is from last year, there was a military open day in a public park in Budapest, and their main event was going to be the landing of a Mi 24 Hind attack helicopter. Sounds impressive, huh? What actually happened though was that before landing the Mi-24 buzzed the car boot sales next door, scattering wares, chairs, tables and two unfortunate men all over the place. This incident clearly forced the military to come up with an excuse, if not an apology.

So people watching the news that night were treated to the rare sight of a sincere-looking but genuinely bemused army spokesman who tried to justify what had happened with the following words: ‘It’s a gunship, this is how it lands.’

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