I had the unique opportunity to view an An-2 Colt fly—up close—at a ballooning event held in 2007. For two years in a row I crewed with a competition team in Hofkirchen, Austria. The 2008 World Hot Air Balloon Championship was held there in September with over 100 competitors from 33 countries. As balloon teams stood alongside, the previously used launch field was cleared for an aircraft display, the most memorable of these was the Soviet legend, Antonov An-2 biplane.
The turf aerodrome offered a sizable flat runway for both mass balloon launch and benzine-powered aerial display. The field is set among the otherwise rolling terrain of Austria’s Styria region. The An-2, while built for utility and durability, is well-suited to unimproved, and short, runways which made the lush turf at Hofkirchen a milquetoast for practice landings. Styria is also spotted with farm fields world renown for their pumpkin seed (Kürbiskernöl) production. A dark green seed, it is cold-pressed for oil that tenders an intense nutty taste.