On March 5, 2021, 75 years passed since the tragic death of Karel Balík, a native of Pilsen, who died in a plane crash of a CSA aircraft initial flight on the Prague-Paris-Prague route.

On March 4, 1946, Czechoslovak Airlines began flying on the Prague – Strasbourg – Paris route. One of the most successful transport pilots, Karel Balík, took off with the first plane. During the landing maneuver in Prague’s Ruzyně on Tuesday evening, March 5, the plane was on fire during the crash. The following report shall indicate the accident: ‘5.3. 1946 Junkers JU – 52 / 3m (OK – ZDN) crashed on the route Paris – Strasbourg – Prague at the airport Prague – Ruzyně. Captain Karel Balík took off from Paris at 12.30, landed in Strasbourg at 15.10 and took off from there at 15.34 after refueling. At the Prague – Ruzyně airport there was a QBI all day (the state of flying according to the instruments was announced). At 18.11 the plane flew over the airport, followed by two more attempts to land on runway 22. During the fourth landing maneuver, the direction of the course and the descent under the clouds were observed. The plane passed the aiming gonio in the right direction, but caught the right wheel on a pile of potato stalks in a field 170 m from the road, then landed on ground with both wheels, the pilot probably noticed that he was out of the landing area, added gas, and refuted several bollards, braking hard. Both bogie wheels fell off the road. He caught the trees with the tail part on the edge of the retention tank and fell to its drained bottom, from where it bounced off, hurled itself to the western part of the tank, broke and 1,800 liters of gasoline ignited. Eight of the eleven passengers died. From the four crew members, the co-pilot survived.

The cause of the accident was an incorrect estimate of altitude by the pilot due to reduced visibility and insufficient equipment of the airport. The doctor stated the death of the flight engineer Vojtěch Slezák and the radio operator Ladislav Parák. The only injured co-pilot Jan Šerhant, at that time the CSA chief pilot, escaped. All three former RAF pilots. Karel Balík died of numerous injuries and burns in a hospital in Prague – Břevnov. Holder of four Czechoslovak war crosses, the Polish War Cross and a number of British medals,  found himself many times in service in difficult situations, he always solved with admirable cold blood. On the last landing, fate prepared an obstacle for him that Captain Balík could not overcome.

Karel Balík returned to his liberated homeland as an elite RAF transport pilot in the British rank of Flight Lieutenant and in the Czechoslovak rank of lieutenant in reserve. For his military service, he was awarded the English medal AFC – Air Cross. After demobilization, he joined the renewed Czechoslovak Airlines as a pilot.

Together with his brother Jaroslav, they co-founded the West Bohemian Aeroclub at the Plzeň – Bory Airport. He was a sports and military pilot. His ideal was to become a transport pilot on long-haul flights. This came true and before the war he was accepted to the Czechoslovak Airline and flew as a captain on various types of transport aircraft. In 1938, he accomplished one million kilometers. The story of his father-in-law Karel Balík was described by the writer Jiří Stránský in the book – The Ballad of a Pilot and became a model for the television film of the same name.

He was promoted to the rank of colonel “in memoriam” as part of rehabilitation in 1990.His name appears on the board of fallen pilots of the West Bohemian Aeroclub in Pilsen.

We will never forget !!!

The author of the article –  Mr. Ladislav Vitík, The Pilsen Airmen club, Aviatic Historical Club of general J. Irving Pilsen