Koksijde : JanuaryJanuary started again traditional with the many F-16 low approaches. The pilots haven't flown for at least two weeks and they need their qualifications again, so we got quiet some practice approaches at Koksijde. On the 9th the Sea King spottersday was being held, so we got some nice visitors that day. The next day one A.109 came in for a fuelstop. On the 14th C-130 CH-11 made four approaches after its testflight, and the next day CH-12 made two IFR approaches. On the 16th two French Air Force Alpha Jets based at Tours made an instrument approach before they continued to Melsbroek to stay the night. On the 18th a 21 Sqn ERJ-145 made two approaches which is quiet a rare sight at Koksijde.
Koksijde : FebruaryOn the 5th, 12th and 19th a Federal Police MD520N helicopter came to Koksijde for pilot training. They did a lot of autorotation exercises on the runway. On the 15th one NH-90MTH protected by two Agustas made a landing at the beach of Oostduinkerke to pick up some persons. That must have been an awesome sight! On the 19th and 27th some French Air Force Alpha jets from Tours made some IFR approaches again before they continued to Melsbroek for a nightstop. Apparently they must like Brussels a lot. On the 20th there was again an exercise with 1W helicopters, but this time the formation consisted out of two NH-90MTH and one Agusta. They came in to take some gas. On the 21st three Dutch Chinooks, three Dutch Apaches and one Dutch Cougar passed overhead on their way to Carlisle for their annually Tactical Blaze exercise. The next day another Cougar passed on its way to Scotland. On the 12th a Royal Netherlands Air Force PC-12 made two touch and go's.
Koksijde : MarchMarch was a pretty busy month. As 10 Belgian Air Force F-16's and a lot of pilots were at Nellis in the United States of America to participate the famous "Red Flag" exercise, some of the few remaining F-16's came to our coastal base throughout the month to make practice approaches. On the 12th, 13th and 21st the QRA's made it to West-Flanders and brought us a visit. At the end of the month a nice 3-ship formation of F-16's came over the airfield and one was the OCU special tail. On the 5th two French Air Force Alpha Jets came to Koksijde for an IFR approach again before continuing to Melsbroek to stay overnight. On the 8th two Chinooks and three Apaches passed over the airfield again on their way back home after their annually Tactical Blaze exercise at the Scottish Carlisle. On the 19th both the German Navy and Norwegian Air Force Sea Kings arrived after a long flight. The Germans came from Kiel in Northern Germany, while the Norwegians came from Rygge in Southern Norway. Both came all the way to Koksijde to participate in the "Farewell Sea King"-event on the 21st. The Norwegian Sea King was a very rare visitor as they don't leave Norway very often. On the 20th both Sea Kings did a flight together with our sole remaining airworthy Sea King over the sea and afterwards over the airfield. On the 22nd both Sea Kings left Koksijde again homewards when the fog was cleared up a bit. Thanks a lot to the X-servicing for parking the Sea Kings close to the fence, so the many spectators outside the fence could have a close watch. On Friday the crew did a nice 360 on the ground and hovered over the platform before taxiing in front of the West Aviation Club clubhouse to the active runway, all to please the many spotters at the fence!! On the 27th and 28th an Ecureuil came to Koksijde again to film the cycling game "Driedaagse Brugge - De Panne". On the 28th a NH-90MTH did some winching exercises on one of the bunkers at the airfield before leaving back to Beauvechain.
Koksijde : AprilThe month started with a Belgian Air Force Alpha Jet that made one low approach. The last 15 years this became a rare sight, but since the Belgian Air Force stopped using these aircraft as trainer aircraft this is even rarer. Normally the Alpha Jet will be retired from service at the end of this year. There were again some F-16's that came to Koksijde for some training approaches, and on the 5th Mike was able to make some really nice banking shots from its back garden from FB24 turning final for RWY11. On the 3rd the Cessna Citation of the Dutch Aerospace Center came to Koksijde again to calibrate our navigation aids. On the 10th an ERJ-145 based at Melsbroek passed two times performing some first flights during the Beauvechain Air Base days. On the 12th, 24th and 26th a C-130 came to Koksijde to do some IFR procedures. We also had quiet some Marchetti's for training approaches and full stops. On the 23rd there were five Marchetti's making a full stop, which was a nice view at the visitor's ramp. To make the party complete, four out of five taxied via S3 taxiway to holding point RWY11.
Sea King SpottersdayOn Wednesday afternoon January 9th a photocall was being organized by Koksijde airbase for 250 lucky people. After a quick ID check and pickup of the specially made badge for the event, everyone could enter the dedicated area at the beginning of RWY02. Sea King RS04 and RS05 were put in static display, as well as a marchetti ST41 which arrived just before the event started. Soon after we arrived, RS02 -the star of the day- was being towed to the helipad for the flights later that afternoon and evening. To support the photocall some visitors of the Belgian Air Force came to our coastal airbase. A marchetti made some touch and go's, a C-130 and ERJ-135 made some practice approaches and two F-16's made a base attack. Big surprise was a NATO E-3A Awacs which made an approach at the start of the event. There were some small demonstrations of an A.109, NH-90MTH and NH-90NFH, Alouette III and offcourse the star of the day: the Sea King. The weather was the weather we can expect early January: ice cold northerly wind, rain, hail and sun. When the sun was set it was time for a nightshoot. Four light units were installed which lighted the helipad very good and all three based helicopter types were presented very nice. The strong wind made good night photography very difficult, but we are still very happy about the results. We would like to thank all the crews and support personnel to make this great day happen. We hope more small events like this will be possible in the future.
Last flight RS02Sunday January 13th was again a sad day as the third Sea King was being retired. They took off at 14:09 and flew till 15:56. After take-off they first made a low pass before continuing with seawork. After their seawork they went to AZ St Jan hospital in Brugge for two LZ landings. They returned back to Koksijde via the coastline, the scenery where this lady was being flown for over 42 years. Again a low pass was made and after her final landing, a water salute of the fire department was given before her last shutdown. The first flight of RS02 was on April 8th 1976, had 12.502 hrs on the clock and 738 scrambles till its final retirement. Thank you for serving us so well!
Last flight RS04On Friday February 15th, Sea King RS04 made its last flight out of Koksijde airbase. It was the last airworthy Sea King in its original color scheme. After take-off, they did an ILS approach at Ostend and then went over the sea for a training flight. Before touching down for the final time they showed that the old lady is still alive and did some spectacular low passes and tight turns. After landing the fire department gave her a last shower before shutting down the engines for the last time. During the same flight, flight engineer Tommy Lanoye, logged its 3000th hour flown on Sea King. RS04 made its first flight on May 7th 1976 and made its final flight, 703 scrambles later, with 12.219 hrs on the clock.
Goodbye Sea King - Landing Knokke beachThursday March 21st was the official goodbye from the Sea King community to the Belgian people with a number of events throughout the day. In the morning the last remaining airworthy Sea King made a beach landing at each of the 10 Belgian coastal villages to hand over a beach flag to the mayor marking "1757 Lives Saved - 3309 Interventions - 60000 Flight Hours - 43 Years Loyal Service". As this was announced in the media well before, this event attracted a lot of people to the beaches, that came to say goodbye to this mighty legend. The first landing on the beach was at Knokke at 09h30. Hugo De Groote went to the beach and made these nice pictures.
Goodbye Sea King - Landing Nieuwpoort beachNext in our overview is Nieuwpoort, where the Sea King landed at 10h50.
Goodbye Sea King - Landing De Panne beachNext landing after Nieuwpoort was De Panne near the French border at 11h05. The mayor of Koksijde was picked up at De Panne to fly in the Sea King to his own village, Koksijde.
Goodbye Sea King - Landing Koksijde beachThe last landing was at Koksijde beach at 11h15, near the homebase where this legendary helicopter was based for almost 43 years. They first did a flypast before winching the mayor with the beach flag in front of the massive public on the beach. The beach flag was mounted on the pole together with the former BaseCO "Rudy Theys" and former SAR diver "Walter - Seabeast - Vanweymeersch". Then the Sea King landed and remained on the beach for a couple of minutes so the public could have a good look for the very last time. After take-off they performed another impressive low pass at high speed and returned back to base.
Goodbye Sea KingOn Thursday afternoon the 21st of March the official farewell event was held for the press and 800 invited guests that made the long and rich history of the Sea King a success. Around 15h15 Sea King RS-05, a Norwegian Air Force Sea King and a German Navy Sea King took the skies to make a last formation flight over West-Vlaanderen. They flew from Diksmuide to the hospital of Bruges, via the coastline to the Maritime Search and Rescue Center at Ostend, Ostend Airport and again via the coastline back to Koksijde. At Nieuwpoort a NH-90NFH and Alouette III joined the formation and the 5-ship formation arrived around 16h25 over the airbase. After 3 passes over the airbase in different formations, the formation broke up and all the helicopters landed, except for RS-05. Both the foreign Sea Kings taxied in front of the Herpain hangar to wait for the Belgian Sea King to join them. After shutdown of the helicopters it was time for the very last SAR demo of a Belgian Sea King. At 16h52 RS-05 touched down and got a water salute before shutting down the engines in front of the public. The last crew got an honor salute from the NH-90 community to thank them for 43 years of loyal service. This marked the official last landing of a Sea King in service with the Belgian Air Force.
Last flight RS05On Tuesday March 26th at 16h32lt, Sea King RS05 touched down for the very last time at Ostend Airport, after a short hop from its homebase Koksijde. This was the final Sea King in service and this event marked the end of Sea King operations in the Belgian Air Force after almost 43 years. The airframe was acquired by the "Vlaams Luchtvaart Opleidings Centrum - VLOC" and will serve as an instructional airframe to train student aircraft mechanics.
RS05 made its first flight on June 7th 1976 at the Westland facilities in Yeovil and was delivered to Koksijde on November 8th 1976 where it stayed for the rest of its life to serve as a SAR helicopter. 12.222 hrs and 707 scrambles were flown without any incidents, only to prove how reliable this helicopter is. This is really the end now, goodbye king of the sea, you will be missed...