Trips 2015

Culdrose - Air Day

The annual Air Day was being held on Thursday July 30th. A great flying display program was presented to the 20.000 strong crowds and all this in great summer weather. Air Day 2015 was a sad occasion as it was to be the last appearance by Sea King HU5s, with 771 Naval Air Squadron handing over Search and Rescue duties in January 2016. As well as a three-ship formation in the Balbo, the squadron also provided a short SAR role demonstration and had their hangar open for visitors to bid farewell to the red and grey helicopters that have proudly served Cornwall for over 40 years. Quality over quantity was certainly the order of the day when it came to international jets in the flying program at Culdrose. The highlight being the Italian Frecce Tricolori making their sole UK appearance of 2015. With the lack of RAF Typhoon (due to the display team's mid-season break), afterburner action came in the shape of the Swiss Hornet and Polish MiG-29. As Culdrose is a Naval base, the main focus of the Air Day was naval aviation. Besides the military helicopter demonstrations a nice amount of historic aircraft were shown to the public: RNHF Swordfish, TFC Corsair and Wildcat, the Sea Fire and to close the show: the Sea Vixen. Of course, no Culdrose show would be complete without the station flypast, with this year's Balbo consisting of a trio of resident 771 NAS Sea Kings, three Merlin HM2s and a sole Sea King ASaC7, as well as a Lynx and Wildcat pair from Yeovilton. Culdrose is also home to the Royal Navy School of Flight Deck Operations. Students are taught the art of aircraft handling on a carrier deck on the station's dummy deck, utilizing a number of retired Sea Harriers. Three of these were given a public run out, the familiar whine of their Pegasus engines ringing out as the trio taxied up and down the runway, giving onlookers a tantalizing look at these wonderful and much missed jets.

Valenciennes - Meeting Aérien

Traditionally the meeting aérien in Valenciennes was held again on the French National holiday, 'quatorze Juillet'. Unfortunately the weather was not as good as it was last year: clouds all day long, but we stayed dry, so that's already a good thing. On Saturday the 11th Patrouille de France already landed at Valenciennes to rehearsal their demonstration before heading to Saint-Nazaire. On Monday Rafale Solo Display Team arrived and rehearsed its demonstration late afternoon between two showers. A Lorient based French Navy Xingu decorated with special markings to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the French Aeronavale, arrived on Monday as well to fill up the static display. On Tuesday morning a Mirage 2000D from Nancy first made some low approaches before touchdown and was put in the static display. After that Patrouille de France arrived after their flypast over Paris together with their C-160 support aircraft. In the afternoon the show started, but all participants had to do their low show due to the low ceiling. The Belgian Air Force had sent 'the Red Devils' , but they displayed only with three aircraft because one of the pilots is not able to fly due to a leg fracture. Two Florennes based F-16's made some nice passes in the afternoon. The main attraction of the display was off course the Rafale which was still wearing its tiger colour scheme from the Tigermeet in Konya in May. The show was closed with Patrouille de France, which gave a nice display in these difficult weather conditions.

Beauvechain - THPU

The THPU (Tactical Helicopter Procedures Update) was held at the Beauvechain airbase from May 18 till 21. The 1st Wing was host to this exercise gathering international crews with the aim to update the procedures and align the working methods of the various NATO countries as to execute combined missions in conflictual areas. During this week, the exercise saw various participating crews from the Czech Air Force, the French Armee de Terre (ALAT), the Dutch Koninklijke Luchtmacht, the German Heeresflieger, the Belgian Air Force and the Royal Air Force. Although the latter only as a tactical observer, no RAF helicopters present. On Wednesday May 20 a spottersday was organized for the aviation photographers. In the morning shuttle busses transported the photographers between the various zones where the helicopters were parked. Around noon, the three Belgian Air Force display teams; F-16, A.109 and Red Devils performed their display in front of the photographers. In the afternoon we were positioned at the end of the runway where we could see the helicopters departing for the afternoon mission. At the end of the afternoon a large formation was formed with all participating helicopters, and overflew the airbase, which was an impressive sight. The same day, Major General Avi. Frederic Vansina, Belgian Air Component Commander, declared the 18th Squadron "Initial Operational Capable" on the NH-90MTH. This IOC means the NH90MTH can be dispatched for missions in 'friendly' territory. The future operational milestones are to implement the Air Mobile Support to the Light Brigade, the installation of the self-defence and electronic warfare packages and the technical and logistical supportability in host nations with 'low' support. Colonel Franchomme projected to reach Full Operational Capability by the end of 2016. We had the opportunity to witness a little demonstration to give a dynamic overview of the main operational roles and techniques currently mastered by the NH90MTH capability within a simplified tactical scenario (hostage rescue).

Beauvechain - Dusk and Nightshoot BAF demo teams

The 2015 airshow season is starting, and so the Belgian Air Force (BAF) presented its demonstration teams for the upcoming summer. The BAF will be present all over Europe with their three teams, the F-16 Solo Display Team, the A.109 Solo Display Team and the Red Devils flying four Marchetti trainer aircraft. During a special evening/night photo-shoot on May 11, the specially painted aircraft were presented. The A.109 recently received a new paintjob sporting the Griffon on both sides of the Helicopter. The griffon is the mascot of the 17th MRH Squadron which operates the A.109 Agusta Helicopter. This season the Agusta will be flown by Capt. Filip "Shaggy" Peremans and Capt. Kevin "Que20" Beckers. The Red Devils carry on a rich historical tradition as the Belgian Formation Display Team. Today they fly four Marchetti trainer aircraft painted in the same red colors with the Belgian tricolor on the tail and bottom side of the wings, as the famous Fouga Magisters used to be. The team flies a series of four-ship formation aerobatics, and some solo aerobatics showcasing the maneuverability of the Marchetti. The 2015 team pilots are Capt. Paul "Paolo" Leys, Capt. Davy "Daffy" Vanhaeren, Capt. Corentin "Regio" Leveau and Capt. Alain "Papy" Collard. The Belgian F-16 Display Team has always been a highlight at European Airshows, and this tradition is kept on. For the upcoming season display pilot Cdt. Tom "Gizmo" De Moortel will represent the Belgian Air Force all over Europe. To enhance the presentation, the display aircraft received a striking new color scheme called "blizzard". We would like to thank the BAF IPR team, the BAF Demonstration Teams and the BAF personnel for the organization of these unique opportunities. Wishing all teams a fantastic and safe Airshow season!

Kleine Brogel : 11/05/2015

On Monday 11 May we went to Kleine Brogel to have a look at the local flying activities. Traffic was not badk with some F-16's in the morning, and some in the afternoon. An F-16 from Florennes came in for two touch and go's in the morning and in the afternoon a C-130 and ERJ-135 from Melsbroek made some training approaches. On Friday the 8th of May, two RAF Tornado GR.4's from 15(R) Sqn based at lossiemouth in Scotland arrived for a weekendstop. On Monday at noon they both took off and joined up with two F-16's from Florennes to overfly the bridge of Vroenhoven near Riemst. On May 11 1940 the Belgian Air Force tried to stop the German invasion by destroying this important bridge. 75 years later Belgian Defence commemorates the 177 casualties from that day.

Beauvechain - Fly To Your Dream

Beauvechain was host to the seventh edition of the "Fly To Your Dream" jobday of the Air Component on April 08th. During that day 233 people between 16 and 33 years of age had the possibility to have a look at the various career opportunities within the Air Component ranging from pilot, air traffic controller to many more technical and non-technical jobs. In the morning we had to be present at the AML (Military airport) in Melsbroek to catch our flight with an ERJ-145 to Beauvechain. It was a nice flight of 30 minutes and we arrived right in time for the start of the event. During the day there were some demonstrations on the ground and in the air. In the air Belgian Defence showed an airfield attack by F-16's and flight demonstrations of the Red Devils, the A-109 and the NH-90MTH. We also visited the maintenance hangar of the NH-90 and A.109 where we got a detailed explanation about the helicopters and their maintenance. At the end of the day we flew back to Melsbroek in the ERJ-145, which was a perfect end of a nice day with the Air Component.

Coningsby : 18/03/2015

On Wednesday the 18th of March we continued to Lincolnshire to have a look at Coningsby, home of the RAF Typhoon force. When we arrived visibility was very poor due to the dense fog. Luckily it became better during the morning and at 10h00 one of the temporary deployed E-3D's started up for a mission. Not very long after that the Typhoons woke up and flying activity was very good. We photographed 25 different Typhoons from various squadrons flying several missions. Coningsby is very accessible, so a lot of different spots were visited to have some variation in the pictures. According to the NOTAMS a display rehearsal was planned for the Typhoon solo display late afternoon. Around noon the sun appeared for an hour, but at the time the display was flown there were a lot of low clouds with almost no light anymore. At 16h30 we left for Mildenhall again where we stayed overnight again.

Mildenhall/Lakenheath : 17 & 19/03/2015

On Tuesday the 17th of March we crossed the Channel and headed for Lakenheath to catch the deployment of four 354th EFS (Expeditionary Fighter Squadron) A-10's based at Davis-Montain. Unfortunately the weather gods were not with us and as we arrived it started to rain which lasted for most of the day. In the morning the A-10's didn't flew and it looked like that they wouldn't fly at all that day, so we headed back to Mildenhall. Two F-15C's had diverted to Mildenhall and took off in the afternoon. In the late afternoon two KC-10's arrived and to our surprise we saw the A-10's returning back to Lakenheath after a mission, so they DID fly... On Wednesday we went to Coningsby, but on Thursday we did another try to catch the A-10's. Unfortunately they only flew in the afternoon, and we had to leave around 13h00 to catch the boat, so only static shots of the A-10's. The local F-15C's were flying short missions and did hot-pit refueling. Around noon we went back to Mildenhall for some Osprey action.

Northolt - Nightshoot XVIII

On the 5th of March the 18th edition of the night shoot at RAF Northolt near London was organized again by Phil Dawe and his team. This charitable event raises money for the restoration of the 11 Group Operations Room at the wartime base. This was the last time the based 32 Sqn BAe 125 would participate as they were taken out of service by the end of the month. Besides the based BAe 146 and BAe 125 some other aircraft were invited for the nightshoot. An EC-145 from the London Metropolitan Police came in for a fuel stop during a mission. A Seaking HU.5 from 771 Sqn based at the Royal Naval base at Culdrose was a special visitor as well as the type will be taken out of service in the near future. The Royal Navy was well presented with a Hawk still wearing the special tail for the 100th anniversary of the Royal Navy which was celebrated in 2009. Foreign participation was an Irish PC-9 and a French Securite Civile Firecat. The Belgian Police came with a Cessna 182 which is very rare sight outside Belgium.

Gando AB - DACT 2015 : Spottersday

On Tuesday the 10th of February, the Spanish Air Force together with Alejandro Afonso organised a spottersday. Both fighter types operated by the Spanish Air Force were present for the exercise. Hornets were supplied by both mainland Spain based units, Ala12 from Torrejon and Ala15 from Zaragoza. EF2000's came from the newly formed Ala14 from Albacete and of course, Gando's own Hornets from Escuadron 462 from Ala46 also participated. This year's exercise played from both Gando as well as form Arrecife Airport at the island of Lanzarote. With Gando housing all the Hornets and EF2000's, Arrecife played host to 6 CASA C.101 Aviojet trainers based at Matacan which acted as aggressors. Seen at both islands was a pair of Lockheed KC-130H Hercules tankers which enabled Hornet and EF2000 missions lasting up to two hours in duration. Other important support types were a pair of CASA C.295-100MPA Persuader search and rescue patrol aircraft as well as a Boeing E-3A Sentry from Geilenkirchen.

Gando AB - DACT 2015

From 1 till 13 February, Gando AB, the military part of the airport of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and part of the Canary Islands, played host to the Spanish Air Force's DACT 2015 exercise. DACT stands for Dissimilar Air Combat Training and aims to train fighter pilots in the art of air combat with aircraft types different than their own. The exercise, which has been organised on an almost annual basis since 2004, has become one of the most important in the Spanish Air Force. The choice of Gando on the remote Canary Islands is a logical one, given the remoteness of the islands in the Atlantic Ocean.