21 JULY 2006 - “Belgian National Parade”
To remember the foundation of the State of Belgium, a military ground and air parade is organised annualy at the capital city of Brussel. This year we commemorate 175 years existence of Belgium and 60 years of the Belgian Air Force (now called Belgian Air Component, part of Belgian Defence).
Because of the size of this event, only the participation from the Air Component in the air (for the second time I was invited to participate in the fly past) will be highlighted in this article.
A lot of positive and negative news about this airbase close to the coast and its (future) helicopters regularly reached the headlines in the media this year.
As usual around noon we received a friendly welcome by Comopsair and the airbase Commander.
An interesting walk-around of the airbase and its equipment was given in order to provide a good idea on the daily operations and in particular those of the 40 Squadron and its SAR involvement. This was followed by a visit to the coordination centre, responsible for all contacts with civil and military organisations during all rescue interventions.
As explained in last years article, timing and training for an event like this is crucial, so at the briefing all watches were adjusted to the same time.
Weather briefing and flying conditions were discussed with all pilots participating in the fly past.
Take off for the 2 formations, 3x Sea King (fogtip 1,2,3) and 3x Alouette III (navy 1,2,3) followed by a Dutch Lynx were scheduled for 15:10 hour local time.
The very busy Belgian coast line during the summer season, principal operating area for the Belgian Defence Seakings.
FOGTIP 3 (RS01)
Together with crewmembers “fozzy”, “chappy” and “debergh”, I received a last safety briefing on the procedures to follow on the ground and in the air. Time for boarding the helicopter and fasten safety belts. All engines were started, last ground checks done and then finally take off.
“fozzy”, “debergh” and “chappy” , the crew of fogtip 3.
A rolling take off with fogtip 1 as leader, followed by fogtip 2 (right wing) and fogtip 3 (left wing) was chosen, shortly after taken to the air all helicopters involved formed a “vic” formation. A last fly pass overhead the airbase, followed by a smooth climb to 800 feet, the transition height to the target.
Weather conditions were excellent for the complete routing, so formation flying with the other choppers gave me ideal circumstances to photograph our formations in flight.
TOT (time on target) 16hour 16minutes 20seconds
After about 50 minutes relaxed flying over Belgium, we passed the last coordination point, the pilots in the cockpit are becoming now more concentrated, speed settled to 70 knots and descending to 500 feet, I can see clearly the other Seakings, followed by the formation Alouettes & Lynx.
Close formation with Dutch Navy Westland Lynx on the way to Brussels
Signs are given, only 5 minutes from our “TOT”, sitting at the back-door window, the surrounds of Brussel are passing below us, then finally we are reaching our target. Exactly on time we are flying over the Royal Palace with in front the tribunes, occupied by King Albert II, the complete Royal family, all the Belgian high ranking civilian and military personalities and important invited guests.
Right on time over the Royal tribune near the Royal Palace at Brussels
Just above us now are 6 Alpha Jets, leaving a “Belgian” tricolour smoke pattern behind them.
Three Seakings in close formation.
Because of the various anniversary commemorations, Belgium's participation in the Advanced Jet Training School, European stabilisation missions together with the Dutch Forces, the air parade was expanded with participation from France and the Netherlands, bringing totally 68 airplanes in the air.
The following planes were taking part in this years flypast:
Alpha Jet (9x Belgian AC, 3x French AF), Sea King (3x), Alouette III (3x), Lynx (1x Dutch Marine),
Hirundo (6x), Alouette II (3x), Hercules (1x), Falcon 20 (1x), Marchetti (6x), Magister (3x), Xingu (3x French AF), Fighting Falcon (24x Belgian AC, 2x Dutch AF).
Especially for this event, all Belgian flying participants were decorated with the new “Ministry of Belgian Defence” roundel (except the Alpha Jets, Marchettis, Magisters, Fighting Falcons).
This years parade saw the last participation of the Fouga Magister, the coming years will also see some changes as the Alouette III and Seaking fleet will be replaced by the NH.90, first delivery of which is expected in 2008. Also the Alouette II will be leaving the active fleet.
Maybe can we expect one of the next years one or more of the helicopters/planes from the Federal Police participating in the annual flypass.
Westland Seaking RS05 still wears the "25th anniversary of Seaking operations" special colour scheme over typical Flemish flat country.
Text and pictures
DIRK A. GEERTS (July 2006)
Last updated 02/08/06 07:47 Daniel Brackx