60th Anniversary Air Force Fasten
The festivities in the framework of the 60th anniversary of the Belgian Air Force were concluded on 13 October 2006 with an academic session on the occasion of the annual Fasten of the Air Force. These were held at Beauvechain airbase because the aircraft of the first operational units of the newly formed independent Belgian air arm arrived there from Germany 60 years ago.
An independent air arm
Because of the ever-increasing importance of military aviation, as underlined once more during the Second World War, the Belgian Minister of Defence announced his plans to re-establish an air arm on home soil on 3 April 1946. This air arm would be independent of the Army and its structure would be inspired on that of the RAF, with which numerous Belgian military pilots fought the war. The British would also provide equipment and support.
The only operational combat units of the then Military Aviation were No. 349 and No. 350 Fighter Squadrons, which were based at Fassberg in Germany as Sections of the RAF. Like all other Belgian Sections of the RAF, they would be formally transferred from British to Belgian authority on 15 October 1946. Their transfer to Belgian soil took place on 24 October 1946, when both squadrons flew their Spitfires via Evere to Beauvechain airbase, which would become their home base for the following 50 years. On 15 January 1949, the Military Aviation was officially renamed Belgian Air Force.
The 2006 Fasten of the Air Force at Beauvechain airbase thus were a unique occasion and an appropriate location to honour the pioneers who created the Belgian Air Force 60 years ago. Many of these pioneers were veterans of the Royal Air Force and South African Air Force, and a number of them added lustre to the event by their much-appreciated presence.
Air Force Awards
Every year, the Belgian Air Force presents a number of awards to members of its personnel who distinguished themselves the previous year by their exceptional professionalism, dedication or creativity. The 2005 laureates were:
Award “Lieutenant-General Leboutte” for the most meritorious young pilot of the Air Force was presented to a 2nd Lieutenant of the 10th Tactical Wing for the excellent results he achieved during his training as a military pilot.
Award “Challenge Lieutenant-General Etienne Dufossez” for a meritorious Air Force aircrew or aircrew member: Lockheed C-130 Hercules crew consisting of Captain Tom Casier, 2nd Lieutenant Davy Verhaeren, Adjutant-Chef Ronny Pauwels, 1st Sergeant-Major Roeland Nysen and 1st Sergeant-Major Koen Ceulemans of the 15th Transport Wing for the outstanding professionalism with which they accomplished a mission in Afghanistan in support of ISAF troops in tactically and meteorologically difficult conditions.
Award “Fund Lieutenant-General Debêche” for a meritorious low ranking officer, non-commissioned officer or corporal: 1st Corporal-Chef Joseph Haubrechts of the Wing Heli for his overall professionalism, dedication and availability.
Award “Fund 3rd Tactical Wing” for a meritorious officer, non-commissioned officer, corporal or private: Adjutant Patrick Janssens of the Meteorological Wing for his extraordinary creativity in combining meteorology, technology and management.
Award “99th Promotion of the Belgian Section of the Royal Air Force” for a meritorious member of the Air Force: Adjudant Thierry Laune of the 2nd Tactical Wing for his outstanding intervention on the scene of a severe traffic accident near Florennes airbase.
Award of the Commander of the Air Component for a meritorious non-flying officer, non-commissioned officer and corporal or private:
- 1st Lieutenant Frans Neyskens of the 10th Tactical Wing for the professional leadership, dedication and initiative with which he manages his service;
- Adjutant-Major (retired) René Lecomte of the 1st Wing for the professionalism he displayed during his entire career;
- Corporal-Chef Rudi De Backer of the Air Traffic Control Centre Semmerzake for the sense of reality, self-control and exemplary conduct with which he fulfils his daily duties.
Aircraft on display
All contemporary flying equipment of the Belgian Air Component as well as a number of historic aircraft was on show in a static display. The Agusta A.109BA Hirundo, Fouga CM-170R Magister and Lockheed-Martin F-16AM Fighting Falcon were presented in a small flying display.
The most marked aircraft in the static display was the prototype of the SIAI Marchetti SF-260M+. The Mike-plus version of the venerable SF.260 features a modernised cockpit with a number of new avionics. A first improvement is the new communications and navigation suite, which combines all radio equipment with a Garmin GNC 300XL GPS in a single block. It also features a J.P. Instruments EDM-800 engine data management system. This is an FAA approved primary instrument for engine temperature, outside air temperature and fuel flow. The aircraft with serial number ST-17 (17+ on the tail, c/n 10-17) is the type’s first upgraded example and was modified at Airmacchi’s Venegono plant in Italy. All other aircraft will be upgraded by personnel of the Maintenance Group of the 1st Wing at Beauvechain airbase. The second aircraft to receive a modernised cockpit and the first to be locally modified is ST-24 (c/n 10-24). Its first flight is planned for the fourth quarter of the year. Work on the next aircraft, ST-15 and ST-19, has already been initiated and coincides with their next major overhaul.
The first Mike-plus upgraded SIAI Marchetti SF-260 of the Belgian Air Component is appropriately marked with the serial number 17+ on the tip of its vertical tail fin.
The main external differences that mark a Mike-plus SF-260M are the white receiver antenna of the Garmin GNC 300XL GPS and the tube-like outside air temperature probe of the EDM-800, both placed in front of the cockpit canopy.
This view on the modernised cockpit shows the new grey background colour of the instrument panel as well as, from left to right, the repositioned port variometer, the new radio and GPS block, the rearranged fuse block, the J.P. Instruments EDM-800 (between the throttle block and the starboard stick handgrip) and the absence of the ADF.
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Text and picture by
© Jos Schoofs (October 2006)
Last updated 17/10/16 10:33 Daniel Brackx