Retirement at Fifty


On the symbolic date 09-09-09, the Belgian Air Component has officially retired its last three Alouette II helicopters after almost 50 years of continuous service with the Light Aviation of the Belgian Army and later as part of the Wing Heli of the Air Component in the unified Defence structure.

The Belgian Defence Alouette II’s were purchased in four batches between 1959 and 1967 to replace the Army Light Aviation fixed wing Piper L-18C Super Cubs.

Alouette II A-1 Etterbeek

The first Belgian Alouette II A-1 is presented to the authorities and press at the "Champs de Manoeuvres" at Etterbeek (Now VRT/RTBF) on October 26th 1959.

 A first batch of seventeen (s/n A-01 to A-17) Sud-Est SE.3130 Alouette II ((later known as Sud-Aviation SA.313B) was bought in 1959 quickly followed in October 1960 by a second batch of twenty-two aircraft (s/n A-18 to A-39). The SE.3130 Alouette II was the first turbine-powered helicopter in the world to go into production, the new machine incorporating the reliable 400 hp Turboméca Artouste I turbo- shaft. In July 1960, soon after delivery to the 16 Esc Lt Avn the first Belgian Army Alouette II’s were rushed  to Congo from their Belgian base in Germany to assist in the military operations following the troubled events in the wake of the former Belgian colonies independence.

In early 1967 it was decided to purchase a third batch of seventeen, more powerful Alouette (s/n A-40 to A-56) SA.3180 (later known as SA.318C), equipped with the 530 hp Turboméca Astazou IIA turbo shaft engine, followed by a fourth order for twenty-five aircraft on October 30th, 1967 (s/n A-57 to A-81). Of interest is the fact that aircraft A-47 to A-77 were assembled at the SABCA plant of Gosselies.

Alouette II A-57 during an exercise toghether with an Agusta A109BA and aF-16AM at Marche en Famenne on 21 June 2004

Alouette II A-57 during an exercise together with an Agusta A109BA and a F-16AM at Marche-en-Famenne on 21 June 2004

 In 1968 a final batch of six SA.3180 Alouette II (s/n A-90 to A-95) were ordered for the Rijkswacht/Gendarmerie (now Federal Police). Until 1993 the Alouette II of the Gendarmerie were mostly flown and maintained by personnel of the Belgian Army Light Aviation (Lt Avn) at Brasschaat AB. Two of these helicopters (A-90 and A-95) were even used by the Lt Avn "Blue Bees" demonstration team. Later, the five remaining aircraft were stationed at the Federal Police’s newly formed Air Support Unit based at Melsbroek. The main missions of these Alouette’s were aerial observation and road traffic patrol. Almost at the end of their career the remaining police helicopters were re-registered to fit into "G-xx'" serial system. The last operational Alouette II of the Belgian Police accomplished its last flight in October 2000 after a 32-year career.

A61 close formation

One of the three remaining Alouette II's A61 in formation with an Agusta A109BA near Hasselt on March 30th 2009.

The last 23 Alouette II helicopters of the Belgian Air Force could well migrate to the South and more particular to Madagascar (according to Marc Verly, boss of Mad Africa Distribution who bought the helicopters). In the past and during their long career the Light Avn Alouette II's have already frequently braved the hot African sun (Congo, Kolwezi, Somalia...) so they could operate without problem in these familiar surroundings. Because most if not all of these aircraft have reached the end of their potential life they are most probably to be used as spare part source. However, the Madagascar Air Force is not known to operate Alouette II helicopters. But with the elected president of Madagascar, Marc Ravalomanana having been removed from office by a military coup everything seems possible in these Southern regions. Our faithful Alouette's could eventually see another very active career after their official retirement at fifty.

  Last three landing.

After a last demonstration of skilful formation flying the last three Alouette II helicopters operated by the Air Component (A-61, A-64 and A-69) come in for a final and perfect landing at Bierset on 09/09/09

Last Alouette crews and personnel

The last operational pilots and ground personnel together in front of their favourite Alouette II helicopter.

 

 

 

 

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 © Daniel Brackx &

Vincent Pirard/AviaScribe (September 2009)

 

Last updated 10/09/09 12:13   Daniel Brackx

daniel.brackx@telenet.be

 

 

 

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