The French Connection II

Belgian military pilot training underwent drastic changes since the first instructions were given in August 2004 to create a close Franco-Belgian cooperation in this field. In only a few years’ time, it switched from a full in-house activity into a largely bilateral joint venture. The training programme itself underwent major changes too: the common jet pilot training for all students made place for differentiated tracks for jet, transport and helicopter pilots.


Class 03

Ten of the twelve student pilots of Class (20)03 received a preparatory academic training at the Royal Military Academy (RMA) in Brussels between October 6th, 2003 and August 31st, 2004. They then went to the Flight Academy of the 1st Wing in Beauvechain, where they jointly followed basic flying training on the SIAI Marchetti SF.260M from September 13th, 2004 till August 26th, 2005. After basic flying training, the student pilots split up and followed the track for which they were most suited or for which they had a personal preference. Candidate jet pilots went to Tours, France, from August 29th, 2005 till  May 22nd, 2006 for advanced flying training on the Dornier-AMD Alpha Jet E. The student pilots of the transport track changed Beauvechain for Avord, France. There they learned to fly the twin-engined Embraer EMB.121 Xingu between August 29th, 2005 and June 9th, 2006. The helicopter track brought its students to Brasschaat, where they obtained an Airline Transport Pilot Licence (Helicopter) (ATPL(H)) before beginning advanced flying training. Their training lasted from  August 29th, 2005 till May 12th, 2006.


The newly formed jet pilots will continue their training at Cazaux, France, on the French Dornier-AMD Alpha Jet E and the Belgian Dornier-AMD Alpha Jet 1B+. Once completed this phase, they will join the F-16 Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) of the 10th Tactical Wing at Kleine-Brogel airbase for type conversion.

The young transport pilots are at present following a conversion course on the Lockheed C-130 H Hercules in the OCU of the 15th Transport Wing in Melsbroek.

The two helicopter pilots of Class 03 are the last with a complete training in Belgium. They are now based at Bierset with the OCU of the Helicopter Wing, where they go through the technical training on the Agusta A.109BA Hirundo. The next generation of helicopter pilots will learn to fly their rotary wings at the Ecole d’Application de l’Aviation Légère de l’Armée de Terre in Dax, France.


The reform of Belgian Defence pilot training is now complete. Instead of learning to fly F-16s before being affected to an operational unit, student pilots now join the proper track after basic flying training to become a jet, transport or helicopter pilot.

The two remaining student pilots of Class 03 combined academic training as civil engineer or master in social and military sciences with flying training. They both completed basic flying training on September 30th, 2004 with the student pilots of Class 02B, basic transport conversion on December 23rd, 2005 and advanced flying training in Avord on February 3rd, 2006.

The butterfly tail Fouga Magister too found a place in the small closing flying programme of the wings parade in the form of a display by the Fouga Pair. The Magisters struggle on, but availability of the 45+ years old aircraft is becoming a concern. The Fouga Pair had to fly with one red and one silver aircraft because there was only one red aircraft available, but that too was beautiful…


Commandant Michaël “Mickey” Artiges closed the wings parade at Beauvechain airbase with a solo display of the Lockheed-Martin F-16.

All twelve members of Class 03 were granted the Belgian Defence pilot’s licence and the accompanying Wings during a ceremony held at Beauvechain airbase on July 5th, 2006.


Text and pictures by

 Jos Schoofs (July 2006)

Last updated 23/03/15 10:22   Daniel Brackx