That other Spotters’ Day at Kleine Brogel


The 17 July 2007 OIE 07 Spotters’ Day at Kleine-Brogel Air Base was covered at length by tens, maybe hundreds of websites and numerous newspapers as well as radio and television stations. Just three days later, on 20 July, there was another “Spotters’ Day” or rather a “Photo-Call” at Kleine-Brogel Air Base. This one, however, received no attention at all from the mass media and even reports on websites by aviation enthusiasts were extremely scarce. An anticlimax?

 The top number of aircraft in the static park never exceeded 25 that day. And that figure includes the 10 aircraft of the Swiss PC-7 Team! The only arrivals for the Sanicole Air Show were limited to a pair of Spanish F-18s, 10 Swiss Air Force PC-7s and their respective support aircraft. Training flights for the air show were limited to those of the Spanish F-18 solo display and the Swiss PC-7 Team. The Czechs did not even bother to remove the covers from their aircraft – what a pity, especially for that pair of Gripens – as they completed their rehearsal programme the day before. Local flights, too, were very scarce. Moreover, the pilots apparently were not briefed that there were still spotters on the field as not a single one of them taxied along the crowd line.

 Crowd? Let’s be honest, there was not really something like a crowd. It was rather a small gathering of local aviation enthusiasts. Instead of the 7,000 or so reported present on the 17th, the number of visitors was much closer to 70 on the 20th.

 Compared to the 17 July event, that other Spotters’ Day indeed looked like an anticlimax!

 Why were there so few aircraft arriving for the Sanicole Air Show? The answer to that question is simple. Many of them had other commitments elsewhere that weekend: the local aero club at Texel in the Netherlands organised its annual air show and Florennes Belgian Air Force Base held the closing event of its 60th anniversary festivities the following day. As helicopters do not need a 3.2 kilometres long runway, the Czech Hip and Hind and the Dutch Chinook landed directly at Sanicole.

And why were there so few local training flights? That answer is pretty much simple too. The weather really, really sucked. The sky was already overcast in the early morning, but soon turned into ever darker shades of grey, producing mild rain at first, which soon afterwards became a seemingly endless downpour, making almost all flying activities difficult, if not impossible. In the world of peacetime military aviation you just have to live with that.

Soon after most of the rain fearing spotters had left the air base – a shuttle was organised to bring them dry from the aircraft washing facility (sic) to the car park – a spell of blue sky and bright sunshine appeared! An opportunity immediately seized with both hands by the pilots of the F-18 and the PC-7s to make a practice flight over Sanicole. It also allowed the Belgian and Danish F-16s to complete their rehearsal for the international national holiday fly past over the far away city of Brussels. Only a pity that no one briefed them that we, spotters, were still there, with hopeful looks in the eyes to see them return and taxi past us under that the bright shining after-the-rain sun… And then the sky turned grey and black and it started pouring down once more, even harder than the first time, as if the Devils were taking revenge for their disbandment in 2001. 

Indeed, it was an anticlimax! But an anticlimax with a human face.

Instead of long queues at the entrance, there were nice, almost personalised words of welcome for the spotters. Spotting itself had a real atmosphere about it that day. There was no mass of nervously shouting and screaming photographers around (yes, photographers and not spotters, and that’s on purpose), but only a small in-crowd of cosily chatting away spotters that made a photograph every now and then. At one time, it looked as if it were a gathering of the former Red Lion Spotters as most of the present were former members from this group or of a kind of breed that could form something like the Red Lion Spotters – The Next Generation.

And when even these die-hards started to look desperately at the overcast and pouring sky, the Base Commander himself arrived to announce the landing of the Spanish Hornets. He even ordered a vehicle to bring the spotters to the aircraft’s parking lot and guided them to the right spot personally. A well appreciated gesture, Sir, thank you very much indeed!

When hunger or thirst struck, it was no problem at all, service was almost instant. And later in the afternoon, service was even for free. Because there were much less visitors than expected, the spotters were forced (OK, let’s admit it, they did not need that much force to convince us) to help the organisers to empty those too-many-and-too-heavy-to-carry barrels of beer. Nice gesture too, gents!

Yes, that other Spotters’ Day was an anticlimax, but prone to repetition and worth every cent of its 10 euro.

With the photographs:


This train of Swiss Air Force PC-7s represented almost half of the static display of the 20 July Spotters’ Day (A-906, 908, 909, 911, 912, 913, 914, 916, 919 and 922).


The Beech 1900 support aircraft of the PC-7 Team is leased by the Swiss Air Force since April of this year, but still carries the German civil registration D-CBIG.



Probably never a winner in the OIE Photo Contest, but have a look at how lively the propellers of CASA C-295 T.21-08/35-46 are spinning. This Getafe based, Escuadrón 353 transport served as support aircraft for the EF/A-18A solo display.


 This nice shot of Ala 15 EF/A-18A C.15-28/15-15 from sunny Zaragoza Air Base in Spain was only possible with the help of Kee-Bee’s BaseCo himself.


 An unexpected sunny spell during the late afternoon allowed some good photographing after all. These are the Dornier-Bréguet Alpha Jets of the Asas de Portugal display team (15202, 15206, 15227 and 15232).


When the sun came out, the pilots of the PC-7 Team did too. The short sunny spell lasted just long enough to allow them to fly their rehearsal at Sanicole.



After all, a Spotters’ Day to lick one’s fingers off.


When Kee-Bee closed its doors after the last downpour, only a few drenched spotters had the courage to make the short trip to nearby Sanicole Aero Club, the annual air show of which gave cause to the 20 July Spotters’ Day at Kee-Bee. There they could admire Czech Republic Armed Forces Mil Mi-171Sh 9915, which is one of 16 of the type that were delivered by Russia to the Czech Republic in the second half of 2005 as part of a debt repayment plan.


The Sanicole Air Show 2007 had some really nice items programmed, like this Mil Mi-24V taking off for a practice flight in the late afternoon of 20 July. Like the Mi-171Sh, Mi-24 0788 came from 23rd Helicopter Base at Prerov, Czech Republic.


* * *

Text and pictures by Jos Schoofs (July 2007)

* * *

For more pictures by Eric Smeets of this event follow this link:

Last updated 01/08/07 08:41   Daniel Brackx