KOKSIJDE AIR SHOW 2009


It is not an exaggeration to say already now that the Koksijde Air Show is a monument in Belgian aviation history. For more than three decades now, it has been one of, if not the major Belgian military aviation event attracting aircraft enthusiasts not only from all over Belgium, but also from numerous other European countries. It has always been a great attraction too for tens of thousands of tourists visiting the Belgian coast. In short, it is one of the most important showcases for the equipment and knowhow of the Belgian Air Force / Air Component and its allies.

 

After a break in 2008, when only a single Air Day was organised in the late summer, the Koksijde Air Show was back in its full glory this year: a sun-drenched weekend long, around 80,000 aviation enthusiasts and tourists could watch what our finest have to offer nowadays. The 2008 interruption, however, apparently drained away many of the experienced senior corporals and adjutants, causing some minor organisational hiccups.

 

The 2009 edition was marked by numerous anniversaries. To commemorate the introduction of the Lockheed Martin, formerly General Dynamics, F-16 into the Belgian Air Force 30 years ago, Fighting Falcons of the USAF and of the four original European Partnership Air Forces in the F-16 Multinational Fighter Programme gathered in Koksijde. The presence of aircraft of NATO allies from Scandinavia to Southern Europe and from the USA to Eastern Europe highlighted the 60th anniversary of the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty on April 4th, 1949. Apart from these two major anniversaries, there were numerous others to celebrate at Koksijde.

 

Lieutenant General Gerard Van Caelenberge, Commander of the Belgian Air Component, seized the opportunity to offer the first two numbered copies of the new book “Belgium through Blue Eyes” to the Minister of Defence and to the Chief of Defence.

 

A PHOTOGRAPHIC IMPRESSION

 

ANNIVERSARIES

During his commemorative speech, the Commander of the Belgian Air Component outlined the differences between an F-16 of 30 years ago and a present-day aircraft. The former was armed with an internal cannon, infrared air-to-air missiles and dumb bombs, all of the Starfighter era. Nowadays, the aircraft has improved, more effective ammunition for the internal gun and can launch smart laser or GPS guided bombs and infrared or radar guided air-to-air missiles. It can also carry state-of-the-art information gathering and target identification and designation pods and is fitted with chaff and flare dispensers as well as an extensive electronic countermeasures suite. Its pilots can operate day and night with helmet mounted cueing sights and night vision goggles.

Lieutenant General Gerard Van Caelenberge’s commemorative speech was illustrated with a pair of aircraft in the static show, one equipped like in the early 1980s (front, FA-05 with FA-55’s tail) and one like it is operated nowadays (back, FA-87).

All four original European Participating Air Forces (EPAF) in the F-16 Multinational Fighter Programme as well as the USAFE were present in the 30th anniversary static show. Portugal became the fifth EPAF member after it received its first Fighting Falcons in 1994. Non EPAF F-16 users in Europe are Greece, Italy, Poland and Turkey. 601 is a Chania/Souda based Block 52+ F-16D of 343 Mira of the Hellenic Air Force.

The Patrouille Cartouche Doré was established 20 years ago at Cognac Air Base on the occasion of the first 100,000 flying hours on the Socata TB30 Epsilon. The name of the team was derived from the call sign Cartouche of the Groupement École 315 (GE 315, nowadays EPAA 00.315, École de Pilotage de l’Armée de l’Air 00.315).

The Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund (RAFBF), like our FONAVIBEL, is the RAF’s leading welfare charity, providing financial, practical and emotional support to all members of the RAF family. It helps serving and former members of the RAF, as well as their partners and dependants, deal with a wide range of issues: from childcare and relationship difficulties to injury and disability, and from financial hardship and debt to illness and bereavement. RAFBF is the heart of the RAF family, hence the adapted RAF badge on the underside of the fuselage of the British Aerospace Hawk T.1 solo display aircraft of 208 (R) Squadron. The Benevolent Fund was established in 1919 by Air Marshal Sir Hugh Trenchard as the Royal Air Force Memorial Fund because one of its earliest objectives was to raise a memorial to the airmen who died in the First World War.

On May 7th, 1909, the Admiralty of the Royal Navy set aside £35,000 for the development of an airship, beginning a process that was to lead to the formation of the Fleet Air Arm as it is known today. To commemorate this event, numerous aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm are marked with a centenary logo, like this British Aerospace Jetstream T.2 XX488 of Culdrose based No. 750 Squadron.

SOLO DISPLAYS

2nd Lieutenant Richard “Rikke” Jorissen of No. 18 Squadron and Igor “Gorky” Craeghs of No. 17 Squadron of the Wing Heli are revving up the engines of Agusta A.109BA H01 prior to their Sunday morning display.

 Commandant Michel “Mitch” Beulen of No. 349 Squadron of the 10th Tactical Wing is the latest Belgian Air Component F-16AM solo display pilot. He made his first public appearance in Belgium during the Koksijde Air Show. Unfortunately, he had to perform his first practice flight on Friday in spare aircraft FA-116 because of a technical problem with his special colour scheme aircraft FA-134.

Mitch’s Dutch counterpart, Captain Ralph “Sheik” Aarts, performed for the first time in Belgium in his recently painted F-16AM J-015. The aircraft could not be more Dutch with the fuselage, wings and tail painted in the Dutch national colour (guess which) and with a large Dutch Lion depicted on the upper fuselage.

Dassault Aviation Rafale B 336/113-IK belongs to Escadron de Chasse EC01.091 “Gascogne” and is based at Base Aérienne 113 Saint-Dizier. The badge on the vertical tail fin is the Egyptian Falcon of the unit’s 3ème Escadrille. France was one of the founding members of NATO in 1949, but withdrew from the military organisation of the Alliance in 1959 because of the strong role the United States played in the Alliance and because of the perceived special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom. Fifty years later, in 2009, France became again a full member of NATO.

SAAB JAS.39C Gripen 30 (c/n 39-3301) of No. 1 Squadron of the 59th Tactical Fighter Wing is based at Kecskemét in central Hungary. The squadron’s Puma badge can be seen on the aircraft’s nose. Hungary joined NATO in 1999 as one of the first former Warsaw Pact members.

The only non-NATO fast jet solo display was that of Swiss Air Force Boeing F/A-18C J-5014. Switzerland is not a member of the North Atlantic Alliance, but is a signatory of the NATO Partnership for Peace (PfP), which was established in 1994 and which is based on individual bilateral relations between each partner country and NATO. PfP members may choose the extent of their participation in NATO activities.

TEAMS

A team-with-no-name consisting of four SIAI Marchetti SF.260M training aircraft of the 1st Wing displayed for the first time at Koksijde Airbase in 2008. Since early June 2009, it is known as Hardship Red, a name derived from No. 5 Squadron’s call sign. The team is composed of Major Jean-François Balon (Red 1, Leader and former F-16 pilot), Commandant Alain Collard (Red 2, Left Wing and former C-130 pilot), Captain Nicolas Delfosse (Red 3, Right Wing and former F-16 pilot) and Captain Kristof Cloetens (Red 4, Box and former F-16 pilot). Red Spare is Commandant Christophe Deroubaix (IP pilot on SF.260 since 2001).

The Polish Air Force aerobatic display team Bialo-Czerwone Iskry (White-Red Sparks) flies five white and red painted PZL-Mielec TS-11 Iskra training aircraft and is based at Deblin with the 1st Flying Training Centre. The team’s history goes back as far as 16 February 1969, when Rombik (Diamond), the first Polish Air Force display team on Iskra was formed.

The Croatian Air Force aerobatic display team Krila Oluje (Wings of Storm) performed for the first time on 22 July 2004 on the occasion of the opening ceremony of the European sailing championship in Zadar. It flies six Pilatus PC-9 training aircraft and is based at Zemunik Airbase, home the Croatian Flight School.

The Royal Moroccan Air Force aerobatic display team Green March (Marche Verte) was established in 1988 by order of King Hassan II. It was named after the strategic mass demonstration organised by the Moroccan government in order to force Spain to hand over the disputed, autonomous Spanish Province of Sahara to Morocco. The team flies seven CAP 232 aircraft and is renowned for is close formation take-offs and manoeuvres, which are performed with the aircraft tied together with ropes. Green March operates from the School Base in Marrakech.

The Royal Jordanian Falcons aerobatic display team was formed in 1976 with the approval of the late King Hussein Bin Talal. The team is based at the King Hussein International Airport in Aqaba. It is not an entirely military team, as it regularly hires civil aerobatic pilots. Since 2007, it performs with four Extra 300L aircraft.

An always returning and most welcome guest at the Koksijde Air Show is Baby Blue, the aerobatic display team of the Royal Danish Air Force Flyveskolen (FLSK) in Karup. The team is equipped with four SAAB T-17 Supporter light training aircraft. Its history started somewhere in the 1980s when a number of F-100 and F-104 pilots decided to establish a display team on the little trainer.

HELICOPTERS

Koksijde Airbase is inextricably bound up with the Westland Seaking Mk.48 rescue helicopter. The three Sud Aviation SA.316B Alouette III helicopters of the Navy Flight, however, are much less known, mainly because they often operate aboard naval vessels on far away seas. A couple of years ago, they were brought into action in the Caribbean Sea for anti-narcotics operations. Recently, they served in the Mediterranean Sea to prevent arms smuggling into the Lebanon. In the near future they will participate in anti-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean off the Somali coast. Such distant operations render the helicopters almost invisible at the home front, hence the nickname “Ghost Flight”, given by the crews to their own unit.

The Super Puma (Cougar) Display Team of the Swiss Air Force demosntrated some of the capabilities of the Eurocopter AS.532UL Cougar transport helicopter during a vivid, eight minute long show. Cougars are based at Payerne and Alpnach with Luftransportgeschwader 5 and 6. The type took part in international humanitarian and peace support operations in Albania, Kosovo, Bosnia and Sumatra.

The first NHIndustries NH90 is scheduled for delivery to the Belgian Air Component in June 2011. The first deliveries will be of the SAR/CSAR and anti-ship variant NFH. In April 2012, deliveries of the tactical transport version TTH will start.

RARE AIRCRAFT

The venerable SAAB 105Ö of the Austrian Air Force is rarely seen in Belgium. The type participated in the flying programme and in the static show, where this Green B (105412) could be seen.

The immaculately restored Hawker Hunter T.8C G-BWGL of the Dutch Hawker Hunter Foundation (DHHF) was displayed for the first time in Belgium at the Koksijde Air Show 2009. The DHHF was established in 2005 by a number of wealthy Dutch businessmen and operates from Leeuwarden Airbase.

 

BELGIUM THROUGH BLUE EYES

Lieutenant General Gerard Van Caelenberge, Commander of the Belgian Air Component, seized the opportunity of the Koksijde Air Show and of the F-16s 30th anniversary press conference to offer the first two numbered copies of the new book “Belgium through Blue Eyes”, which he ordered, to the Minister of Defence, Pieter De Crem, and to the Chief of Defence, Lieutenant General Charles-Henri Delcour.

Daniel Brackx, author of the book (left), and Bob Block, illustrator (right), pose with Lieutenant General Gerard Van Caelenberge, Commander of the Belgian Air Component, shortly after the presentation of the new book to the press.

MISSING MAN FORMATION

The six Belgian Dassault-Breguet/Dornier Alpha Jet 1B aircraft that opened the show flew a missing man formation to honour the two pilots who lost their lives in the fatal accident of Piper L-21B Super Cub LB-06 on July 3rd, 2009. The aircraft encountered technical problems shortly after it took off from Goetsenhoven airfield to participate in the Koksijde Air Show. Both pilots died when the Piper Cub crashed on the airfield and burst into flames.

 

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© Jos Schoofs (July 2009)

Last updated 16/03/12 09:31   Daniel Brackx

daniel.brackx@telenet.be