When Sky Knights put on their "Silver Spurs", again ...

 

 

Lockheed F-104G Starfighter at Brustem airbase on June 23rd, 1968 - Michel Coryn

When, exactly 50 years ago, the Lockheed F-104G Starfighter entered service with the Belgian Air Force it represented a major leap forward in performance and capabilities. Accelerating from brake release to Mach 2 in less than 6 minutes, approach and touchdown at speeds exceeding those of any racecar; the Starfighter was a beautiful, magnificent but also a non-forgiving aircraft.

Already back in 1977, the famous Belgian NCO F-104 pilot, Jan Govaerts, created the Beauvechain Starfighter Pilots Association (BSPA) gathering the NCO Starfighter pilots who served at Beauvechain, later joined by those who called Kleine Brogel their home base and by then renamed Belgian Starfighter Pilots’ Association (BSPA). However, on October 5th, 2012, Jan invited the members for what he called, “the very last SPAD” (Starfighter Pilots Annual Dinner).  

Former Starfighter pilots, Wif De Brouwer, Steve Nuyts, Palmer De Vlieger, Marcel Vander Stockt, Jules Jacobs and Roger Lams decided that this would not be the last gathering and that the Starfighter legend should be kept alive. The “Silver Spurs” were born. 

Why “Silver Spurs?

Boot spurs were worn by all Starfighter pilots. These spurs, which were strapped to the pilot’s boots, were wired to the ejection seat and automatically pulled the pilot’s heels into the seat in the event of an ejection, thereby saving a possible injury of the pilots’ legs.

The "Silver Spurs" is not intended as another formal structure but rather as a group of friends, colleagues who gather once per year to have a bite, a drink and a chat.

Last Thursday May 2nd, 2013 a “Starfighter Pilots Wakeup Call” was organized at Beauvechain airbase’s former officers club, “La Chise”. More than eighty former Starfighter pilots accepted the invitation and were present at this first informal gathering.

Col Jos De Jaeger, Commander of the 1st Wing gave a very detailed briefing on the actual organization of Beauvechain airbase to bring the pilots up to date.

 Silver Spurs front man Wif De Brouwer welcomed the former 104 drivers and thanked Jan Govaerts who’s started it all in the seventies and formed the basis of the Silver Spurs today. The presidents of other Air Force associations were welcomed as well as the two only 104 pilots who are still serving in the armed forces; Generals Van Caelenberge and Singele.

As the audience represented almost every aspect of the Belgian Starfighter history, Wif pointed out some very special pilots present:

The first two instructors on F-104: Xavier Janssens and Camille Goossens.

Camille also holds the world record of clocking the shortest time between touchdown and parking;  landing with one main gear up he couldn’t hold the aircraft and plowed through the field to end up on the parking.

The first two F-104 instructors Xavier Janssens and Camille Goossens reunited.

The world’s longest slide on the runway was made by Gerald Dessart. Landing at night after two engine flame outs, lost his wheels at touch down and skidded on the belly to the end of the runway in one straight line.

The pilot who landed the first Starfighter at Kleine Brogel (FX-41): Gust Rongé

One of only two former (and youngest) Belgian Starfighter pilots still in active service: General Gerard "Flurk" Van Caelenberge, Chief of Defence (CHOD)

The first bail out on F-104: Georges Castermans (FX-08)

Two ever quarreling and remarkable fiends and 104 pilots: Steve Nuyts & Palmer De Vlieger (The Slivers)

… and finally after questioning the audience it came to light that Palmer is also the pilot with the most hours flown on F-104 present: 3.000+ hours.

The highest altitude reached during a zoom flight: Ludo Forgeur

Former "Red Devils" leader Leo Lambermont and Jan Govaerts in an animated conversation.

 

Starfighter pilots reunited.

 

 

This very successful first gathering will be followed by a “Silver Spurs” meeting at Kleine Brogel later this year. Many thanks Wif and Guy (Rasse) for a very fine organisation.

 Lockheed F-104G Starfighter FX-36 presented by "Bill" Ongena at Beauvechain on June 25th, 1966  -  Michel Coryn

 

 

More picture of the “Starfighter Pilots Wakeup Call” can be found HERE

 

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© Daniel Brackx (May 2013)

 

 

 

 

 

Last updated 07/11/11 10:59   Daniel Brackx

brackda@gmail.com