Overview of the Belgian Military Airshows in 2004

 

Who remembers the Meetings in the old days?

The world was a less safe place to live in and huge amounts of money were spent on defence. This of course had a positive influence on the spectacular airshows in the past. Huge static shows and amazing displays by different world famous aerobatic teams offered the public a multi-coloured view on what in fact was blood-serious business.

Luckily, the potential enemies of Europe have all but vanished and defence budgets are again under tight control. Therefore it's refreshing to see that in 2004 the Belgian Defence Air Component was able to offer a hot and colourful Koksijde airshow and two splendid "Spotter Days" thus placing Belgium again firmly on the map for all military aircraft lovers

Only the weather gods didn't always agree on the idea of ideal airshow weather. Notwithstanding this, numerous amateur specialists and journalists were present. The relatively new "Spotter Day" formula offers the possibility to spend an entire day on an operational military airbase and also has some very interesting surprises to offer. This not only by presenting some rare foreign aircraft (Lithuania, Spain, Ireland,) but also by the presence of many specially decorated aircraft.  

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Fouga pair taking off from Beauvechain.

On 29 June the "season" started off with a Trainer Meet and associated Spotter Day in which Alpha Jet AT18 (click here for pictures of this aircraft) was presented in a new style camouflage applied specially to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Alpha Jet operations in Belgium. Besides the many locally based operational aircraft performing their daily missions, many foreign visitors arrived to attend the "Trainer Meet" and to be nicely lined up for next day's "Awarding of Wings" ceremony.

One of the days' highlights was certainly the arrival of a Cambrai (F.) based Mirage F1B specially decorated with "invasion stripes" to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the allied landings at Normandy.

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Czech Air Force Antonov 26 taxiing at the Beauvechain "Trainer Meet".

 A few days later on 3 & 4 July, the Koksijde Airshow gathered the usual high number of visitors due to its superb situation at the Belgian coast. 

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Demonstration by an Aermacchi MB339 of the Italian Air Force at Koksijde

One of the major participants to the show (including flight demonstrations) was the Aeronautica Militare Italiana (Italian Air Force). Remarkable and exotic was a trio of Swedish Saab J39 Grippens which arrived with an important delegation in a Saab 340. Less eye-catching but extremely rare was a Pilatus PC6 used by the French Special Forces which figured in the static display. Without any doubt Koksijde became one of the highlights of the annual coastal holiday season.

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Two Saab JA39 Grippens at Koksijde airbase.

 

Cdt. John Vandebosch masterly demonstrating F-16AM FA-118.

The third major event organised in 2004 by the Air Component (Belgian Air Force) was the "25 Years Belgian F-16 operation" Spotters Day at Kleine Brogel airbase on 20 July.

Besides all specially decorated Belgian F-16's (click here) the Danish Air Force had delegated a two seat Viper decorated with a special tail to commemorate the wedding of Prince Frederik of Denmark. Other F-16's were delegated by Italy and the Netherlands. 

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F16BM of the Danish Air Force with specially marked for the wedding of Prince Frederik and Mary.

For many the most exotic and rarest items of the day were an Antonov AN26B and an L-39 ZA Albatros of the Lithuanian Air Force. (click here for more on the Lithuanian Air Force) As a gratitude gesture towards Belgium for taking over the defence of the Lithuanian airspace when the country became a NATO member, both aircraft aircraft made a historical stop at Kleine Brogel form their trip to the Royal International Air Tattoo 2004 at Fairford (U.K.)

   

We all hope that next year's show season will be of the same good vintage as this year and hopefully again including an International Airshow to please the thousands of enthusiast visitors.

Thanks go to VSRP's Guy Dobbelaere and Kurt Verwilligen for their assistance during the 2004 display season.

 Text and Pictures by

Serge Van Heertum (S.B.A.P.) & Daniel Brackx 

Last updated 11/07/05 10:39   Daniel Brackx