Granddad Tiger is back
On 30 April and 1 May 2008, an airport-festival was held at Weeze Airport to celebrate its fifth year as a civil airport. Weeze Airport once was an RAF airbase housing Canberras, Phantoms, Buccaneers, Jaguars, Tornadoes, Harriers and Chinooks until it was closed in 1999. Civil operations started in 2003 at what was at first called Flughafen Niederrhein. This past helped the airport-festival in attracting a considerable number of RAF aircraft for the static display, which was situated in the hardened aircraft shelters area of the airbase. Together with a number of restored 1960s and 1970s era NATO combat aircraft and some East European old-timers from the 1950s and 1970s era, this stirred up Cold War memories with many a visitor.
Aviation enthusiasts Dirk Bellens and Henk de Jongh unveiled their immaculately restored Lockheed F-104G Starfighter FX-52 to the public on 30 April 2008. During the past three years, they restored the aircraft to static display conditions in one of the many abandoned hangars of the former military airbase. The Starfighter is now appropriately stored in a Cold War era hardened aircraft shelter.
FX-52 was one of the first aircraft that received a full Tiger colour scheme on the occasion of a NATO Tiger Meet. Exactly 30 years ago, the Starfighter was the centrepiece of the air show held on 23-24 June 1978 at Kleine-Brogel airbase, where the 18th NATO Tiger Meet took place from 19 till 26 June.
FX-52 (c/n 9095) entered service with the Belgian Air Force on 8 June 1964. It flew with the 1st Fighter Wing at Beauvechain and the 10th Fighter-bomber Wing at Kleine-Brogel until it was withdrawn from use and put in storage at Koksijde airbase on 29 June 1983. The aircraft had clocked 3,026.09 flying hours by that time. In 1987, the Starfighter was sold to Radcomm Enterprise and stripped of all useful parts. The empty airframe was donated to the Brussels Air Museum and transported to the museum’s reserves at Kapellen on 11 October 1994. After the museum sold it, the aircraft had a number of different private owners until it was bought by Henk de Jongh in December 2004. He brought the aircraft to Weeze Airport on 4 March 2005, where it was restored to its present condition.
Louis Cornelissens, former 31SQN CO at the time of the 1978 Tiger Meet and one of the proud restorers, Dirk Bellens.
Also making a remarked appearance at Weeze was privately owned Zlin Z.526M Trenér OO-YUG (c/n 1031) which is registered in Belgium, but based at Gilze-Rijen in the Netherlands. It formerly served with the Yugoslav Air Force, of which it still carries the markings.
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Text and pictures by
© Jos Schoofs (May 2008) (additional pic by Dirk Bellens)
Last updated 28/12/11 14:11 Daniel Brackx