Siai Marchetti SF260M/D
Single-engine twin-seat trainer
To find a replacement for the Stampe-Vertongen SV4B which offered unsurpassed flying characteristics a study was launched in 1968. When the Siai-Marchetti SF.260 was found to be the ideal replacement trainer declared the winner a first order for 36 SF260M's was placed on January 24th, 1969 which were delivered between late 1969 and 1971. Initially the aircraft were taken on charge by the Elementaire Vliegschool (EVS)/Ecole de Pilotage Elementaire (Elementary Flying School) at Goetsenhoven. In October 1991 the Belgian government ordered nine additional SF260D's as attrition replacement. On September 12th, 1996 all flying training units of the Belgian Air Force were consolidated at Beauvechain airbase as the 1st Training Wing Training, thus ending 75 years of flying activities at Goetsenhoven. In 1999 the Belgian Air Force started a study to replace the somewhat absurd 'Vietnam'-camouflage with day-glow high-visibility markings and after some tests a bright yellow color scheme was introduced. Also since 1999 all SF260Ms were fitted with a new set of wings during the routine maintenance programme and later an avionics improvement was introduced. In 2008 a new wider cockpit canopy was first tested out on ST-34 and will be introduced progressively on all remaining aircraft.
The famous 'Swallows' demonstration team made this aircraft (which from some angles resembles a WWII fighter) very popular with the public. The team was formed in 1973 and continued to thrill many spectators at air shows all over Europe until it was disbanded in early 1984. In 1995 a new 'Swallows' team was formed at Goetsenhoven, making their debut on June 28th. Unfortunately on December 5th, 1997 their made their last performance. Since then a new team "Hardship Red" was formed by N° 5 Squadron CO "Jief" Ballon presenting 4 Marchetti’s in a very tight formation display. As of the 2011 season Hardship Red became the "Red Devils" with their aircraft painted likewise. (Daniel Brackx)