Royal Netherlands Air Force Open Days


18 and 19 June 2010

On  the weekend of 18 and 19 June, the KLu staged its annual Open Days. Venue this time was helicopter base Gilze-Rijen. Rotary wing types of many sorts sent by many nations were of course much in evidence. This did not mean however that the fans of fixed wing aircraft were forgotten, far from it. The Open Days followed the well established pattern of fast jet solo demonstrations, rotary wing demo's and some well known aerobatic teams. One of the show's highlights was the airpower demo, in which all the types flown by the Dutch forces showed their mettle. 


An item not highlighted before to this extent however was Search and Rescue. Dutch SAR is to be rejuvenated in the next few years with the replacement of both the Navy's Westland Lynx and the Air Force's AB.412 with the NH.90, seen left. Overdue by some years, the first two were delivered by the summer of 2010. A simultaneous SAR demo was flown by an AB.412, a Lynx  and a Belgian Sea King.


Further rotary demonstrations could be enjoyed by several Apaches, including those taking part in the airpower demo with the solo AH-64 Apache  this year sporting high vis markings in the shape of stickers, a Czech Mi.35 Hind and even a Finnish NH.90. Thumbs up to the shows organisers to bring not a French, not a German but nothing less than a Finnish NH.90 to Gilze-Rijen. Well done!

Solo fast jet demo's included a trio of F-16's, including Belgian and Danish examples along the Dutch J-015. The latter was flown by the new display pilot, Capt. Tobias "Hitec" Schutte.The verdict from this writer, a very polished display by the Dutch, a more aggresive one by the Belgian and a well flown one by the Danish. Impressions from all three below.

Among the fast jet was the civilian Hunter F.6A, an RAF Typhoon FGR.4, a Hungarian JAS-39C Gripen from Kecskemet and a Spanish EF-18A Hornet. It is good to see the Hornet being put through its paces. Now in its fourth decade of front line operations (time also flies), it still looks the part next to newer Gripen and Typhoon hardware. The Hunter is seen here to the right during one of its slow rolls, showing the aircraft's top side to the public. On at least one of its high speed passes one could experience the wonderful "Hunter Blue Note", during which the cannon barrels act more or less like organ pipes, producing the characteristic whooo-ing sound. Wonderful.

 A most unusual participant in any flying display must be the Boeing C-17A Globemaster. A USAF crew from March ARB, California showed what this big airlifter is capable of.

A very nice gesture from the Air Force was allowing enthousiasts on base during the Thursday preceding the actual Open Days on Friday and Saturday. Besides the weather being better on Thursday allowing more photo opportunities to be enjoyed with sunshine, this also provided an opportunity to photograph static show arrivals along with the occasional transport aircraft supporting participants.  Of the static show inhabitants, the prize for the most unexpected but most welcome one must surely go to the RAF VC.10 C.1K tanker. Now in its final years of service with the RAF, it is to be replaced with Airbus A.330 tanker conversions. The KLu showed off one of its new old C-130H Hercules converted from US Navy EC-130Q submarine command and control aircraft. 

The Royal Danish Air Force recently celebrated 250.000 hours on the F-16, a fact commermorated on this F-16BM. 

This year's demo teams included the RAF's Red Arows, the Patrouille de France and the Turkish Stars. The latter fly the Northrop NF-5 taken over from the KLu. One former comrade could be seen rotting away in a corner of the base. Some of those that made it to Turkey still enjoy the limelight....

The KLu's Open Days again gave the Dutch populace a good insight into their Air Force's exploits as well as of those of the country's neighbours. The facilities of the Thursday prior to the show were well appreciated. 

Roll on, Leeuwarden 2011!


All pictures (c) Hans Rolink