Royal Netherlands Air Force Open Days


19 / 21 June 2008

The annual air show staged by the Royal Netherlands Air Force took place this year at Leeuwarden. Actually, it would have been more logically for Gilze-Rijen to house this year's show, but major construction works associated with moving Soesterberg's support helicopters to Gilze-Rijen meant that Leeuwarden had to do it for the second time in two years. 

Many of the images below were taken on Thursday 19 June, the last arrival day for participants. Thanks go to Leeuwarden Air Base's staff to allow this visit by many aviation enthousiasts!

Despite the fact that the Open Days coincided with the Fighter Weapons Instructor Course bringing many foreign F-16's to Leeuwarden, the base's personell rose to the occasion and presented the public with what today's KLu is all about. One can't do without some luck, and indeed Leeuwarden was lucky with the weather. Heavy rain during the major part of Thursday 19 June, when many participants arrived, gave way to brighter conditions on both Friday 20 June and Saturday 21 June. June is also the month of 322 sq's jubilee. In 2008, the unit celebrated their 65th anniversary, still without any retirement plans. J-876 was suitably adorned with a wonderful tail design in sticker form designed by one of the crew chiefs.

Arriving for the static display on the rather dull Thursday prior to the show is this F-15C Eagle from the USAFE's 493 FS from RAF Lakenheath. The Eagle was part of a pair of F-15's, one of which was parked quite well for photography with its mate disappearing in a corral of crowd barriers. This is a recurring problem with part of Leeuwarden's static show along the taxi track from the hangar area to the runway which wasn't the case in e.g. 1994. It should be possible to fence off the aircraft without ringing them in so tightly. It has been done before. 


The same part of the static park was to be the temporary residence for this RAF Hawk T.1A from RAF Valley's 208 (R) sq. Note the winged eye badge and the blue/yellow bars once worn by Buccaneers. Time flies...

The Hawk is seen here arriving during the Thursday as well. On some moments, conditions weren't too bad during the that arrival day.

Examplifying the heavy metal present on Leeuwarden's tarmac during the Open Days is this USAF  KC-10A Extender tanker/transport. One of 59 serving the USAF, this particular example arrived on the Thursday from McGuire AFB, New Jersey. This base is home to the operating unit of this particular KC-10, 305 AMW.

A Fench Air Force Mirage 2000D arriving on the Thursday in particulary wet conditions, note the water spraying up from the wheels. Unfortunately for people not present on the Thursday, the Mirage was to be found on a tightly fenced-off spot. Another pair of French Mirages, these being 2000C fighter versions, arrived a day earlier. One of them took part in the flying display.
The morning of the flying display on both the Friday and the Saturday were reserved for vintage aircraft, giving people without a thorough knowledge of aviation a look into the past. One of the more recent vintage types is the Rockwell OV-10 Bronco. Made famous for Forward Air Control missions over Vietnam in the Sixties and Seventies, the Bronco found its way into Germany's Luftwaffe as well. After retirement following replacement with Pilatus PC.9's, this Bronco was picked up by a French society at Montelimar airfield and restored to flying condition.

A classic in British aviation history is the Folland Gnat. The type was designed as an attempt to counter the ever continuing trend, even in the Fifities, towards heavier and more expensive airplanes. In the RAF, the Gnat found its niche as an advanced jet trainer, a.o. equipping the RAF's Red Arrows aerobatic team. In this capacity, the Gnat was replaced with the Hawk in 1980. This jet is one of two flown by Swept Wing Ltd. marked as XR538, it is in reality registered G-RORI.
The Hawker Hunter spawned an advanced trainer as well, the Hunter T series. This is a former Royal Navy T.8, bought by a group of Hunter enthousiasts in the Netherlands. The Hunter is now in its second display season in the Netherlands and is flown by F-16 pilot Patrick Tuit. It nearly came to grief during Leeuwarden's Air Show as a bird impacted the left air intake during its display. Note the dent in the underside of the air intake in this image. 

This Slovenian Pilatus C.9 was one of a pair of these trainers to display during the Open Days of 2008. The other one being an Irish Air Corps one. The Irish pilot had missed the Saturday morning briefing and thus had to take an afternoon slot. By that time however, the weather had deteriorated notably. The Slovenian PC.9 can be seen here just after pulling up its wheels, the pilot holding his mount nicely low over the runway.
Helicopters were much in evidence as well at Leeuwarden, with this Royal Navy Merlin displaying alongside a Belgian Air Force Sea King and a company owned NH.90 which is  intended for the Royal Netherlands Navy. The Merlin provided the photographers with many an opportunity to record its quite dynamic display.

Following some time of absence, the Royal Netherlands Air Force again presented their Air Power Demonstration. A set piece in which an airfield is to be taken by force, it includes mock air attacks by F-16´s and AH-64 Apaches like the one seen to the left. Support helicopters like the CH-47D Chinook and the AS.532U-2 Cougar Mk.II and a KDC-10 tanker also have their part to play. Commitments abroad meant that a C-130 Hercules was absent this time.
A most unusual participant in this years flying display is the CP-140 Aurora. The type is Canada´s version of the P-3C Orion, this example coming from VP-407 from CFB Comox, British Columbia. On a KLu Open Day, a Canadian Aurora is rare in itself already, but to have one in the flying display is even better!

A forgotten safety pin lead to this Spanish Air Force Hornet being seen here with its left leg still extended. It flew a circuit in order for ground crews to visiually confirm the absence of further problems and duly landed without incidents. The Hornet was given another slot to finish its display later that afternoon.Other fast jets during the 2008 Open Days were F-16's from both Belgium as well as the KLu itself.
Three aerobatic teams were present at 2008's Leeuwarden show. The Polish Iskra Team flying their PZL TS.11 Iskras, the Royal Jordanian Falcons in their Extra 300's  as well as the Italian Air Force Frecce Tricolori. In this closing manoeuvre, the solo flies into the smoke trail produced by the other nine jets. 

The static show included no fewer than three Phantoms from Greece and Turkey combined. The Hellenic Air Force had sent an F-4E(AUP) fighter version, with the Turkish dispatching a pair of RF-4E reconnaissance jets to Leeuwarden. Fortunately, both Turkish Phantoms as well as the Greek one were on the static show laid out on the platform opposite the 303 sq hangar with ample photograpic opportunities.
Other types exhibited here included the Hungarian MiG.29UB two seater trainer. With the IOC of the SAAB JAS-39C/D Gripen now imminent, the days of the MiG.29 are numbered. Soon, Kecskemet Air Base will only house the Gripen as well as the L.39 Albatross trainer.

A type now gaining more foothold in Germany's Luftwaffe is the Eurofighter EF.2000. For some reason, the Germans avoid the use of the name Typhoon which has been adopted for the type in both the UK and Italy. As might have been expected, this example is from JG 73 "Steinhoff"  from Laage, which at the moment owns most of the Luftwaffe's Eurofighters. 

Ever popular with air show crowds, unfortunately ground bound this time, the Harrier. Modification of existing GR.7's to GR.9 standard as well as ongoing commitments in Afghanistan have forced the RAF to abandon the Harrier solo display routine at air shows. Note the mission marks below the cockpit of this 4 sq Harrier GR.7.

The KLu Open Days have grown into one of the leading military aviation events in Western Europe, giving free access to the base organising the show. It is not possible  to fault the organisation for anything regarding aircraft and flying as well as access to the base and leaving again during the 2008 edition of the KLu Open Days. However, maybe it would be possible to abolish the silly system of having to buy tokens before being able to buy food or drinks, forcing people to stand in queues twice. No other country organising air shows do things this way, so why should the Dutch? Anyway, many people, including this photographer are already looking forward to 2009!


All pictures (c) Hans Rolink