Netherlands Air Force Open Days
/ 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
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
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