Meeting de l'air

Mont de Marsan, France

2 June 2007


Many an airbase throughout France opens its doors each season. One of those to do so during 2007 was Mont de Marsan. This base in the south-west of the country is home to CEAM or Centre des Essais Aeriennes Militaires, a unit which evaluates all new aircraft due to enter service with the French forces as well as evaluating new weaponry or pieces of equipment for existing ones. The Meeting provided a rare chance to enter this base and catch a glimpse of what goes on on this French equivalent of Boscombe Down in the UK. As stated, CEAM jet squadron CEAM 5/330 operates a wide variety of hardware, identifiable by their 330- codes worn on the aircraft fuselages. Examples includes a Mirage F.1CR to the right with a Mirage 2000RDI below left and a Mirage 2000D below center. The Mirage 2000B below right is from front line squadron EC 2/5 and came from Orange-Caritat.


During the weekend, the French proved to be excellent hosts. Besides from allowing aviation enthousiasts on base during the preceeding Saturday (the actual meeting took place on the Sunday 3 June), the photographers were offered lunch and a lot more luxurious one than many would care to bring along! Photographic opportunities were fine as well, with only a Navy Rafale being obstructed by a souvenir sales stall. During the rehearsal on Saturday 2 June, photographers were allowed between the taxiway and the runway.

Photographable however was a pair of CEAM 5/330 Rafale B´s, with the example to the left seen just after a touch and go during its display. This newest French fighter is among the most advanced of European combat aircraft in service today, Rafales are now being issued to EC 7 at Saint Dizier as well. This machine of course is a Mont de Marsan based one.

Foreign military participation included a remarkably large Dutch F-16 contingent of four F-16AM's including well known demo painted J-055. Starting this season, new boy Capt. Ralph "Sheikh" Aerts has taken over from Capt. Gert-Jan "Goofy" van Vooren. The display does not seem to have undergone any radical changes and from what was to be seen, "Sheikh" is a worthy successor.

From the appearance of its arrival over Mont de Marsan, this USAF C-17A seems to be flown by someone who would rather have flown something smaller and faster. Nevertheless, it showed the agility of this large American transport to good effect. The Globemaster III was the largest item in Mont de Marsan's static park, dwarfing anything in its vincinity.

A type which gradually has being taken for granted during the past few years is the Republic of Singapore Air Force A-4 Skyhawk. Based at nearby Cazaux for advanced training of fighter pilots for the RSiAF, this is a TA-4KU two seater trainer. Note the scabbed-on rear cockpit, for this jet started life as a single seat A-4C with the US Navy around 1960.


Meetings de l' air are always a delightful mix of the old and the new. Mont de Marsan's show was no exception with this Max Holste Broussard putting on a spirited display, showing the manoeuvrability of this French bush plane. During the seventies, most French fighter bases had base flights, often with one or two of these aeroplanes.

With the dry season arriving, the Securite Civile will be on stand by to extinguish bush fires around France. The art of putting out fires was amply demonstrated by this Canadair CL.415, dropping its load on a flare placed beside the runway. The same was done by a pair of S-2T Firecats, which of course are converted S-2 Trackers


Unfortunately, the Swiss PC-7 Team displayed during a brief spell of solid overcast. The team flies formation aerobatics including many manoeuvres seen in the Patrouille Suisse's repertoire as well. The PC.7 team flies nine aircraft, one of which was caught here during a rare break-through of the sun. There's lightning reflexes for you!

The day has to come that the Belgian Air Force finally has to say farewell to the trusty Fouga Magister. As long as the moment has not come, Col. Paul Rorive will no doubt be delighted to display his mount at airshows.

Mont de Marsan proved to be well worth the trip down south from the Netherlands. A nice collection of aeroplanes, good weather and some great French hospitality. Fortunately, the infamous double barriers were nowhere to be seen, at least not during the rehearsal day.

Au revoir!


All pictures (c) Hans Rolink