April 30 and May 5 2004, 

Queen's Day and Liberation Day celebrations in the Netherlands


Apart from supporting the Army in the field by performing reconnaissance, liaison and transport, the Royal Netherlands Air Force's (KLu) fleet of Alouette III, Chinook and Cougar helicopters is called upon each year to carry out less  belligerent tasks. 

Among these is transporting Her Majesty Queen Beatrix and other members of the Royal Family to those places in the Netherlands she will visit on Queen's Day, April 30. Originally the birthday of the late Queen Mother, Princess Juliana, 30 April remained the day on which Queen Beatrix chose to celebrate her birthday. 



In order for the Royal Family to arrive in a safe and timely manner the venerable Sud SE.3160 Alouette III is still being used with 300 sq. Venue of 2004's festivities was the small village of Warffum and the city of Groningen, both in the North of the Netherlands. It took three Alouettes out of four still airworthy in 2004 to carry the Royal guests. Unlike larger Air Forces, the KLu does not own any dedicated VIP helicopters. Nevertheless, some modifications are installed when the Alouettes are used for Royal Flights. An extra boarding stair is fitted as well as a tinted cockpit window with A-247 (left). Both are absent with A-292 (above). 

These temporary mods are only installed with helicopters carrying either the Queen herself or other members of the Royal family. A-301 to the right was actually used to transport HM Queen Beatrix. Note the extra boarding stair and tinted cockpit window like with A-247, but also the fairly basic cockpit seating.

The much larger Eurocopter AS.532U-2 Cougar Mk.2 accompanied the trio of Alouettes, carrying other high ranking officials. The much larger Cougar however is not normally used for Her Majesty. 

These four helicopters could be seen on April 30 at the soccer field in the village of Warffum, Groningen.

During the following week, KLu's helicopters returned to Groningen, but now for a different reason. Seen to the right on May 5 is CH-47D Chinook D-103 from 298 sq. In a traditon started in 1990, Air Force helicopters are used to transport rock bands throughout the Netherlands from one performance to the next during the celebration of Liberation Day. Liberation Day includes stage performances in several places by various bands, the so-called Helicopter Acts. D-103 is seen here just prior to taking off with the band Tasha's World embarked. 

This picture was taken at the Velocitas soccer field just to the west of the city of Groningen.

Similarly, AS.532U-2 S-400, complete with SFOR marks from a recent Bosnia deployment, is seen near the TT racing circuit close to the city of Assen. 

S-400 had brought in a cabaret group called De Vliegende Panters (The Flying Panthers). Very apt, as the Cougar's operating unit is 300 sq. This unit has a leaping cougar in their badge.


All pictures (c) Hans Rolink