KLu Open Days

Volkel, The Netherlands

16 June 2007


This year, 2007, it was Air Base Volkel's turn again to host the Royal Netherlands Air Forces annual Open Days. Having missed out on the previous ones during 2000 and 2004 for various reasons, this photographer's last visit to a Volkel Open Day dated back to 1995. 2007 did not disappoint, however. Volkel's lay out forces the Open Days organisers into having the static line-up and display line parallel to each other. This has the advantage of a clean background for the former and a rather long distance between spectators and displaying aircraft for the latter. The latter is not a problem anymore for nowadays long lenses and digital cameras.


There was ample room for the largest of the static exhibits, which included a.o. a US Navy P-3C Orion. The four-engined ocean patroller looked distinctly out of place so far from its natural habitat, but was a welcome guest nevertheless. The Polish Air Force still operates a small number of Antonov An.26's, as seen to the left, despite being the recipient of brand new CASA C.295's recently. Of course, the Antonov was the preferred exhibit! Poland still maintains a largely Soviet-era inventory.

An other example was this Sukhoi Su.22M-4. Up to some 80 of these swing-wing tactical jets form the Polish Air Forces attack force, partnered now by both MiG.29's and newly delivered F-16C's. No doubt, those will show up sooner or later, but let us enjoy the mighty Fitters while it still can. Note the rocket pods beneath the wings, podded rockets have always been more popular in the WarPac with NATO preferring cluster munitions for area denial.

The newest generation was represented by two of the three competing Eurocanard designs, with the French Rafale being shown by Flotille 12F of the French Navy. A small trickle of Rafales now reaches both the French Navy as well as the Air Force and the type recently had its baptism of fire over Afghanistan.

The Swedish SAAB Gripen can now be seen in the hands of pilots from three European nations. Czech and of course Swedish Gripens have been a common sight for some years. They are now being joined by Hungarian Gripens, this example coming from the air base Kecskemet where 1. Vadászrepülö Század, part of 59. "Szentgyörgyi Deszö" Harcászati Repülö Bázis is the operator of this most advanced fighter the Hungarian Air Force ever had.

Dutch Open Days traditionally have an Air Power demonstration which involves all the types of aircraft within the Koninklijke Luchtmacht (KLu). The Air Force started this set piece with an airfield attack by some of  the based F-16's. After the enemy's defences have succumbed to the onslaught, CH-47 Chinook and AS.532 Cougar helicopters bring in troops to secure the base.

Doing so, they are escorted by AH-64 Apache helicopter gunships. Missing this year was the C-130 Hercules, this being due to the type's ongoing commitments.

Solo jet demonstrations were flown by two F-16's, a Dutch one flown by Capt. Ralph "Sheikh" Aerts and a Belgian one flown by Capt. "Mickey"  Artiges. There was also a pair of F-18 Hornets. Apart from a Spanish Air Force EF-18A, this concerned a Swiss Air Force example as well, pictured to the right.

The Swiss Hornet flew in formation with the Swiss Pilatus PC.7 team before going into its display, leaving the PC.7's to hold until it was finished.

A newcomer to the Dutch display circuit is the Hawker Hunter. Operated by the Dutch Hawker Hunter Foundation (DHHF), which was established by a number of Captains of Industry with a wider view than just immediate financial matters (cheers, guys!) and flown by former and active Air Force pilots, it flew together with display painted F-16 J-055 flown by Capt. Aerts. The Hunter is serialled N-321 as the KLu's 21st Hunter trainer (the KLu only had 20 during the types career during the 50's and 60's). Incidentally, the pilot flying the F-16's predecessor's predecessor  was Patrick "Spout" Tuyt, who is Capt. Aerts's prececessor's predecessor. How nice it would be to have a Starfighter in between those two at some later date!

There has to come an end sometime to the Belgian Air Component showing the Fouga Magister. The end is nigh, as one can see from the text on the flying surfaces of MT35, flown by indefatigable Col. Paul Rorives. The Fouga Magister was the aeroplane on which many Belgian fighter pilots were taught the art of flying and the type will be sorely missed next year.

The Open Days included some of Europe's finest aerobatic teams, one of the more unusual being Turkey's Turk Yildizlari (Turkish Stars). Flying ex-Dutch (!) NF-5A and NF-5B jets, the Konya based team showed what these elderly aeroplanes are capable of in the hands of competent pilots. 

At the end of the Leeuwarden Open Days in 2006, bottled water was issued to departing spectators by helpful Dutch soldiers. This time, Mother Nature had apparantly taken over this responsibility. Just after the Patrouille de France had taken off, Heaven's Floodgates opened to a major thunderstorm which caused the Patrouille de France to land and take shelter, thus forcing a premature end to the 2007 Open Days. Volkel showed that there is a free lunch after all, for all this was for free, no entrance fees are being charged by the KLu.

All pictures (c) Hans Rolink