Bierset Helidays
31 May to 3 June 2002
First staged in 1998, Bierset's Helidays have grown into Europe's largest helicopter Air Show. This year's edition was thus the fifth show since the Belgian Army began the tradition. Bierset was taken over by the Belgian Army after the Belgian Air Force's No. 3 Wing and it's Mirages left in 1993. During the post Cold War draw-downs, the Belgian Army's helicopter squadrons were withdrawn from Germany and found a new home at the former fighter base. Many shelters are still left from this era.
Based units nowadays include the Helicopter Battalions 16 with the SE.3180 Alouette II and 17 and 18 with the Agusta A.109. Their tasks include liaison, reconnaisance and light attack. Some BN.2 Islander light transports can also be found at the base.
Thus, it is fitting that the annual Air Show centers around helicopters. It must be said that the organising team again did a tremendous job of inviting many interesting visitors. Highlights including a Polish Navy Mil Mi.14, but what to think of an Italian Army A.129 Mangusta. Combine this with the excellent weather and the hospitality of the Belgian hosts who invited photographers on base on the Friday before and the Monday after the event.
The only point of criticism could be the placement of garden furniture and such between the helicopters, but fortunately most crews could be convinced to temporarily remove them for the benefit of a clean picture, as may be seen below. Many thanks and compliments to the organising team of the 2002 Belgian Helidays!

All pictures (c) Hans Rolink.

SE.3180 Alouette II A68 in pastoral surroundings. The Alouette II is a classic of French helicopter design and has been in Belgian Army service for close to 40 years. It still is useful in it's observation role.
Agusta A.109HA H23
The subject of intense controversy a few years ago, the Italian Agusta A.109 serves the Belgian Army as a light transport and attack helicopter. This example of the 17 Battallion is armed with TOW anti tank missiles. The launchers are removable, as is the roof mounted sight.
SF.260D ST-42
The starting point for most military flying carreers in Belgium is the elegant Italian SIAI Marchetti SF.260D. Not exactly a helicopter, but an important part in the training of Belgian pilots. This example is from Beauvechain's 5 squadron and has been painted in the type new yellow training colour scheme.
SE.3160 2041/67-ED
Developed from the Alouette II, the Alouette III is to the French what the UH-1 Huey was for the Americans. The almost indestructable Alouette continues to serve the French Air Force in liaison and light transport roles. This example is from Escadre de Helicopteres (EH) 67. Indeed, very few countries that ever procured Alouette III's have retired them.
Applaudable, the Austrian Air Force makes more and more Air Show appearances lately. Not just that, the Austrians have some very good artists on the payrole. Their latest work was this OH-58B Kiowa 3C-OK of 3 Staffel of Fliegerregiment 1.

Lynx HAS.2(FN) 627
During the 1960's, the joint Anglo-French helicopter programme was initiated. This programme spawned a.o. the Westland Lynx. More or less reluctantly, the French government ordered 40 examples. Today, the Lynx is the best equipped anti submarine warfare helicopter embarked on French Navy destroyers. This helicopter is from Flottille 34F.
Mi.14PL 1011
The Mil Mi.14, known to NATO as the Haze, may be seen as the Russian equivalent of the Western Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King. It is a large twin engined helicopter used for ASW and SAR missions. Most former Warsaw Pact members in possesion of a coastline flew or still fly them. The Polish Navy exhibited this example, 1011, of 2 DLMW (Divizion Lotnictwo Marinarskye Woyska = Naval Aviation Division).

Mi.8T 10443
The Mil Mi.8 is still one of the most used transport helicopters world wide. It still serves in the transport role with NATO's new Eastern European partners. One of those is Hungary. The Hungarian Air Force showed up with two of them, one being 10443. Both were from 89 VSE (Vegyes Szallitorepulo Ezred = Mixed Air Transport Regiment) from Szolnok.
AS.332M-1 T-321
Another of Europe's non-aligned nations, i.e. non NATO members, is Switzerland. Like the Austrians, the Swiss are leaving their closet more and more for participation in exercises and Air Shows. Swiss Air Force AS.332M-1 Super Puma T-321 made an appearance at Bierset. Another thing that makes these shows interesting!
AH-64D Q-19
The Boeing, formerly McDonnell Douglas and before that Hughes, AH-64D Apache is the world's foremost attack helicopter. Among it's many users is the Royal Netherlands Air Force. Operating unit of Q-19 is 301 squadron.
Agusta A.129A Mangusta MM81413/E.I.-943
The only purpose designed combat helicopter developed in Europe which reached service is the Agusta A.129 Mangusta. The Italian Army flies some 60 of these helicopters and is still the only user of the type. MM81413/E.I.-943 is from 48 Gruppo Squadroni "Capricorno", which is part of 5 Reggimento "Rigel".

Sea King HAR.3A ZH543
A classic in helicopter design is the Sea King. Originally conceived in the United States as the Sikorsky S.61 and taken on charge by the US Navy as the H-3, the type has been license built by Westland in the UK as the Sea King. ZH543 is a Sea King HAR.3A SAR version serving with No. 22 sq of the Royal Air Force.
To a purist not military but civil. However, in countries like Belgium helicopters performing the roles of the German Border Police do carry military serials. Literally, a border case. During 2002 the Bundesgrenzschutz was in the process of replacing the likes of UH-1D and SE.3180 Alouette II with machines like the Eurocopter EC.155 D-HLTL (right) and  EC.135 D-HVBK (left). Previously, the EC.155 would have been known as the AS.365 Dauphin.