Air Show Report : Belgian Defence Days 2008
Giel Sweertvaegher contributed this colourful photo report of the Belgian Defence Days 2008, which took place at Florennes on July 5-6th.
Belgian Defence Days 2008 - Florennes, Belgium
This year's edition of the annual Belgian Defence Days took place at Florennes, an airbase in the province of Namen, Belgium. Florennes is the home base of the 2nd Tactical Wing, the Tactical Leadership Programme (TLP) and the Belgian demo pilot Michael 'Mickey' Artiges. The Defence Days are a weekend during which the Belgian Defence with all its components is presented to the public. There are various military vehicles and aircraft on display and every time there is an international air show. Only the Navy is not able to participate in the display, due to the lack of water.
With participants such as the Turkish Stars, Patrouille de France, Romanian IAR-99 and the American B-52 Stratofortress, it promised to become a good show or at least a show considerably better than the 2007 edition at Koksijde air base where there was no display team.
However on the Saturday lots of rain and clouds ruined the show. Also the B-52 did not attend, which was only scheduled on the Saturday. The Sunday on the contrary was much sunnier. It was a bit cold because of the wind chill, until the afternoon when the crowds poured in.
If one arrived on time at the base and with a bit of luck, it was possible to park the car on the parking lot some 50 meters from the entrance of the air base. Just cross the street to enter the military area, and with a ten minute walk one arrived at two rows of static aircraft. For me personally, the most important aircraft in the static were the F-15 Eagle, two beautifully painted A-7 Corsair IIs, MiG-21, different Mirages, Super Etendard and two Belgian F-16s with special tails, which made their public debut. There was a C-130 in the static as well, also with a special tail.
Two Alpha Jets were also treated with a special paint job for the one million flying hours on the type. The Alpha Jets which are used for the training of Belgian and French pilots are stationed in France for the joint jet training program. Therefore two Alpha Jets received a special colour scheme; the Belgian with just a special tail was in the static show, the French also performed in the afternoon flying display.
Other noteworthy aircraft on static were the E-3A AWACS, Spanish F-5 and Polish Air Force An-26. Less spectacular but also worth mentioning was the presence of a Belgian Marchetti. The type is present on about every Belgian air show, but this was a modified example. It has been fitted with a new canopy, revised cockpit, and new fuel system and electrical wiring. The modified examples can be distinguished by the plus-sign on the tail.
For photography the public areas are well positioned, parallel to the runway and not too far from it, enabling photography of both take-offs and landings. From the right-hand side of the field, it was also possible to photograph aircraft on the taxiway.
The flying display itself was quite good in my opinion with lots of variety; warbirds, jets, smaller trainers and big transports/tankers. And also the three display teams, the Turkish Stars, Patrouille de France and the Breitling Jet Team. Important to note is the fact that the Victors also flew. The Victors team is the only one in Belgium performing with formation flights. The pilots, all members of the Ursel flying club, fly four Pipers PA-28s (and one Extra 300). The warbirds were a P-40, A-1 Skyraider and a P-51 Mustang. The latter joined the Belgian F-16 Solo Display for a heritage flight. The F-16 solo displays from both Belgium and the Netherlands each flew twice. Also present was the F-18 demo from the Swiss Air Force. Highlights were the IAR-99 from Romania and two fly-bys by the USAF KC-135 tanker. Practically every aircraft type in service in Belgian was part of the flying display, which lasted for seven hours in total.
Compared to the 2007 edition in Koksijde, the variety of aircraft in the flying display was much bigger. The disappointing display program of Koksijde 2007 was dominated by the F-16 and also lacked a jet display team, whereas Florennes had three. The static was about as good. The question is whether this was due to the organization or the competition of other shows. I have no idea, but these Defence Days were much better and made the two hour journey and the three hour return leg (due to traffic jams) well worth it.
One accredited photographer reported on another internet forum that these Defence Days presented the last edition of this event and that each of the Belgian Defence components will have just its own event in the future. But it is not uncommon for the Belgian Defence organization to decide to organize something anyway with just one month's notice…
Report and photos by Giel Sweertvaegher ( view portfolio )