Air Force Days 2009
Words and photography Michael van der Mee and Remco Donselaar, video Jan Loedeman.
On June 19th and 20th Volkel hosted the 2009 Open Days of the RNLAF. With an interesting line up going from the legendary Wright Flyer to the Polish Air Force's MiG 29, it looked to be an interesting show! Absolute star of the show was the Vulcan to the Sky Trust owned and operated Vulcan B2 making its first overseas appearance since it entered the airshow circuit in 2008. For Touchdown Aviation it was also a first to see the Vulcan after we donated in the recent pledge campaign.
Volkel is home to three units flying the F-16 Fighting Falcon, namely 311, 312 and 313 Squadron. For the third year Volkel is also home to the RNLAF F-16 Solo Display Team with the J-015 "Orange Lion King" flying its first season as the team's prime jet. Display pilot Captain Ralph "Sheik" Aarts is the jockey of the team and he's in his third and final year before the stick is being handed over to another F-16 unit.
With three squadrons of F-16s at Volkel the Airpower demo saw no less then fifteen F-16s participating in a very dynamic demo. The opening saw all the F-16s coming for various corners passing the target at the same time, in full afterburner, very impressive!
Next to the F-16s the this year formed DHC (Defense Helicopter Command) participated with a CH-47D Chinook from 298 Squadron, two AS532U2 Cougars from 300 Squadron and two AH-64Ds from 301 Squadron all based on Gilze-Rijen, the Commands main operating base. The KDC-10 from Eindhoven’s 334 Squadron overflew on a simulated air refueling mission with 4 trailing F-16s.
The Saturday saw two unique formations; the first being retro painted KLM - Royal Dutch Airlines Boeing 737 with 8 F-16s. The KLM celebrates its 90th anniversary this year and together with the RNLAF they gave Stichting Hoogvliegers the opportunity to fly fifty chronically and terminal sick children with the special painted Boeing 737 from Volkel to Schiphol and let them have the day they would not easily forget.
The second formation was even more unique as the RNLAF F-16 Solo Display Team's J-015 and the new Hunter F6 of the Hawker Hunter Foundation joined up with the Avro Vulcan B2 of the Vulcsn to the Sky Trust, an awesome sight to see in the Volkel skies! Hopefully many of these formations lay ahead for the Vulcan in the future.
History comes to life at Volkel
More than previous years, flying history was a main part of the show in a very positive way. Divided over the day, some well known formations entered the sky as well as some recently gained aircraft in the Dutch historical scene.
To celebrate 100 years of aviation in The Netherlands, a replica of the Wright Flyer was transferred in a container from France. It opened the show at both days and the early visitors saw an unique sight just a couple of meters above the runway as it will be put at static display in a France museum after the show.
The flying contribution of the Royal Netherlands Air Force Historical Flight was limited this year to 3 Harvards and the Beech D18. After the undercarriage mishap at Gilze Rijen in September 2007, the Spitfire is still under restoration and it is expected to remain so for a couple of months. Also the B-25 wasn't able to show up due to an engine switch which had some delays.
Based at RNLAF base Leeuwarden, the Dutch Hawker Hunter Foundation operated a Hawker Hunter T.8C since 2007. Main goal was to operate and preserve a Hawker Hunter ex-military jet as a tribute to those who operated and flew the type in the RNLAF. Being a double seat this aircraft only represented a small number of aircraft served in the RNLAF. For this reason a second Hunter was acquired in the UK. This single seat F.6A, equipped with a more powerful engine has become the primary display aircraft and was presented to the general public for the first time.
Also a new sight in the Dutch Historical Scene is the Yakovlev Yak-3U from the Yak Association. Although being a replica, it shows some unique forgotten aviation history from the Russian side of WWII. It operates out of Lelystad. This airport is becoming more and more a home of aviation history. Also based here and present at Volkel was the Fouga Magister operated by the Dutch Historic Jet Association. After the retirement of the Belgium Fouga it's a welcome participant, well known for the very low take offs.
Also based at Lelystad are the Friends Of The Aviodrome. Being part of the Aviodrome Museum, it's fitted with a large collection of classic aircraft with it's origin in The Netherlands. It was expected to see it's prime collection piece, the Constellation at Volkel but some unforeseen decisions prevented it to get back in the sky after its restoration. The Association however displayed it's other main collection aircraft, the only airworthy DC-2 in the World.
For the enthusiasts of a lot of speed and noise, the RNLAF Open Days were the place to be. By almost passing the sound barrier, the pilot created its own remarkable farewell as a (display) pilot on the EF-18A. This solo display was one of the 5 fast jet displays in the weekend.
Not only the RNLAF F-16 display team has been equipped with a new display aircraft. The BDAC F-16 display team said goodbye to the FA131 and its pilot and welcomed the FA134 in a fresh new, but detached color scheme. The new display pilot Michel "Mitch" Beulen performed very good in showing the capabilities of the F-16.
As not many MiG-29 operators are left in Europe, you often have to go to air shows in the East of Europe to see them flying. The Polish Air Force will operate the MiG-29 for some years to come side by side to its previous opponent, the F-16. One of these black smoking aircraft was send to Volkel, being the '15' with a special livery representing the Squadron badge of 1. Elt.
Last year’s major defense cuts in the UK saw a lot of display teams eliminated. Those left rarely performed at the continent of Europe. Volkel was an exception on this rule. No less than three RAF solo display teams performed of which the Typhoon and Hawk only at Friday due to commitments at Kemble on Saturday. Both days saw the brand new Beech 200 display of 45 (Reserve) Squadron, based at RAF Cranwell. It was an amazing display, considering the limits of the airframe.
At Friday the official program didn't see any helicopter displays. Saturday did compensate it with a display of a NH-90 from the Italian Navy. It is one of the first examples in pre-operational use of the NFH version of which the Netherlands will receive a number of 8. A large code betrayed it's appearance at the Paris Air Show 'Le Bourget' earlier in the week.
One of the helicopters to be replaced by the NH-90 is the Westland Sea King Mk 48 of the Belgium Defense - Air Component. To the general public it's known from the drama series called Windkracht 10. One of the airframes is already retired earlier this year. One of the remaining 4 showed it's SAR capabilities at the Saturday.
Last solo display came from France being the Alpha Jet solo from EAC 00.314 based at Tours-St.Symphorien. It showed that even trainer aircraft are able to create a lot of vapor!
Teamwork at the edge
The largest attractions for the general public are the formation flying display teams. The total amount over 2 days of 225.000 spectators saw at Volkel no less than 7 major display teams from 3 different continents! Some teams showed some basic formation flying with 4 aircraft but others presented a fine piece of art with up to 9 aircraft.
Starting with a first for the Netherlands were the Marche Verte of the Royal Moroccan Air Force. Named after the Green Marche in 1975 it's the official air force demonstration team flying the Cap 232. Special about the display compared to other teams are the ropes which connects the aircraft from take off until the large formation break up half way the show. Normally flying with 8 aircraft the team performed with 7 at Volkel due to one of the aircraft went unserviceable.
Also a first for Volkel was the Viper Display Team. This private display team, managed by Paul Allen and based in the UK, consists of four BAC 167 Strike Masters owned and operated by different ex-RAF pilots. The aircraft are painted in different color schemes representing some of the ex-operators of the type, including Oman and Saudi Arabia.
In Europe, there are three display teams who outperforms all the other in number of aircraft, dynamics and precise flying. Two of those teams displayed at Friday. The RAF display team The Red Arrows showed once more their skills and the FAF display team Patrouille de France presented a very dynamic show.
Some not very common guests are the Patrulla Aguila. They represent the Spanish Air Force as well as the Spanish build Casa 101 Aviojet.. Flying with 7 aircraft they keep the Yellow Red colors of their country alive.
Although Volkel never was an operational NF-5 base it saw the Turkish Stars for the second time in a row (after 2007) flying their wonderful display with these ex-RNLAF airframes.
Last couple of years some regular guests at RNLAF Open Days are the Royal Jordanian Falcons. Representing the Royal Jordanian Air Force their summer tour takes them along Europe every year.
We would like to thank the Bureau Luchtmachtdagen and BIC Volkel for their hospitality during the days.