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BIERSET'S 3rd International Helicopter Meet, 3/4 June

Andrew Bates was there: Advertised locally as the 'Bierset Happening 2000', the Belgian Army hosted an International Helicopter Meet during the first weekend of June, a date which coincided with a spell of gloriously hot and sunny weather on the continent. Co-located with Liège Airport, this was the third such event to take place at this former Mirage base, now home to the Alouette IIs and Islanders of 16 BnHLn, and the Agusta A109s of 17 & 18 BnHATk, all from the Aviation Légère de la Force Terrestre (or Belgische Landmacht, depending on which Belgian language you prefer).

The event itself proved to be a very relaxed affair, with an excellent selection of helicopters on display, some of which periodically took to the skies to perform for the assembled crowds. Not surprisingly, the majority of participants were military, and included a variety of types from neighbouring countries. However, the event was not entirely dominated by rotary winged aircraft, upon entry to the airfield, visitors were greeted by two BN-2A Islanders, B-08/LH and B-02/LB, the later configured for marine environmental control duties. Completing the fixed wing line-up, there was a trio of immaculate, privately owned L-18 Super Cubs; camouflaged L 47/OO-SPG and L 156/OO-LGB, along with L 44/OO-SPQ in a very smart looking all yellow scheme.

The main static display contained a number of highlights, including EdA (Spanish AF) AS332B Super Puma HD.21-12 and AMI (Italian AF) AB-212AM MM81152/51-73, whilst the all grey RN Merlin HM1 ZH827 contrasted starkly with EH101 demonstrator I-LIOI in its bright yellow SAR scheme, representing the proposed Canadian Cormorant variant. However, the prize for attracting the most attention, especially from all the photographers, went to the German Army CH-53G 84+34 from HFR35, which had been specially painted to commemorate 500,000 hours of operations, and was easily the star of the show for many.

Other notable participants included AdlA (French AF) AS355N 5391/67-VA from EH02.067, Belgian Navy Alouette II M-2/OT-ZPB from 40 Sml, Gendarmerie/Rijkswacht (Belgian Police) MD-520N G-14, RN Sea King HAS5 ZA130/824 from 771 Squadron and Klu AS532U2 S-450 from 300 Squadron. Meanwhile, the US Army was in attendance with two examples of the UH-1H from USEUCOM. Along with the familiar 74-22513, in its high-viz markings, was 74-22368 wearing the more traditional drab olive colour scheme. Another familiar type on display was the Lynx, with two examples parked side by side, one from the French Navy, and the other from the Dutch Navy. However, this pair were not just related by design, by a strange coincidence, both shared the same serial number; 269.

Most prolific type on display, for obvious reasons, was the Agusta A109, with both versions, the HO and HA being available for inspection in the static and hangar displays, as well as on the flightline, along with various other locations on the airfield. These were, of course, supplemented by some of the home based Alouette II helicopters from 16 BnHLn.

As mentioned previously, this was a very relaxed event, with no continuous flying display as such. All flying demonstrations were conducted at sporadic intervals, which saw such types as the A109, RN Merlin, Spanish AS332B, and Belgian Navy Sea King take to the skies. For those with an interest in all things rotary, this proved to be a rewarding and enjoyable day out, without the frenzy of some of the larger events. Plans are already in hand for the next such helicopter meet, so next year, keep an eye open for the 'Bierset Happening 2001'.

 

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