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Colours amid the grey of KoksijdeKoksijde's Open Door 7/8 July

Andrew Bates was there on Sunday.

Koksijde, home of the Belgian SAR helicopter fleet, was once again open to visitors in early July for its annual 'Open Door'. With the KLu show taking place at Leeuwarden almost simultaneously, it was no surprise to see both venues sharing a few of the display acts. Unfortunately, the same could not be said of the weather. Whilst Northern Holland had been sweltering in the heat, Koksijde was subject to rain, mist and strong wind. So much so, that the flying displays were all but cancelled, apart from a few helicopter demonstrations, and a 20(R) Squadron Harrier hovering in the murk.

Consequently, the audience was denied the opportunity to experience a number of fast jet displays such as the French Mirage F1 duo, Belgian F-16, and 56(R) Squadron Tornado F3, whilst the ever popular Red Arrows were completely out of the question. However, despite the weather, the local populace US Apache was of the old 'A varietywas not deterred. Visitor numbers appeared little different from previous shows, and there was a steady stream of cars still arriving, well into the afternoon.

Fortunately, the static display contained a number of interesting participants that helped to diffuse any possible disappointment, so with a little patience photography was a viable option, provided you were prepared to wait for a suitable window of opportunity in the weather. As far as highlights were concerned, prime candidates were most likely the pair of CAF CF-18A Hornets, both adorned with special markings. One (188720) appeared to be celebrating 30 years of 1 AMS, whilst the other (188724) was painted in a superb chequerboard colour scheme, which was destined to become quite familiar to many enthusiasts a few weeks later following participation at RIAT.

Tornado 46+18 from MFG-2Other frontline jets of note in the static included a Danish F-16AM, Italian AMX-T, German Navy Tornado, Luftwaffe F-4F and a Belgian F-16AM wearing special marks to celebrate 50 years of 23 Squadron.

Given the nature of routine operations at Koksijde, helicopters naturally accounted for a large part of the static display. A wide variety of machines were in evidence ranging from the humble Belgian Army Alouette II, to the brutish US Army AH-64A Apache. The rotary winged line-up also included a pair of French Navy Alouette IIIs (as well as an AdlA and Belgian example), along with a French Gendarmerie AS.350B, Luftwaffe UH-1D, US Army OH-58D(I) and Belgian Sea King which was also sporting a special colour scheme to celebrate 25 years of operations.

Hunter gate guardianWith virtually all flying demonstrations scuppered by the weather, there was ample opportunity to go check out the gate guardian, something your scribe had failed to do during previous visits. The original pole mounted Hunter is now also accompanied by Koksijde's preserved H-34, which had used to grace the static park during previous open days.

Despite the best attentions of the weather, Koksijde once again proved to be worthy of a visit for any enthusiasts returning from Leeuwarden. This Belgian AF Open Day traditionally falls during the same weekend as the annual Dutch AF show, so fingers crossed for better weather next year.


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