Michael Balter reports on Büchel's Photoday, 16 July
JaboG 33 (Fighter Bomber Wing 33) based at Büchel, Germany, invited over 150 photographers, spotters, aircraft enthusiasts and media to their yearly photoday on 16 July. This year we had the opportunity to see five Polish Su-22M4s from 40 ELT 21 BLot, normally based at Swidin in Poland, which were taking part in Exercise 'Clean Hunter 2004'.
Weather conditions for the day were better than expected - in the morning it was a little bit drizzly but later, just as the departures and the recoveries of the Polish Fitters began, it was excellent, something not normally experienced at Büchel, as it is the highest airbase in Germany on top of a small mountain.
The photoday began at 09:00 local time and after parking we were transported by three buses to the runway where we could take pictures of JaboG 33 Tornado IDS taking off from only a few metres away. Also arriving were visitors for the static display - for example Tornado 43+70 in a special colour scheme plus F-4F 37+48 of JG (Fighter Wing) 71, this beauty bearing a special marking near the intake of '6666 Stunden' (hours).
After that we were driven to the shelter area and maintenance hangars where all aircraft were excellently positioned in front of the shelters to take good shots. However, the highlight of the flying for many of the photographers gathered was without doubt the departures and landings by four of the Polish Su-22M4s, as well as the opportunity to stop at the flightline to get some ground shots too.
One Su-22M4 (3715) wore fuel tanks with a shark-mouth design and another (3710) had the Squadron insignia on the nose section. A surprise was to see that one of the Polish pilots had a nice helmet design of overall black with a bone and his name and nickname in white - pretty cool! Looks like the influence of western helmet designs is well-known in Poland too. The Polish ground-crews were excellent in giving us enough time to to take plenty of sunny static shots too - thanks guys!
After that we were driven to the static display near the control tower where another four aircraft were parked for us - for example Tornado IDS 44+08 from JaboG 38 'Friesland' in another special colour scheme, Tornado IDS 44+31 of JaboG 31 'Boelcke', the famous 'Blue Thunder', and next to them you could also find the previously mentioned F-4F ICE 37+48 from Wittmund plus a German Navy Tornado IDS, 45+38. As the German Navy Tornados will be phased out soon and will go to German Air Force units it's a last chance to see them on such events.
The photoday ended at 13:30 and everyone was very happy with their day in Büchel!
Acknowledgements: With acknowledgement and thanks to Oberstabsfeldwebel Wanner and the personnel of the JaboG 33 for his excellent media support on that day!