Mick Balter looks at 50 years of air service in the German Federal Border Police (Bundesgrenzschutz or BGS)
On 22 May at Sankt Augustin the Federal Border Police held a small airshow to mark fifty years of the existence of the BGS air service. On a sunny day, in front of approximately 20,000 visitors, scenes such as 'fast roping' by the GSG 9 (Border Police group 9, the specialists for combating terrorism) from a Bell 212 were played out. For the flight demonstrations and exhibitions nearly two hundred officials from all five BGS Squadrons (Fliegerstaffeln) came to St Augustin,to enable visitors to look behind the scenes, something normally not possible. In addition to the demonstrations of the well-known GSG 9, other highlights were parachute jumps in the morning and afternoon under command of Friedrich Eichele 'Chief 1', the commander of GSG 9, who opened the programme with a freefall jump from a SA-330J Puma helicopter.
In one of the maintenance hangars the five BGS Fliegerstaffeln (Squadrons) presented themselves with their special areas of expertise: for example, North (Nord) who fly for the north; East (Ost) who undertake flights for the Chancellor and other VIPs; Middle (Mitte) who monitor some 5,300 km of railway; South (Süd) who work particularly with the air rescue service in the high mountains and the Police Aviation Squadron; and lastly West who work with border control, the air emergency service and is support for the specialists of GSG 9, also based at St Augustin.
A static display with every helicopter of the BGS (Border Police Aviation Group) represented was situated on the sports field where the following types could be found: SA-318C Alouette, Bo-105 CBS 5, EC-135 T2, EC-155 B1, Bell 212, AS 332 L1 Super Puma and SA-330 J Puma.
The cloud base was, according to the speaker, between 4,000 and 3,300 feet (about 1,000 m) when the first group of five 'jumpers' out of fifteen from GSG 9 jumped out of the helicopter to start the programme. All landed exactly on the spot before the astonished public on the apron. Experienced jumpers had flags with them, sporting the national colours of the Federal Republic of Germany and the European Union, together with one sporting a GSG 9 banner.
Helicopter demonstrations included the extinguishing of a fire with a SA-330J Puma, which is particularly used with wild land fires. About 1,000 litres of water were dropped over the fire source, in this case a smoke cartridge, which was swiftly extinguished. The 'Bambi bucket', as it's called, can be filled if necessary within twenty seconds for a quick turnaround. Another flying display participant was a rescue helicopter, Bo-105CBS 5 - on the apron a simulated 'wounded' person, in this case a dummy, was taken from the helicopter to a waiting ambulance. This rescue demo by 'Christoph 3', which is normally based at the clinical centre Cologne - Merheim, gained good applause from the spectators.
In addition, an SA-318 C Alouette (training helicopter) crew demonstrated a landing on the loading area of a truck, which then around before the Alouette took off again.
After the flying display was finished, the specialists from GSG 9 showed further procedures like 'driving during special danger situations' with their own vehicle at a 'mad' speed - 360° and 180° turns were shown and a hot pursuit of 'offenders' (represented by their own colleagues) followed with a shooting of a fictitious terrorist - something that is more topical these days.
Now though the BGS is changing colour from the typical police green to blue colours, to standardise with other European countries. A BGS pilot said the colour change may take several years - "It must happen as cost-neutrally as possible", he said.
Acknowledgments: My special thanks go to the following people for their great support and help, without which this report would not have been possible: The BGS press team, Mr Sommerer and Mr Schnurr, as well as the crew of 'Pirol 19' for the flight and all other officials of the BGS.