Geoff Stockle/Aeromedia reports on the Dutch Air Force's big event of the year, held over held over 17/18 June. Pictures by the author and Bob Franklin
The annual two-day Royal Netherlands Air Force/Koninklijke Luchtmacht (KLu) Open Days 2005 were at the home of the Dutch Apache fleet, 301 Squadron, at Gilze-Rijen. Friday proved to be rather cloudy with only a couple of glimpses of the sun, but by contrast Saturday had wall-to-wall sunshine and temperatures in the high eighties - technically known in Dutch as 'sods law', as your scribe only made it for the previous day!
Last year I left the show at Volkel somewhat disappointed due to a very lacklustre show compared to previous years. This year's show was even smaller in terms of aircraft numbers, with only some sixty static aircraft, but there were some quality items, both in the static and seven-hour plus flying display. Notable by their absences were some national display teams, only the Red Arrows (with ground support provided by a Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130!) and Jordanian Falcons flying their country's flag, whilst the Breitling Jet team and Army Air Corps Blue Eagles also demonstrated some skilful flying.
Of greatest disappointment to many enthusiasts was the lack of expected participation that had been advertised in certain other websites (although not included in the official website). The official site proved to be very accurate, but it was a shame that the non-official list that included Czech, Italian, Danish and Polish contingents, plus additional French aircraft, didn't come to fruition! Static aircraft came from Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Eire, Portugal, Turkey, UK, US and, of course, the home team with most types on show. Of particular interest were the Phantoms from Greece, Turkey and Germany, plus one of the last chances to inspect an operational Draken at close quarters. Dominating the static park was an AN124-100 of Polet air Cargo that had swallowed an Apache to show how the KLu achieve global reach with their chopper force. Only one Dutch F-16 was on static, when in previous years one from each squadron would have been in attendance - and not one lick of special paint colours to be seen (apart from the demo ship).
Tucked away and ignored by many was one of the rarest ever aircraft from a country making its airshow debut, this being an Egyptian Air Force Gomhuria Mk8, a licence-built copy of the 1930s Bucker Bestman. It arrived earlier in the week in a C-130 that unfortunately left to spend the weekend at Lyneham! To be honest, I'm sure many enthusiasts would have preferred the Hercules to stay without the Gomhuria, but it was a promising first step for future airshow attendance by this huge and varied air force - certainly the large number of crew seemed to enjoy the attention! Only a handful of Gomhurias are reported to be still in service with the Flying Training Squadron at Wadi al Jandali, having been replaced by the Grob 115, aka Tutor.
The flying display was long and well organised ,highlights being the soon-to-be-lost Draken, ditto Belgian Magister, nicely flown French Alpha Jet, awesome Tiger-marked Swiss F/A-18C, Belgian F-16AM and sizeable RAF contingent of Harrier, Tornado F3, Hercules C5, a very aggressively flown Chinook and well received Lancaster and Spitfires of the BBMF. The home team staged the ever-impressive air power demo with much smoke and thunderous explosions featuring six Cougars, eight Apaches, two Chinooks, C-130H, ten F-16s and the new grey scheme KDC-10. The solo display acts of PC-7, AH-64 and F-16 flew a unique vic formation prior to their individual shows, the Apache this year showing some real flare (no apology for the pun) with copious amounts released at the apex of the two loops flown in the sequence- very impressive! The ever-present historic aircraft performed solo and formation displays and a nicely flown formation by the B-25, P-51 and F-16 provided a fitting memorial in this year of commemoration of the ending of the Second World War.
With such a well-organised flying display and odd gems in the static, this year's show was very much worth a visit, even if we did drop for the wrong day weather-wise!
thanks to the KLu press team for their hospitality.