Leonard van den Broek (Four Aces Aviation Photography) reports on the German Army Flying School Flying Day at Bückeburg, held on 10 September 2006. Photos by Lucien Blok, Leonard van den Broek and Paul Mali (Four Aces Aviation Photography)
Since the early 1960s the German Army has had its main training facility stationed at Bückeburg in Northern Germany. The Heeresflieger Waffenschule, or HFWS, has a number of types in use for training purposes, including the Bo-105, the new Eurocopter EC135 and the venerable UH-1D Huey and CH-53G Stallion. Training on the new Eurocopter Tiger UHT combat helicopter is done at the French-German facility at Le Luc in southern France. Besides 'real' helicopters, there are also twelve full-mission simulators at Bückeburg - these simulators can be connected together, to realistically simulate formation flying.
On the Saturday preceding the actual Flying Day a 'spottersday' was organised, attracting some three hundred enthusiasts. To the disappointment of many however, this day was not exclusively for spotters as friends and relatives of HFWS personnel were also welcome to attend. Nevertheless, it was an opportunity well appreciated to photograph the event a day early, as the static display was positioned without any ropes or fences around the aircraft.
The static display was modest in quantity, but huge in quality. A Finnish Army Mi-8PS, two Norwegian Air Force AB-412SPs (from 339 Skv at Bardufoss) and two Hungarian Hinds ('718', a Mi-24V and '335', a Mi-24P) made the trip to Bückeburg especially worthwhile. The Finnish Mi-8PS of the HekoP (Finnish Army Helicopter Batallion) at Utti had about fifteen hours left on the airframe - as the flight home takes some eight hours, the flight to Bückeburg must have been the last trip abroad of this helicopter. Currently the Finnish Army still has four Mi-8s on strength, which will soon be phased out and replaced by the NH90.
Some other nice helos on display were a Belgian Navy Alouette III, an Austrian Air Force Alouette III and RAF Puma HC1 ZJ954 (former SAAF Puma '144'), wearing 33 Squadron anniversary markings. Another interesting participant - at least to us from the continent - was an Army Air Corps Lynx AH9, equipped with a 'wheeled landing gear' instead of skids, which are fitted to the AH7.
Of course, German Army aviation was also very well represented in the static display. The 'Heeresflieger' proudly showed all of their types, including their latest, the Tiger UHT ('UnterstützingsHubschrauber Tiger' or 'Combat Support Helicopter Tiger') attack helicopter and the NH90 medium transport helicopter, which will also be delivered to the HFWS. In 2008, fourteen NH90 helicopters will be replacing the venerable Hueys, of which the HFWS now still has some twenty examples in service.
The only foreign fixed-wing aircraft present was a French Army Aviation (ALAT) PC-6 Turbo Porter. Equally attractive were the instructional airframes of the 'Ausbildungswerkstatt Heer' (German Army Maintenance Instruction Hangar). Two were on static display outside: an Alouette II (76+92, wearing a special paint scheme) and G91R/3 99+45. Although its colours were a bit faded, the 'Gina' seemed to be in good condition. Later during the day the hangar was opened, revealing other instructional aircraft - these included another G91 and two OV-10B Broncos, all former Luftwaffe aircraft.
The flying display programme was performed twice on Sunday - during the spottersday on Saturday afternoon, the full programme was rehearsed. The display started with some mass formation fly-bys, and following this every helicopter type in the Heeresflieger inventory performed a solo display, including the two latest types, the NH90 TTH and Tiger. The German Tiger UHT that performed its solo display was wearing a temporary registration number (98+12) and was later accompanied by a second Tiger UHT and a third 'Tigre HAP', as it was a French Army example.
After the solo displays, an 'air power demonstration' followed. Under the watchful eye of the two Tiger/Tigre combat helicopters, a simulated air assault was carried out. Three UH-1D Hueys and four CH-53G Stallions made several landings, delivering both ground forces and combat vehicles. Some heavier equipment was brought in as a sling load by a single CH-53G and a team of special forces left their Huey via ropes, rappelling down.
Other aircraft also contributed, including a C160D Transall performing a para drop, and a Bo-105 doing high-speed battlefield reconnaissance. It was an impressive sight to see several Hueys and Stallions in action together - these 'old' helicopter types have something that many modern types lack. Is it the 1960s design, or the fact that they're veterans from past wars? Or something else still? Whatever it is, they have 'it', just like the Hind - and unlike the EC135!
An unexpected 'finale' of the two-and-a-half hour flying programme was a solo display by a Hungarian Mi-24P. This aircraft, Hind '335', has a remarkable history; it was delivered in 1989 to the East German Air Force, where it flew as '422' with 5 KHG from Basepohl Airbase. After the German reunification, it received the Luftwaffe serial 96+45. When the type was withdrawn from German service, 96+45 was given a special red/yellow/red retirement paint scheme. In 1995, a number of former East German Hinds were sold to Hungary and 96+45 was one of them. Now after more than ten years, this Hind returned for a brief visit to the country where it once started its military service life!
Although this Flying Day was small in many aspects (number of participating aircraft, duration of the flying display), this was very well compensated for by the quality of what was offered. Along with the good weather and nice background, the flying display programme also provided some excellent photo opportunities. However, to the detriment of this show it must be said that the severe backlight from the sun gave the photographers some serious challenges. But let's hope for the future that the Heeresflieger will continue the high quality of its flying days!