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RNLAF F-16 Solo Display Presentation; Volkel April 2, 2009

Presentation of the New Dutch Lion; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

On April 2, 2009 I was present at the presentation ceremony at Volkel air base of the newly painted F-16 for the F-16 Solo Display Team of the Royal Air Force. The J-015 was chosen to wear the new color scheme of the Royal Netherlands Air Force during the upcoming air shows.

The F-16 Solo Display Team of the Royal Netherlands Air Force is year based at Volkel airbase in 2009. Normally, the demo team will move to another base every two years and therefore it should move to Leeuwarden Airbase to resume its task. However, the staff of the Air Force asked to stay at Volkel with this team for one more year due to the success of the demo team of 2007-2008. The name of the team was changed to the F-16 Solo Display team 2007-2009 because of this fact. This is quite unique because according to the normal Dutch standard the team needs to be disbanded after two years and move to another base. It's a good option to continue the work of the previous years during the upcoming air shows and information days. The team still consists of staff members of no 311 and no 313 squadron which both are based at Volkel airbase. The team of 2009 is unchanged compared to the previous years; it exists of display pilot Captain Ralph "Sheik" Aarts, two coaches, seven technical specialists and three advisors. Together they are responsible for preparing, training and the actual flying of the demo itself.

The demo of F-16 looks quite spectacular, but all maneuvers are performed under normal operating conditions in normal theatres of operation. The demo looks spectacular because all the maneuvers are flown right after each other in a smooth display. Also important is the fact that all maneuvers are performed at a low level during the demo. The pilot will suffer an enormous amount of G-forces during its flight. The pilot of the F-16 demo gives an impression of how the aircraft are used in real scenarios with the Royal Netherlands Air Force, like e.g. the Dutch mission in Afghanistan or the former Yugoslavia.

"One Team One Task" is the slogan of the Royal Netherlands Air Force. Therefore this text is also visible at the tail wings of the newly painted demo F-16.

The team consists of one demo pilot and two coaches who are experienced pilots as well. Furthermore, the team contains seven skilled technicians and three advisors. The whole team gives full support to the demo pilot during the demo season which is at least thirty events. Also the team gets the necessary support from its home base Volkel and its staff. The difference with demo teams from other countries is that the Dutch team consists of people who are in operational service of the Royal Netherlands Air Force. They simply perform their daily tasks, such as being a pilot or technician of the Dutch air force, and next to this they are members of the demo team. The team is able to show the normal way of working to the general public because of this.

I arrived at about ten am by car and the weather conditions were fine. We were moved by bus to the head of runway 06 when I arrived at Volkel. It was a matter of waiting for the three F-16's which were on a photo flight together. The formation of F-16's consisted of the "old" demo F-16, the "new" demo F-16 and a dual F-16 for air to air photography. It seemed to be a disappointing day when they placed us along the runway with the light right into our faces, but this changed when the F-16 gave his demo. The three F-16's appeared on the horizon after waiting for half an hour and the presentation of the demo F-16 could start. First the "old" demo F-16 (J-055) came in with his gear down followed by the "new" demo F-16 which made a high speed over our heads. The dual F-16 flew along us finally. The Dual F-16 came in for landing after a few passes and the J-015 came right behind it and went airborne again. The J-015 came in after a few passes and it taxied back via the parallel runway. The beautiful orange F-16 stopped at the end of the parallel runway where it did some hot refueling and the aircraft was ready for its demo. The aircraft was refueled in twenty minutes. I was waiting next to the runway for the F-16 with my camera ready for action. The F-16 went airborne with much noise and full afterburner. Contrary to what we thought, the demo wasn't performed over the runway, but it was held all around us. Despite our position we were able to shoot that F-16 from many different angles with perfect light on it. It was really perfect to capture the F-16 when the aircraft rolled over to its side at low speed. Right after the slow speed pass it was time for the more noisy part of the demo. The F-16 performed a few high speeds passes over the runway and at the end it went vertical. The demo was over after about twenty minutes and the aircraft landed on the main runway using its typical parachute. This brought us a few nice pictures of the orange painted F-16 with its beautiful red white and blue parachute.

A Bolkow of the KLPD came in when the demo F-16 was parked on its spot. Also this helicopter made a spectacular landing right in front of us. We were allowed to walk to it when the F-16 was parked on its spot and we could ask questions to the pilot of the aircraft and the rest of the demo crew. And of course I made some pictures of both aircraft which were parked next to each other. There was also an opportunity for us to photograph the pilot while he posed in front of his plane. It all was very formal with his thumb up and his other hand on the inlet of the orange plane. The interview with the demo pilot lasted for about thirty minutes and our visit to Volkel was over after that session. We were left back to the main entrance of the base by bus from where we went home again. All in all it was a brief but a nice visit to Volkel which only lasted four hours, but it was worth it because of the professional organization. I will look with much pleasure to this demo when the pilot will perform it everywhere in Europe where I go. The people who painted this aircraft delivered a great job and the orange lion is shown everywhere in Europe.




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