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Le Tour de Belgique Part 2; Melsbroek-Brussel April 30, 2009

The Belgian Airlift Wing; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

After we had a visit at Beauvechain in the morning we were welcome in the afternoon for a visit to Melsbroek. Melsbroek is the home base of the Belgian transport fleet of the 15th Wing. Also the helicopter fleet of the Belgian federal police can be found on this base.

The Belgian Base of Melsbroek is a part of the International Airport of Zaventem also known as Brussels Airport. The 15th Wing which is the transport wing of the Belgian Air Force is stationed at Melsbroek. This Wing is responsible for air mobility within the Belgian Air Component. Mobility and flexibility are the two basic requirements for the Belgians in areas all over the world where they are active. This is a key position in tactical airlifting. The mission of the 15th Wing can be summarized as being stand-by 24/7 anywhere in the world to deliver any carriage of passengers or cargo at any place at any time. The 15th Wing indeed carries all types of cargo and passengers to the most desirable locations in the world, at any time. Along with 40 Squadron at Koksijde, this Air Component is standby at all times. It also will perform its duty of carrying cargo and passengers during peace time. The aircraft of the 15th Wing are mainly used for transporting large payloads for all the components of the Belgian defence like wounded and killed soldiers, VIP transport including royal members and diplomats and strategic airlift to crisis areas.

To carry out its duties, the 15th Airlift Wing is equipped with eleven Lockheed C-130 Hercules aircraft. The C-130 Hercules has a very wide range and a useful load capacity of over twenty tons. More important is its excellent STOL (Short Take-Off and Landing) feature which is ideal for the most diverse tactical air missions. Since September 29, 1997, the Air Component is equipped with two aircraft of the type Airbus A310-200. These two machines increase the operational capacity of the 15th Wing considerably. The Dassault Falcon 20-5 is an aircraft designed for the carriage of VIP's on short to medium distances under very comfortable circumstances. Also the Dassault Falcon 900 is an aircraft which is used for the carriage of VIP's. This aircraft is used on long distances and it also is a very luxury aircraft like the Falcon 20-5. Finally, the 15th Wing is equipped with two Embrear 135 and 145 aircraft. These two

aircraft were build by the Brazilian Embrear and are delivered to the Belgian Air Component to transport all kind of passengers. These machines can be equipped with a "corporate kit" for increased comfort and a "medical kit" to perform medical flights in optimal conditions. Next to the aircraft of the 15th Wing, Melsbroek is also the home base of the Air Support Service of the Belgian Federal Police. The Air support Service is providing support to locale police units from the air. Because of this the local and federal police can operate more efficient during their daily tasks. The Air Support Service has ten different tasks which include the management of anomalous situations such as congestion, chain collisions, airplane crashes, mass meetings and major sport events. Furthermore, they support the police in their search for missing persons or objects and to pursue and intercept suspects of a crime. Protection of persons and goods is also part of the tasks of this unit; it includes protection of cash transports, protecting VIP's and postmen. The Air Support Service of the Federal Police has two Cessna 182 light observation planes, two Hughes MD520N observation helicopters and three Hughes MD900 patrol helicopters.

In the early afternoon we were welcome at Melsbroek located at the airport of Zaventem. We first got a brief tour when we arrived at the squadron building of the 15th Wing. There was already a nice plane in the first hangar which we visited. A French Hercules was pushed inside the hangar when we arrived; this was already a nice bonus during this base visit. After we had photographed the Hercules we walked into the next hangar. Here we found a Belgian Hercules inside the hangar. The photos of this Hercules were quite the same as the ones of the French Hercules. The only difference was that this Hercules was in maintenance and a few engineers were working on its engines. Next we would visit the engine shop of Melsbroek. The people up here are committed to maintain the engines of the Hercules and also the other types of aircraft. One of the engineers gave us a short tour and told us something about the engines of this heavy transport aircraft. Once outside again on the platform, we saw another Hercules and an Embrear 135. Furthermore there were also two police MD900 helicopters on this platform.

The last hangar where we could have a look was the one of the Belgian Federal Police. This would be the highlight of my visit at Melsbroek since you do not often see these helicopters. Inside the hangar were two MD520N helicopters, a Cessna 182R and a MD900 helicopter. After a brief introduction by one of the pilots we were allowed tot photograph all the helicopters and planes inside this hangar. Although we were inside a hangar light conditions were pretty well; there was quite much light on the helicopters. This because the helicopters were painted white and the door of the hangar was fully made of glass. We had more than enough light on these helicopters and the pictures of these machines were beautiful. I was very happy with my pictures of the Cessna 182 because it was my first time ever I saw one. The ground crew moved a MD520N to a better position for us inside the hangar, sow we were able to make better pictures of it. They used some sort of forklift to move the helicopter. Our visit to Melsbroek became to an end after more than three hours. The hangar of the police was the last which visited and we walked back along the entire platform to the main entrance. On our way back we saw that there was a Hercules without engines was pulled out of the hangar; we also photographed this aircraft. There were also a few old aircraft preserved next to the barracks on the other side of the base. After we took some pictures of these aircraft, our base visit really came to an end. The visit to Melsbroek was small, but nevertheless I took some surprising pictures.

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