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Luchtmacht Open Dagen 2009; Volkel June 18 & 19, 2009

The annual Dutch Air Show; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

On Thursday June 18 and Friday June 19, 2009, I was at the open house of the Royal Netherlands Air Force at Volkel Airbase. During these days, the visitor gets an overview of the equipment, the functions and operation of the Royal Netherlands Air Force in the past, present and future.

The air force paid much attention to a spectacular air show and static display with aircraft, helicopters, guided weapons and a varied exhibition. Participants of the air show come from the Netherlands and abroad and form a complete and interesting day program. Included are demonstrations from Patrouille de France, the Red Arrows, Patrulla Aguila and the Turkish Stars. This Spanish demo team was for the last time in the Netherlands in 2003. Also several solo displays are shown during these days and they show the public what these aircraft can do. These displays will be flown by the Spanish EF-18 Hornet built by McDonnell Douglas, the British RAF Typhoon display team, the Belgian F-16 Solo Display team and of course the Dutch F-16 Solo Display team. The Dutch demo is flown by Captain-pilot Ralph "Sheik" Aarts and he will show what the Dutch F-16 is used for under operational circumstances. The demo F-16 is painted orange and a big lion is displayed on top of it. The bright orange color makes it a beautiful object in the sky over Volkel. The Avro Vulcan is for many spectators the highlight of the air show besides many other interesting participants. The plane comes from England and is the last still flying Avro Vulcan out of 134 ever built.

The air show has besides the displays and demonstrations another important role and that is to inform new people about jobs within the air force. With the slogan "Hangar 3, the place to be" a unique way to contact the Dutch youth is established and they are informed about working within the Royal Netherlands Air Force. The Defense top sport department shows various demos as well. During these days there is also attention for the people at home who have relatives in the army. Partners and other family members were invited by the Commanding officer of the Dutch Air Force to talk with their relatives through a live connection to the Air Task Force in Afghanistan. Dutch troops are committed daily at home and abroad for our safety. This is not always visible to the Dutch public. Every year, the Dutch defense shows during the open days

how the public defense is performed to keep global peace and security. This year's theme is 'a good employer'; the Dutch defense is an employer who invests in people. The army will ask much of its people but it will give much in return as well. They demand the best out of the people by good education and a collegial sphere. The employees are the most vulnerable part of the Dutch defense and that's why good care and attention of people is important.

For me the activity around the open days began on Thursday. There was a press day planned on Thursday focusing on photography of the incoming participants and the rehearsals for the open days. We were placed on the press tribune which could be found at the middle of the runway. This position is far from ideal because of the distance to the runway. Photography on the runway is impossible in the afternoon because of the heat haze. But it is an ideal location for photography on the taxi track which is right in front of us. All the helicopters would land in the grass in front of us. This was ideal for me because I am a real helicopter fanatic. All helicopters would fly to this location and photography was really perfect on this spot. The first helicopter which came in was a Dutch Navy Lynx and was later on followed by a German Bolkow. This Bolkow would bring me the best shots I've made during the open days of Volkel; it was hovering above the grass under perfect light conditions. In the afternoon also a British Navy Lynx and a Belgian A-109 were added to this line. Furthermore, there was a number of F-16's taxiing along us. For the rest everything stayed on a big distance from our spot and we missed it unfortunately.

I went to Volkel early on Friday morning. The gates opened at eight AM and immediately I looked for a spot next to the runway to spend the rest of the day. I was there with a group of ten people who were good friends of mine during the air show. The show was opened by a replica of the Wright Flyer which was built by the Wright Brothers in 1903. They were the first people ever who made a motorized flight in Kitty Hawk USA. Only the light stuff would fly during the morning hours. Only one fighter was scheduled in the morning; this was the Typhoon of the RAF. The pilot of the Typhoon gave an excellent demo in which he showed what this particular aircraft can do. Around noon, there was the annual airpower demo; in this year's event as many as 18 F-16s took part. All the vipers went airborne in couples with much noise. After the airpower demo 'Sheik' flew his demo with the bright orange demo F-16 followed by the PC-7 demo. Later in the afternoon was for many the highlight of the air show; the British AVRO Vulcan went airborne. This former RAF bomber of the V-Force was together with the Victor and the Valiant the backbone of the British Bomber Command. The large wing-shaped Vulcan came loose after a relatively short run. Its demo gave me some really nice shots of this massive aircraft. The final demo of today's air show would be flown by the Polish Mig-29. This machine gave us a very loud demonstration.

After two great days the open house of the Dutch Air Force 2009 was over for me. I decided to skip the Saturday air show because I had photographed everything I wanted. In these two days I saw many familiar people and it was again a successful show. The advantage of the Friday compared to the one on Saturday is that the air show on Friday is not that crowded as the Saturday show. The advantage of the Friday show is that you can reach every aircraft much easier. Luckily we had some nice weather at this edition of the Royal Netherlands Air Force open days; it was also visible in the quality of the pictures. I could go home with the necessary amount of Gigabytes of photos on my digital photo cards. After a really good show at Volkel Air Base, we can look forward to the show next year at Gilze-Rijen airbase.

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