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Die Deutschen Heeresflieger; Celle September 2, 2009

The German Helicopter Flying School; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

On Wednesday, September 2nd, I was a guest at the German airbase of Celle in northern Germany. Celle is located 4.5 kilometers southwest of the city of Celle and 30 kilometer northeast of Hanover. The airbase of Celle can be separated into two parts, namely the airbase itself and a camp with some barracks.

In 1910 the first flight was held on the Scheuener Heide which is an area north of the Aller River. The flight tests were conducted under the direction of Herr Schl´┐Żter. The people of Celle were invited to experience this spectacle by an ad in the local newspaper. The airport was opened on October 3, 1918 and was widely used until the end of the First World War. After the First World War the airbase was disbanded most of the time, but the Germans started to use it again in the 20s. The airbase became more important when the flying school Celle-Bruch Wietze started to use this area as a remote landing site in the mid 30s.

Ernst Sagebiel who was a leading architect in the design of airbases was the lead in designing new buildings for this location. On March 9, 1935 Hermann Goering officially announced the existence of a German Air Force and the DLV was no longer needed. The Luftwaffe was declared officially and its employees revealed themselves as members of the armed forces by openly wearing uniforms. At the beginning of World War II the training units were moved to Leipzig and Celle airbase was used by different combat units. They were all stationed there for a period shorter than one year. The airbase was turned over to the British army by a German officer without serious damage on April 11, 1945. After being taken over by British troops, the airbase came under the command of the Royal Air Force in Germany and was renamed to RAF Celle.

The airbase was not completely English anymore when the airlift to Berlin started in 1948. The Western allies including the United States, Great Britain and France were looking for an airbase that was suitable to use for this air bridge. Strategically, Celle was favorable for such kind of operations to the German capital compared to the other airfields in the area;

Celle had the shortest connection to Berlin. After the end of the Berlin airlift in 1949, the airport was again used exclusively by British forces. Over the years the RAF had several squadrons at Celle and they were since 1950 equipped with combat aircraft like the Vampire and Venom. One year after the establishment of the Bundeswehr, the British troops transferred the airbase back to the German Army on November 29, 1957. Celle was next to Niedermendig and Fritzlar the home base of several garrisons of the German Army. These garrisons at Celle airbase were at that time the youngest branch of the German army.

Celle airbase is primarily used as a training base for aspiring helicopter pilots and therefore it is a part of the German Army Aviation School. The German Army Aviation School (Heeresfliegerausbildungszentrum) is operating with the Bell UH-1D and Bolkow Bo-105 helicopter. When we arrived in the first hangar of our visit, we saw over eighteen Huey helicopters inside this building. They were parked very close together and shooting pictures of these helicopters was therefore a difficult job. We were unlucky with the Huey's because the flying activities were mainly planned in the evening; it was unfortunately quiet in the hangar. There was only one Huey on the platform in front of the building.

During our visit to the next hangar we saw a Bolkow which was presented in front of the hangar especially for us; we were able to make photographs of it from all angles. There were also a few helicopter pilots at this spot whom we could interview. We went into the hangar when we were finished with the interview and photo shoot of this Bolkow and its crew. There were twelve Bolkows inside the hangar and we were allowed to take photos of them. Next to the hangar was a workshop located where many technicians were working on helicopters which were in maintenance. A few Technicians gave us an explanation about how to maintain a rotor blade during periodic maintenance. The technicians told us how much these blades suffer during normal operations of the helicopters. One of the technicians told us that sometimes the blades contain pieces of leaves because the pilots hit some tree tops during their flight.

After our tour through the hangars, we were positioned across the platform. There were four Bolkows ready for a flight and it would not take long before any action would take place around these helicopters. We stood in the grass next to the platform where the helicopters stood. The sun was very beautiful on these green camouflaged machines. It wasn't difficult for me to shoot a number of high quality pictures of these machines when they stated their engines. The weather was ideal and in combination with a nice green background and a gray platform the photo conditions were really good. Two other Bolkows would return to Celle right after the departure of the four which stood on the platform. The Huey which was on the platform earlier started up when we walked back over the platform towards the hangars. This Huey had some problems with the adjustment of the gearbox which is in between the engine and the rotor shaft. This helicopter was flying some short test flights. Technicians would adjust the gear box of the tail rotor between these test flights. We were able to take some very decent shots of this Huey during its flight. It flew in front of a beautiful green background and very low above the platform. The best moment for photography was when this green helicopter was hovering about one meter above the concrete. After the departure of the Huey our visit to Celle came to an end and we went back to the main entrance of the airbase. It was well worth to visit Celle if you are a helicopter fanatic like me.

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