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The Elementary Flying School; Beauvechain April 30, 2010

Force Arien de Belgique Part 1; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

On April 30, 2010 I had a base visit at the Belgian airbase in Beauvechain. Almost everything was possible on previous visits at this Belgian airbase. Photography opportunities are perfect during these base visits. Beauvechain is home of the Belgian basic pilot training.

The First Wing which is based at Beauvechain currently employs 950 people divided into three groups, namely: flight operations & maintenance, protection & support groups and a medical group. The flying squadrons are the fifth and ninth Squadron; both are equipped with the SF260 Marchetti. These units fly over forty Marchetti's for the training of new air force pilots. The Marchetti came into service in 1969 with the Belgian Air Force and it is in service for over forty years. Also the Alpha-Jet is maintained at Beauvechain next to the Marchetti. These aircraft are based at Cazeaux in the south of France, but the aircraft are maintained at Beauvechain in Belgium. The Belgian Air Force has nearly thirty Alpha-Jets in service for the advanced flying training of its new pilots. The Alpha Jet entered service in the Belgian Air Force in 1973 and was next to the Fouga Magister the aircraft for the advanced fighter pilot training. The First Wing became in the past the elementary flying school within the Belgian Air force as a part of a modernized strategy for the Belgian defense. The airbase of Beauvechain has also a meteo wing, an air force music band and a Field Accom- modation Unit (FAU) next to its flying units.

The badge of the First Wing contains a gray wolf. The choice for this badge goes back to the early days in the history of the Belgian aviation. The wolf is not only the official badge of all the Belgian Air Force fighter wings in the 50's. It also is the badge of the training wing which is based at Beauvechain and Brustem. This badge symbolizes the protection of young people by older people and transferring knowledge to this young group before they can stand on its own feet and go out for hunt. These qualities are fully consistent with the mission of the First Wing. It is responsible for the training of the young fighter pilots who will be prepared for the Belgian Air Force. Therefore Beauvechain is the training base for all the Belgians flying personal in all parts of the

Belgian defense. The student pilots will learn at this base all the basic skills they need to be a fighter pilot within the Belgian Air Force. With basic skills we mean activities like: take-off and landing, flying on instruments, navigating and dealing with the European air traffic controllers. Especially landing an aircraft is experienced as very difficult by the young pilots. Therefore they will perform many touch and goes at several airfields in Belgium to practice these skills.

I arrived at Beauvechain airbase at eight thirty AM. Another twenty people were gathered at the main gate of the base for the upcoming tour at Beauvechain. We went to the airbase by bus after our guide held an introduction speech. The first place where we stopped was just the place where I came for. We stopped at the platform where all the yellow Marchetti's were lined up. There were about twenty of these little yellow birds on the platform. Today I was lucky because the two special colored Marchetti's were both on the platform. The white and gray Marchetti were parked next to each other. They stood side by side on the last row so they both were very good to photograph. Our guide told us that it was allowed to walk around these two aircraft to take some photographs. Two pilots walked out of the large hangar after ten minutes and it was clear that they were going to fly with one of the Marchetti's. One of them opened the canopy of the gray Marchetti and we were lucky that this plane was about to leave. After a while the pilot started the engine of this small gray plane. These kinds of photos were the action shots where I came for to Beauvechain. The pilots of the gray Marchetti were greeting us when they passed us over the taxi track to the runway.

After the Marchetti had left we went to our next stop. We stopped at the opposite side of the fire station and went in a hangar to have a look over there. To my amazement I found a Swedish Saab Draken inside that hangar. I didn't know what the reason was that the aircraft was here, but I thought that it was a new aircraft for the museum of Beauvechain. It was very dark inside the hangar, but I managed to get a few decent shots by using my tripod. I had the Draken on my camera and we moved on to the next hangar. There were two Alpha-Jets inside this hangar and one them was far from complete. The light was good inside the hangar and I took pictures of both aircraft. After the visit to this hangar we entered the second Alpha-Jet hangar across the platform. This hangar was definitely the main maintenance hangar of the Alpha-jet at Beauvechain. There were many technicians at work and there were six Alpha Jets inside this building. It was hard to get all these Alpha-jets on my camera. Most of them were incomplete and they were also between stairs and platforms and other tools. One of the Belgian Alpha-jets carried the right wing of a French Alpha-Jet.

It was an interesting visit to the maintenance hangars of the Alpha-Jet. The last hangar we would visit was the maintenance hangar of Marchetti. There were not very many planes inside this building. Some of the aircraft were very good to photograph. We were allowed to shoot the aircraft from the bridge at the top of hangar. A number of Marchetti's in this hangar was decomposed in parts and a number of engineers was working on these little planes. Our visit to Beauvechain would end in a visit to the aircraft museum which is located next to the airbase. Here I found a few aircraft which had served in the Belgian Air Force in the recent past. I took pictures of a silver Starfighter, an F-16 and a Marchetti at the courtyard of the museum. Also I found a RF-84G Thunderflash, a Mig21, a Fouga Magister and a Mirage V at some other fields of the museum. Again it was worth it to visit Beauvechain. The program was a well known program, but it's nice to do this tour each time. After this pleasant visit, I drove away from Beauvechain towards Liege-Bierset. We had a base visit at this helicopter base in the afternoon.

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