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100 Years of Flying Dutchman; Gilze-Rijen, June 18 & 19, 2010

A Century of Dutch Aviation II; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

The Open House of the Royal Netherlands Air Force 2010 took place on Friday, June 18 and Saturday, June 19, 2010. The theme of the Open House this year is a Century of Dutch Aviation. Sometimes, aviation in the Netherlands is also referred to in The Flying Dutchman. However, this legend is much older than aviation is in Holland.

There are hard stories going around which say "The Flying Dutchman" was from Terneuzen. The following story was going around in especially Zeeland. There was a certain Captain Willem van der Decken who owned a ship. He lived in Terneuzen and was known as a brave man. But during one of his voyages, around the year 1676, he disappeared. It is told that Van der Decken was on his way to India when a violent storm suddenly blew as he passed the Cape of Good Hope near South Africa. The steering officer advised the captain to wait in the harbor until the storm had disappeared. The captain ignored this and became angry. He threw his steering officer into the water and with this person also his pocket size Bible. He held the spokes of the steering wheel and shouted: "If God would let me sail until the last day, I will complete the Cape Journey". There was a deathly silence after he had said this. The storm calmed down and the waves subsided. There was a voice from the sky saying: "Willem van der Decken, you'll have to sail until the last day" and the ship's crew died one by one and Van der Decken was left alone on his ship at sea. When it’s storming around the Cape, sailors sometimes see the ghost ship with Captain Van der Decken behind the steering wheel. A huge violent storm appeared when Van der Decken his ship had left the Table Bay in South Africa. Van der Decken wanted to leave the bay already a few days ago and he was angry about this. The next day was Easter, which is a Christian holiday. Nevertheless, Van der Decken sailed out. Sailing out of the harbor at this day had cursed his ship and the color of the ship became black and its sails became red: the color of blood. The ship was able to sail in opposite direction of the wind with curved sails, and it could sail through other ships which passed the Flying Dutchman. Van der Decken was never able to round the Cape. Sailors believe that when another ship was passing The Flying Dutchman, it would bring bad luck during their journey.

The phenomenon of a silent ship flying against the wind direction could be caused due to certain weather conditions at sea. Sailors can see reflections of their own ship on the water or against the fog. This is often accompanied by bad weather, which is a serious risk. It is always possible that a ship will have trouble under these circumstances. As the legend was known to sailors, they really believed that an accident was near when they were confronted with the phenomenon. The legend of the Flying Dutchman was definitively linked to the Dutch aviation in 1948 by the Royal Dutch Airlines (KLM). The legend of the Flying Dutchman was a comic which was launched in 1948 as an advertisement for the KLM. It was written by Hans Kosman and illustrated by Piet van der Maaden. Piet van der Maaden also illustrated some posters and other promotional material for the KLM. The comic album represented and articulated the link between the legend of the ghost ship The Flying Dutchman and the aircraft of the KLM. In the fifties, the KLM aircraft also flew with the inscription "De Vliegende Hollander" or "The Flying Dutchman" on their fuselage. The term was born in the Dutch aviation world. Also the Royal Netherlands Air Force started to use this name and the name began its own life within the air force. Even the name of the air force magazine for its own personnel is called “De Vliegende Hollander”.

I arrived quite early on Friday at the gate of the base, with the success of yesterday still in my head. Today I decided to position myself in the western part of the public area. The idea was to photograph the airplanes during their take-off. I stood at the point along the runway where they came loose from the ground. Also the helicopters would hover in front of me because I was standing next to the press tribune. It was promised to be a pleasant day. The opening of the air show was flown by a French Gazelle. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make some decent photos of this helicopter because of the dark weather. The weather today was very gray unfortunately. But this dark weather has also its advantages; the lights of aircraft and helicopters are beautiful on photo under these weather conditions. The highlight of the day for me was the demo of the Czech Mi-24 Hind. This colossal machine came in a hover in front of my lens several times, and therefore I made some very nice pictures of this helicopter. This was unfortunate because the air force helicopters hovered this year in one line in front of the public. Four Apaches, two Chinooks and six Cougars were hovering over the entire length of the runway. The demo of the Gilze-Rijen Historical Flight was cancelled because of the heavy cross wind. The wind was too heavy for these light aircraft and for safety they cancelled their flight.

On Saturday the weather was completely different from what we had on Friday. The weather was unpredictable. We had sunny periods and sometimes some heavy rainfall. I positioned myself at the head of the runway 28 on the opposite site of the taxi track. This is a great place because you can take pictures of all sides of the aircraft. The light was perfect on the Grippens from the Czech Republic and Hungary. Finally I had the opportunity to make some decent photos of the Coast guards Dornier Do-228. Again the light was beautiful and I was therefore able to shoot some excellent shots. During the air power demo, I was able to catch the Apaches in a long row behind each other. This was a beautiful sight when they came in for landing after the air power demo. The absolute highlight of the entire air show flew in the late afternoon. This was the Finnish NH-90. To my opinion this was the most exotic visitor of the show. Fortunately the weather conditions were very good during its demo. I never saw this machine before. The NH-90 came in a hover in front of my lens. I was very happy with this machine of the Finnish Air Force. I decided to go home right after the NH-90 demo. I saw everything I wanted to see. It was a successful day and I was able to catch some great photos. It was worth it to visit the Open House at Gilze-Rijen, which is my home base.

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