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25 Years Gilze-Rijen Aviation Society; Gilze-Rijen, August 25, 2011

The Silver Jubilee of the GRAS; Text and Photograph’s by Alex van Noye

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Gilze-Rijen Aviation Society (GRAS). Together with the Royal Netherlands Air Force, the GRAS organized a spotter’s day to celebrate this fact. This spotter’s day took place on August 25 at Gilze-Rijen. Many planes were invited to make a few touch and goes this day.

In 1986, the Gilze-Rijen Aviation Society was officially founded by a group of people who lived in the area of the base. The spotting society was more a group of friends than a real club. The first club magazine was published in the form of a newsletter from March 1988. It was a success among the people from the area. This resulted in the first number of the magazine Runway 28 from April 1988. The name of this magazine was simple to explain; the main runway at Gilze-Rijen is called Runway 28. This location has become one of the most famous spots in the Netherlands for aviation photography. The magazine was a success and soon the group started to grow into an association. The magazine was unfortunately dropped in the early 90s. However, this would not last long, because from 1994 the work was continued by a new group of enthusiastic people. The magazine Runway 28 was revived. The name Runway 28 would disappear from the cover of the magazine, for the new magazine was called Take-Off. The society also received its name in this period. The club would now go through life as the Gilze-Rijen Aviation Society (GRAS). Take-Off is until today the magazine of the GRAS. The GRAS is now a big club with over 350 members from the Netherlands and abroad. Take-Off is now a modern magazine with appropriate color pages inside. The GRAS is different to many other aviation clubs in the Netherlands. This is caused by the many base visits which are organized by this society. The visits take place in many European countries. Besides the spotting of aircraft, the GRAS became also a social club to meet people with the same interests. The association organizes member’s nights on a regular basis. People can view each others pictures and exchange stories.

The GRAS has reached its 25th birthday since its official founding in 1986. This is a long period and the board of the association wants to celebrate this event with its members. The GRAS is an association from members to members, and the 25th

anniversary cannot pass without a notice of it. The Defense Helicopter Command (DHC) from Gilze-Rijen Air Base plays an important role in the existence of the GRAS. The relationship between these parties was never as good as it is nowadays. Therefore, the Royal Netherlands Air Force offered a spotter’s day at the air base for the GRAS members to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the GRAS. This spotter’s day was on the program on Thursday, August 25, 2011. I was one of the lucky people who could attend this day. We had to report ourselves at noon at the base gate near Molenschot. The GRAS had set up an exciting program in cooperation with the Air Force. Many Dutch and foreign aircraft would visit Gilze-Rijen during this afternoon. The goal of the visit was to experience an old fashioned day at the air base. Nothing about the expected movements was announced. Many spotters nowadays know what the expectations are on an average flying day. Usually this information is available by e-mail or on the Internet. This time, the board of the GRAS did not tell us anything and therefore we were forced to check the sky continuously; the old fashioned sense of spotting came with this action alive again. After this introduction, we went by bus to the main runway. We were positioned at approximately 33% of the runway length.

When we arrived at the hill, there was an Apache in the circuit. This was an appetizer of what would happen this afternoon. After a few minutes, the first foreign visitors appeared at the horizon. 2 French Mirage 2000s from Luxeuil entered the circuit. Both Mirages made a low approach twice. It was easy to make a few decent photos of the Mirages. A Cougar entered the runway immediately after the departure of the Mirages. The helicopter flew along us. The second nice visitor during the afternoon was an AAC Lynx from Gütersloh in Germany. The helicopter came into a hover in front of the woods. 2 Belgian Augusta 109 helicopters of the Belgian Air Force entered the circuit after the landing of the Lynx. One of the 2 helicopters was equipped as an air ambulance. Both helicopters flew low over the runway along us. The AB-412SP from Leeuwarden Air Base had started its engines in the meanwhile. It flew back to Leeuwarden after a low approach over the runway. 2 Apaches which returned from their local mission passed us in formation. In the early afternoon 3 German Bölkows from Celle landed for a fuel stop.

My most beautiful photo of the day was made right after the departure of the German Bölkows. I did not know that it was that easy to make a spectacular shot of the KDC-10 from Eindhoven. A British Tucano taxied to the head of the main runway in the meanwhile. This small black aircraft was already airborne before it passed us. This brought me some nice shots of the Tucano in front of the trees. An Allouette III turned back to Gilze-Rijen after the departure of the Tucano. The pilot of the helicopter decided to perform some spectacular maneuvers in front of us. The Allouette had barely landed when a Belgian Marchetti appeared in the landing. This little gray aircraft made a total of 2 approaches before it went back to Belgium. The next 2 visitors were also from Belgium. This time it were 2 F-16s from Kleine-Brogel. One of the aircraft was the Tiger F-16. The pilots of these aircraft made 2 spectacular low approaches over the runway. Also a Hercules from Eindhoven made some touch and goes. It was the last Hercules from Eindhoven which I still missed in my photo collection. This aircraft made a low approach with its gear up. This gave me some spectacular photo moments of this big aircraft. A Chinook of the no 298 Squadron entered the circuit in the meanwhile. The last 2 visitors today were 2 Dutch F-16s from Volkel. These aircraft made a formation landing and each of them made one touch and go. The visit to Gilze-Rijen was a very successful afternoon. The GRAS and the Royal Netherlands Air Force gave us an unforgettable afternoon. It was a fantastic spotter’s day.

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