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Flugtag Niederstetten; Niederstetten, September 17, 2011

Transporthubschrauberregiment 30; Text and Photograph’s by Alex van Noye

On Saturday, September 17, 2011, I attended the Flugtag of Niederstetten. It was the first time that I made a visit to this base in the south of Germany. There were demonstrations given by the German Army helicopters during this day. The Airpower Demo was one of the best I had ever seen.

The German Air Base of Niederstetten is located 4 km east of the city Niederstetten in northern Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany. The construction of the air base was completed in 1936 by the Luftwaffe. It was not a permanently occupied airport, because there were no buildings and other facilities installed. During the Second World War, the base was used by several units of the German Luftwaffe. There were units based at Niederstetten which were operating night- fighters. The airport was abandoned at the end of the Second World War. The first repairs were achieved at the beginning of 1957. The air base was prepared to house a new unit of the newly formed German Army Aviation Division (HEER). The construction work was completed in 1962. In addition to the flying unit, also a battalion of the German Army was established. Niederstetten is now one of the biggest Huey bases in Germany. From 1967 to 1981, 352 UH-1D Huey helicopters were delivered to the German armed forces. The helicopters are all manufactured under license by Dornier in Germany. Both the Luftwaffe and the HEER has a large number of Huey’s in service. The helicopters in the Army are primarily used for transportation tasks and the Air Force helicopters are primarily used for SAR duties.

Niederstetten is currently home of Transporthubschraubergeschwader-30 (THR-30) (Transport Helicopter Squadron 30). This unit is part of the German Army HEER. THR-30 was moved to Niederstetten at the beginning of 1980. The unit is part of the German Airborne Division. The headquarters of the Division is in the city Veitshöchheim. There are currently over 750 people working at Niederstetten. The number of people will increase to 1,350 at Niederstetten in 2011, due to the restructuring of the HEER. Currently, THR-30 flies with the Bell UH-1D Huey. At this moment, THR-30 has 46 Huey’s in use. THR-30 has, besides the Huey, also two Bo-105P1 Bölkow helicopters in service for training purposes. The Huey’s will be repla-

ced by the NH90 TTH in the near future. In total, 32 NH90 will be based at Nieder- stetten. The base is currently being prepared for the arrival of this new helicopter. The German Army launched a massive construction project in 2007 to build the new shelters for the NH90. The first hangar was completed in February 2008 and offers space for 8 NH90 helicopters. Currently, several of these hangars are being built at Niederstetten. Besides the military activities, Niederstetten is also used for civilian purposes, especially business aviation and recreational purposes.

It was the first time I visited Niederstetten. It does not happen often that you are able to visit a German Army field for photography. I was lucky with the weather today, because the sky was clear blue. The Flugtag at Niederstetten was divided into 2 blocks. In the morning you could shoot all the static aircraft and in the afternoon there was a demonstration flight on the program. When I started my tour at Niederstetten, I found some Huey’s in several hangars. I was able to catch a few of them on photo inside the hangars. In one of the hangars, I found a Huey of WTD-61. This helicopter was painted completely black. I was very happy with this helicopter, because this test helicopter is not often seen. Also across the runway we could take a look. This part was later in the afternoon not accessible, because this was the flying area. A total of 5 Bölkows and 13 Huey’s were parked in the grass. Most of these helicopters would fly in the afternoon. This promised to be a spectacle. I was able to catch every helicopter on photo at this side of the base. It was time to go back to the other side when I arrived at the end of the line of helicopters. The area of the flying display was now slowly cleared by the security. I had found a nice spot for the display in the afternoon. We still had to wait for 1.5 hours before the display started.

The flight program of the afternoon began with a mass start of all helicopters. The following helicopters took off in a time frame of 30 minutes; 11x Huey, 5x Bölkow, 2x CH-53, 1x Tigre, 1x NH-90, 1x EC-135, 1x UH-60, 1x AS-532 Cougar and 1x AB 212. The take-off of the Austrian Blackhawk was quite spectacular. The German Bölkows from Roth appeared well in front of the lens during their departure. The first part of the demo consisted of the presentation of the various helicopter types of the German Army. Each helicopter type showed its capabilities. Unfortunately, the weather was a bit cloudy at the moment of these demos. This made it difficult to shoot many well-exposed shots. The clouds disappeared just before the start of the big Airpower Demo. The first helicopters which appeared were armed Bölkows from Roth. The helicopters cleared the landing zone which was located in front of us. A few Huey’s made a landing at this spot right after this action. Some soldiers stormed out of the helicopters to secure the area around the landing zone. The area was safe now and 2 CH-53 helicopters with a sling load showed up. The cargo was received by the soldiers on the ground. You realize how big this helicopter is when it is hovering in front of your lens. A medical evacuation was demonstrated after the occupation of the area. A few Huey’s which were converted into a flying ambulance entered the area. The loadmasters of these Huey’s hoisted the wounded soldiers up into the helicopter. The medical evacuation lasted about 15 minutes. The soldiers were all picked up at the end of the demonstration. All the large helicopters appeared over the runway. The German CH-53's, the Swiss Cougar and the Austrian Blackhawk carried a Bambi Bucket underneath the helicopter. The crews showed how a forest fire was contested with a helicopter. All helicopters flew along the audience again at the end of the demonstrations. The Flugtag at Niederstetten was ended after the landing of the helicopters. I must say this was one of the best Airpower Demos I have ever seen.

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