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Spotter Day Gilze-Rijen Air Base; Gilze-Rijen, August 29, 2012

Gilze-Rijen Aviation Society; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

The nowadays annual spotter day at Gilze-Rijen took place on Wednesday, August 29, 2012. This spotter day is organized by the Gilze-Rijen Aviation Society in collaboration with the Royal Netherlands Air Force. Several aircraft from the Netherlands and abroad will visit the airbase during this day to make several touch and go’s.

The spotter day which is arranged annual by the GRAS is always known as a very good spotter event. During this day, various airplanes are invited to make a landing or touch and go at Gilze-Rijen Air Base. The spotters are able to capture these planes from a close distance. The planes are just busy with their regular exercises in the airspace above the Netherlands. Some aircraft and helicopters make a navigation trip and they visit Gilze-Rijen Air Base on their route. Only a limited group of people can enter the base during the spotter day because of the limited space at this location at the airbase. I was one of the fortunate people who could be there during the spotter day of the GRAS. There were also many people outside the airbase along the fence. The preparations of the spotter day were started on Tuesday when some of the participants arrived at Gilze-Rijen. At the beginning of Tuesday, August 28, I arrived at the spotter area at Gilze-Rijen. The weather was not too good, because it was very cloudy. The clouds disappeared at 2.30 pm and the weather started to change. This was convenient because the spotter day arrivals were planned at 4 pm. The complete cloud base had disappeared within 30 minutes. I was very lucky with the weather during the arrivals of the first participants. At 4 pm suddenly 2 British Tucano's entered the landing circuit of Gilze-Rijen. Both aircraft made a touch and go before they made a full stop. A French Gazelle followed soon after the landing of the Tucano’s.

Also a French Epsilon had arrived later in the afternoon; I was already home at that moment. The next day, on Wednesday, August 29, the spotter day took place at Gilze-Rijen. I had to report myself to the gate at the west side of the base near Molenschot. A total of 100 spotters were welcome at the airbase. After we checked in, we were driven by the bus to the south side of the main runway. We were located on the hill on the south side of the runway on the opposite side of the no 300 Squadron platform. This hill is located at 2/3 of the length of the runway 28. The aircraft flew during the spotter

day from the runway 28; therefore the aircraft appeared from our right side. There was not much time to search a suitable spot, because the first visitor was already in the circuit of the airbase. An American C-130J-30 Hercules of the 86 AW from Ramstein Air Base made a few landings. This Hercules would fly some circuits along the spotters. These kind of practice circuits are a normal sight at Ramstein Air Base. A Dutch Apache had left in the meanwhile from the no 301 Squadron platform. This helicopter flew along us at a very low altitude. The Hercules made a full stop after it flew several circuits. The aircraft taxied after its landing to the other side of the runway back to the head of the runway 28; the aircraft took off again after this back track. A Chinook of the no 298 squadron departed while the Hercules taxied to the head of the runway. The Hercules disappeared back to Germany after its take-off.

A Belgian A-109 appeared in front of the spotter hill after the departure of the Chinook. This helicopter went into a hover in front of us and the pilot showed all the sides of the helicopter to us. The doors at the sides of this helicopter were occupied by door gunners. This brought me some spectacular photos. The Augusta remained in a hover in front of the hill for about 5 minutes. An Apache appeared on the horizon after the departure of the Belgian Augusta; the helicopter returned from its flight. The Apache went into a hover in front of the tree line with its nose towards us. The DC-10 of the no 334 Squadron from Eindhoven Air Base made two touch and go's. The aircraft came both times loose from the ground exactly at the point where we stood. This brought me some nice action photos of this big aircraft. The absolute highlight of the day appeared on the horizon after the departure of the DC-10. No less than 4 A-10 Thunderbolts of the USAFE from Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany flew over in a tight formation. The aircraft went all one by one into the break for a series of low approaches. The Thunderbolts made all a low approach at the 28. All the aircraft flew at very low level over the runway with the gear in retracted position. This brought me a few photos which I never made before. The American A-10 at Spangdahlem will be withdrawn from Europe at the end of the year. The last A-10 banked away to the left after its low approach; this brought me an excellent action shot of this aircraft. The last A-10 brought me the best picture of the day of this aircraft.

After the departure of the A-10 Thunderbolts, the French Epsilon was waiting at the head of the runway. The aircraft made a very nice long pass along us during its take-off. The 2 British Tucano's left at the same moment. An E-3 AWACS of the NATO from Geilenkirchen entered the circuit after the fly-by of a Dutch Allouette III of the no 300 Squadron. The E-3 made 2 touch and go’s before the plane disappeared. It was busy at the moment with a lot of fighters in the circuit. The first aircraft which made an overshoot was a German Tornado from Lechfeld. The aircraft in question was painted in tiger colors; this Tornado is the demo aircraft of the unit. The Tornado flew also along us at high speed with its wings folded backwards. Also 2 German EF2000 Eurofighters entered the circuit shortly after the German Tornado. Both aircraft were from the German airbase Nörvenich. Two Dutch F-16s flew some circuits as well. These aircraft were from the no 313 Squadron from Volkel Air Base. Finally, 4 Bo-105 Bölkow helicopters from the German airbase Celle came in at Gilze-Rijen. These helicopters flew along us at a big distance; photography was a challenge. The French Gazelle left at the end of the spotter day. The helicopter flew at a very low height and very fast along the tree line on the opposite side of the runway. This provided me some excellent action photos of this helicopter. The spotter day was over after the departure of the Gazelle. We went back to the parking lot by bus and we left the airbase after a nice afternoon.

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