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The Belgian Air Force Helidays 2017; Beauvechain, April 11, 2017

The 1 Wing is Organizing the Helidays; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

For the first time since years, the Belgian Air Force organized the Helidays again. Where in the past these days took place on Bierset, the event took this time place on Beauvechain. There were also be a several foreign participants in Beauvechain during this small airshow which was organized by the 1 Wing.

On Tuesday, April 11th, a Spotters Day would take place at Beauvechain during the arrival of the helicopters for the Helidays. In total, more than 500 tickets were available for photographers. Those who had a ticket could enter Beauvechain Air base from noon. The site where the Helidays were presented was on the southwestern part of the airbase. The larger types of helicopters which would participate would be parked on a platform for a static show. A number of smaller helicopters would be parked in the grass. At the beginning of the day upon entering of the base, visitors received a schedule containing the parking locations and the arrival times of the helicopters. Also, the time schedule of the various demonstrations which would be practiced was available on this form. Soon upon arrival, the grand star of the airshow departed in the form of an American Army Apache from the German airbase Illesheim. The first helicopter which came in was a French AS555 Fennec. This helicopter is based on the French airbase of Orange. Soon it became known to the photographers to keep an eye on the cross-service personnel. Every time when a helicopter came in, these people, recognizable to their orange vests, were ready to guide the helicopter to its parking spot. The Fennic which came in was first flown to another location on the airfield where the helicopter was refueled. After a period of about ten minutes, the Fennic flew low over the grass to its parking spot.

Shortly after the landing of the Fennic, the American Apache, a Belgian A109 and a NH90 appeared in the demonstration area. These helicopters gave a small COMOA demonstration which was guided by two F-16s from Florennes Air Base. During this demo, the Apache was deployed to sweep enemy troops. Both the A109 and the NH90 were used to fly troops into the landing zone. The soldiers left the NH90 through the so-called fast-paced technique. Soldiers would slide down from the helicopter using the ropes. All the helicopters were flown along the public in formation after a

demonstration of about fifteen minutes. The next arrival which took place was that of a German EC135 of the German Army. This helicopter also hovered slowly over the grass field towards its parking spot. Shortly after the EC135, also a Belgian MD900 from the Federal Police in Brussels arrived. This white helicopter also hovered low over the grass like the German EC135. After the landing of these helicopters, the photographers had to move to the big platform in the middle of the terrain. The next arrival was that of a German navy EC135. This black helicopter flew slowly over the newly mowed grass towards the main platform. The loadmaster which was hanging out of the helicopter was almost invisible due to the grass which was blown away by the helicopter. The helicopter hovered very beautifully in front of the tree line before it landed. The German EC135 was soon followed by the German Sea-King which following the same route towards the platform.

After the landing of the Sea-King, it was rushing to the platform in the rear of the terrain, because at the same time the American Apache landed after a short local flight. Meanwhile, on the other platform next to the Sea-King, the Dutch Apache came in. Therefore it was suddenly a very busy moment with many movements of helicopters. After the landing of the Dutch Apache, the Austrian Allouette III would fly a SAR demo in the demonstration area. This helicopter also came in beautifully in front of the trees when the helicopter returned to its parking spot after the demonstration. The following helicopters which arrived were the Allouette III and the NH90 Caiman from Koksijde. The Allouette III hovered like the other helicopters across the grass field to its parking spot. The NH90 did not, because this helicopter was towed to its parking spot. The last helicopter which came in was the Czech Mi-24 "Hind". This helicopter was painted in the "Alien" theme of the famous movie. The Hind flew very low over the grass field to the platform, causing a lot of grass which was blown away. After the landing of the Hind, all the participants of the Helidays had arrived and evening program of the Spotters Day could start. During the sunset, the photographers which were present at Beauvechain were able to walk along all the parked helicopters.

At the end of the Spotters Day during the Helidays, a setup made was especially for the photographers with two helicopters. This arrangement consisted of a Belgian Augusta A109 and a Belgian NH90 Caiman. Both helicopters were placed side by side on a small platform. The photographers were given the opportunity to photograph the helicopters during the sunset and during the dark hours. Therefore all photographers had taken their tripod to make the best possible pictures of the helicopters. To make the photos even more beautiful, the lights of both helicopters were turned on. There were also a number of small floodlights aimed on both helicopters. These lights produced soft light on the helicopters, which made the helicopters well and proportionally illuminated. Both helicopters had switched on the green and red navigation lights. Unfortunately, the engine of both helicopters stayed off, making the setup limited to a static show. In addition to taking photos of the helicopters, people also got the opportunity to shoot in the cockpit with the instrument lighting turned on. The only downside of that possibility was the fact that people always walked in and out of the helicopters. This is very unwanted, because the photographers who photographed the helicopters were affected. In the dark, shutter speeds last for up to 30 seconds. Photography with these kinds of shutter speeds is difficult and requires a lot of skills from the photographers. There are several factors which need to be taken into consideration when making these types of photos. At 9 pm the lights on the helicopters were shut down and the Spotters Day was ended.

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