Meeting Aérien Cazaux 12 June 2005
In 2005 the Armée de l’Air organized four Meetings Aérien which were held at the airbases from Luxeuil, Tours, Istres and Cazaux. The meeting at Cazaux was visited by Edwin on June 11th and 12th and turned out afterwards to be a very nice event.
Base Aérienne 120 ‘Commandant Marzac’, located southwest of Bordeaux, is an extremely large airbase with very poor spotter facilities. With an exercise area on the northside and a lake on the southside from the runway it’s very difficult to take decent pictures from outside the airbase. The spotters day and open door was a unique opportunity to see much more from all the interesting aircraft which are based here.
After ID checks and collecting our spotters pass about hundred spotters were allowed to enter the airbase in the morning from Saturday June 11th. After a quick visit from the static display area we could photograph some rare aircraft as an Italian Piaggio P166DL3-APH from 71 Gruppo based at Pratica di Mare, a brand-new EC725 with marking from EC 05.330 based at Mont de Marsan, a Mirage 2000B, SA330 and Falcon 20C all from DGA (Direction Générale de l’Armement) from the former CEV (Centre d’essais en vol).
Also two decorated Alpha Jets could been seen one the static. The Alpha Jet E48 8-MH was painted in 2002 when ETO (Ecole de Transition Opérationelle) achieved in 20 years 200.000 flying hours. The second Alpha Jet E110 8-NG was painted to commemorate the existence of 40 years of ETO 2/8 'Nice' (1964-2004). The most beautiful paint on the static was a Tiger painted Mirage 2000C from EC1/12 from Cambrai which participated in May at the 2005 NATO Tiger Meet hosted by 191 Filo based at Balikesir (Turkey).
For the dynamic display we moved to another spot, nearby the flight line and taxiway, were arriving aircraft and participating aircraft from the rehearsals could been photographed when taxiing.
The highlight from the meeting, and also their last public appearance before these fast jets retired the French Air Force at the end of June, was the formation flight and areal display from a Mirage IIIE, Jaguar E and a Mirage IVP. It was coincidence but the same iconic Mirage IV visited the spotters day at Kleine-Brogel a few days earlier.
Cazaux Air Base is also the home to the Republic of Singapore Air Force 150 Squadron Advanced Jet Training detachment. Since 1998, Singapore has trained its fighter pilots in France using the A-4S and TA-4S Skyhawk. All eighteen Skyhawks were ‘packed’ and arrived in France by ship.
Also based in Cazaux are the Belgian Alpha Jets. The first two Alpha Jets AT13 and AT30 left Beauvechain for Cazaux at 28 June 2004 to be part of the French-Belgian Advanced Jet training School. On the static we could see the AT13 with the markings ‘The First of the fleet and proud to fly together’ on the fuselage.
Four aerobatic display teams, the Patrouille de France, Frecce Tricolore, Patrouille Suisse and the Moroccan Marche Verte which was supported by an desert coloured CASA CN235M-100, filled during the day the sky above Cazaux with their national colours. Also some locals presented their aircraft to the general public during a mixed formation flyby with two French Alpha Jets, two Belgian Alpha Jets and two RSAF TA-4S Skyhawks.
No less than three F-16 solo display teams (Belgium, Denmark and The Netherlands) were seen in the air. The Belgian F-16 was piloted by John Vandebosch representing the Belgian Air Force from 2001 till 2003.
Also present at Cazaux were two Belgian Fouga Magisters that got a Red Devils colour scheme as a tribute to the ‘Red devils’, the national aerobatic team which existed from 1963 till 1977. In the last years before their retirement in September 2007 Paul Rorive presented the 'Whistling Turtle' in many countries all over Europe.
Very close before their retirement by the Austrian Air Force at the end from 2005 were two visiting J35Ö Saab Drakens who participated in the dynamic display.
Aerial firefighting was demonstrated by two aircraft from the Sécurité Civile. A Canadair CL-415 ‘superscoop’ and a Conair Turbo Firecat made some impressive water dropping during their display.
Although it was a long trip to the south, my first visit at BA120 was well worth it. A lot rare aircraft you’ll not see often abroad and great photo opportunities offered by the organisation made our day.
Text and photography: Edwin Huskens