Aviation Days - Florennes-Cerfontaine - June 23rd & 24th 2018
In our series of smaller Belgian aviation events we take a look at the Aviation Days that were held at Florennes and Cerfontaine in June of 2018. Although it was intended as a 'local' event, many spotters from the rest of the country made the trip to the south of Belgium in an attempt to score some nice aircraft.
In the morning the 'place to be' was Florennes airbase, home of the 2nd Tactical Wing of the Belgian Air Force. On site a number of static displays were present putting the local units in the picture. First was off course a General Dynamics F16AM Fighting Falcon surrounded with the various pieces of armament it can use during its missions. It was good to see what types of 'smart' bombs were deployed during the recent deployments of our F16s, and surely the era of dumb bombs are long gone.
Next to the F16 display the 80th UAV Squadron showed one of its B-Hunter Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.
Another 'unit' that uses Florennes for its flying activities are the Belgian Air Cadets. This youth organization is greatly supported by the Belgian Air Force and annual organizes a number of flying camps where young people are taught to fly glider aircraft. Many of these later pursue a military flying career, so when your ambition is to join the air force, join the Air Cadets first!
For the towing of the gliders the Air Cadets also have a small number of Piper L21B Super Cubs, and one of these could be found on the flightline.
Another interesting display at the Aviation Days came from Sonaca. This Belgian company is developing a new light aircraft in the shape of the Sonaca 200.
One of the prototypes was available for inspection. In the not so far future a new production line for this aircraft will be set up at the airfield of Temploux, near Namur. On the Sonaca stand a second interesting aircraft could be found, the ES15 Ecarys. Based on the Stemme S1 motor-glider, the ES15 is a prototype for an aerial observation platform and this for military and civilian applications.
This is truly a Belgian project as the sensors build in the aircraft are developed by VITO in Mol. The first deliveries of Ecarys production aircraft are planned for 2023.
The flying program of the Aviation Days at Florennes was composed completely of Belgian military displays. Star attraction was off course the 'Belgian Air Force F16 Solo Display' flown by Cdt.av. Stefan 'Vador' Darte, who is a member of 2nd Wings No 1 'Stinger' Squadron.
From 2018 onwards 'Vador' will display the Belgian Air Force F16AM at various air shows in Europe, and the Aviation Days was the first opportunity to see him in action in Belgium.
Second display of the day were the Belgian 'Red Devils' who again gave a very nice show in their Siai-Marchetti SF260M training aircraft....
Missing from the program was the Agusta A109 Display as they were already in action somewhere abroad, but this didn't mean no A109 was in the air. A109 H24, still wearing the 'old' display colors was on hand and dropped a number of parachutists from the Belgian Paracommandos trailing the flags of Belgium, Belgian Defense and their unit the Training Center Para at Schaffen near Diest.
In the mean time the flight line was filled with a number of visiting aircraft, ultralights etc. I don't want to discuss all of them in detail, but three aircraft really stood out for me. The first was a UK-registered Lake LA4-200 Buccaneer 4-seater amphibious aircraft. Based upon the Colonial C2 Skimmer, the Buccaneer made its first flight in 1950s and is quite a rare sight in Europe, and certainly in Belgium. The other two were brand-new Bücker TP131PA Jungmanns. The original aircraft was designed in the early 1930s, making its first flight in 1934. Over the decades the aircraft was build in Germany, Spain, Japan and Czechoslovakia. In 2018, so almost 100 years after its first flight, the aircraft is still under production by Air Res Aviation in Poland, and two of these aircraft were present in Florennes.
At 2pm, short after the flying display, the Aviation Days ended at Florennes and the crowds were asked to leave the base. All activities were to be continued at the airfield of Cerfontaine, that is situated about 25 kilometers from Florennes.
Here the same displays could be seen a second time, Vador in his F16, the Red Devils and the A109 with the para's. Overall it was a nice event, but honestly I had expected a little bit more activity on the ground. For example it was a big shame, and in my opinion a missed opportunity, that a specially painted Belgian Air Force Alpha Jet (it only left the Florennes 'paint shop' a few days earlier) was not shown to the public, but apparently the 'powers who decide' had a different opinion about this....
Text & Photography : Laurent Heyligen