Farewell Little Blue Lark !


On July 8th, 2021, the Belgian Air Force said farewell to the Alouette III during a small event at Koksijde airbase.  After this the final two helicopters made their final flight to their new homes.

Three Sud Aviation SA316B Alouette IIIs were delivered in the first quarter of 1971 to the Heliflight of the Belgian Navy that was based at Koksijde.  The helicopters were initially used for logistical and tactical support missions while flying from the Belgian Navy’s two support and supply ships, the A960 Godedia and the A961 Zinnia .  In later years the Alouettes also deployed onboard the two Belgian multifunctional frigates, the F930 Leopold I and F931 Louise-Marie and various Dutch frigates.  Over the years the portfolio of tasks performed by the Alouette III also included anti-piracy missions in the Golf of Aden and the Arabian Ocean near the coast of the Horn of Africa, counter drugs operations in the Caribbean, SAR missions, medical evacuations and anti-pollution missions over the North Sea.


In early 2021 the Alouette III deployed for the last time on board the ‘Leopold I’ which acted as an escort ship for the French Navy carrier ‘Charles de Gaulle’ and the Alouette III performed the role of ‘Pedro’ rescue helicopter when the Dassault Rafales and Grumman E2D Hawkeyes launched or recovered to the carrier.  The final deployment on board a Belgian ship ended on June 25th, when the Godetia returned from its last mission in the port of Zeebrugge.  This also meant that the career of the Alouette III was over as already in 2007 the Zinnia was withdrawn from service.  In addition the NH90NFH had become operational for operations from the frigates.

On July 8th the last two Alouette III, M-1 and M-2, left Koksijde for respectively the depot of the Royal Army Museum in Landen and the 1st Wing Historical Centre at Beauvechain.  M-1 will remain in storage until space can be found in the Brussels Air Museum.  M-2 will be put on display at Beauvechain as soon as possible.

In 2021 the Alouette III also celebrated its 50th Anniversary in the Belgian Armed Force and for this occasion the helicopters received a special marking on the nose.  Interesting for the modelers is that for the markings two different fonts were used !

The last flight of Alouette III meant also the last helicopter flight for the last two pilots of the Heliflight.  M-1 was flown by Lieutenant-Commander Luc Vantieghem, who spend his whole flying career flying the Alouette III in the Navy Flight, M-2 was piloted by Commander ‘Rocky’ Rocquet a former Belgian Army Alouette II pilot.  As both of them were reaching retirement as well, they will not be converting to the NH90NFH, but will remain in the Navy or Air Force performing ground duties.  With the departure of the Alouette III also the Heliflight will cease to exist as its role is now completely taken over by 40 Squadron who operates the NH90.  So also for this small team it was quite a sad day !

Around 10.30am it was time to start the engines for the very last time, taxi out to the runway and take off for the final flight, but not before saying goodbye to Koksijde in formation with a NH90NFH.

So on July 8th we said goodbye to M-1 and M-2, but what actually happened to the third one… M-3.  M-3 was already withdrawn from service after a last three-ship formation flight on August 11th, 2020.  For a number of months M-3 was kept in storage at Koksijde, but on June 17th, 2021 it was transported by road to the Royal School of NCO’s at Campus Saffraanberg where it will be used as an instructional airframe for future helicopter technicians.   Thanks to Matthias Arron we are able to show you these exclusive pictures of its arrival and unloading at Saffraanberg.

The withdrawal of the Alouette III is one of several types that left the Belgian Air Force over the last few years, remember the Embraer ERJ143/145, Westland Sea King, B-Hunter, Falcon 20 and Falcon 900 and the Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet.  This trend will continue over the upcoming months and years, when the Lockheed C130H Hercules, Siai SF260 Marchetti and General Dynamics F16 Fighting Falcon will be withdrawn from service.


M-1 c/n 1812
Arrival in Koksijde : March 18th, 1971
Call-sign : OT-ZPA / Bluebird51 / BAF711
Last flight : July 8th, 2021
Total flying hours : 10585:10hrs (July 2nd, 2021)
Current location : Depot Royal Army Museum, Landen


M-2 c/n 1816
Arrival in Koksijde : March 18th, 1971
Call-sign : OT-ZPB / Bluebird52 / BAF712
Last flight : July 8th, 2021
Total flying hours : 10471:09hrs (July 2nd, 2021)
Current location : 1st Wing Historical Centre, Beauvechain


M-3 c/n 1817
Arrival in Koksijde : April 29th, 1971
Call-sign : OT-ZPC / Bluebird53 / BAF713
Last flight : August 11th, 2020
Total flying hours : 10712:44hrs (July 2nd, 2021)
Current location : Royal School of NCO’s at Campus Saffraanberg, Sint-Truiden


Text : Laurent Heyligen

Photography: Belgian Defence, Matthias Arron and Laurent Heyligen