Kleine Brogel Air Base opened its doors on Saturday 14th September while the final day of rehearsals took place for the Sanicole Airshow. Spottersday was a chance to see many of the airshow participants and some visiting aircraft at close quarters in relaxed surroundings. The Belgian Air Force display teams also added some action to the day displaying over the Air Base.
Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography by the author.
Kleine Brogel (KB) Air Base, home to two squadrons of F-16s plus the OCU, is a favourite venue for aviation photography enthusiasts. The public areas face north with the sunlight behind and also has an uncluttered backdrop. As with the Air Force Days military airshow that periodically is held at KB, the airshow participants are parked within a maintenance area and on the relief runway which is perfect for ground shots of parked and taxying aircraft. With such a large cast of display acts, even on the Saturday rehearsals at Sanicole the flying lasted all day meaning there is plenty of action at KB. As well as a handful of trade stalls, there was plenty of catering available too at a couple of points within the showground; all very civilised! As with many of the other Belgian Air Force events though, there was a fair amount of walking involved from the car parks through the airbase to the public areas. It is however the most relaxed event once you and are in and there’s no finer way to spend a day watching aircraft come and go with a nice cool Belgian beer at hand!
With no fixed wing aircraft operating from Sanicole this year during the show, the parking areas at KB were very busy with all the civilian items lined up with their military counterparts. There were also a handful of aircraft that were brought in specifically for the Spottersday including including a German Air Force Panavia Tornado IDS and a Eurofighter EF2000 plus some of the Belgian F-16s wearing special markings.
Helpfully, the Spottersday organisers published a provisional schedule of movements on their website and thanks to the good weather Belgium experienced it largely went to plan. Amongst the aircraft operating from KB during Spottersday day were the Austrian Air Force’s Pilatus PC-7, the Victors Formation Team,FAST Aero’s Hawker Hurricane IV,French Air Force Dassault Alpha Jet E, Hellenic Air Force Lockheed Martin F-16C Fighting Falcon, the Royal Jordanian Falcons, Breitling Jet Team, the Croatian Air Force’s Krila Oluje display team with six Pilatus PC-9Ms plus Stijn de Jaeghere with his Extra 330SC. The Royal Netherlands Air Force Historic Flight’s Supermarine Spitfire IXalso performed a fly-by between its home base at Glize-Rijen and its rehearsal at Sanicole. A highlight for many was the departure of the Croatian Air Force’s Mil Mi-171 Hip helicopter which was supporting the Krila Oluje to take up position in the Sanicole static display.
Also launching a rehearsal from KB was the Belgian Air Force’s special D-Day 75thAnniversary formation which saw the two Lockheed Martin F-16AM Fighting Falconsfrom 349 and 350 Squadron which both wear D-Day stripes and special tails launch to join a 20 Squadron Lockheed Martin C-130H Hercules. 20 Squadron itself has painted one of their C-130Hs with D-Day strips and this was on static display during the Spottersday with a regular example flying with the F-16s.
Due to aircraft unserviceability during the main International Sanicole Airshow, Spottersday also turned out to be the only place to see the full Norwegian contingent fly with one of their very smart Dassault Falcon 20ECMs leading a pair of Lockheed Martin F-16AMand F-16BM Fighting Falcons. The latter F-16 being the example wearing a special D-Day 75thAnniversary colour scheme representing the free Norwegian squadrons within the RAF in 1944. Only the Falcon flew at Sanicole.
Though the event was not strictly an airshow, there were some flying displays. The three main Belgian Air Force display teams, the Red Devils, the Agusta A109BAi and the Lockheed Martin F-16AM Fighting Falcon, all performed for the visitors. There were also some surprise displays by a couple of the visitors. The Swedish Air Force Historic Flight’s SAAB Sk37E Viggen gave a short series of half Cubans and passes on return from a VIP flight. Much later in the day the Ukrainian Air Force Sukhoi Su-27P1M Flanker also gave a shorten display over KB in the late afternoon sun. The day should have concluded with the ThunderTigers from 31 Squadron which normally fly a fourship of F-16AM/BM Fighting Falcons. However, one of their aircraft was forced to return with hydraulic issues and a further aircraft landed following their Sanicole rehearsal leaving just two aircraft to perform a series of flypasts as the gates closed.