For enthusiasts, the Spottersday at Kleine Brogel Air Base is an integral part of the Sanicole Airshow weekend. With the Sanicole Airshow running over three days and the based 31 Squadron hosting the ‘XT-Roar-Dinary 60th Anniversary Tiger Meet’ the event was expanded running on the normal Saturday and also the following Monday.
Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography by the author.
Normally, the Saturday Spottersday at Kleine Brogel is a relaxed day between the two main show days of the Sanicole Airshow. However, with the added interest of the ‘XT-Roar-Dinary‘ 60th Anniversary Tiger Meet (XTM) and the additional show day at Sanicole, there was a very different feel to this year’s event.
Firstly, Spottersday ticket holders also had the chance to visit the base on the following Monday to view the show and Tiger Meet departures. Secondly the format of the event was also slightly different. Understandably, the always crowded square viewing area between the main and relief runways was removed for social distancing reasons which meant everyone watched from the more traditional crowdline along the releif runway. Secondly, with the airshow at Sanicole in full swing, there were no Belgian Air Force displays during the Spottersday on the Saturday though some of the touring items for the airshow did perform flypasts while holding for the show.
Combined with some rather grey and at times wet weather, the strict adherence to Sanicole’s flying schedule did mean that Saturday Spottersday felt rather flat compared to previous years with little flex for flypasts or other flying activity during the day. It was also frustrating that on the Saturday many of the Tiger Meet participants were kept on the northside of the airbase and didn’t join the static display on the relief runway.
Monday was far, far better. While it was nowhere near the intensity of departures day at the Royal International Air Tattoo, the morning and early afternoon had a good pace of action not only with airshow departures, but some training missions mounted by the Belgian, Italian, Czech and Hungarian participants with multiple examples of the F-16AM Fighting Falcon, Eurofighter F-2000 Typhoon and JAS-39C Gripen flying. This in spite of the main XTM training exercise being cancelled! Monday also offered the chance to see all of the special tiger schemes in some sunshine as the aircraft took to the air.
Monday also saw some very dramatic departures, not least the pair of Luftwaffe Eurofighter EF2000 Typhoons from Jagdgeschwader 74 based at Neuberg. The squadron had brought a very colourful special scheme Typhoon and was keen to show it off with a low tight turn after take-off much to the delight of the spotters at the far eastern end of the crowdline!
While the Saturday had its frustrations, the very fact the Belgian Air Force allowed access for hundreds of spectators to Kleine Brogel during the challenges of the pandemic was very welcome. It is something few other nations have achieved for over two years now. It should also be congratulated for both days being well organised and offering plenty of opportunity for the public to watch the home based and visiting aircraft up close.