Log in

No account? Create an account

Big Belgian Birthday Weekend: Sunday

The highlight of my weekend was, of course, the air show on Sunday, my birthday itself. The weather was glorious; the forecast had been saying 'overcast with sunny intervals' all week, whereas in fact it was almost cloudless and I got burned.

Howard disagreed with my pressing need to get up at 7 and depart at 8 for an air show that commenced at 10 and was half an hour's ride away, but I insisted upon it. After all, one must park, get on the airfield, buy a programme, check out the merch, grab a coffee and find a suitable vantage point. Which we did.

There were two slightly bizarre and annoying aspects which differed from all other air shows I've ever been to. Not only did you have to buy tickets called bonnen to purchase food and drink, rather than just handing over cash, but if you wished to use the facilities at any point during the day you needed to pay €1.50 for all-day access to the Portaloo areas. This gained you a wristband with the legend "Pipiworld the place to be!" (shurely 'the place to go'?).

We got an English commentator as well as a Flemish one, which meant a lot more information came our way than we would have gleaned from the programme alone. Some large and beautiful radio-controlled models were whizzing about when we arrived, but the full-size air show started with one of my favourite aircraft, the Antonov AN-2 (world's biggest single-engined biplane, as I believe I may have mentioned once or twice before).

Of the display teams, I enjoyed seeing the Belgian 'Red Devils', because I hadn't seen them before; the Trig Team in their Pitts Specials, because biplanes; and the Aerostars in their Yaks, because I've often enjoyed a coffee or lunch at their home base of Compton Abbas, so they felt like my team.

The Red Devils, Belgian display team

Belgian airline Jetairfly showed off their 737, which was most interesting when it briefly flew in formation with a Mustang:

737 and Mustang

The organisers were obviously very proud to have persuaded a B-52 to do a flypast, and with good reason. Incongruously nicknamed the 'Buffy', this enormous bomber is surely one of the world's scariest-looking planes: a sinister airliner that disgorges death instead of passengers.

An abundance of F-16s: the Dutch solo display in its orange colour scheme, so beloved of my father when it displayed at Fairford, a formation of four Belgian Air Force examples, and finally a solo Belgian to close the show.

Conveniently, the Swedish Air Force Historic Flight had brought the very two aircraft I didn't see at the Gothenburg air show in 2010. The first of these was the Saab Tunnan, or 'barrel', a rotund example of an early swept-wing jet which the commentator described as 'cuddly'.

It was the more modern Viggen, though, that was pretty much the whole point of the expedition for me. Since arbitrarily picking one as my vehicle in the thunderbolt_b RPG, I've become completely obsessed with this unusually-configured fighter. It displayed towards the end of the programme, single engine rumbling throatily, showing off its unique silhouette and looking like a Corgi toy or a silver Christmas tree in the sky. I was especially delighted to learn that this particular example was manufactured in the year I was born. Birthday Viggen!

Tags: ,


Ahhh, the BUFF (Big ugly fat...fu..er...fellow. HAHAHA) Nothing better than the roar of her engines as she goes overhead. I miss 'em. Miss hearing and seeing them fly overhead. My grandparent's place was at the end of the SAC airfield (give or take a half-mile or so) so it was always them overhead when I was about Wally's age.
Ah, you too are familiar with the unofficial designation for the B-52! I learned of it's somewhat profane moniker when I first visited the USA and saw one up close - anyone who thinks Americans can be prudish never met our guide!
Yep, sure am. XD And that's how I remember most of the officers calling it when I was around (I was 3-4 at the time). My grandfather worked on base so I got to see it a lot more than most civilian kids.
Brought up among the Buffies - ace!
I still find it somewhat ironic that the B-52, as effective a bomber it is, never once fulfilled the role it was originally designed and build to do; raining nukes on people America didn't like (so that's pretty much anyone, then)!

Great that you got to see the Viggen too! I'm just wondering how loud your squeak would have been had the pilot turned out to be a chap called Lars.

Hee! I was hoping he'd do the Meet The Pilot thing, but the Viggen was one of the aircraft too large to use the runway at Hechtel-Eksel, so it retired elsewhere.
The same as all of the long-range Heavy Bombers designed in the 50's-70's though - they were all designed to drop nukes from high altitude and long-range, and all ended up dropping conventional (or guided, with the ones that have survived) munitions from low altitude instead.
Though that's a blessing - if anyone had dropped any in anger, we'd be living in a much different world...!

The Sanicole show sounds fantastic - glad you got to see so many different things, and especially - of course - the Viggen. I hope it gets to go a little further abroad in the coming years, and we can see it in the UK. The Gin museum sounds fantastic too. What an excellent birthday weekend!
Thanks, and I hope so too! I also hope the TB crew can have an away mission next year with the full complememt :)