The above photo says it all about my Luchtmachtdagen of 2019. On Friday I spent a few hours with my son on the airbase. No camera equipment, just the two of us. And to see him enjoy the action and get totally excited from watching the amazing Red Arrows was enough for this year's Luchtmachtdagen for me. What a blast we had together!
On Thursday Robert and I had a lovely day watching the arrivals. We missed the F-35s and the air power demo rehearsals, but the Greek Phantoms made the day worthwhile.
When the 4Aviation newsletter announced a 5 day trip to Normandy to witness some of the activities around the 75th anniversary of D-day I did not hesitate and booked a seat! The program 4Aviation had planned was awesome: not only would we witness the massive para droppings, we would also be present at the Daks over Normandy and the L-Birds to Normandy events.
So when the alarm clock rang at 3am on June 5th I was excited to go (and a bit sleepy). And after a long bus trip we stopped at Sannerville, the location of the massive para droppings. The weather decided to act as re-enactor and all around us threatening clouds were visible. But we stayed dry all day, although the overcast made it difficult to shoot decent photos. But when after some delay the first Dakotas came overhead and the already darkening sky filled up with parachutes I got overwhelmed with humbling emotions. Suddenly I realised the tension these 20-something year old heroes must have gone through when they arrived here in 1944. Jumping in the pitch black, with all those guns firing.... When the last Dakota came overhead I was no longer photographing, I was emotionally witnessing this historic event. Just as we walked to the bus the heavens opened and I was happy to get into bed that evening.
The next day we went to three different locations. We started at the Normandy Airfield Camp at the Lessay airfield. It was a nice camp with some great re-enactors, but the lack of airplanes made our tour guide decide we best head for Cherbourg to check out the various C-130s that were stationed there. We witnessed four C-130s land in the distance while driving and when we arrived a local spotter told us there would be no more activity. A bit disappointing, but we decided to move over to the terminal to see if there would be some activity anyhow. This presented our bus driver with a small problem. The road we were on didn't allow the bus to turn round, backing up was no alternative either and in front of us was the gate to the airbase. But thanks to a friendly gate guard we were allowed to use the roundabout on the airbase and we thus had an improvised base visit. That lasted a full 45 seconds! Upon arrival at the terminal there was plenty of activity and the C-130s even went airborne again so we had a great afternoon.
We finished the day in Sainte-Mère-Église and it was crowded! The fair that was set-up in the middle of the town as well as the people drinking and partying made it a bit surrealistic, since there was also an official ceremony at the same time. We visited the museum and a photo of paratroopers in the Rue Génèral Koenig caught my eye. I made a quick snapshot of that photo and walked out to find the exact same spot. Remarkable to see how little it has changed in those 75 years of freedom.
June 7th should have been the second highlight of the trip. We planned to visit the Daks over Normandy event at Caen Carpiquet airport. The weather prediction was not good, but upon arrival it appeared that the organization was even worse! Of course when the weather is that bad the planned flying displays need to be adapted or cancelled, but apart from that nothing from this "event" turned out as advertised.
Luckily there was some flying activity and I managed to shoot some nice Dakota photos, but it was a huge disappointment in the end.
The storm that went over Caen and surroundings during the evening and night forced the various plane owners that were participating in the L-birds to Normandy event to fly their planes to safety. So we were afraid Saturday would be a waste as well. But this time the organization was so much better. This event turned out to be a relaxed, spotter friendly event. Despite the heavy wind we saw many L-Birds taxiing to their parking spot, right in front of us. And in the afternoon when the weather calmed down a few of them even went flying. And as a bonus we were timely informed that the Patrouille de France would do a fly-by. Hats off to the organization of this wonderful event!
With a bit of pain in my heart I decided to stop working as a volunteer for the Royal Netherlands Air Force Historical Flight. It was a great journey and I leave with lots of great memories. But new adventures await as I have started as a tour guide at the museum of Gilze-Rijen airbase. This small but great museum tells the eventful history of the oldest Dutch airfield. And I am happy to pass on those great stories!
Frisian Flag, the traditional start of the spotting season did not disappoint at all this year. I went on two separate occasions: first on base with the KNV Onze Luchtmacht and in the second week I went with my friend Robert.
On both days we saw big missions both in the morning and afternoon, with around 50 fighters participating. The participants were not as diverse as with previous editions, but it is still an enormous joy to see all those gorgeous F-16s. In a few years they will be replaced by the F-35 in the Netherlands so I enjoy them as much as I can nowadays. Next to the Dutch F-16s we saw F-16s from Poland and the Minnesota Air National Guard, Mirage 2000s from France, F-18s from Switzerland and German EF-2000s.
Weatherwise it was challenging, especially in the second week when the wind blew hard, making it almost too cold for comfort..... almost!
I ended up with many photos, here's a small selection as well as a short movie I shot from the take offs.
Late March 1992 a mini Tigermeet was held at Twenthe. And while the rest of my class went on a field trip, I called in sick and had a field trip of my own. The spottersday consisted of a static line only, with a few aircraft coming in (two Norwegian F-5s and an F-111). Photographic conditions were good as it wasn't too crowded and some platforms were dispatched to be used a photo platforms. The weather was as expected early spring: wet. But in the afternoon it got better. What I remember most was the UK F-4 that did a low pass over the area in full afterburner, making car alarms go off.
The slides I made that day with my second hand Minolta camera have been in storage all those years. Just recently I decided to not let them go to waste and bought a slide scanner: a Reflecta x10. Not the best quality, but I do enjoy seeing those old slides come back to life!
This year I had the opportunity to visit Eindhoven airbase during the Falcon Leap exercise. This exercise is combined with the yearly para droppings at the Ginkelse Heide in remembrance of Operation Market Garden.
Many thanks to the people from Eindhoven airbase and the KNVOL (Onze Luchtmacht) for the hospitality and excellent organization!
On Saturday I went back, this time outside the fence to watch the aircraft take off for the official remembrance flights. With the addition of another Dutch C-130, as well as one from Belgium and from the UK and lead by a Dakota it was an impressive formation!
Early September Kleine Brogel airbase hosted the 2018 Belgian Air Force days. Since I did not attend that many airshows this year I was really looking forward to spending some time at the fence and the list of participants (including the Su-27) looked rather promising. I planned to go to the spottersday on Friday with my friend Robert (check out his page here) and both days during the public event. But at the end of the show on Saturday I had seen enough. Somehow the show overall was a bit disappointing, perhaps it was the grey overcast that was present most of the day on Saturday, the lack of big demo teams or the lack of flares during the demos. I ended up with a good amount of photos anyhow and I also shot some film, but mostly to have a few moving images and sound to enjoy during the winter months.
The spotter season traditionally starts with the Frisian Flag exercise at fightertown Leeuwarden. With over 70 aircraft participating from various NATO countries the exercise is one of the largest in Europe. And with two waves of about 50 aircraft flying to train complicated scenarios each day, the exercise is a showcase of the professionalism of the small Dutch airforce.
Although little is published about the nature of the scenarios and the various roles of the participants, seeing the Polish F-16 pilots return to our hotel at 21:30 I can only imagine it is a difficult exercise with lots of (de-) briefing to gain the maximum learning.
I was fortunate to spend two days at the fence in summer-like weather conditions. Much better conditions than the week before when I photographed the tankers participating in the EART exercise that is held simultaneously at Eindhoven.
Each time I arrive at an exercise, basevisit or airshow there is this difficult question to be answered: am I going to do photo or film today? At first I tried to do a bit of both, but filming does require a completely different mindset from photographing. For filming you need to think in scenarios upfront, the positioning is different and ideally you want to walk around a bit to get various angles in your movie.
Sometimes the decision is easy to take: crowded airshows leave little room to find a stable position for the tripod and walking around means that you have to give up that awesome spot at the fence that you claimed that morning. But most of the time it is a tough decision.
Two examples from last year: the easy decision was the Ostrava airshow. The weather was so horrible on the day of the airshow that I decided to start filming right away. I already photographed most of the aircraft during the rehearsals in much better weather.
A tough decision was the base visit at Minsk Mazowiecki. I love the MiG-29 and the Su-22s were a great bonus. We got so close to the action, especially during take off that I had a tough time taking a decision. In the end I spent all day photographing and shot a few flims in between just to make sure I wouldn't regret it. This resulted in a 30sec impression movie.
Based on some footage I saw on YouTube I decided to give the NATO days in Ostrava a go and luckily 4Aviation provided me with the opportunity.
It sure was a nice show, but what a terrible weather! The trip started on Thursday to catch the rehearsals and arrivals. We also spend a day outside the fence for the rehearsals on Friday. Both days had reasonable weather, with some sun as well. On Saturday we had low hanging clouds all day, forcing the Saudi Hawks to cancel their show, the weather forecast for Sunday was even worse. And with the predicted 55mm of rain we decided to not go at all.
Most of the photos are taken on Thursday and Friday. I spend almost the entire Saturday at the fence to watch the tanks and ground forces demonstrations. Seeing a T-72 drive over a car is awesome! I shot quite a lot of videos, so keep checking my site for those!
Together with my friend Robert I went on a trip to the Radom Airshow with 4Aviation. It was our first experience with this aviation travel agency and one to remember!!!! Not only did we have lots of laughs, we also had an excellent organised trip.
Highlight was the basevisit at Minsk Mazowiecki air base, normally this is the homebase of the mighty MiG-29, but because of the Polish Air Force Parade during the show, the base also hosted 6 Su-22 Fitters. Thanks to our host Andrzej we were positioned at the perfect spots during pre-flight checks, take off and arrivals. What a day that was!
I ended up with way too many photos to share here, so I only posted a small selection. Enjoy, I know I did shooting them.
When I walked onto the spotters area at Florennes air base I remembered the lesson I learned while scanning my old slides during winter. 20+ years later the photos of "just" aircraft are not the ones that last. It is the photos that capture the essence of the day that are still interesting, that many years later. Perhaps that is why I started filming as well, to capture the day in stead of the aircraft.
Unfortunately it was too crowded to do some decent filming, so I switched over to good old photography, but still remembering the lesson learned.
Thanks to the people at 1st Squadron "Stingers" for the excellent work in organising this event!
And also thanks to Olaf and Micha for the drive and company.
For little over a year I have been working on a documentary about Mk732, the Spitfire LF.Mk IXc of the Royal Netherlands Air Force Historical Flight.
Today I was at the Dutch Air Force Headquarters to interview Air Commodore Andre Steur. He spoke about the importance of Mk732 for the Dutch Air Force and the emotional value she represents as symbol for 70 years of freedom in The Netherlands.
After the filming was done the Commodore presented me with a great gift: a Director of Operations medal of appreaciation!
Of course I am only part of a group of over 250 volunteers, all working hard to keep our heritage flying, this medal sure made me proud!
As volunteer for the KLuHV I am in a lucky position to enjoy a passenger ride with one of our aircraft every now and then. On this lovely Saturday I was invited to fly in the Beech who did a flyby at the monument Luchtoorlog Hoeksche Waard 1940-1945. I made a short impression of this amazing 45 minute flight.
Aerial combat is a skill much needed by every fighter pilot in order to survive, even in this day of high tech weaponry and beyond visual range rockets. Rules of Engagement, the fog of war or simply running out of rockets during combat might force a pilot to get into close proximity combat. Popular known as dogfighting!
This skill requires practice, a lot of practice. And during the first weeks of April the pilots stationed at Volkel air base worked on their skills, tactics and techniques. Several sorties departed each day for short air combat missions.
An ideal moment for Spotting Group Volkel to organise a spottersday. A small group of 15 spotters was allowed at a spot near the wheel-watch station, in between the runways of Volkel. A unique location and a great way to get awesome shots of the aircraft taking off and landing. We witnessed 2 waves of 3 aircraft before we went home again, with a big smile on our faces!
Two days outside the fence at Frisian Flag resulted in a big amount of MBs to be checked, selected and edited.
The first day saw rainy, windy and cold Dutch spring weather so most of those photos went to the trashcan without hesitation.
The second day had better weather and with some 40+ aircraft flying in both missions I was sure I had some fantastic shots.
But back home the results proved to be disappointing. The Tamron 70-300mm lens is just not good enough. And even at high shutter speeds the sharpness is not all that it should be.
But, switching from Photoshop to Lightroom as editing program already made a huge difference. And now I also switched lenses. so hopefully the next Frisian Flag has better quality shots (and better weather!).
Next to the small collection of shots from the early nineties that I showed before I also took some hours to sort through my more recent slides. And after some re-editing I selected those that form my highlights from slides.
From the mighty An-225 at my homebase Eindhoven to the awesome Greek A-7 formation take-off, it makes me wish I had started using a digital camera some years earlier. But hey, we still have the slides!
It was back in 1989 that my older brother first took me to spend a day at the Langenbergseweg, the spottersplace of Gilze-Rijen air base. Seeing the NF-5s land at just a few meters over the road, the new F-16A with that sleek design: I was hooked for life!
Between 1990 and 1995 I spent almost all my days off school spotting. Having to ride my bicycle for the 27km (single-trip) journey wasn't an issue at all. Although I still can remember those days where the only visitors were PC-7s, it was an awesome time!
The first year I did not have the money yet to buy a camera, so the Holloman F-15s only remain a memory. But as soon as I started working I bought my first camera: a second hand Minolta. And with that I went to airshows, spottersdays and of course my homebase Gilze-Rijen.
I have scanned a few of my slides from back then. Included are shots from Gilze-Rijen, the Phinal Photocall at Wildenrath, the airshow at Le Bourget (will never ever go there again), Tigers at Twenthe in 1992, the F-117s at Gilze-Rijen and of course, my very first MiG-29!
One of the biggest challenges in photography is evening photography. With the limited amount of light available it takes some technical skills and most of all a lot of patience to make a good photo.
On this evening in December I was part of a small group of spotters that got the opportunity to photograph at Eindhoven airbase, thanks to Onze Luchtmacht.
We spent a good hour on the platform to photograph the local KDC-10 & Gulfstream and the awesome An-12, that was scheduled to leave while we were at the platform. After some experimenting with the white balance, the aperture and shutter time I got the settings right and the other difficult part of evening photography kicked in: patience. You sure have to do a lot of waiting while the shutter is open.
Just as we were about to leave the German Transall that had been doing engine runs at the other side of the field was towed back. The perfect end of an evening well spent!
Update: After a tip in a Facebook group I have worked a bit with the white balance settings in Photoshop and the photos sure look better now!
Tonight we see the end of daylight saving time and at the same time the Royal Netherlands Air Force announced the start of evening flying.
That reminds me of a very cold evening in November 2014 when I joined the KNVOL on a trip behind the scenes of evening flying at Volkel air force base. I was so happy I brought a tripod as the cold got me shivering after a while. And although flying activity was limited, the experience sure was intense!
As part of the 15th anniversary of the Red Ball Express remembrance the Koninklijke Luchtmacht Historische Vlucht was asked to do a flyby at Fort Aalsmeer. I had the fortune to be selected as one of the passengers onboard the beautiful Beechcraft, together with my wife (thank you Rob!). Of course I took my camera with me and as the engines started to roar at 10.20am I considered myself the happiest guy on earth.
With perfect weather to fly we set of for a flight of littel over an hour. Because of a bit of tailwind the captain decided to do some formation flying practises enroute so there were plenty of opportunities to film and photograph the Harvard that flew as number 2 in our formation.
We were right on time overhead in Aalsmeer and after 3 flybys we left, but not straight home: we were lucky enough to be allowed to do a flyby over Schiphol airport!!!!
I tried to encapture this once in a lifetime experience in a video and some photos. The song "Good life" seemed very, very appropriate.
Big thanks to our pilots (Bart de Vries, Alexander in't Veld and Robert van Diemen) and thanks to Marisa Pumares, Raymond Peters en Frank Peters for the additional photos and video material.
Being a volunteer at the Royal Netherlands Air Force Historical Flight is a lot of fun. Being part of a group of aviation enthusiasts and history geeks really is great.
But it is also a lot of work, all in the free hours, a balance between spending time with your family and spending time at the airbase.
And then there is this moment: a ninety+ years former Spitfire pilot is asked by a nice lady if he was part of the people that liberated them from the Germans (he was not, in his own words "I am just a few years too young"). And at the same time two little boys are waiting in anticipation for our D-day veteran Spitfire to fire up the engines.
I captured the scene with goosebumps all over my body. What a great feeling to be part of a group of people who make this happen!
On September 7th the Gilze-Rijen Aviation Society (GRAS) celebrated its 30th anniversary with a spottersday on their homebase Gilze-Rijen. The forecasted Indian Summer weather conditions proved
to be a good indication of the day to come: a perfectly organised spotterday! In stead of publishing all the expected visitors upfront the organisers decided to go old-school. We were told
something special was coming but not what exactly.
Our location in front of the tower and close to the runway was a rather spacious area so we all had front row view. And during the afternoon we were treated to a nice mix of fighters, trainers, helicopters and support aircraft from various countries. The locally based Apaches, Cougars and Chinooks performed their normal training flights in between the visitors making it a busy afternoon.
At 16.30 the buses were ready to take us back to the parking spaces. And with a big smile on our slightly sunburned faces we headed back. Lots of awesome photos to be sorted out and a great afternoon added to our memory.
Thanks to the Koninklijke Luchtmacht, Defensie Helicopter Commando and GRAS for this spottersday and let us hope that GRAS will live on to see its 50th birthday in 2036!
It was time to treat myself to a new toy! The most trusted Sony a55 still very much pleased me, but it is always good to have a second camera at hand. So after some research I decided to go for the Sony a58. And boy am I happy with the first results!!! Especially when I use the Sony 3.5-5.6 18-135 lens with the a58 the images are awesome. Can't wait to do some filming with the new toy as well.
The Danish Airshow was one of the first to announce the participation of the Su-27 from the Ukraine and that was reason enough to book a trip to Skrydstrup together with Robert
After a quick check-in in the hotel we spend some time at the fence to check the incoming participants on Friday. The Su-27s already arrived earlier that day but we still caught the Polish MiGs
and the Swedish Viggen and missed most of the thunderstorms surrounding us.
On Saturday a spottersday was organised and with some 200 fellow spotters we were transported by bus onto the airbase. There we were informed that we could participate in tours over the operations part of the airbase and that during the rehearsals we would get a nice spot close to show central. The Ops tour brought us close to the participants and there was plenty of time to make photos of all sides of the aircraft. And as promised we had a perfect spot in the afternoon to photograph the display practices. Conclusion at the end of the day: they know how to organise a spottersday in Denmark. Thank you Jens and Kim!
The Sunday had lesser weather. Lots of clouds and a strong wind made it a cold day. But the aircraft action made up for it. Excellent demo's from the Polish MiG-29, the Su-27 from the Ukraine, Belgium F-16 a great display by the Turkish Stars and Patrulla Aguila and an airpower demo by the Danish showing the public how to capture a bad guy (with some excellent driving skills by the way). And of course we need to mention the Fokker Dr.1 flown by Mikael Carlson. It is a joy to see that agile plane fly and the strafing pass with machinegun sound is awesome!
To make a perfect weekend even more perfect I got the chance to sit in the front seat of the Su-27. What a machine!
Thanks to Robert Jansen for the photo.
Leeuwarden hosted the Luchtmachtdagen in 2016 and with the two Dutch F-35s on display some 280000 people visited the airbase on both days. But being smart enough to travel by bicycle to the base
the traffic jams were no problem. The highlight of the show was of course the participation of both F-35s in the airpower demo and the heritage flight of the F-35 F-16 and Spitfire. On Friday the
public also witnessed the change in command of the Dutch air force, during a short ceremony Lieutenant General Schnitger stepped down and handed over the flag to Lieutenant General Luyt.
The Luchtmachtdagen hosted many display teams: the Red Arrows, Frecce Tricolori and Turkish Stars showed us their formation flying skills and breathtaking close passes. Due to a mishap on
Thursday resulting in the crash of an F-5 the Patrouille Suisse could not perform over the weekend. Luckily the pilot was able to escape the plane in time and there were no injuries on the
With a nice mixture of fast and loud (MiG-29 from Slovakia and Spanish EF-2000), historic aviation (KLuHV B-25, Spitfire formation) and helicopter shows (RAF Black Cats, Mi-35 from the Czech Republic) the day went by fast.
"If we operate together, we need to train together" is the motto of the multi-national exercise Frisian Flag held at Leeuwarden air base between 11 and 22 April. In those two weeks over 60
aircraft from 10 countries fly daily sorties from Fighter Town Leeuwarden.
The demands on air power are high. Air power needs to be quick responsive, effective and be able to operate in complex scenarios while avoiding collateral damage and own casualties. The Frisian
flag exercise provides those same high demands in a two-week training course. Pilots from various countries learn to plan, execute and (de)brief large missions with all sorts of aircraft. Various
roles and missions are trained and tactics evaluated.
For spotters these two weeks provide the opportunity to witness the mass launches and recoveries, mostly twice a day. This year I visited Leeuwarden twice. First during a rainy Friday on base with Onze Luchtmacht and the second time outside the fence in better weather.
Finally!!! Today we saw the premiere of my first "big" documentary!
For over two years I followed our new Spitfire pilot (former F-16 demo pilot Sheik) during his transition to the Spitfire. And now the moment is there to show it to our volunteers and our Flying Partners. A real thrill!
I can only show the teaser here, if you want the whole documentary send me a message. Thanks to Ben Ullings for the photo.
The last weekend of August 2015 my friend Robert and I went MiG hunting in Sliač, Slovakia. We visited both days of the SIAF airshow and became instant Slovakia-addicts. Not only do they still fly the Mighty MiG-29, they also organise a great airshow, the food is awesome and beer is only a little over 1 Euro for a pint!
This was also my first trip with my new Tamron SP 70-300mm F/4-5.6 lens. Of course I knew that it wasn't the best lens around when I bought it, but I should have first tried it out at home before I went on this trip. The lens is good but has certain limitations, most certainly beyond 80% of it max zoom. I now found out the hard way, after the trip, at home, browsing through the photos on the pc.
But the weekend was awesome. Thanks to Peter we sat in the cockpit of the MiG-29 and had an unplanned, but amusing tour of the base. The Depeche Mode cover band playing in Zvolen will be remembered too. And then there is Zoltan Veres: what a skilled pilot that is, as you can see in the short video.
In order to be combat ready the Dutch Air Force helicopter squadrons regularly execute low flying training. I am fortunate to live close to a training area called GLV-V near Oirschot. This small area consists of forest and sandy parts and the helicopters can be spotted from close distance.
On a sunny and hot afternoon I heard an Apache in the area and decided to go. My first idea was to shoot a sort of hide-and-seek theme video but as the area is a military training area I decided to keep it safe (and sane) and pick a spot in the bushes. But in the end I am very happy with the result and will come back another day!
Up close and personal with the F-16 Demoteam of the KLu!
Having won a contest on Radio8FM, I was invited together with 9 others to spend a day with the F-16 Demoteam and to witness all the preparation it takes to fly such a high performance, perfectly timed show.
Of course I had my camera with me, but as we parked the car at the gate I decided to enjoy first and shoot images and movies second. It really was a once in a lifetime experience: to be at the table during the briefing, to stand next to the jet as Stitch did his walk-around, to be asked to step aside so the jet can taxi out (lol), to have coffee in the 312sqn crewroom, it was AWESOME! Of course I did do some shooting and afterwards I was happy to have at least some material.