Back for the first time since 2018, Belgian Air Force Days at Kleine Brogel Air Base is a firm favourite on the aviation enthusiasts calendar with its scenic tree lined backdrop, photogenic static line between the crowd and the runway and the well represented collection of airframes from across Europe.
With the airshow on Saturday and Sunday, the Friday spotters days gives photographers the opportunity to shoot the arrival of the static aircraft as well as a first look at the displays with many aircraft rehearsing ahead of the weekends displays.
It’s also noticeably calmer than the weekend with plenty of room to move around the long and relatively narrow crowd line during the day if required. Arriving around 8am we were in around 15 minutes after the gates opened at 9am. Thankfully the initial ban on food and water was gradually watered down (excuse the pun) allowing a reasonable amount to be taken in which was just as well with the forecasted 30c temperatures.
With the Red Devils already completing their rehearsal as we waited in the queue it was the Hellenic Air Force F-16 Zues who set the standard for the days flying.
After a series of arrivals including the Swiss F-18 pair and two German Tornados with the brand new Tiger scheme from the 51TLG squadron. Disappointingly only the Polish F-16’s were granted a fly through before landing which missed a massive opportunity for the assembled photographers. Thankfully most of the static aircraft taxied down the near taxiway to take up their position on the static display line.
One of my favorite displays was the Thunder Tigers, lead by the X display jet, this 4 ship F-16 display is put together solely for this show and flown by operational pilots rather than those specially selected and trained for display flying.
The formation flying was very tight during the ten minute display which on the Friday only included FA-95, the first Belgium Air Force F-16AM which was nearing its 8000 flying hours limit. FA-95 had a special commemorative tail for the occasion and flew as part of this formation before returning to the static display via a water salute from the bases fire tenders as it exited the runway for the final time.
Fast jet rehearsals continued with the Spanish Typhoon display, deputising for the F-18 display which sadly crashed at the Zaragoza Air Base families day back in May and the ever spectacular Swiss F-18 display flown by Captain Yannick ‘Fönsi’ Zanata of the Aviation Squadron No 17.
Of course it wouldn’t be a Belgian Air Force Day without the home solo display with Senior Captain Steven De Vries, better known as “Vrieske” taking the F-16 Dream Viper up twice, once to practise his solo display and again with Spitfire Mk XVI SL721to fly in heritage formation.
With the prospect of future European and US airshows being almost entirely F-35’s I have to admit at putting my camera down as the USAF F-35 takied down the runway ready for its rehersal. That was until Major Kristin ‘Beo’ Wolfe with a borrowed LKH jet started her out of this world display. A mixture of damp atmospheric conditions and some outstanding manouvers meaning a storm of fluff on the wings on virtually every pass.
Sadly the Swedish Historic Flights Draken and Viggen were late arrivals pushing their rehearsal slot back to beyond 5pm and whilst there was no rush to throw us out at the original closing time of 5pm the sun was already round and over the airfield giving mainly back lite shots of these stunning aircraft so we would have to hope for an early display slot on the Saturday.
One of the many stunning special schemes to arrive on the Friday included the Air Defender German A400 fresh from the huge NATO exercise in Germany along with the Danish F-16 solo special both of which were on static display.
Overall this had to be one of the best days of aviation photography we have seen with the only slight annoyance being the lack of open toilet and catering facilities in the centre and far end of the crowd line. At least the promised drinking water was made available from mid morning with plenty of taps (if only in a small number of locations) to avoid any queues forming despite the heat and high demand.
We left as the T-6’s were taxing out for their rehearsal satisfied from a very rewarding day with the airshow still to come the next day.
TIMETABLE SPOTTERSDAY 08 SEP 2023
Red Devils BAF Demo
09:00 ZEUS F-16 HE Demo
F/A-18 Hornet CH (2x)
Saab Draken & Viggen
11:00 Thunder Tigers F-16×4 & FA095 Demo
F-16 Fighting Falcon Dk
Eurofighter Typhoon ES Demo
12:00 F-16 Dream Viper BAF Demo
Glider Luca Bertossi
13:00 A109 Agusta
Saab Viggen Demo
Saab Draken Demo
F-16 Fighting Falcon Practise
NH90 Caiman DE
F-35 Lightning II USAF Demo
A400M Atlas DE
15:00 F-35 Lightning II NL (2x)
PA-28 Victors 4x
Patrouille Tranchant 4x Fouga Demo
16:00 A400M Atlas BE
T6 Texan Stijn De Jaeghere Demo
Fouga Magister Demo
NH90 Caiman NFH