Since the tragic accident at Ramstein
1988, airshows in Germany are rare events. Nowadays most aerial events
there are festivals or fly-ins with very limited flying display. On
April 30 and May 1, Niederrhein airport near Weeze, close to the Dutch
border, organized an airport
festival to celebrate its 5th anniversary. Military aviation fans may
know the airfield under its former name, however: RAF Laarbruch.
Small surprise then that the former occupants of the airfield returned
in force to take part in the static display. A single n°3 squadron
Typhoon, a Hawk T1 and no fewer than 4 Harrier Gr9s from n°4
squadron, based at Wittering, the latter treating the crowd to a
spectacular flypass on may 1 upon their return home. The only other
active military aircraft on base came from Nörvenich in the shape
Tornado IDS, courtesy of the German airforce.
The main attraction for many were 2 beautifully restored F-104
Starfighters: KG101, the first Fokker-built Starfighter, and the
Belgian FX52, back in its 1978 Tigermeet colourscheme. These static
aircraft were nicely positioned in the static area, even allowing
pictures from atop the adjoining wall.
When the RAF left the base in 1999, it lay disused until a group of
Dutch investors bought the airfield in 2001 and received permission to
start civilian traffic operations. In 2003, upon completion of a new
passenger terminal, Ryanair commenced commercial flights to London from
what had become Niederrhein airport. Now, the airport serves close to a
million passengers per year and sees over 10000 take-offs and landings per
year, quite a change from the former military traffic at the airfield.
The event got off to a shaky start on May 30, with a number of
cancellations to due unserviceability and bad weather conditions.
Luckily, things looked up on May 1 and the audience was treated to a
Most civilian planes were positioned along the flightline, as most of
also took part in the flying display. The only military act in the
flying programme came from Great Britain: a Spitfire, Hurricane
Dakota from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, based at RAF
Coningsby, brought back memories of the early days after World War II.
The current occupants of the airfield, Ryanair, also made regular
appearances throughout the day as their commercial flights departed
The Klu Historic Flight also had a sizeable presence, with an
impressive solo display by their B-25 Mitchell, a solo aerobatic
performance by the Saab Safir, and a nice formation routine with 2
Harvards alongside a Beech 18. One of the Harvards wore a brilliant new
camouflage, hailing back to days when this aircraft performed photo
reconnaissance missions with the Royal Netherlands Air Force.
Another Dutch formation were the Fokker Four with 4 S11 initial
training aircraft. Also from the Netherlands came a demonstration by a
Harvard and a Zlin Z526. The Dutch Catalina only appeared in flight
returned home at the end of the day.
Solo aerobatics came from from Mike Rottland in an Extra 300 and from 2
Yak-52s, one of which put on a most impressive display after the
official programme had finished. The Antonov An-2 that performed
pleasure flights throughout the day put on an inadvertent ground
display when it did a ground loop upon landing, furtunately without
damage or injuries.
Aerobatics of a different sort were performed by Peggy Krainz on top of
a Boeing Stearman, definitely a very different routine from Team Guinot
as she also climbs between the biplane's wings.
Painted in German tow-plane colours, the OV-10 Bronco flew a most
spectacular display demonstrating unexpected agility. Its short-field
landing characteristics deserve particular mention!
highlight of the day was the wonderful performance with plenty of
topside passes by the Scandinavian Historic Flight's P-51 Mustang 'Old
Crow', flown by Belgian Frederic Vormezeele.
While backlight and the occasional shower made from some challenging
light conditions, the start of the 2008-season was most definitely a
success. Even with a limited flying programme, the organizers managed
to put together an entertaining day out. The relaxed athmosphere makes
any future event at Niederrhein
airport well worth the trip!
by Chris Janssens
Lay-out and content by Chris Janssens, 2005 - present