Luchtmachtdagen 2013

Volkel, 14-15 June 2013


2013 was the 100th anniversary of military aviation in the Netherlands, so the Dutch air force decided to throw a party to celebrate.


Like any good party, they didn’t have to celebrate alone, plenty of other air arms turned up to join the festivities.


Obviously, the history of the Royal Netherlands Air Force was the main topic, but perhaps 2 of the most anticipated participants were wholly unrelated.


Just about the last arrival of the static was a German air force Phantom from Wittmund. Its arrival on the first airshow day, just prior to the proper start of the flying display, saw an exceptional crowd gathering that early on the Friday morning to witness its touch and go’s and subsequent parking to its static display position. The Germans had sent the aircraft wearing the blue and gold commemorative scheme for the type’s withdrawal, and without doubt it was the star attraction for the gathered spotters. It has keen competition in the flying display though, with the world’s only remaining flying Saab 37 Viggen, proudly presented by the Swedish air force Historic Flight. What a wonderful sight seeing it perform its characteristic turn while taxiing backwards!


An unexpected highlight was the Danish C-130, dumping countless flares during its final pass. Not to be outdone for rarity value, th German army displayed a Bo105, a type which also served in the Dutch military. Not nearly as wild as Red Bull’s aerobatic Bo105, the German display was nevertheless more than welcome and it’s a shame it’s not seen more often.



Friday, the first show day, was hazy for a long day, Saturday enjoying far better weather, even despite a very extreme downpour just before lunchtime. Soloturk valiantly carried on its display during that awful weather even with barely anyone watching while they sought shelter, a real pity as captain Ahbab had really raised the level of the Turkish air force’s solo display, making it perhaps the best F-16 display on the European scene.


Much of the programme was linked to the history of the Royal Netherlands air force, including a considerable contingent from Classic Flight, with a Dragon Rapide, Avro Anson and a memorable performance by their Meteor T7.


The centerpiece of the programme was once again the Dutch airpower demonstration, impressive as ever, even with reduced numbers of aircraft participating. The Dutch F-16 and AH-64 were equally impressive and appreciated and they were joined by some other fine solo demonstrations, including the Belgian F-16, Czech and Hungarian Gripens and Finnish F-18. Flares aplenty!


Two additional tactical role demonstrations joined the show, the Polish air force sending 2 SU-22s and the French airforce sending over Ramex Delta, a pair of Mirage 2000N nuclear bombers, very apt as Volkel-based F-16s also have a nuclear bombing role.


It would be remiss to leave out the international display teams at the show, but they only added to what was a memorable show, and would have been even regardless of their participation, welcome and applauded though it was.


Special mention must go to the commentators, and not for negative reasons as is “bon ton” among spotters. The Dutch commentary team really does an exquisite job guiding a broad, general audience through the day. The broadcast experience of Leo Van Der Goot is evident, but the commentary throughout was informative and entertaining. Small mistakes shouldn’t distract from their fine work. They know how to motivate an audience, their enthusiasm and energy is infectious. Keeping them on despite vocal resistance from so-called enthusiasts is a commendable decision of the organisation. The audience around your scribe, which consisted mainly of random visitors and casual aircraft lovers, clearly loved it, testament to the team’s broad appeal.


So, Volkel 2013 won’t soon be forgotten. The best way to conclude this report is perhaps the lasting memory the show gave to a group of sick children. The charity “Hoogvliegers” gave them a memory to last a life-time despite their severe illness: a flight aboard a FLM 737, overflying Volkel escorted by 10 F-16s. Respect, on many levels!