Koksijde International Airshow

Koksijde, 6-7 July 2011


Undoubtedly one of the main shows on the European airshow calendar was the Belgian air force’s show at Koksijde (Coxyde), home to its SAR Seakings of 40 squadron. The show celebrated the 65th anniversary of the Belgian air force, 50 years of search and rescue, 35 years of Seaking and 40 years of service of the Alouette III.


To deconflict with the airshows of Waddington, Zeltweg, Luxeuil and Yeovilton, Koksijde International Airshow was held in the middle of the week, from 14:00 on Wednesday 6 July and from 10:00 until 18:00 on Thursday 7 July.


Probably the most impressive aircraft in the static park was an Estonian air force Antonov 2, though there were quite a few other interesting planes on the ground, including a nice corner dedicated to the search and rescue anniversary, featuring a Dutch NH-90, a type which will also replace Belgium’s aging Seakings. Most of the static was reasonable if not ideal for photography, the most difficult bit being the ramp in front of the main hangar, which was dedicated to the Belgian air force’s anniversary, with a horrificly painted Mirage and Starfighter. Surely whoever painted those could have at least made sure they weren’t shinier than the average Flying Bulls plane?


Flying commenced shortly after the gates opened on each day so one would expect a full day’s flying, hardly surprising when looking at the long list of confirmed participants, due to the timing in the middle of the week which meant Koksijde did not have to compete with other shows to attract display items.


Sadly, if one wanted to see a long, uninterrupted flying display, you had to go to Zeltweg a few days earlier, as Koksijde suffered from long gaps throughout, not only in the form of planned 15-minute breaks but also inbetween all acts as planes took their time to clear the runway and backtracking. This would not be a big problem if the runway were visible from the crowdline, but it is not, making any ground movement essentially dead time for the public.


Team Iskry and Baby Blue only displayed on Thursday, while the Turkish Stars, RAF Tornado and the Victors were only allowed to perform on Wednesday, allegedly due to having too many display acts, absolute nonsense if one looked at the amount of time there was nothing in the air on both days. Each day, the display as it was could have easily been made an hour shorter to make it livelier, more intense and ultimately satisfying, or include all acts both days. The no-show of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight on Thursday due to weather over the English channel and their display only having the Lancaster on Wednesday obviously fell outside the control of the organizers.

The Red Arrows also had a bad 2 days, being forced into their flat show by the weather twice and having to cut short their display on Thursday because of technical issues.


Also, it would really benefit Belgian air force airshows if they would refrain from putting the radio on during displays when the commentator stops talking, as this really kills the atmosphere and sometimes leads to the unfortunate situation that a Spitfire displays to the music of Rihanna. Stick with your own dedicated, selected soundtrack or display act music, people looking for a fun day out as an escape from daily routine do not wish to hear news about ongoing government negotiations.


The anniversary part of the show was divided into several parts: trainers, transport and fighters. One of the most surprising displays was the Czech W-3 helicopter, being thrown around quite energetically. Main attraction for most were probably the Saudi Hawks on their first European tour and the USAF Thunderbirds, though they had to cut short their display on Thursday due to heavy rainfall, the rest of the show enjoying mild if sometimes cloudy weather.


Despite having an outstanding line-up, according to this scribe, it all seemed rather sterile and heartless, so I hope the air force will put more effort into atmosphere building at future events.
Come on, airforce, we know you got soul!