From August 23 to 30, 2019, six Mirage 2000-5 of the Groupe de Chasse 1/2 “Cigognes” participated in exercise Épervier 2019, from Payerne air base in Switzerland. This is an air training that allows French air defense pilots, to perform complex missions with the Swiss F/A-18 Hornet.
Arriving from Luxeuil Air Base, the 79 airmen joined the town of Payerne in northwestern Switzerland on August 23rd. For the 2019 edition of the exercise “Épervier”, the fifteen pilots of the “Cigognes” trained missions of a very high tactical scenarios alongside Swiss F/A-18 Hornet pilots of Fliegerstaffel 11. Organized by the Swiss Air Force, on their largest military air base, this bilateral exercise aims to consolidate the existing links between the two nations but also to carry out joint air defense missions: the main mission of the Mirage 2000-5 and Swiss F/A-18 Hornets.
To ensure the “first-in-first” air defense mission, the fighter jets trained four rounds a day for one week to deal with air-to-air threats during complex-level missions. mixed fighter forces operation (MFFO), also known as mixed patrols, composed of both Mirages and Hornets.
Fighting over the snow-capped Swiss mountains, the pilots, whether they are young qualified or more experienced patrolmen, play blue air (friendly forces) and red air (enemy forces) in turn.
On Friday 30 August one more mission was flown before the French contingent returned to their homebase in Luxeuil.
The month of September is traditionally the period when Operation Market Garden is commemorated in the Netherlands. This year was the 75th anniversary of this failed operation.
On Friday the 20th of September the Ginkelse Heide area was the scene of the rehearsals for the 75 Years Market Garden commemmorations. Since I had the idea that the crowd would be immense on the Saturday, I decided to have a look at these rehearsals.
That day three waves of paradrops were flown. I missed the first wave, since it was decided to close the N224 road at that point. I was then stuck in the forest, 600 meters away from the drop zone.
When the 2nd wave was flow, I quickly realised that light conditions were terrible, looking straight into the sun. I therefore decided to relocate and was able to face the drops from the front when the 3rd wave was flown. All in all it was a very impressive sight to see all these paratroopers jump from the planes.
After a short flight from Brussels-Zaventem, Brussels Airlines Airbus A330-223 OO-SFY landed at Twente Airport on Monday 19 August 2019.
This morning former Brussels Airlines Airbus A330-223 OO-SFY arrived at Twente Airport, coming from Brussels-Zaventem Airport. At Twente Airport, the Airbus will be dismantled by Aircraft End-of-Life Solutions (AELS).
This Airbus with Manufacturer Serial Number (MSN) 229 made her first flight in August 1998 and was delivered to Swissair in September that year as HB-IQA. The aircraft flew with Swissair and its successor Swiss until September 2011 and was transferred to Brussels Airlines under a lease contract in October that year, still carrying the HB-IQA registration.
She carried the registration OO-SFY since January 2012 and made her final flight commercial flight from Entebbe to Brussels on 17 August 2019.
Today she made her final flight after 21 years of service. Her landing marks the arrival of the 11th aircraft to be dismantled by AELS at Twente Airport.
Technicians from Brussels Airlines will now dismantle the engines, after which the ownership of the aircraft is transferred to AELS and the demolition can start.
The arrival of OO-SFY marks the 11th arrival for AELS and the second arrival of an A330, after a TAP A330 arrived in July of this year. Aircraft parts can be aquired through www.a330stock.com
Tuesday 30 July 2019 saw the arrival of the 10th aircraft for dismantling with AELS at Twente Airport.
After AELS had already obtained and dismantled several Boeing 747s, 737s and Airbus 340s, it was now a new aircraft type that arrived, the Airbus 330. In this particular case A330-223 CS-TOI from TAP Portugal flew from Lisbon to Twente.
Recently TAP has started to take delivery of the A330-900neo. This newer version of the Airbus 330, equipped with newer engines is more fuel efficient and therefore the “classic” 330s are phased out, with CS-TOI being the first airframe.
The 22 year old aircraft with constructionnumber MSN195 was the second prototype for the Airbus 330-200 subversion, which was developed after the original A330-300 and is shorter. The aircraft’s first flight with registration F-WWKJ took place in December 1997 at Airbus’ Toulouse facility.
In May 1999 Austrian Airlines took delivery of the aircraft under registration OE-LAN with the name Arlberg. TAP – Air Portugal then took delivery of the aircraft in July 2007, where the aircraft got the name Damião de Góis. The last flight in service of this airline was on 29 July 2019 when it returned from Luanda in Angola.
The next day, the aircraft that still carried full TAP colours was flown by a crew of 2 to Twente Airport as flight TP9757. There it joined an ex-Qatar A.340 and an ex-Kuwait Boeing 747 that are already in various stages of dismantlement with AELS.
A nice thing to know is that there actually is a connection between this particular Portuguese Airbus and The Netherlands. As mentioned before, the aircraft is named Damião de Góis. This philosopher lived in the Netherlands between 1523 and 1544 and was also known as Damiaan van der Goes.
Between 1 and 5 July 2019 exercise Orange Bull was held in the Netherlands. Part of the exercise took part at Twente Airport.
Between 1 and 5 July 2019 exercise Orange Bull was held at Twente Airport. Orange Bull is an exercise from the Royal Netherlands Air Force 336 Squadron, based at Eindhoven Airbase. During this exercise several special forces like Commandos and the 11th Airmobile Brigade took part as well.
As part of the exercise, Twente Airport was the location for Tactical Air Landing Operations. This meant that that army pathfinders would guide the aircraft to the runway, where they had indicated the landing zone with orange markers. The loading crew would then quickly load and unload troops and vehicles, after which a tactical departure would follow.
On the 24th of May 2019 Twente based company AELS received a unique aircraft; the sole Kuwait Airways Boeing 747-400M 9K-ADE arrived directly from Kuwait.
Little information was given prior to the arrival of this Jumbo. The reason behind this was that when a Qatar Airways Airbus 340 arrived earlier in May, the nature reserve surrounding the airport was “invaded” by people who wanted to see the arrival. These persons did not stick to the rules and wandered off the paths into areas where birds were breeding.
Since this was an undesirable situation, this time it was chosen not to make any public announcements prior to the arrival of the Boeing .
This was not the first Boeing 747 to arrive at Twente Airport, as AELS had dismantled two KLM 747s before. But why is this Kuwait Airways airframe so special?
The aircraft is so special because this was the only Boeing 747-400M that was ever operated by Kuwait Airways. From an airline’s perespective, this makes no sense at all. If you have only one example of a particular aircraft type in your fleet, then you will have a rather high operational cost for that airframe. You will have to maintain a stock of spare parts, need qualified engineers and tools, just for this single aircraft.
The reason that Kuwait Airways operated this Boeing 747 (which was delivered in 1994) is that it was previously used by the State of Kuwait. In this role, it was part of the fleet of aircraft that was used to transport the Emir, Royal Family and other government officials. After the Kuwait Government obtained a new Boeing 747-8, this particular aircraft was handed over to Kuwait Airways.
Little was changed on the interior, so that it was still available as a back-up plane, in case needed. The interior therefore sports some special features that you will not find on a regular Boeing 747.
The upper deck, for example, was strictly off limits to regular passengers. This upper deck was reserved for the VIP guests, with a lavish seating area, a bedroom and a bathroom equipped with shower.
Passengers on the lower deck could note that there was a large portion of the centre section that was walled off. In a normal 747, this area would house the centre rows of seats. However, in 9K-ADE this area houses an operating room. Surely, that is not something you see every day.
In January 2019, the aircraft made the last commercial flight from Doha to Kuwait City, after which it was withdrawn from use. On the 24th of May Al-Jabriya departed Kuwait City for last time, for a flight of 5 hours and 23 minutes to Twente Airport. There she arrived shortly after 20.00 local time.
After engine shutdown on the runway, she was towed to the AELS platform, where she now awaits her fate next to the Qatar Airways Airbus 340-600.
In the weekend of 9 February 2019, an extraordinary transport took place next to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. During this weekend, a Boeing 747 was transported from the airport to the nearby Corendon Hotel.
This whole story started a bit like a joke. When KLM announced the gradual retirement of their Boeing 747s, Corendon founder Atilay Uslu thought that it would be a nice idea to buy one of these 747s, paint it in Corendon colours and park it next to the Corendon hotel in Badhoevedorp.
In October 2018 it was announced that Corendon would buy the Boeing 747-400 -BFB “City of Bangkok”. On the 26th of November, this 747 returned from her last commercial flight to Los Angeles.
On the 10th of December, the Boeing was flown to Rome, where it was painted in the colours of Corendon Airlines, she returned to Amsterdam on the 14th of December, which was also the last flight of the PH-BFB. After this final landing, AELS removed the engines and other valuable items like the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU), brakes, fuel pumps and air conditioning.
On the 5th of February 2019 the whole move, that would take a week and which was executed by Mammoet, started. In order to move the Boeing, it was loaded onto a massive, remote controlled, flatbed trailer. The trailerhas 192 individually controllable wheels, that evenly distributed the 160 tons weight of the 747 and the 200 tons weight of the trailer.
The first leg of the move was still at Schiphol Airport, where it covered an 8 kilometer stretch from Schiphol-East towards the Zwanenburg runway. At this point the City of Bangkok left the airport and continued her journey across the meadows towards the hotel.
In order to avoid sinking into the soggy ground, 21000 steel road plates were laid out in order to create an artificial road for the transport. Next to that, 17 ditches had to be crossed, for which temporary bridges were constructed.
The most impressive part of the whole operation took place in the night of 9 February, when the whole transport had to cross the A9 Motorway. In order to do this, the whole A9 was closed for several hours. At that point, first a couple of lamp posts had to be removed, as well as the guardrail in the central reservation.
Then, the transport could slowly creep up to the motorway. Before it entered the tarmac of the motorway however, all 192 wheels of the trailer had to be cleaned, as the authorities did not want to have any mud on the road.
Once the motorway and the adjacent ditch were crossed, the 747 transport could continue through the meadows towards the hotel.
Finally, on the 11th of February, the last stretch was covered. At the hotel, the Boeing 747 had to make 57 turns, in order to rotate it 90 degrees and park it at the final position.
Over there an aviobridge will connect the hotel with the Boeing, which wil serve as an experience center, where visitors can walk on the wings and can experience a 5D flight inside. It will also serve as a visitors centre, where the history of the “City of Bangkok” will be told.
The end of 2018 saw the retirement of two relatively young aircraft, 2 TUIfly Boeing 737s were flown to Twente Airport where they will be dismantled by AELS.
Halfway November 2018 AELS announced that they had acquired two Boeing 737s that would arrive on the 1st and 5th of December. This was thus mentioned as a nice “Sinterklaas” present. Not long after, it became clear through research that these 2 machines would originate from TUIfly in Germany and that D-AHXE and D-AHXF would be the ones concerned.
These airframes are only 11 years old and have logged approximately 30,000 flying hours, which makes you wonder why they are dismantled already. The reason behind this is that they are of the 737-700 subtype, which is far less popular than the 737-800. However, the 737-700 and 737-800 share most of the components and parts, which makes it interesting to salvage these parts from the 737-700 and sell them to 737-800 operators. In this way the airframe becomes much more valuable in parts than it is as a whole.
In the final week of november, suddenly the news came that the schedule had changed: D-AHXE would arrive on the 30th of November, whilst D-AHXF would arrive on the 1st of December.
30 November 2018 – Arrival of D-AHXE
Boeing 737-7K5 D-AHXE was the first of the 2 sisters to arrive at Twente Airport. Just before 11.30 it departed Hannover Langenhagen airport as flight TUI100P and flew to Twente Airport where she performed her final touchdown on runway 23 at 12.06PM. Check the flight on https://flightaware.com/live/flight/DAHXE
The crew then then taxied to the C platform, where the engines were shut down for the final time. She would be parked at this location for the night and would be towed to the AELS platform on Saturday.
1 December 2018 – Arrival of D-AHXF
Originally it was planned that D-AHXF would also arrive around 11.30 on the Saturday, but after consulting the weather forecast, it was decided to reschedule to an earlier time, as rain and low clouds were expected. As Twente is still a VFR only airport, the cloud base needs to be sufficient for visual operations.
This meant that the departure from Hannover Langenhagen was scheduled at 9.30 already (D-AHXF had still operated a commercial flight to Lanzarote on the day before), after which it landed at Twente at 10.04 (see https://flightaware.com/live/flight/DAHXF for the complete flight). This time, the engines where shut down on the runway, after which the towtruck was attached in order to push the Boeing to the AELS platform next to Hangar 8.
Upon arrival at Hangar 8, the crew was greeted by a very special guest: Sinterklaas awaited them. As the crew was not really aware of this Dutch tradition, some explanation was required….
When the D-AHXF was parked, it was time to pick up the D-AHXE and tow her to the AELS platform where these 2 sisters were reunited. For them it’s now the end of the line….
After our days at Payerne and Buochs & Emmen, we saved the best for last. On Thursday the 11th of October we visited the Fliegerschiessen at the Axalp – Ebenfluh range, one of the things that had been on my to-do list for a very long time.
Visiting Axalp airshow is not an easy thing to do, as the shooting range where this even takes place is located at an altitude of 2240m. This means that you can’t simply drive there, get out of your car and enjoy the show. There is a whole lot more effort required.
In order to be on the Tschingel mountain on time, an early start was required. At 05.30 the shuttle bus was taken from Brienz train station. This bus brought you in 40 minutes to the mountain village of Axalp at an altitude of 1540m. At this point we transited into the Axalp-Windegg skilift that brought us to an altitude of 1910m. from there on the “fun part” started, a 2 hour walk of about 2km, in which a further 300 meters were scaled. This is no walk in the park at all, as you start in the dark (it only starts to get light after 7.00) and the terrain is very unprepared/steep, there is no real track. You only know where to go because of the guidelines set out by the military and the lights of other climbers in front of you; a torch is absolutely needed.
So, after climbing for about 2 hours the destination was finally reached. The last part of the climb was for sure the toughest with a gradient of approximately 60%. At this point I was sweating like a donkey and was very happy that I brought an extra t-shirt, as the first one was soaked and there was a bitter cold wind. After I had regained my breath, I could finally enjoy the beautiful view over lake Brienz and the surrounding mountains.
We then waited for the first aircraft to arrive at the Axalp range. The Axalp-Ebenfluh range is a shooting area that was established in 1942. The Swiss Air Force uses this area to practice air-to ground gunnery, during which the Hornets and Tigers shoot their canons on ground targets mounted on the rock face. Every year in October this airshow is organized so that the audinece can also view the shooting exercises. Next to that, other aerial displays are also shown on these days.
The morning part
The airshow only takes place in the afternoon, but in the morning there is still plenty to see, as the shooting part is practised by the F-5s and F/A-18s. During these practice runs we got our first taste of what awaited us later that day. It all started with the arrival ofthe Hornets, this formation of four aircraft flew low though the valley, meanwhile dropping flares, to ensure they got our attention.
Then they approached the targets from all different directions, shooting their cannons and using the afterburners to manoeuvre through the area.
Once the Hornets had finished their part of the fun, it was time for the F-5 Tigers. The shooting from the Tigers was te main reason why I came here, as this was the final time that the F-5s would shoot their cannons at the Axalp Range. The F-5 will finally be withdrawn from service in 2026 (a replacement is currently being sought), but will already be disarmed this year. From then on, the F-5 will only act as an Agressor aircraft and will still perform target towing duties. The F-5 pilots surely wanted to leave in style, as already during the practice runs they showed up from behind the audience and shot their guns at the same moment. Compared with the full afterburners, this scared the hell out of you.
Then it was time for the lunch break, or as the Swiss probably call it Raclette-time. Everywhere around us we saw campinggaz burners coming out of the backpacks and soon people were enjoying their fondue or raclette at 2240m altitude. We came to the conclusion that it was much easier to walk towards the catering tent and just buy a Raclette Sandwich over there.
Towards the end of the lunchbreak Cougar helicopters started flying in from nearby Meiringen airbase to drop of the VIP guests, these guests did not have to walk up the mountain and had an easy arrival. At this point also the REGA helicopter and Swiss Air Force rescue helicopters arrived. They were both parked at the mountain in order to be ready to provide assistance for the several thousands of spectators, if need be.
Then it was time for the airshow to start. This started with the Hornets that we had already seen practising in the morning. Since we now already had an idea what to expect, we could try to get the best pictures of their display.
Next up was the Cougar display, this display was started with a huge amount of flares and then hugged the mountainsides. A nice extra was the wave from the crew, wearing orange gloves for this.
After the Cougar had left, 2 more Cougars approached. Both were carrying Bambi Buckets full of water, to display the fire fighting skills of the Swiss Air Force. Both of them dropped the water right on the target, so this must have been a succesfull mission.
Then narrator then warned us that an unidentified aircraft was approaching the area and that the Swiss Air Force mission control centre would scramble two QRA Hornets from Payerne. The fully armed aircraft quickly intercepted the intruder (in reality a Swiss Air Force Citation jet) and then showed all the techniques that are used in Air Policing. The goal of this was to establish contact with the intruding aircraft to ultimately force him to land at a desired airfield.
After the Citation had “landed” successfully, three aircraft showed up. These aircraft were the PC-7, PC-21 and F/A-18, as every fighter pilot will fly on all these types before becoming a qualified fighter pilot.
The formation was then split up, after which the Hornet Solo Display was performed. When the Hornet finished the display, the PC-21 display took over, showing the flexibility of this new training aircraft.
After this display was finished, the moment we had waited for came, the F-5s approached the area once more for their final shooting exercise. This display was even faster and louder than the one we had enjoyed in the morning. This did not make it easy to take pictures, but just enjoying the sights and sounds was already great. Finally two more F-5s joined the fun, and these had high-explosive rounds loaded into their cannons. Seeing them shoot at the targets was an absolute spectacle.
As this was the final F-5 round at Axalp, the organisation had arranged something special to close this era. The six F-5s that had been shooting at Axalp joined up with the six Patrouille Suisse F-5s and toghether this formation of 12 Tigers flew across Axalp. The Patrouille Suisse then continued to show their complete show, which is rather spectacular in this mountain environment.
The Patrouille Suisse show was also the final act of the day, so we could start the descent towards the skilift. If you thought that climbing the mountain was tough, then be prepared for this. As the mountain is very steep, only stepping dow carefully was possible (even though some locals were almost running down). This has a great impact on your legs, knees and ankles. Once at the skilift, it was finally time for some rest, which continued in the bus down towards Brienz.
After our first day at Payerne, we initially had the plan to watch the Axalp Fliegerschiessen from the Wildgärst location. However, when we started our walk at 5 in the morning, it just did not feel good. Therefore we changed the plans to try our luck at Emmen and Buochs (ok, and Alpnach).
As we had an early start, it meant that we arrived at Emmen before sunrise. When it started to get light, we started scouting for locations and we did a tour around the field to see what might be parked outside. At that point we also saw that the barrier on the runway was raised and we came to the conclusion that the runway use was not good for us; we would not be able to take any decent pictures.
A quick change of plans was made, which meant that we headed to nearby Buochs. Buochs (also known as Stans) is the airfield that accommodates the Pilatus aircraft factory. Usually some interesting new aircraft can be found at this location. When we arrived, we already saw an Australian PC-21 at the flight center, which was a nice welcome. Soon after, we heard the start of an engine and the PC-21 departed for a testflight. Straight after that we were treated to a RNLAF PC-7, which was here for modifications. Next to this, we also enjoyed flights of PC-12s and PC-24s (the new Pilatus Jet), one of these is destined for the Botswana Defence Force.
Since we also deserved a lunch break, we drove the short distance to Alpnach for a supermarkt and a visit to the local airbase. At the airfield, we saw that part of the taxitrack to the platform was closed due to work in progress. This meant that helicopters would not pass in front of us. We briefly enjoyed the arrival of an EC.635 and tried to picture the hot pit refuelling of a Cougar. (nice try, no joy)
At that point, we also found that at Emmen things had changed, the other runway was no in use, which was much better for photography. As we wanted to have some pictures of the local PC-21s and Patrouille Suisse, the decision was made to make the short hop from Alpnach to Emmen.
At Emmen, we were pleasantly surpised to see that the very rare Diamond DA.42 from Armasuisse was flying a mission. Next to that, we could see a great variety of aircraft like PC-6s, PC-7s, PC-9s, PC-21s, Hornets, F-5s and even drones! The afternoon also saw a flight of the Emmen based Patrouille Suisse for their demonstration at the Axalp Fliegerschiessen.
When Patrouille Suisse had returned, we left Emmen for our journey back to Brienz. As Buochs was almost on this route, we paid the 3rd visit of the day to this beautiful airfield and were once more treated to an Australian PC-21.