All posts by niekvand

Exercise Blue Wings 2020 – There’s a first time for everything

In August 2020 a truly unique exercise took place in Germany: Exercise Blue Wings 2020. This exercise marked the first time that aircraft from the German Luftwaffe and Israeli Air Force (IAF) operated jointly in German skies.

After the Luftwaffe had already taken part twice in Exercise Blue Flag, which took place at IAFs Ovda airbase, it was now time to return the honour. On the 17th of August, a detachment of 180 men and women from several IAF units started the exercise at Nörvenich Air Base, just south of Cologne. Nörvenich is the home of Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 31 “Boelcke”, flying the Eurofighter.

F-16C Barak
An F-16C-40-CF “Barak” thunders down Nörvenichs runway for another Blue Wings mission.

The first week of the exercise primarily consisted of getting to know the airspace in preparation for the “MAG (Multinational Air Group) Days” exercise – an international event that takes place four times a year.

An F-16D-40-CF Barak taxies to the runway for another exercise mission over southern Germany. During most of the missions four F-16s, one Nachshon Eitam and one KC-707 took part. First the supporting KC-707 and Nachshon Eitam would take off, after which the fighters followed.

On Tuesday the 18th of August, a mixed formation of German and Israeli aircraft perfromed a fly-by over the sites of Dachau Concentration Camp, in memory of the Holocaust victims, and Fürstenfeldbrück Air Base, in memory of 11 Israeli Olympic delegation members that were murdered in the 1972 Olympics terrorist attack.

A visiting Israeli delegation means an increased level of security. Next to Luftwaffe patrols inside the airbase, the outside was guarded by German police, as well as unmarked (but clearly present) Israeli security

As part of the exercise, six “Barak” (F-16C/D) fighter jets, two “Re’em” (Boeing 707) aircraft, a “Nachshon-Eitam” (Gulfstream G-550) and a “Nachshon-Shavit” (Gulfstream G-V) aircraft landed at the Nörvenich Air Base. The Baraks were flown by members of 101 and 105 Squadrons, both based at Hatzor. The Re’ems were operated by 120 Squadron (nicknamed Giants), normally based at Nevatim. The two Nachshons were both flown by 122 Squadron, also based at Nevatim.

It does not get more ugly than this. The Nachshon Eitam is a highly modified Gulfstream 550 business jet and is used for Conformal Airborne Early Warning tasks.

101 Squadron

101 Squadron of the Israeli Air Force, also known as the First Fighter Squadron, is Israel’s first fighter squadron, formed on May 20, 1948, six days after Israel declared its independence. Initially flying the Avia S-199, it has since operated the Supermarine Spitfire, North American Mustang, Dassault Mystere IV, Dassault Mirage IIICJ, IAI Nesher and IAI Kfir. It currently operates out of Hatzor Airbase, flying the F-16C Fighting Falcon.

101 Squadrin F-16C
The 101 Squadron badge is clearly shown on the tail of F-16C-40-CF 536

105 Squadron

The 105 Squadron of the Israeli Air Force, also known as The Scorpion, was founded in December 1950 as a Spitfire squadron and has since operated the P-51 Mustang, Dassault Super Mystere, IAI Sa’ar, and F-4 Phantom II. It currently operates F-16Ds at Hatzor Airbase.

105 Squadron has the nickname Scorpions, which can also seen through the tail art/camouflage on this “Barak”

120 Squadron

The 120 Squadron of the Israeli Air Force, also known as the Desert Giants (former International Squadron), is a Boeing 707 Phalcon and KC-707 Re’em squadron based at Nevatim Airbase. Eventually the KC-707s will be replaced with newly ordered KC-46s.

This KC-707 Re’em proudly sports the badge of 120 Squadron on the nose.

122 Squadron

The 122 Squadron of the Israeli Air Force, also known as the Nahshon Squadron (former Dakota Squadron), is a G550 squadron based at Nevatim Airbase. The Squadron has five G550 (G550 “Nachshon-Eitam” and G-V (“Nachshon-Shavit”) with two aircraft are used for Airborne early warning and control (CAEW or Conformal Airborne Early Warning, IAI EL/W-2085) and three are used for Signals intelligence (SEMA or Special Electronic Missions Aircraft).

Nachshon IAF
Emphasizing that this is a special missions aircraft is the fact that there are no nationality markings or registration worn on this Nachshon Shavit; the registration could only be seen on the aircraft’s crew ladder.

TLG 31 “Boelcke”

The Tactical Air Force Wing 31 “Boelcke” is one of four Eurofighter squadrons. With the fighter jet, the squadron makes its contribution to alliance and national defense. This mission includes ensuring air combat capability and establishing the Eurofighter’s air-to-ground capability for the Air Force. The squadron develops procedures and training principles for pilots and technicians for all German Eurofighter associations in order to establish the air-to-ground capability of the fighter jet.

A “Boelcke” Eurofighter is about to land at its homebase Nörvenich

Sources: Luftwaffe, Israeli Air Force, Wikipedia, Scramble

Sleeping beauties in the morning sun

In August 2020 some work needed to be done in the depots of the Dutch Nationaal Militair Museum. Because of this, several sleeping beauties (otherwise not visible to the public) were parked outside in the morning sun on the platform of the former Soesterberg Airbase.

USAF F-4 Phantom Soesterberg
The true star of the exhibition is this F-4 Phantom in the colours of the 32nd TFS that used to be based at Soesterberg

The National Military Museum is situated on the former air base at Soesterberg. It combines the collections of the former Military Aviation Museum in Soesterberg and Army Museum in Delft. There are numerous pieces on display, including tanks, planes, armoured vehicles and helicopters.

Fokker S-14 Machtrainer Soesterberg
The Fokker S.14 is a unique Dutch product; in total only 21 have been built and 3 have been preserved. This L-11 stands in a beautiful morning sun on the platform near the NMM in Soesterberg.

Considering the fact that a heatwave was taking place, as well as that we were in the middle of school holidays, the choice was made to visit the site in the early morning.

T-37 Soesterberg
The NMM does not only display Dutch aircraft, but also foreign aircraft related to Dutch avaiation. In this case the T-37 Tweety Bird is displayed since Dutch (and other NATO) pilots received their jet training on this aircraft in the USA

At 7.30 in the morning the August summer sun provides a beautiful low light, which emphasizes the beautiful lines and pristine conditions of these aircraft. Some are so well preserved that you could almost fire them up and fly away.

NF-5B KLu Soesterberg
The NF-5 was a variant of the F-5 that was license built in Canada. This variant was similar to the CF-5, but had more powerful engines. In total 105 NF5’s were delivered to the Koninklijke Luchtmacht. This NF-5B wears the markings of 316 Squadron.

These aircraft were all moved back inside once the maintenance work in the depot was finished. When will we see them aiagin? Hopefully very soon….

Hawker Hunter Soesterberg
Hawker Hunter N-122 on the platform in front of the NMM with the ATC control tower of the former Soesterberg Airbase in the background.

Do you want to know more about the NMM and the former Soesterberg Airbase? Then visit the WEBSITE of the NMM.

Two’s a company, three’s a crowd

After the arrival of the first two Lufthansa Boeing 747s at Twente Airport (see http://niekvanderzande.nl/two-cranes-park-in-twente/ ), a third one arrived for storage at Twente Airport on the 29th of June.

Boeing 747 runway lights
D-ABTK approaches the airfield

Because of ongoing cost reductions, Lufthansa has decided to put 6 Boeing 747-430s in long term storage at Twente Airport. In order to facililtate this, several dedicated aircraft parking platforms have been created next to the main platform.

D-ABTK on base leg for runway 23

The third Lufthansa 747 to arrive was D-ABTK, which is 18.5 years old. It was initially withdrawn from use at Frankfurt in March 2020. After some rescheduling, it was then ferried to Twente on the 29th of June.

D-ABTKs ferry flight from FRA to ENS (source: www.flightaware.com )

Upon arrival, D-ABTK was initially parked at the former Runway 11 platform. Later that week she was moved to the newly created parkingspots.

Boieng 747
Boeing 747 runway lights
D-ABTK shortly before touchdown

Two Cranes park in Twente

On the 6th of June two Lufthansa Boeing 747-400s arrived at Twente Airport for long-term storage. More aircraft will follow in the near future.

Lufthansa Boeing 747 parked at Twente Airport
Lufthansa Boeing 747-400 Mülheim a.d. Ruhr parked on the main apron of Twente Airport

Airplane enthusiast faced an early start on Saturday 6 June for the arrival of two Lufthansa Boeing 747-400s that will be stored at Twente Airport. Initial rumours on the ever-reliable internet mentioned that these aircraft would be dismantled with AELS, but AELS was quick to mention that this was not the case.

Boeing 747 Twente
D-ABVO is about to touch down at twente Airport

These two aircraft are the first of in total six Boeing 747s that will be stored at Twente Airport for Lufthansa. Whilst parked here, the Cranes (nickname for Lufthansa aircraft) will be maintained by Lufthansa Technik, so that they can be restored into airworthy condition at any given time.

Due to the loss in demand and the many travel restrictions, Lufthansa has to keep a large part of the fleet grounded. Initially this was done at their hubs like Frankfurt, Munich and Hamburg. However, these airports are now slowly starting up their operations again, which means that some of the parking space over there is needed for other purposes.

Lufthansa Boeing 747

Because of this, Lufthansa came to an agreement with Twente Airport for the storage of 6 aircraft. Since Twente has a runway that is wide and long enough (almost 3000m), it is able to handle large aircraft like the Boeing 747.

Earlier this year, two factory fresh Airbus 220s were already parked at Twente Airport whilst the lease company was looking for a new customer.

Lufthansa Boeing 747
D-ABTL is on the base leg for Twente Airport’s Runway 23, whilst sister D-ABVO is already parked

The first aircraft to arrive on 6 June was D-ABVO named Mülheim a.d. Ruhr, which landed shortly before 8 am. This 747 arrived directly from Beijing, where it was ferried earlier this year for a C-Check. However, because of the Covid-19 crisis, this check was postponed and the aircraft was flown to Twente. The crew was not that confident that this particular airframe would fly again, as it is already more than 23 years old and the demand for large aircraft is less.

D-ABVOs flight from Beijng (source: Flightaware)
Cockpit Boeing 747
The Cockpit of Mülheim a.d. Ruhr

Two hours later her younger sister D-ABTL arrived from Frankfurt, which was with a flighttime of 45 minutes a lot shorter. After arrival, she was directly parked at the former runway 11, where Lufthansa Technik will prepare her for the long term storage.

D-ABTL’s much shorter flight (source: Flightaware)
2 Lufthansa Boeing 747s
D-ABTL lands on Twente Airport’s Runway 23, whilst D-ABVO is already parked

After parking, there was a quick moment for a group picture, after which both crews flew back to Frankfurt in a Piper 34. That’s also one of the perks of storing aircraft close to home; you can fly back with a small aircraft.

Lufthansa Crew
The crew of both Boeing 747s before their flight back home

At this moment, it is not yet known when the other 4 Boeings will arrive. In order to park them, first the new parking positions that are currently under construction at Twente Airport need to be ready.

Lufthansa Boeing 747
D-ABTL is parked at Twente Airport’s former Runway 11
Lufthansa 747 parked at Twente Airport

PlaneMania made a very nice video report about the arrival of D-ABTL at Twente Airport, you can find it below.

Lifeliner 5 stands down

After a period of almost 2 months, Lifeliner 5 made the last operational flight on 20 May 2020. This flight between Hamburg and Venlo ended an intense period during the COVID-19 crisis.

Lifeliner 5
Lifeliner 5 on the helideck of the Medisch Spectrum Twente in Enschede

As of the 24th of March the fifth Mobile Medical Team (MMT) took to the air with an additional trauma helicopter to quickly transport intensive care patients. This helicopter was deployable throughout the Netherlands.

Lifeliner 5

In view of the growth in the number of patients infected with the coronavirus, it has been decided to use this helicopter in addition to the existing MMT service to get patients to the right hospital even faster and thus relieve the burden on road transport.

Lifeliner 5

The helicopter (type H145) was made available by the ANWB Medical Air Assistance (MAA) and has been fully equipped by Radboudumc for the transport of intensive care patients. The team flew in protective gear to avoid getting infected. The helicopter was completely disinfected after each transport.

The helicopter, which is normally in use as an ambulance helicopter to serve the Wadden Islands, was temporarily based at Volkel Airbase and available from 7 in the morning till 7 in the evening. Between the 6th of April and the 2nd of May the second “Waddenheli” was also put in use as an MMT Helicopter, this Lifeliner 6 was based at Groningen Eelde Airport. During this period a NH90 of the Royal Netherlands Airforce was on stand-by to carry out ambulance duties for the Wadden Islands.

Lifeliner 5

The helicopter crew consists of a pilot, a specialized MMT nurse and an anesthetist-MMT doctor. This helicopter is larger than the regular helicopter used by MMTs and offers more space to transport a patient and to provide proper care.

Lifeliner 5

Lifeliner 5 transported the last COVID-19 intensive care patient on Wednesday, May 20. Due to the decreasing number of corona patients, long-distance interregional intensive care transport is no longer necessary. IC patients can also be transported by road over a short distance from 22 May.

A patient is loaded into the Lifeliner 5 at the Medisch Spectrum Twente in Enschede

Lifeliner 5 was made available by ANWB Medical Air Assistance at the time of increasing demand for MICU transport, and was fully equipped by the ANWB together with Radboudumc for the transport of intensive care patients with the COVID-19 virus. The medical crew consisted of members of the regular MMT of the Radboudumc. Lifeliner 5 transported 66 corona patients and 2 non-COVID intensive care patients from the Volkel site. Most of the patients came from hospitals in the south of the country and were brought to the north of the Netherlands and to Germany, and vice versa.

The Lifeliner 5 last flew with a corona patient from Hamburg to Venlo on Wednesday 20 May. This patient had spent six weeks in Germany – without a visit – at the ICU and was allowed to return to Venlo that day. Lifeliner 5 returned to its regular location in Lelystad on Friday 22 May, where it will be used as a backup ambulance helicopter for flights between the Wadden Islands and the mainland.

P2000
The last P2000 pager message for Lifeliner 5

Exercise Épervier 2019

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.

Mirage takeoff at Payerne during exercise Épervier 2019
An Armée de l’Air Mirage 2000-5 departs from Payerne’s runway

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.

Mirage and Hornet at Payerne during exercise Épervier 2019
Mirages and Hornets return after a mission
Mirage 2000-5 at Payerne during exercise Épervier 2019
A “Cigognes” Mirage in front of Payerne’s famous church

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.

Mirages taxi out for another mission during exercise Épervier 2019
Mirages taxi out for another mission
Hornet landing with traffic sign
Watch out for low flying aircraft

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.

Airbus A.400M during exercise Épervier 2019
Transportation support was delivered with an A.400M

On Friday 30 August one more mission was flown before the French contingent returned to their homebase in Luxeuil.

75 years Market Garden commemoration

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.

Airborne soldiers dropped over the Ginkel heath

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.

One of the international participants was a United States Marines Corps Hercules
Soldiers jump from a Koninklijke Luchtmacht Hercules

A short hop to the final destination

After a short flight from Brussels-Zaventem, Brussels Airlines Airbus A330-223 OO-SFY landed at Twente Airport on Monday 19 August 2019.

Brussels Airlines A330 OO-SFY landing at Twente Airport
Flight BEL9901 touches down at Twente Airport

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).

Source: Flightaware.com

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.

Brussels Airlines A330 OO-SFY after landing at Twente Airport

She carried the registration OO-SFY since January 2012 and made her final flight commercial flight from Entebbe to Brussels on 17 August 2019.

Brussels Airlines A330 OO-SFY after landing at Twente Airport
OO-SFY on the tarmac of Runway 23

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.

Brussels Airlines A330 OO-SFY after landing at Twente Airport
OO-SFY is parked on the AELS platform and the crew awaits the stairs

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.

Brussels Airlines A330 OO-SFY after landing at Twente Airport
OO-SFY parked next to the former Qatar Airways A340-600

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