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In January 2019, the aircraft made the last commercial flight from Doha to Kuwait City, after which it was withdrawn from use.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.
Every year in October, the Swiss Air Force organises the Fliegerschiessen event at Axalp Ebenflüh. Because of this, plans were made to travel to Switzerland for the event. The first day was spent at Payerne airbase, from where most of the fighter aircraft would fly to the range.
Payerne airbase is home to F/A-18 Fliegerstaffel 17 “Falcons” and Fliegerstaffel 18 “Panthers”, as well as to the militia Fliegerstaffel 6 “Ducks” equipped with the F-5E Tiger and Lufttransportstaffel 1, using the EC.635 and Super Puma helicopters.
Payerne is also the location where the F/A-18 simulators are located. At this moment a large construction project is going on at Payerne, where a new flight building with air traffic control tower is being built.
Throughout the day, up to four missions were flown by the based units. Next to this, several smaller aircraft like the PC-6 and PC-7 were seen.
F-5F Tiger J-3210 is a special aircraft within the Swiss Air Force inventory. After its active training carreer, it is now converted into an ECM (Electronic Countermeasures) platform, sporting several underwing pods to fulfill this role.
On the 16th of September 2018 Technology Base Twente, which is situated on the former Twenthe Airbase, organized an Open House to show people what exactly is happening in this rather unique area. Part of the Technology Base is Twente Airport, where a static show with a small airshow was put on.
In the beginning of 2018 it was announced that the Province of Overijssel would organize the Open House at the Technology Base Twente. It was then also mentioned that part of this open house would include a small airshow at Twente Airport. Given the fact that the airport is operational just over a year now, this was an ambitious statement which also shows the link with the surrounding area. Ever since the airport reopened, there has been an ever growing group of aircraft enthusiasts that follow the things that happen on the airfield.
In order to attend the open house, spectators had to order (free) tickets, as the maximum number of visitors was limited to 10,000. The area was only accessible by bike or shuttle bus to avoid congestion in the area.
Once on the field, visits could be made to various innovative companies, the fire exercise facilities and offcourse the airport. AELS also showed/sold aircraft parts in their display area. People could either buy oxygen masks, life vest, seatbelts, bit also complete aircraft seats.
Throughout the day several historical aircraft could be seen up close in the static display area. This ranged from the WW1 Staaken Z21 Flitzer to the 60s era Hawker Hunter.
In the afternoon between 13.30 and 15.00, the airshow took place. This show was opened with an 18-person parachute jump, where the parachutists landed in front of the crowdline. Then the flying display started with shows from the Dutch Thunder Yaks, Fokker Four, Pitts Special and a P-51 Mustang.
Dutch Thunder Yaks
Spotters in action
Crew enjoying the day
Obviously the day would not have been possible without the hard work of all the Twente Airport staff and several volunteers.
In the weekend of 30 June 2018 the Twence waste recycling facility in Hengelo was struck by a large fire. The fire was so intense that the Koninklijke Luchtmacht had to assist the fire brigade with Chinook helicopters.
On the evening of 30 June 2018 the fire brigade was alarmed for a fire at Twence waste recycling. Upon arrival at 23.00, it quickly became clear that a lot of resources and water were needed to extinguish the large pile of garbage. Throughout the night extra fire crews were alarmed to avoid further spreading of the fire.
Soon it became clear the a fire this large could not be battled in the traditional way. Therefore the fire brigade asked the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF/Koninklijke Luchtmacht) for assistance; in the middle of the night Fire Bucket Operations (FBO) was alarmed. FBO is a partnership between the RNLAF, fire brigade Safety Region North and East Gelderland (VNOG) and the Institute for Physical Safety (IFV).
In the morning of the 1st of July, a RNLAF CH-47D Chinook flew to Hengelo to assist the fire brigades. Later in the afternoon a second Chinook arrived. Next to the helicopter crew, a FBO team was on site. This team consist of the Fire Brigade Heli-Team and the Mobile Air Operations Team (MAOT DHC). This team coordinates the helicopter operations and also makes sure that the 10,000 liter Bambi Bucket is hooked up to the Chinook.
During the next 2 days, Chinooks flew to a quarry next to Boekelo in order to pick up water. The vicinity of this quarry made it possible to perform many runs over the fire. Normally approximately 10 runs could be made before the helicopters had to fly to Deelen Airbase for refuelling. The last drops were made around 20.00, after which the Bambi Bucket was returned to the FBO team and the Chinook returned to Gilze-Rijen airbase.
As a result of the assistance with the Chinooks, the fire brigade was able to contain the fire and reduce the smoke in a substantial way. In the evening of 2 July the fire brigade announced that the fire was under control.
The day we visited GLV-V was the day with the best weather forecast of the week, 27 degrees and sun. However, the day started cloudy, grey and rather windy, which made the stay not really that comfortable. We were therefore really waiting for either helicopter action, sunshine, or both.
The action started with a 301 Sqn Apache, exercising throughout the area. Unfortunately the sun was not out yet, otherwise the pictures would have been even nicer.
During the day, the army was also practising in the area with Bushmasters, Boxers and Fennecs, giving a nice variety of gear that could be seen in combination with helicopters.
In the afternoon, the sun came out and we were twice treated to a visiting Chinook (both time the same one). During the second visit, we had the opportunity to get close to the brown-out landing, which resulted in some very interesting pictures.
On the 9th of June 2018 the German Ministry of Defense hosted the Tag der Bundeswehr, during which 15 military bases across the country opened the gates for the general public. One of these bases was the Wehrtechnische Dienststelle für Waffen und Munition 91 (WTD91) in Meppen.
WTD91 in Meppen is a unique location, as it actually is a unit with both military and civillian staff where new weapons and munition are tested. For these purposes, the unit can use a 19200 hectare instrumented shooting range, which measures approximately 31 by 7 kilometers.
Weapons, weaponssystems, guided missiles, drones and armour are tested in Meppen for the German army, navy and airforce. WTD91 boasts a unique professional experience in the disciplines of balistics, acoustics, optronics and meteorology when it comes to military equipment.
During the Tag der Bundeswehr, the visitors were welcomed onto the general area of WTD91 where they could see the equipment of the German army up close, from the Fennek reconaissance vehicle up to the immense PzH2000 howitzer. On the other side of the street, the WTD village was showing the various WTD units from accross the country. These units showed various military innovations that they are currently working on, from 3D printing and robotics via temporary camouflage paint onto an electronic quad from the Trier based WTD41.
A few meters further the highlight of the day was reached, this was were the dynamic weapons display took place 3 times per day for 45 minutes. This weapons display was not only dynamic by the fact that the various military vehicles moved in front of the public, next to that live shots were fired to show the visitors the power and precision of the weapons.
The display started exactly on the hour with a first missile being fired from the LARS rocketlauncher. This first missile was fired to determine if it reached the right target area, situated 12 kilometers further. Once this was confirmed, a salvo of 15 rockets was fired. At this point it became quite clear why visitors had to wear ear protection and why children under the age of 14 years were not allowed at the dynamic weapons display.
LARS firing sequence
Next up was the Dingo armoured transport vehicle, shooting the remote fired MG5 machinegun at several balloons, destroying them all. When the Dingo drove off, the next weapons system was already prepared for action in the form of the MG6 machinegun. This machinegun has 6 barrels and can fire 6000 shots per minute. By using this massive firepower, an array of 400 clay pigeons was cleared in no time.
Then the heavy, tracked vehicles showed up on the range. First to display its firepower was the Puma Schützenpanzer which can transport 6 armed soldiers onto the battlefield. The Puma is equipped with a 30mm machine cannon, with which it destroyed the water barrels that simulated targets on the range. The puma was then followed by the Leopard 2. This main battle tank was staffed by a mixed German/Dutch crew. First it fired the 120mm canon whilst standing still, the next shot was fired whilst driving at full speed. The Leopard was then followed by the PzH2000 howitzer firing the mighty 155mm canon at a target 12km away.
Puma in action
Then, during a short parade of the ENOK, EAGLE IV and Boxer, a display was given how troops would be inserted and extracted from the battlefield.
After the ground-based displays, all eyes were focused onto the sky, as it was time for the aerial display of WTD61s Tiger attack helicopter. An array of impressive manouevres was shown directly in front of the guests, so that they could get an impression on the versatility of this helicopter.
When the Tiger display was over, it was announced that Meppen could see some aerial visitors as well. First up was a C-160D Transall from LTG63 in Hohn. This Transall flew along all Tag der Bundeswehr bases in northern Germany and treated the audience to a Sarajevo approach. The final visitor of the day was the Transall’s successor, an Airbus A.400M from LTG62 in Wunstorf, that flew accross the entire country to visit Tag der Bundeswehr events during which it was in the air for more than 6 hours.