Category Archives: Events

Tour de Suisse – Day 3: Axalp

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.

Getting there
Tschingel climb
The climb onto the Tschingel started in the dark

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.

Tschingel Axalp
There is not really a path towards Tschingel

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.

Tschingel Axalp
The last part of the climb is absolutely very steep

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.

Tschingel Axalp
The spectacular view from the spectator area

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.

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Shooting at one of the targets with high-explosive rounds
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.

Hornet Axalp

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.

F-5 Axalp

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.

EC.635 Axalp

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.

Rega EC.635 Axalp
The Rega rescue helicopter parked at Axalp
Afternoon action

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.

Hornet Axalp

Axalp

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.

Cougar Axalp

Cougar Axalp

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.

Hornet Axalp

Hornet Axalp

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.

Hornet Axalp

Hornet Axalp

PC-21 Axalp

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.

F-5 Axalp

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.

F-5 Axalp

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.

View towards the Tschingel when walking back towards the skilift.
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Open House Twente Airport

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

Fokker Four

Pitts Special

P-51D Mustang

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.

 

 

 

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Es donnert auf der Heide

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.

Meppen Range (EDR34) in Northern Germany, as shown on aviation charts

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.

The Tiger attack helicopter on the ground before the display

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.

Bundeswehrfeuerwehr

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.

The LARS missile system is no longer in use with the Bundeswehr, but WTD 91 still had plenty of rockets in stock to be fired.
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
Leopard 2
PzH2000

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.

 

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Keep Them Rolling (and Flying)

During the weekend of 9 September 2017, the Keep Them Rolling association celebrated its 45th Anniversary in the region of Twente. During this weekend a WW2 Airfield was set up at Twente Airport.

Keep Them Rolling (KTR) is a Dutch association that has the objective to preserve and maintain Military vehicles that were built or used during the 2nd World War, more in particular maintaining the historical aspects and background associated with these vehicules as well as preserving and maintaining memories of events during the 2nd World War for future generations.

In order to do this, they have the following activities:

Preserve military vehicles, cars, trucks (softskinned or armoured), boats and planes.

Organise meetings and publish a Club Magazine.

Establish and upkeep contacts with Dutch and foreign associations with the same interests.

Spreading of Newsletters about the activities being held by the members of the association.

Help organise tours and processions or static shows in order to show to the general public the preserved material.

Give support to events organised by foreign associations.

Obtain facilities which might be usefull to the members.

Guide and be helpfull with renovations and work on objects restored.

Do all things possible which can be usefull to the association

(Source: www.ktr.nl)

Because KTR celebrated the 45th Anniversary, a special event was organized. Already 2 years ago, the organisation spoke to the owners of Twente Airport to see if there were possibilities to establish a fully operational WW2 Airfield. The airport management was enthusiastic from the start and soon the first plans were drafted. With the involvement of the Vliegclub Twente a location to create the Airfield was soon found.

During the course of 2017 the invitations were sent to the various aircraft operators and many of them agreed to participate in the event. Amongst others, DDA Classic Airlines would come an perform sightseeing flights during the weekend. Initially the Catalina PH-PBY would come as well, but unfortunately she had a landing accident some weeks before, which prevented participation.

When the 9th of September arrived, Twente woke up to a grey sky with low clouds and lots of rain. This is not the ideal scenario to fly historical aircraft and soon news came through that several participants had to cancel due to this weather. However, towards the end of the morning the meteorological conditions improved and soon the first participants, in the form of two KLu Historical Flight Harvards appeared over Twente’s runway. The aircraft were carefully marshalled onto the airfield and then pushed into the shelter area, where guests could see them up close.

Not much later the Dakota arrived from Schiphol airport, after which various sightseeing flights took place in the afternoon. Finally P-51D Mustang “Trusty Rusty” of the Early Birds Foundation arrived from Lelystad.

Throughout the day, various convoys with Keep Them Rolling vehicles visited Twente Airport, where the visitors could enjoy the whole airfield scenery, listen to live music from marching bands and singers, or just enjoy the sunshine and catch up with fellow enthusiasts. By the end of the ofternoon it was time to say goodbye, but to quote Dame Vera Lynn, maybe “We’ll meet again”?

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ExpoRIC safety exposition

On 2 June 2016, eRIC (expo Rampenbestrijding, Incidentmanagement & Crisismanagement; Disaster planning, Incident management & Early warning and response coordination fair) threw open its doors at Vliegveld Twenthe. 

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For three packed days, the former military airbase was transformed into the ultimate meeting place for product and service providers, operational relief workers and industry organisations.

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Guests could attend to forge networks and do business, creating public-private partnerships to work towards a safer country.

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President Obama visits Hannover

On 24 and 25 April 2016 the U.S. President Barack Obama visited Hannover, Germany. The main purpose of his visit was to open the Hannover Messe but next to that he also had meetings with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, as well as with the Prime Ministers of France, Italy and the United Kingdom.

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President Obama greets the crowd at Hannover Airport

The pictures on this page were taken during President Obama’s arrival at Hannover Airport on 24 April and his departure on 25 April. Obviously there was a large number of security staff from both German and US authorities.

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Security Forces

The Beast

Airforce One

Leaving Germany

Other visitors

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