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A Heavy month for Twente Airport

The month of January 2018 was a very busy month for Twente Airport, both within and outside of the fences. The reason for this was the arrival of no less than 3 heavy widebodies in one week. All three aircraft made their final flight to Twente Airport, where dismantling would follow by AELS.

Airbus 340 F-GLZI after shutting down the engines for the final time.

Many people know the large aircraft boneyards like Mojave and AMARG, but AELS chose a different approach when it comes to aircraft dismantling. Costs can be saved by chosing to dismantle aircraft in the region where they come from, which already reduces the amount of fuel that is required to transfer the aircraft on the final flight.

What is AELS

AELS is an aircraft disassembly and dismantling company that provides full scale solutions for aircraft that have reached their (economical) end of life. The services of AELS can be split up in 3 segments, where they often come together in one project:

  • Aircraft disassembly and dismantling
  • Recycling of aircraft parts
  • Component Management

The fact that AELS is a relatively small company means that they can quickly adapt and react to the customers’ needs.

History of AELS

The history of AELS starts with its founder, Derk-Jan van Heerden, a couple of years before the establishment of the company in April 2006. In that period Mr van Heerden asked himself what was happening with aircraft that had stopped flying and he decided to find out more on this subject. This proces lead to him graduating on this subject after which he began to create a business plan for AELS. After a short period with KLM Engineering & Maintenance, where he was responsible for the dismantling of a Boeing 747, AELS was founded by Mr van Heerden in 2006.

Nowadays the AELS team assists aircraft owners all over the world in the dismantling of their aircraft. AELS facilitates the complete process, from the arrival of the airplane to the sale of the last piece of aluminium. During the short existence of the company, more than 40 aircraft have already been processed in a sustainable manner, where the goal is to reuse all components.

Initially the disassembly activities were based at Woensdrecht, in the south of the Netherlands.  The downside of this location was however, that wide-body aircraft could not be processed there, due to the lack of space. Therefore it was decided to move the company’s activities to Twente Airport, where the first airframe – a Swiss Airbus 340 – arrived on 27 April 2017. AELS then made clear that they had larger plans and were looking to acquire more airframes.

HB-JMK with AELS in April 2017

Three Widebodies in one week

By the end of December 2017, messages started seeping in that , after the arrival of the first KLM Boeing 747, more was to be expected at Twente Airport in January. Almost everybody believed that this would be the 2nd KLM Boeing 747, the PH-BFF. For many it came as a surprise that next to this Boeing, also 2 Air France Airbus 340s were scheduled to arrive at Twente.

A disadvantage of January is that normally the weather is not all that good, grey skies, low clouds, snow and rain dominate the winter period in the Netherlands. These weather conditions can cause issues at Twente Airport, as it is a VFR (Visual Flying Rules) only airfield. VFR dictates that there has to be a minimum cloud base of 1500ft and a visibility of 5 kilometers. Because of these reasons the flights were several times postponed to different dates and on the day itself the arrival time was also changed several times.

F-GLZI

The first aircraft that was scheduled for arrival was Air France’s A.340-311 F-GLZI, which was due to arrive on the 19th of January.  This aircraft was ferried from Paris – Charles de Gaulle to Twente Airport, a flight of approximately an hour. Due to a combination of strong winds and low ceiling, the flight was postponed several times on this day, after which the Airbus finally arrived at quarter to four. At that time, there was no longer a tow truck driver available, so that the aircraft was parked at Twente’s Runway 05 end. This was something that was appreciated by many aviation enthusiasts, but less by the members of the flying club. They could not use the 3km runway that weekend.

F-GLZR

Next up was Air France Airbus 340 F-GLZR on the 22nd of January.  On this day the crew was prepared early on the day to make the short flight form Paris to The Netherlands. However, because the flight was a non-commercial flight, they had to join the back of the queue at CDG to obtain a slot or get a towing truck for pushback. When finally F-GLZR’s symbol lit up on the Flightradar app, a sigh of relief went through everybody on or around Twente Airport.

PH-BFF

Finally, on the 25th of January the last flight of KLM’s Boeing 747 PH-BFF “City of Freetown” was scheduled to take place from Amsterdam to Twente. This flight had received quite some publicity through the regional media channels, so the spotters hill at Twente was filled with spectators early that day already. This was the shortest flight of this week, but later it proved to be the most difficult one as well. All day long, the cloud base above Twente was to low, so that the flight could not take place at that point. Throughout the day, the AELS and Twente Airport staff were in contact with the flightcrew, who were already aboard the aircraft since 10 in the morning. Finally, by the end of the afternoon, the clouds broke and the ceiling was high enough.

When this became clear, the puzzling and brainstorming started. The Boeing had to arrive before the Universal Daylight Period (UDP) expired, as Twente is a VFR only airport. On the 25th of January this UDP ended at 17.30 local time. An extra problem was that prior to the arrival of the PH-BFF, two bizzjets were scheduled to arrive and depart. These aircraft had already departed their airport of origin, so cancelling them was no longer possible. These jets also had to leave Twente before the Boeing’s arrival, as otherwise they would be stuck at Twente (the runway would be blocked with a large piece of blue metal).

All in all this was a big puzzle, but in the end the last flight of the PH-BFF could take place. At 17.30 precisely, with the last bit of daylight, the wheels of the 747 were pushed against the tarmac for the very last time. After this, the City of Freetown was towed through the darkness towards the AELS platform. Before this could take place, first an A340 had to be repositioned, so that the Boeing could be parked next to Hangar 8. Once parked over there, the crew could finally exit the aircraft after a very long day. Flights to New York usually take them less time than this short hop.

After this flight, things got “quiet” at AELS. They now own 4 widebodies, of which two are parked at the former Runway 11 and two next to the AELS hangar. Only once these aircraft have been dismantled will there be space for new acquisitions. Who know what will be the next arrival….

Sources: Wikipedia, www.aels.nl
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Last flight of F-GLZI

On Friday 19 January 2018 Air France’s Airbus 340-311 F-GLZI made its last flight to Twente Airport, to be dismantled by AELS.

Airbus 340 F-GLZI after shutting down the engines for the final time.

Long-time Airbus customer Air France is gradually replacing the Airbus 340 with the newer, more cost-efficient Boeing 787 Dreamliner. As a result, the Airbus 340 fleet is slowly phased out. Twente based aircraft dismantling company AELS was able to acquire two airframes, of which the first one was transferred on 19 January.

Airbus 340-311, the 84th A.340 built made its first flight on July 12th 1995 and has since flown with Air France for 22 years. Recently it made the last commercial flight to Paris Charles de Gaulle.

On 19 January 2018 the aircraft was initially expected to arrive at Twente Airport around 11 o’ clock in the morning. This was however postponed to 14.30 due to the weather along the route.

The flight was later postponed further due to availability of tugs at the departure airport and availability of Air Traffic Control slots. Finnaly the arrival time was changed to 16.00 local.

Shortly before 3pm the engines were started and take-off of flight AF370V could be witnessed on Flightradar.  The flight then went north and entered Dutch airspace just west of Bergen op Zoom. Above Dordrecht the aircraft turned north-east in the direction of Twente, where it landed at 15.45.

The last flight of F-GLZI

The aircraft was then parked at the Runway 05, where the engines were stopped for the last time. The F-GLZI was then handed over to the new owner, who will slowly reduce it to small pieces.

On Monday 22 January 2018 sister ship F-GLZR will make the same journey.

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Dutch Historic Jet Association’s Fouga

During the Keep them Rolling anniversary event at Twente Airport one strange visitor arrived, that did not really fit in with the event. It was the Fouga Magister of the Dutch Historic Jet Association (DHJA), what did it do here?

Well, the answer was rather simple. The crew heard about the event and decided to have a look. Since the Fouga did not fit in with the event (it was buit after WW2), it was parked on the main platform of the airport and not with the event. The crew did however dress up for the occassion and perfectly blended in with the event.

Dressing in Style. Fons Hemmelder and Gerhard Westerdijk prepare for the flight back to Lelystad.
Dressing in Style. Fons Hemmelder and Gerhard Westerdijk prepare for the flight back to Lelystad Airport.

Later in the afternoon I was lucky enough to move to the main platform to take pictures of the Fouga. On this occassion I also met the pilots Fons Hemmelder and Gerhard Westerdijk, who flew here from Lelystad Airport. Both of them are former Koninlijke Luchtmacht pilots who later made the move to various airlines as captains. After their retirement they are now using their time to support the DHJA and fly the Fouga. Fons is very well known in the Dutch aviation scene (and abroad as well), as he was the NF-5 Solo Display pilot with Twenthe Airbase based 315 Squadron during 1981/1982. These skills come in very handy when displaying the Fouga during the various airshows. Gerhard used to fly the F-104G Starfighter with 322 Squadron, based at Leeuwarden.

Memories from a long gone time
Memories from a long gone time, the NF-5 has been phased out, 315 Squadron has been disbanded and Twenthe Airbase is now Twente Airport.

Both Gerhard and Fons receieved their initial jet training on the Fouga CM.170R Magister with the Belgian Air Force’s Voortgezette Vlieg Opleiding at Brustem. Here they both developed the love for this easy going whistle jet and they have been involved with the DHJA since its foundation in 1997.

The Fouga CM.170R Magister

The Fouga CM.170 Magister (and its navalised sister, the CM.175 Zephyr) was designed by Fouga’s engineersRobert Castello and Pierre Mauboisson.  In 1948, development commenced at Fouga on a new primary trainer aircraft design that harnessed newly developed jet propulsion technology. The initial design was evaluated by the French Air Force (Armée de l’Air, AdA) and, in response to their determination that the aircraft lacked sufficient power for their requirements, was enlarged and adopted a pair of Turbomeca Marboré turbojet engines. First flying on 23 July 1952, the first production order for the type was received on 13 January 1954. Export orders for the Magister were received, which included arrangements to produce the type under license in Germany, Finland, and Israel. In addition, the related CM.175 Zéphyr was a carrier-capable version developed and produced for the French Navy.

While primarily operated as a trainer aircraft, the Magister was also frequently used in combat as a close air support platform by various operators. In the latter capacity, it saw action during the Six-Day War, the Salvadoran Civil War, the Western Sahara War, and the Congo Crisis. In French service, the Magister was eventually replaced by the Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet. In total, 926 were built.

The Belgian Air Force operated 50 Magisters as primary trainers. The aerobatic team The Red Devils also used them as display aircraft. A small number of Magisters remained in use until September 2007, as flight maintenance aircraft for senior officers. The Belgian Air Force was the last country that used Magisters for full duty.

DHJAs Fouga Magister F-GLHF on the tarmac of Twente Airport
DHJAs Fouga Magister F-GLHF on the tarmac of Twente Airport

The Dutch Historic Jet Association currently owns two Fouga Magisters and is based at Lelystad Airport. The CM.170R with registration F-GLHF is a former French Air Force Magister with constructionnumber 406, which was delieverd to the Armée de l’Air in 1964. In 1997 the DHJA acquired this airframe and painted it in the striking red colours. The second airframe is former Belgian Air Force MT-37 (constructionnumber 312), which is not in flyable condition. This aircraft is painted in the coloursof the famour Red Devils aerobatics team.

Fons and Gerhard during the pre-flight check (walkaround) prior to startup
Fons and Gerhard during the pre-flight check (walkaround) prior to startup

When preparing to depart from Twente Airport in the afternoon, the jet did not want to start up, even after several attempts. Since the saying “Better safe than sorry” particularly applies to aviation, Fons and Gerhard decided to abandon the attempts and park the Fouga in Hangar 9 (a former F-16 hangar) and return at later stage with the technicians. On Friday the 15th of September the Fouga could return to Lelystad after a faulty fuel-micro-pump was replaced.

Preparing for startup
Preparing for startup

Acknowledgements: I want to thank Fons Hemmelder and Gerhard Westerdijk for their time and the really nice conversations and explanation.

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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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AOPA Fly In at Twente Airport

On the 8th of July Twente Airport played host to the annual Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) Fly In.

One of the parking spaces at Twente Airport
One of the parking spaces at Twente Airport

During this event, more than 100 aircraft found their way to Twente Airport, where they could enjoy lectures, an aviation market and a nice barbecue.

The excellent weather during the day made this a very enjoyable event. Twente had not seen that many visiting aircraft, since the last Royal Netherlands Airforce (KLu) Open House in 2003. This meant that all possible help was needed and provided.

Below is an impression of some of the visiting aircraft

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Large scale drone testing at Twente Airport

During the first week of July the NLR (Netherlands Aerospace Centre) used Twente Airport to perform the first tests with the XCalibur+ Jet Trainer, a certified drone, according to the ASRPAS1 standards. The jet trainer is being used to gain experience on flying jet-powered drones.

The XCalibur+ is prepared for the first flight

The XCalibur+ jet trainer is based on a model aircraft, where several modifications have been applied to bring the aircraft onto ASRPAS1 specifications. The drone can fly on various speeds and is remotely piloted. It was the first time that the NLR flew this drone.  Four NLR employees have been specially trained in Germany in order to fly jet powered, fixed wing, drones. Furthermore, the trials are supervised by a pilot with expertise on real jets and drone jets.

The experience gained with the jet trainer is essential for future NLR big drone activities. For some time, NLR has been working on the development of a large remote controlled jet plane measuring 4 meters in length and 4 meters span and weight over 100 kg. It does this within the framework of the EU Cleansky 2 SCALAIR (SCALed AIRcraft) project, in which a flying scale model of an existing airplane is being developed, built and tested. The purpose of this scale model is to show connection between the scale behavior of the scale model and the full-scale aircraft.

NLR chooses Twente Airport because this location is unique. ‘The NLR has the Netherlands RPAS Test Center (NRTC) in Marknesse, however, for the first flights with the jet trainer and other big drones, Twente Airport is chosen because of the availability of a long hardened runway, an obstacle free environment and relatively little air traffic. In addition, Technology Base, located at Twente Airport, offers the environment where innovative entrepreneurship and a lot of space to experiment together, “said Jan Willekens of NLR. Within the Dutch Drone Platform, NLR works closely with Space53 and the other proposed Drone test locations in the Netherlands to promote Drone development and use.

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First Airbus A.340 arrives at Twente Airport for disassembly

On the 27th of April 2017 AELS welcomed the first aircraft for disassembly at Twente Airport. On this date former Swiss Airlines A.340-600 HB-JMK arrived from Zürich. Many spectators were present at the Spotters Hill to witness this event.

At 10.36h, the A.340 made it’s last-ever landing at Twente. This was a unique moment for Twente Airport as well, since it was the largest aircraft to ever land here.

The Airbus with line number 169 is a 20 year old airframe, which made the last commercial flight from Johannesburg to Zurich on 24 April 2017. It started commercial service with Austrian Airlines and was later transferred to Swiss Airlines.

Many spectators were present to watch the last landing of the Airbus 340.

This is the first disassembly project that AELS carries out at Twente Airport. AELS has created a technical team that mostly consists of people from the region around Twente Airport. This team will carry out the disassembly of the aircraft.

 

Twente Airport has several good characteristics to dismantle a wide-body aircraft, which are beneficial for AELS. These are amongst others, a 2400m runway, sufficient platform and hangar space and the flexibility to host these types of aircraft.

It will take approximately 3 months to disassemble a complete Airbus. First the engines will be removed, after which all the useable parts will be parted out. Finally, the remains of the aircraft will be scrapped and recycled.

Since 2006, AELS has dismantled 50 aircraft, but this A.340-600 is the first wide-body aircraft. It is a large aircraft: approximately 64 meters in length, a wingspan of 60 meters and a height of 16 meters.

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The runway is wet

On 21 and 22 March 2017 Twente Airport hosted an Airbus A.400M to perform wet runway tests together with the Netherlands Aerospace Center (NLR). Niek van der Zande Photography was there to witness these tests.

The A.400M waits at the platform for the next tests to begin.

The fact that Airbus would send an A.400M to Twente only became known to the outside world on Monday 20 March, when a NOTAM (NOtice To AirMen) was issued and the Grizzly was airborne out of the facty airport in Sevilla, Spain. Twente Airport already knew of these plans for a long time, but was not allowed to mention anything before.

The Grizzly’s crew is ready for another mission.

Upon arrival in Twente, the crew first circled the airfield for a considerable time, as the crew was not yet sure whether the meteorological conditions were good enough for them to land. There are no ILS facilities in Twente, which means that conditions need to be good enough for a visual approach.  Luckily, Twente Airport has its own meteo station on site, so the most accurate information could be passed on to the crew, after which they considered it safe to land.

Various calibration marks on the A.400M

The reason behind this unique visit is that Twente Airport has the facilities to perform wet runway tests, something that cannot be performed just anywhere. Twente has the unique situation that it has a long runway with the right surface. Next to that, the runway is prepared to create a water basin through which the aircraft can perform high speed taxi runs. In 2016 the first tests were already performed with a NLR Citation ( see: NLR tests at Twente Airport ), these tests were now performed on a larger scale. For this a set of grooves of 1cm wide and 3cm deep were cut into the runway. In these grooves large rubber slats were inserted so that a basin was created. This basin could be filled up with up to 3 centimeters of water, which resembles a heavy downpour of rain during a storm.

The Grizzly taxies out for another series of tests.

The A.400M then taxied through the water basin in order to measure the brake performance under various circumstances. IN order to get a clear picture, a total of 16 runs were executed, all at different speeds and with different braking profiles. The maximum speed at which the runs were performed was 110 knots, which guaranteed a big splash of water around the aircraft.

Splash! That’s the result of 8mm water on the runway.

The tests themselves were initiated by the European Commission, in order get further information on aircraft performance under extreme conditions. These results will be used to further expand regulations and certifications and thus enhance the safety in aviation.

After this succesful series of tests, the A.400M left for Sevilla on Thursday 23 March. Twente Airport hopes to see more of these tests in the future, they are now talking to the Chinese manufacturer COMAC in order to see if tests with the COMAC C919 can be held at Twente Airport. This will get easier when ownership transfers from de Dutch Ministry of Defence to the Province of Overijssel on the 30th of March 2017. From then on the restrictions on the usage of the airfield will be lifted and visiting aircraft can be accepted at a 24 hours advance notice (24Hr PPR). This 24Hr PPR was introduced since the airport does not have a fixed staffing of Air Traffic Control, Fire Brigade etc. These will be hired on a need-be basis.

In order to facilitate operations outside of daylight hours, a GPS appraoch system will be introduced in the fall of 2017. This means that pilots can fly to and from the airport under Instrument Flying Rules (IFR).

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NLR tests at Twente Airport

The Netherlands Aerospace Centre (NLR) has chosen Twente Airport as the location of several tests with it’s airplane, a Cessna Citation businessjet.

The NLR flight crew, ready for another mission.
The NLR flight crew, ready for another mission.

On the 13th of September brake tests were held, whereby the runway was artificially soaked. The tests will continue on 15 and 16 September, but now brake tests will be performed in a water basin, which will be purposely built on a section of the runway. The NLR was looking for a location where some special tests could be executed; plenty of space and a runway with a special coating were required.

The top layer, Antiskid from the Possehl company, increases security when landing on a wet runway. These tests are held to measure exactly what the friction of the runway is in rainy conditions. The runway will be soaked with the use of six large tanker trailers that will spray a large amount of water on the runway. The testplane will then land shortly after.

nvdz_ehtw_13092016-20

On 15 and 16 September another set of braking tests were performed but now in a so-called waterbasin, that will be constructed on a part of the runway.

Preparation of the water basin on the runway
Preparation of the water basin on the runway

The amount of water in this basin represents the amount of water that can accumulate on the runway during a heavy downpour. The purpose of these tests is to see how the aircraft brakes perform in these extreme conditions. The knowledge that is gained will be used to adapt rules and regulations, which will then in turn increase flight safety. The tests on 15 and 16 September were performed in the light of a European study to increase flight safety.

PH-LAB landing on the soaked runway
PH-LAB landing on the soaked runway

 

 

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