Tag Archives: Photography

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.

axalp target
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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Night photography

Night photography is one of the more difficult things to do. The primary reason is the lack of light, something essential to photography. In order to get decent pictures you need a lot of practice, patience and a tripod will come in handy as well.

Modern DSLR cameras can easily go up to ISO One Zillion without loss of quality, but back in the old days, when you used slide film, a very long shutter time was needed and then still it was a big guess on what the result would be.

As said, modern cameras make it a lot easier, but you still have to know what you are doing. Next to that, quite some correction is required afterwards, as artificial lights have a nasty yellow glance.

This article shows various nightshots throughout the years.

Oldskool: Slides

A Venezuelan Hercules on the platform of Twenthe Airbase
A Venezuelan Hercules on the platform of Twenthe Airbase
An An-12 from Balkan Bulgarian Airways on the platform of Twenthe
A Balkan Bulgarian Airways Antonov 12 at Twenthe
A Belgian Hercules at Twenthe Airbase
A Belgian Hercules at Twenthe Airbase

Digital: Funfair in Hengelo

Emergency Services at Night

A large fire in Enschede
A large fire in Enschede
Firemen in action at a large fire in Hengelo
Firemen in action at a large fire in Hengelo

Aircraft at night

A Swiss Challenger 300 on the platform of Le Bourget
A Swiss Challenger 300 on the platform of Le Bourget
A brand new Embraer ERJ-145AEW amde a stop at Le Bourget during the delivery flight to India
A brand new Embraer ERJ-145AEW made a stop at Le Bourget during the delivery flight to India
The Ecuadorian presidential aircraft was parked at Le Bourget during a visit to Paris
The Ecuadorian presidential aircraft was parked at Le Bourget during a visit to Paris
A Global Express from the German Air Force awaits a VIP at Le Bourget Airport
A Global Express from the German Air Force awaits a VIP at Le Bourget Airport
A United States Air Force C-40 VIP transport at Le Bourget
A United States Air Force C-40 VIP transport at Le Bourget
The Mirage gate guard of Payerne airbase in Switzerland
The Mirage gate guard of Payerne airbase in Switzerland
The Christoph Europa 2 helicopter at the Medisch Spectrum Twente in Enschede
The Christoph Europa 2 helicopter at the Medisch Spectrum Twente in Enschede
The view on this Egyptian Hercules at Le Bourget was unfortunately obstructed by fences.
The view on this Egyptian Hercules at Le Bourget was unfortunately obstructed by fences.
When you take pictures at night, some lights can be rather annoying, as was the case with this Malaysian Global Express
When you take pictures at night, some lights can be rather annoying, as was the case with this Malaysian Global Express
The picture of this Thai Air Force Boeing 737 was also rather tricky due to the large spotlight
The picture of this Thai Air Force Boeing 737 was also rather tricky due to the large spotlight
A US based Gulfstream from the USAF on the tarmac of Le Bourget
A US based Gulfstream from the USAF on the tarmac of Le Bourget
A rare visitor to Le Bourget was this US Marine Corps C-9
A rare visitor to Le Bourget was this US Marine Corps C-9
Egyptian Hercules are frequent visitors to Le Bourget and therefore this nice picture could be taken
Egyptian Hercules are frequent visitors to Le Bourget and therefore this nice picture could be taken
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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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