Travelling to Europe during summer for holidays? Why not include a weekend visiting one of the airshows happening across the region? That was what we did this year. We spent 2 weeks in the Netherlands and a great weekend joining thousands at Leeuwarden Airbase in Northern Netherlands for Luchtmachtdagen 2016.
The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) held their Air Force Day on 10 and 11 June 2016 at Leeuwarden Airbase. In the 2 days, visitors experienced how the RNLAF contributed to peace, freedom and security of the Netherlands and NATO. The theme of the event is “Operation Air Support”. Operation Air support was devised to show off all aspects of the RNLAF in national and international missions. In addition to the hardware, personnel such as Airmen, Planners, Technicians, Drivers, Doctors and Cooks were represented in multiple static displays and interactive stations.
For visitors to the airshow, access was managed very well with multiple parking sites near Leeuwarden airbase with a parking cost of only €6 per day. Buses were used to ferry people from the parking sites to the entrance of the airbase to avoid congestion in the area. One good decision the organisers made was to do security checks before we are allowed to board the buses. This really made the flow of visitors efficient once we arrived at the base from multiple buses. Alternatively, cyclists and pedestrians were allowed to ride or walk up to the door and park their bicycles nearby. This arrangement really helped to move the 280000 visitors over the 2 days. There was a constant supply of buses taking visitors back to the various parking areas and train station in Leeuwarden. It took us just 30mins from our spot by the side of the runway, out of the gates of the airbase, onto the bus and back to our car. That was a very good experience.
Other amenities such as portable toilets are plentiful and scattered across the whole length of the runway. Many food and drink stations were on site to ensure that visitors do not go hungry. There was a merchandise street where commercial entities set up booths selling aviation related items. Our favorite was the booths of the participating aerial teams where they sold their T-shirts and badges at decent price. A great opportunity for fans of the teams to support them!
At noon each day, spectators were treated to a 20mins spectacle of Air Power Demonstration by the RNLAF. This includes a massive launch of a C-130, 2 F-35s and 10 F-16s. This demo segment shows of the capabilities of the F-16s and F-35s in Air to Ground role. There were many passes by 2 or 4 plane formations simulating ground attack with employment of flares to confuse SAMs. In addition to that, 2 Chinooks and an Apache was also deployed once the airspace was deemed to be “safe”. The Chinooks deployed ground troops and vehicles to take down fugitive criminals and drug laboratories while the Apache attack helicopter supported with advanced heat sensors and ultra-sensitive cameras. At the end of this segment, the crowd was treated by a spectacular formation fly pass of all the participating aircraft and helicopters.
After the airpower demonstration on Friday, several commanders of the RNLAF were delivered via Chinooks onto the runway. Following that, we witnessed Lieutenant General Dennis Luyt taking over as the new commander of the Royal Netherlands Air Force in a change of command ceremony.
The star of the show definitely are the two Dutch F-35s. They were flown from Edwards Air Force Base in the United States on 23 May with stops in between and tanker support by RNLAF KDC-10 Tankers. As this is the first time outside of the United States the F-35 will fly in an airshow, there were great anticipation by the crowd. During the taxiing of both aircraft to the end of the runway in preparation for the Airpower Demonstration, many of the spectators stood up and moved towards the barriers to have a closer look. People stood rooted in their positions during the whole segment of almost 45mins, taking in the sights and sound of this advanced tactical fighter. There was also a mock up version of it like the one we have at Singapore Airshow 2016 for visitors to climb on board and take photos.
Static displays were supported by many aircraft from the RNLAF and visiting countries that were flying, namely F-16A/B/D from RNLAF and Polish Airforce, Eurofighters from the Luftwaffe and all hardware of the RNLAF.
Closing the 2 day event was the a final aerial display performed by the Patrouille de France, ending two days of amazing flying and entertainment for visitors young and old. Altogether 280000 visitors attended the event, enjoying the demonstrations in the air and taking many photos with the static displays on the ground. This figure exceeded the 245000 that were present at Luchtmachtdagen 2014.
Finally, the best for the last! Below are photos of every aircraft from the aerial displays. Individual aircraft pages will be posted in the following weeks.
In summary, Luchtmachtdagen 2016 was an incredible experience for us! A fantastic effort by the organisers in planning the smooth running of the whole event. A great job by the Air Traffic Controllers and Aerial Display teams for putting up a flying display that is back to back from 0900 to 1700 each day! Only disappointment was the overcast weather on the second day which was nobody’s fault. Just a note for the organisers, please have an English app next time.
MAphotoSG (Military Aviation Photography Singapore) was founded by Raymond and David in 2015, and currently consists of a group of passionate volunteer local aircraft spotters that share the common interest of aviation photography. Core activities include the coverage of aviation events and aircraft spotting, both local and overseas.
Some of the key significant events captured by the group include the Exclusive Preview of the RSAF at Singapore Airshow 2016, the first sighting of 142 Squadron’s F-15SGs and the F/A-18Ds of Exercise Commando Sling 16-2. The group was also featured in a pre-Singapore Airshow 2016 article published by the local compact, TODAY.