Bierset, Metz and beyond!


The beginning of a new airshow season is always eagerly awaited. On offer this year was the return of the Belgian Helidays (after a 2 year gap) and an event at Metz , France , to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the helicopter. All this on the same weekend 12/13th May. Although eminently 'do-able' by surface transport, we opted once again for the Ryanair option and settled on Hahn as the destination of choice, enabling other attractions to be pulled in. Boarding the aircraft it was good to see that other WAG members (Frank, Dave) had come to the same conclusion. 




Flew from Stansted to Hahn on Ryanair's Boeing 737-8AS EI-DCD (c/n 33562) "FR752" taking off from runway 23 at 07:40 and landing on runway 21 at Hahn at 08:30 (09:30L).


Its always something of a shock to the system flying into Hahn. I remember logging Phantoms and F-16s here in the good old days, but now its all changed. Although the tower still looks familiar and the large building beneath is still emblazoned "Base Operations" the place is dominated by new passenger and freight terminal buildings, hotels and all the paraphernalia of a modern airport. Russian types seem to be common here with a couple of An-124s, an An-26 and an ex Soviet AF An-12 (still with rear turret) on the deck as we landed.


Our plan was to start with some heliports which have handled ex Spanish and Swedish Hughes 300s being converted for civil use. At Ochtendung it was interesting to see that the civilianised heliopters still wore traces of their former alliegances, for example D-HOHL (ex HE.20-09) still wears a Spanish flag and has the insignia of Ala.78 on the starboard side.  Also found at Ochtendung were D-HMIX (ex HE.20-07) and the cab of HE.20-06 (nearest) in the store.


HE.20-09    HE.20-06    05233

Over to Saffig next (just a couple of miles away) for Swedish Hughes, again still with evidence of their previous service. Logged were:-


SAFFIG 12.5.07:


SP Helicopter-Service GmbH.....


05224       Hughes 300C (Hkp 5B), (c/n 41-1044) ex Swedish Army, to D-HSPR.

05233       Hughes 300C (Hkp 5B), (c/n S-1188) ex Swedish Army, to D-DSPU.

05238       Hughes 300C (Hkp 5B), (c/n S-1219) ex Swedish Army, to D-HSPT.


Third and final heliport was Dattenberg, after a ferry trip across the Rhine . Unfortunately access here was not possible, though we managed to identify several Swedish Hughes from outside.




SP Helicopter-Service GmbH.....


05227       Hughes 300C (Hkp 5B), (c/n 71-1069) ex Swedish Army, to D-HSPS.

05232       Hughes 300C (Hkp 5B), (c/n S1168) ex Swedish Army, to D-HSPN.

05239       Hughes 300C (Hkp 5B), (c/n S-1256) ex Swedish Army, to D-HSPJ.


At Boelcke Kaserne (the barracks for Norvenich) in Kerpen we were fortunate to negotiate access to see (but not photograph!) F-84F Thunderstreak DA-127 (53-7102) preserved outside the Officers' Mess and not visible from outside. F-104F 2919 on the other hand is easily visible from the gate. Up the motorway next, to the museum at Paffendorf. This features a Starfighter mounted on the roof and an ex WGAF P149 in garish yellow colours.


PAFFENDORF 12.5.07: 22+65


2265        F-104G Starfighter, (c/n 7146) f/f 24.3.64 as KE+446, d/d Jbg.34, WGAF, 25.8.64, as DD+247, to LVR.1, to Jbg.34, Wfu 3.11.87 to LwS.11 TT 3368 hrs, to TSLw.3 Fassberg for ABDR 5.5.89.


JB+391      Piaggio P149D, (c/n 076) ex JG.72, WGAF, to D-EABE 11.65.


Just inside Germany is the former Belgian Army base of Aachen/Merzbruck. The old military hangars are now occupied by civil types, including some warbirds, one of which is a rather rude Harvard.




V-27        Stampe SV4B, (c/n 1169) f/f 16.4.51, d/d BelgAF 24.5.51, to DEPE/DEVS, Cat.4 landing accident at Raversijde 17.5.52, to Stampe for repair 26.5.52, completed 29.1.53 & to ARS Wevelgem, to EPE/EVS 25.2.53, Car.3 landing accident 26.8.53, to EO/OS 17.2.55, to EPE/EVS 5.5.55, to ARS Wevelgem store 3.3.56, to EPE/EVS 21.12.57, to Stampe for overhaul 25.10.61, returned to EPE/EVS 29.6.62, Car.1 landing accident 23.7.64, out of hours 16.12.68 (1798 hrs since overhaul), to Koksijde store 23.10.69, Soc 23.3.71 TT 3780:30 hrs, auctioned 18.10.71, to G-AZUL 15.6.72, to D-EIHD 26.4.83 for Detlev Oberbach.


20255       Harvard IV, (c/n CCF4-46) ex RCAF, to CF-WPS 9.67 TT 7552 hrs, to N305GS, to D-FUKK, painted in USAF colours,


42-17438    PT-13D Stearman, (c/n 75-5601) built 1.6.44, d/d USAAF at Lancaster , CA , sold from Hill AFB 30.11.49 TT 850 hrs, registered N1318N, painted in USAAF colours as "207".


E.3B-411    CASA 1131E, (c/n 2015) ex Spanish AF, registered D-EDWZ. Italian NH500



We arrived at Bierset mid afternoon. Once again the Belgians had put on a good show for the Helidays. The event has been well reported so I will not repeat a full list. Instructional A109BA H-16 had been specially painted for the event (and acted as a photo mount for 'future pilots'). From Hungary came a Mi-24 which was one of the ex East German examples recently overhauled at Tokol after years in storage. The Irish AW139 was a welcome newcomer and a brace of Italian NH500s had made the long journey from Frosinone.  


Hungarian Hind    New Irish AW139    Belgian A109


Refreshed with a late lunch of frikandelle, chips and mayonnaise, we took in the barracks at Tongeren where a slacker in the team needed Starfighter FX-15, then on to Besmer where Matt Driessen keeps two Hungarian MiG-21MFs, a MiG-23UB (2059) and a TF-104G Starfighter (2822) for the prospective Belgian Military Radio & Communications Museum . Easily visible through the gate in Grensweg are the Starfighter and MiG-23. By following roads round to the back of the premises MiG-21 9312 could be seen (just!) whilst 9513 lived to fight another day. Either access is required, or at least a lot less foliage on the trees.


The day concluded with a look at the ranges at Helchteren, to which access is possible at weekends. The three range target F-84Fs (FU-63, FU-181, FU-183) are still here (though the cockpit of FU-181 was recovered by a collector at Vught). Here we were looking for F-16 hulk FA-08 (crashed at Buzet 29.7.80) but it had gone from its resting place by the range control tower and I suspect is now dumped at some remote spot within this sizeable range complex. We then returned to Liege to a pleasant Italian restaurant and a well earned night's sleep at Formule 1.


Spanish EC120After breakfast we travelled down through the Ardennes (" Battle of the Bulge" country) to Metz , pausing at Luxembourg for cheap fuel and duty free. On arrival at Metz what do we find? WAG members again, in the queue just ahead of us. Again, the show at Metz has been well covered elsewhere. It exceeded expectations with the Spanish EC120 team (also at Bierset yesterday) providing the highlight. Also useful was the 'rare' Lakenheath HH-60 (26208), a Rafale, another pairFrench Special Forces of Italian NH500s and a good selection of French helicopters. I was surprised that there was no Alouette III as part of the "100 years of the Helicopter" theme, but there were several historic types including a contingent roaded in from CELAG at Grenoble . The Djinn was noteworthy as assuming the identity is genuine this machine was last heard of in store at Charleville-Mezieres in 1992. It was also good to see C-160NG Gabriel F216/GT in the static, the French having become much less coy about these in recent years. The down-side of Metz was the large amount of walking required, compounded by the off-base parking and the need to go in and out through two entrances if you needed any of the preserved stuff.


Djinn    Gabriel    F-84

Keeping a good lookout for departures, we arrived at Ramstein shortly after the end of "quiet hours" at 13:00. There was a healthy crop of C-17s to be had and the Delta Sqn TDY Herks. There has been much chopping down of trees here, both around the base and up Kindsbach hill, all of which makes life much easier.




Ramp 2, on TDY.....


80-0320     C-130H, (r) 158 AS/165 AW, Georgia ANG.

80-0332     C-130H, (r) 158 AS/165 AW, Georgia ANG.

84-0210     C-130H, (-) 142 AS/166 AW, Delaware ANG.

84-0212     C-130H, (bl) 142 AS/166 AW, Delaware ANG.


Ramp 5.....


70-0455     C-5A, (bl) 137 AS/105 AW, New York ANG

86-0022     C-5B, (r/wh) 60 AMW.

85-0030     KC-10A, (bl/r) 305 AMW.

98-0055     C-17A, (gn) 62 AW.

99-0060     C-17A, (gn) 62 AW.

00-0175     C-17A, (gn) 62 AW.

01-0188     C-17A, (y/bl) 437 AW.

01-0197     C-17A, (y/bl) 437 AW.

02-1109     C-17A, (gn) 62 AW.

03-3117     C-17A, (bl/gd) 183 AS/172 AW, Mississippi  ANG.

03-3119     C-17A, (bl/gd) 183 AS/172 AW, Mississippi  ANG.

04-4133     C-17A, (bl) 305 AMW.

05-5140     C-17A, (or/yw) 729 AS/452 AW, AFRC.

05-5141     C-17A, (or/yw) 729 AS/452 AW, AFRC.

06-6157     C-17A, (bk/wh) 60 AMW.


One of our party had never been to Hermeskeil, so we called in there and also took the opportunity to take some pictures in the sunshine and do a bit of detective work. WAG member Alan Allen and I had recently discussed the vexed problem of the identity of the Scout here, variously quoted as XR633 or XW799. Armed by Alan with the fuselage numbers for both contenders, I checked out the two plates, one visible through the lower port side cockpit glazing and the other on the rear bulkhead. The options were:-


XR633 nose F8-618, rear bulkhead F8-1615

XW799 nose F8-10208, rear bulkhead F8-10215


As you can see, the fuselage is clearly that of XR633, which has a long and mysterious history:-


XR633       Scout AH.1, d/d 21.7.64, to 4 Wg, ditched in Straits of Malacca off Malaysia 7.9.66 after engine failure, fitted with boom of XT625 and to instructional at Middle Wallop as "TAD625", to St George's Barracks, Sutton Coldfield, as "XR777", later "XR625", to Everett Aviation at Sproughton, to Hermeskeil.


The other contender, XW799, became G-BXSL and was indeed painted in the blue colour scheme favoured by the Hermeskeil example, however the AIB accident report on its demise on 19.11.01 records that the aircraft was substantially damaged. There are no signs of such damage on the Hermeskeil machine and it does have hardboard covered seats which look more appropriate for an instructional airframe than a flyer. However, you can clearly see how the misidentification has occurred as a door at least has come from XW799. Anybody seen the hulk of '799 lately?


XR633 at Hermeskeil    Thud at Hermeskeil    Gina at Wengerohr

Spang produced a few more 'heavies' (C-17As 60006 of 437 AW, 80052, 90169, 00178 of 62 AW, C-5B 60020 437 AW) then our last stop was at Wengerohr for a rather smart looking G-91 then back to Hahn for a late return home. Landed at Stansted at 23:30, on the road at 00:30 and back home at 03:30. A good trip and one which definitely made full use of the time available!


Finally, of course a trip like this needs good company so thanks must go to the rest of the team, Eric, Ian, John and Paul.