Gilze-Rijen, the Netherlands

Royal Netherlands Air Force Open Days

17 and 18 June 2005


The annual Royal Netherlands Air Force's Open Days for 2005 took place at the services Gilze-Rijen Air Base. Once home to a squadron of NF-5 and later F-16 fighter bombers, the base still has an active runway, despite it nowadays being a helicopter base. Gilze Rijen now playes host to the KLu's AH-64 Apache combat helicopter force, but in the future will house all the Air Force's helicopter assets. 

The imaginative organization committee succeeded in attracting some very nice participants to the air show, one of these being this former Egyptian Air Force Helwan Gomhouria Mk.8 basic trainer, a license built Bücker Bü.181 Bestmann.  



One of the star attractions at KLU's Open Days is the Air Power Demonstration. In this set piece display, the Dutch forces demonstrate how to take an enemy air field. After a recce run by an F-16,  a couple of F-16's kick down the door by bombing the airfield's defences. This is followed by neutralizing any survivors by AH-64 Apache helicopter gunships. Escorted by the AH-64's, transport helicopters ferry in troops and their equipment.

These can be AS.532UL Cougar Mk.2's like shown here, CH-47D Chinooks or a combination of both types. Although Friday's display saw a mix of Cougars and Chinooks, the twin rotor machines were notably absent on the Saturday. Nevertheless, this was the most impressive Air Power Demo this scribe has ever whitnessed. The wonderful weather, coupled with the loud explosions by pyrotechnics and their associated smoke made for an impressive demonstration.

By the way, smoke was very prominent during the Open Days. In this view, Captain Gert-Jan "Goofy" Vooren can be seen going straight into his F-16 solo display, following a formation flight with an AH-64D and a PC.7. Although the KLu lacks a dedicated demonstration squadron, the service appoints an F-16 sprayed in a dramatic colour scheme for a number of years. 2005 was J-055's first year, after it took over from J-016.

At the top of a loop, Captain Vooren released a bunch of flares on a couple of occasions. The deep blue skies over Gilze-Rijen as well as the blazing afterburner considerably added to the effect of the flares. 

Flares were also much in evidence with the AH-64D Apache solo demonstration. Flown by Major Wandert Brandsen and Captain Raymond Laporte, the helicopter's display was most spectacular, again involving the launching of flares at some points during the display. Note the way AH-64D Q-30 stirrrs up it's own smoke by diving through the clouds, inverted! 

Despite being a sedate performer, the PC.7 put up a spirited display as well. Piloted by LtCol Ruud Huisman, the PC.7 can be seen here flying along the crowdline in knife edge. 

Of course, there also were foreign participants in the display. In this view, an RAF 20(R) sq Harrier GR.7 is seen in take-off, tucking in it's wheels. The aircraft in question is 20(R) sq's display bird ZD407 with a specially marked fin.

Not known for it's sprightly performance like the F-16, the RAF's  Tornado F.3 nevertheless entertained the crowds with it's high speed passes, afterburners thundering away. 56(R) sq's ZG793 is seen here in take off for it's display.

After seeing the Egyptian Gomhouria trainer in the static park, many enthousiasts were in for a next surprise, when the support Hercules for the Red Arrows took off. Unlike in all previous seasons, it wasn't an RAF one this time. A Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130H from 40 sq had been arranged for this occasion.

No Air Force Open Day would be complete without an aerobatic display team or two. Gilze Rijen had contracted the RAF's Red Arrows to display their BAe Hawks again over Dutch soil. 

In all, the 2005 KLu Open Days attracted some 375.000 visitors during Friday 17 June and Saturday 18 June in total. Without having to pay any entrance fee, these people were treated to a magnificent series of flying displays by various types of aircraft. Especially those who chose to attend the Saturday enjoyed some glorious weather to boot. 


Compliments to all involved!

All pictures (c) Hans Rolink