Rehearsal of the Belgian national day air parade of 21 July 2018

Managing an air parade - be it for a national day or not - that involves several types of helicopters and airplanes due to overfly a same place in a continuous flow is really a tehnical challenge. Air Recognition was invited to attend the briefing given by the Air Component of the Belgian armed forces, followed by a rehearsal performed with the main aircraft types to overfly Brussels on Saturday 21 July 2018, Belgium's national day.

Rehearsal of the Belgian national day air parade of 21 July 2018 For the very last time in the Belgian Air Force - or Air Component - history, Alpha Jets will overfly Brussels  on 21 July 2018 for the National Day parade, as these airplanes will be sold and the pilots' advanced training no longer take place with the French Air Force in Cazeaux, France, but in the U.S.A. (Picture source: Twitter account of the Belgian Air Component)

On 17 July afternoon, Air Recognition attended a briefing given by the Air Component of the Belgian armed forces at a great place: the top of the impressive three-arch arcade built in 1880 under king Leopold II's reign as a spectacular landmark of the 50's anniversary of Belgium's independance conquered from The Netherlands. The so-called Ciquantenaire Esplanade is the splendide place that gathers the extraordinarily rich Royal Museum of the Army dedicated to the three major services, the Arts and History Museums, and Autoworld, a huge museum dedicated to the automobile history. The park surrounding the esplanade is a very appreciated green space.

Major Vandenhende, an F-16 pilot currently assigned at the Air Component HQ for F-16 Current Affairs, ComOpsAir, gave a detailed briefing of Major-General Marc Thys, commander of the Belgian ground forces and supervisor of the whole National Day parade of the forthcoming 21 July, gave an overview to Air Recognition about how this parade would take place and what elements would parade on the Place des Palais in front of the royal family and authorities.

Taking off from half a dozen of air bases located at distant places of the kingdom, the airplanes and helicopters flying at different speeds and altitudes (1,000, 700 and 500 feet according to the type category) will follow dirrent flight routes in view of finally aligning on the north-west - south-east path imposed to overfly the Place des Palais. A spare aircraft of each type will accompany the formation until it overflies Alost, a city located 30 km north-west of Brussels, in case a last-minute replacement is required. After overflying Brussels, the whole formation will continue until Beauvechain air base above which it will split. The aircraft will the fly back to their respective base.

The leading formation will be quite emoving this year: showing the Belgian colors (black-yellow-red) with their smoke pods (icluding one spare on each airplane), the 7-Alpha Jets will fly for the very last time on the National Day, as they will be sold. The advanced training of the student pilots will no longer take place in Cazeaux (south of France) with their French colleagues, but in the U.S.