KOKSIJDE'S Open Door, 6/7 July 2002
Andrew Bates cocks a look on the Belgian coast
A different day, a different country, a different airfield, a different airshow in prospect, but, the sky remained the same. It really was a case of déjà vu upon arrival at Koksijde for the Belgian AF Open Door, one day on from the show at Gilze-Rijen. Once again, grey clouds dominated the sky, although the lack of rain provided a comparative improvement.
The static park contained a nice selection of Italian jets, which comprised of a 4º Stormo TF-104G-M, a pair of 61º Stormo MB339Ds, and a pair of 32º Stormo AMXs. Thankfully, there was some colour to be found within the Italian ranks, courtesy of one of the AMXs - helping to alleviate the grey outlook was the special paint scheme on MM7126. Admittedly, it was already familiar to many enthusiasts, following an appearance at RIAT 2001, but it was nice to see it again, even if it did look ten times better in the sunshine at Cottesmore.
As would be expected, the static contained a significant number of Belgian military aircraft. However, thanks to their respective red and yellow colour schemes, it was actually the humble Magister and SF260 which seemed to stand out from the crowd, when compared to the mundane looking F-16 and Alpha Jet parked nearby. It was also a surprise to see a visiting HS748, as these aircraft had reportedly retired from operations with 15 Wing during February 2002. Perhaps the most vivid splash of colour was to be found amongst the stalls, where a really 'smart' tiger scheme was almost hidden away. Not sure if budget cuts prevented enough paint for a whole F-16, but perhaps this is what is meant by the term 'Mini Tiger Meet'?
With Koksijde being home to the Belgian Sea King, there was the usual proliferation of rotary winged visitors, including a quartet of UK Sea Kings; three from the Royal Navy and a single RAF example. The RAF also provided a Merlin HC3, which also flew at the show, whilst other noteworthy choppers included a Dutch Chinook and Apache, French Navy Alouette III, French Gendarmerie AS350B, and German Army Bo105P.
The flying programme, whilst perhaps not as comprehensive as some shows, nevertheless included a pleasing selection of display acts. Naturally, the host unit, 40 Sm, were there to show the crowds the seemingly near aerobatic qualities of their Sea Kings, whilst other Belgian performers included an F-16, Alpha Jet, Magister, and A109HO Hirondo. Foreign participation included the French Jaguar pair, KLu PC-7, 16(R) Squadron Jaguar and 15 (R) Squadron Tornado GR4. Also, adding a touch of history to the occasion was the BBMF Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricane.
There were no display teams in attendance during your scribe's visit on the Sunday, but any such team would most likely have been limited to just a flat display routine. It was such a shame the low grey clouds sat over the airfield all day, as it really seemed to take the shine (no pun intended) off the day's proceedings. Although the weather was an actual improvement on the 2001 show, the organisers at Koksijde must surely be due for some real summer sun to reward their efforts. So, for all the optimists out there, don't forget your sun cream for the 2003 show!