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Büchel Photoday, 3 September
Michael Balter reports that on 3 September 1999 the JbG 33 (Fighter Bomber Wing 33) in Büchel, Germany, invited over 300 photographers, spotters, aircraft enthusiasts and media to their yearly photoday. On the day JbG 33 flew their 100.000th flight hour with the Tornado IDS, and to celebrate they painted 45+88 in a special colour scheme.
Weather conditions for the day were excellent, something not normally experienced at Büchel, as it is the highest airbase in Germany on top of a small mountain. The photoday began at 09.00 local time and after parking we were transported by five buses to the runway where we could take pictures of JbG33 Tornado IDS taking off from only a few meters away. After that we were driven to the maintenance hangars where the following aircraft were parked:
(thanks to M.G., M.T.& O.T. for these serials)
Here JbG 33 celebrated the roll-out of the 100,000hrs Tornado IDS 45+88 as the Wing Commander, Colonel H. Schnell, presented a speech to the invited guests, where he explained the role of JbG 33 (which today operates as a KRK unit), details of the Tornado IDS and the history of JbG 33 and its former aircraft, most notably the F-84 and F-104. He also introduced the people who designed and painted 45+88, plus the groundcrew, and WSO Lt. Rausch of 331 Squadron who would be accompanying him later that day in the flying display.
The roll-out began with music, two explosions and a lot of smoke, then finally 45+88 was towed out of the hangar. It looked great in the noon-day sun as you can see from the pictures, each colour stripe describes the colour of a unit from JbG 33, like Fliegende Gruppe (Flight Group), Fliegerhorst-Gruppe (Airbase Group) and so on, plus the 100,000 for the flight hours achieved on that day. The Eagle under the cockpit was taken from F-104G 21+67 and on the tail each star represents a unit from JbG 33. Underneath the cockpit are written the names of Wing Commander Colonel Harry Schnell and the WSO, M. Rausch.
After take-off, 45+88 made several flypasts from both ends of the runway and was escorted by another Tornado IDS from JbG 33. Piloted by the Wing Commander, Colonel Schnell, he showed us each side of 45+88 in various positions, for example with landing gear down, rolling, etc...! After that a landing and taxi back to the hangar area, together with several other Tornados returning from the morning departures, most of these turning into the shelter areas. On stepping from the cockpit Colonel Schnell thanked all the guests for their appearance that day, and a small celebration took place in front of 45+88. The aircraft was then towed to an special place for the press, the results you can see above. The photoday ended at 13.30 and everyone was very happy with their day in Büchel!
Acknowledgements: I wish to thank the PIO of JbG 33, Oberstabsfeldwebel Simon, for his excellent press support on the day!!
Thanks to Uli Seibicke for his help too!
All text & photos by Michael Balter/MAP