KLu Open Dagen, Leeuwarden 2006 Review
Friday 17th June - Saturday 18th June
The weekend of 17th and 18th June, saw a mass exodus of UKAR members all across the continent. It was one of the busiest aviation weekends of the year with the Satenas airshow in Sweden, the Kemble Airday in the UK and the Open Dagen in Holland. The Open Dagen is a free annual airshow hosted by the Royal Netherlands Air Force and each year its location is rotated amongst RNLAF bases. The 2006 show was hosted at Leeuwarden Air Base, in the north of the country. The show would boast a seven-hour flying display, which catered for everyone's aviation tastes.
UKAR'svisited the Open Dagen to pop his foreign airshow cherry. Additional photography by , and .
I only attended the airshow on Saturday, but other enthusiasts who were there on the Friday had the misfortune of cloudy dull conditions, although they did get to see a unique sight of the Blue Angels in close formation with the Red Arrows, which headed back to the UK soon after the show, was over that day.
The Open Dagen organisers put their cards on the table as early as December 2005 by announcing the US Navy Blue Angels had confirmed their attendance. This would be the team's only appearance outside of North America in 2006. After pulling off such a major coup so early on by securing such a rare and sought after display team outside of the US, the writing was on the wall that this was going to be an impressive show.
It didn't just stop with the Blue Angels either. Over the coming months plenty of other rare highlights confirmed their participation in the flying display, those more noticeable highlights were Asas of Portugal, Czechoslovakian Mi-24V, Spanish EF-18 Hornet and in its debut display season the USAF Air Combat Command F-15E Strike Eagle demo. Additionally the static display also boasted some rarities which seem somewhat allergic to the UK, including Turkish NF-5s, a Polish MiG-29, Czech Gripen, Luftwaffe Eurofighter Taifun and Phantom.
With the Reds back home, the only UK Military aircraft in the flying display was the C-130J C.5 Hercules display from RAF Lyneham. The boys put on a fine demo and were shortly succeeded by the excellent Blades with their Extra 300s.
The Belgian F-16 was soon put through its paces, and, whilst perhaps not quite as refined as the Klu Viper demo, it's certainly competitive. A big highlight was the Czech Air Forces Mi-24V Hind display. The UK enthusiast has been starved of seeing the wonderful Hind in the air for so long. The Czech Hind, was painted in a nice black and blue scheme complete with a tigers face on the side of the fuselage. It put on a good show, rarely straying too far from crowd centre for long, but perhaps not quite as dynamic as I remember. Still a pleasure to see once again it must be said!
Asas de Portugal with their two Alpha Jets soon took centre stage. A rarely seen team, the duo put on an extremely tight performance with some precise formation flying - reminiscent of the two French Air Force duos "Raffin Mike" (Jaguar pair) and "Voltige Victor" (Mirage F.1 Pair) of a few years back.
One thing the Open Dagen has been renowned for over the years is the RNLAF Air Power demo, sadly due to Dutch Operational Commitments, most notably over Afghanistan there was no Air Power Demo this year. There was however a mock airfield attack performed by a number of Klu F-16's. This was quite breathtaking to watch; although it only lasted a few minutes it really was all action, with plenty of afterburners, flare drops and pyrotechnics on the ground to represent the explosions. I couldn't help but feel at the end of the routine "If only the RAF could try something similar at a show back home".
The Midnight Hawks routine has sadly changed little since their appearance at RIAT 2004. Whilst their formations are tight the display really does lack charisma. Being devoid of a smoke system does not help the situation. Still, they are a team rarely seen outside of their homeland and this should not be overlooked.
The F-16's that were still in the air from the earlier airfield attack formed a perfect diamond eight formation for an impeccable flyby, which was shortly followed by a KDC-10 with its boom deployed for a mock refuelling demonstration. Afterwards, all aircraft recovered at Leeuwarden, with the exception of the aforementioned KDC-10.
The theme changed dramatically from modern day fighters to the sedate showing of Christian Moullec in his microlight with his flock of geese. Having seen photos of this before, I had often wondered how on Earth he did this and seeing it for real, I was amazed at the discipline and ease of the geese to fly in almost precise formation with him.
The home team were up once again, firstly in the shape of a Search and Rescue demonstration by two AB-412 "Tweety's", followed by the PC-7 solo and last but certainly not least the brilliant F-16 J-055 display, with display pilot Captain Gert-Jan "Goofy" Vooren at the controls. The display ship J-055 is quite probably the smartest looking Viper in the World today, routine to match. The Dutch, in my humble opinion still hold the crown for the finest F-16 display. Being on Dutch soil and not under UK restrictions, we were also treated to the use of flares on a number of occasions during Goofy's demo. A while later J-055 was put in formation with a Dutch Spitfire and B-25 for a number of heritage flight flybys.
The fast jet antics continued shortly after with the Spanish EF-18 Hornet, whilst impressive, it was sadly cut short. Reports afterwards suggested the Pilot had accidentally crossed the display line during his routine at least twice and was ordered to abort his display by ATC as a result.
The Patrouille Suisse put on a typically good display, with plenty of photographic opportunities for the large crowds, including a break finale where all six F-5's released flares.
The F-15E Strike Eagle leapt into the air in a short takeoff coupled with an impressive steep climb out, with Demo Captain Albert "Jewel" Kennedy and Captain Jack "Woody" Stallworth at the controls. The crew belongs to the Strike Eagle Demo team, which calls home Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina, where the 4th FW and the Strike Eagles usually flown during the team's demonstrations are based. For Leeuwarden, however, the team borrowed a Strike Eagle from the 492d FS at RAF Lakenheath for their European display debut. Consisting of plenty of turning and burning, and in particularly two great topside photo passes - the "Dedication Pass" and "Strike Eagle Pass" respectively, I have to say I thought it was a great display, especially as it's the teams first ever season. A real pleasure to see. Having a soft spot for this aircraft though, I may be slightly biased!
The US Strike Eagle commentator is worthy of a mention too, if only for his attempts to offer his commentary in both English and Dutch! After the first few F-15E passes, he couldn't physically keep up and reverted solely to Dutch.
The undoubted highlight for many were the US Navy 'Blue Angels', and it was left to them in their F/A-18 Hornets to draw the show to a close. Prior to the main event though, the Blue Angels support act did its party piece, with the C-130T 'Fat Albert' performing its incredible JATO takeoff. With the JATO pods apparently in short supply and no longer in production, this is almost certainly the last chance European enthusiasts have to see its spectacular showing - this is almost certainly the last chance European enthusiasts have to see it's spectacular showing, short of going to a show stateside of course. It's hard to put into words how incredible it is, with the pods giving Fat Albert an additional 8,000lbs of thrust on takeoff. This allows the aircraft to leap into the air like a salmon with a very steep climb out that couldn't be repeated by any other Hercules. After levelling out, the pods start to splutter black smoke as they run out of fuel, leaving a smokey trail behind Fat Albert. That isn't the end of its display though; a few flybys followed by a tactical landing conclude it.
After finishing their traditional but cringe worthy saluting routine certainly to us Europeans the Blues were ready for takeoff. A big attraction is obviously the high performance jets they fly and seeing six Hornets in a very tight formation is a great and somewhat rare, certainly to use Europeans. With firm formations, some great solo and duo flying and a charismatic jet, the Blues are without a doubt a great team. Just a pity they are rarely seen outside of CONUS.
It's hard, and perhaps somewhat rude to criticize a free airshow, particularly one as impressive as the Open Dagen, but if I were to have one gripe, it would be that number of display teams present. Certain sections of the audience also did their best to ruin what was a superb day by either using stepladders or the bar on the crowd line barrier to get a raised viewpoint, making it almost impossible for anyone stood behind them to get a photo or even a view of any aircraft landing or taking off. That aside, you really can't argue with the quality of the participants on show.
I cannot praise the Klu enough for their hospitality and for putting on a truly wonderful airshow. If you're thinking about heading to a foreign airshow next year, I can strongly recommend the Open Dagen. If this year is anything to go by, you won't be disappointed!