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2010 European Airshows : REVIEW

Volkel in de Wolken 2010

Programme CoverVolkel is a small town situated between Eindhoven and Nijmegen on the eastern side of the Netherlands. In aviation terms, it is a well known area as it's also home to one of the Royal Netherlands Air Force's biggest bases and is home to three squadrons of F-16 Fighting Falcons. However, Volkel in de Wolken takes places away from the airbase on farmland to the east of the main town. The festival features one of the biggest and longest running civilian air displays in the Netherlands and features display from across Europe.

Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography copyright of the Author.

The Volkel Air Base can trace its history back to the Second World War when the Luftwaffe constructed a diversion airfield for it's fighters on the outskirts of the town. In 1943, the base was further developed into a fully operation airfield and hosted a number of different Luftwaffe units flying the Junkers Ju-88, Messerscmitt Me262 and Arado Ar234 jet bomber. Volkel was also used to launch V-1 flying bombs against allied targets.

The airfield was bombed extensively by the allies, and raids conducted as part of Operation Market Garden rendered the airfield useless to the Luftwaffe. Today, just one Hangar from the ordinal Luftwaffe base survives and it used by Volkel Gliding Club. It is actually the last remaining Luftwaffe hangar from the second world war and still bears the graffiti left by the allied forces when they liberated this area of the Netherlands.

Almost 70 years later, the hangar formed the base of operations for the "Volkel in de Wolken" festival. The festival is a large town show and for 2010, it's theme was "Wings and Wheels." The ground show included displays of Tractor-Pulling and scramble bikes as well as the usual market traders and food outlets. There were also concerts and other street entertainers throughout the show site.

The show has an impressive list of sponsors, many from the local area which helps keep the admittance price low to just €5 for adults. The flying displays take place along the extended centreline of Volkel Air Bases runway, just 1.2Nm from the threshold. Perhaps the only disappointment for aviation enthusiasts are the 6ft high "heras" fencing that is erected along the crowd line which is a little unusual.

The 2010 display promised an unusual mix of civilian and military displays, but sadly poor weather at Volkel and across Europe meant than the flying displays were badly affected. The flying displays are organised by Hans van de Werf who has considerable experience. During his air force career, Hans displayed the F-104G Starfighter across Europe including many displays in the UK. Today, he is one of the most experienced display directors in the Netherlands. The weather kept Hans very busy as many acts arrived late or on-slot for their displays leading to some frantic juggling of the flying displays.

Opening the show was one of the UK based participants, Mark Jefferies in his Extra 330SC who was one of the acts that had managed to dodge the weather across northern Europe. He was followed was local aerobatic "ace" Frank Versteegh in his distinctive Extra 300L. Frank performed two different shows, the first was his usual mix of barnstorming aerobatics and the second was a handling demonstration with Frank talking to the crowd via the commentary!

Many of the continental acts are really rather quirky, with many from the General Aviation world. One of the most impressive displays is that given by the Victor Romeo team from the Rotterdam Flying Club. This team is a formation consisting entirely of common GA types such as the PA28 Warrior and various marks of Robin. The team make a number of formation passes during their display and cope admirably in the difficult conditions during the show. One of the aircraft in the formation, a Robin 2160 also put on an unlikely and impressive display of aerobatics.

There was also some other fine aerobatic performances. Just as surprising as the Robin was a Dutch operated SAAB Safir which looks more like a grand tourer than a spritely aerobatic performer.

There was also a couple of displays from some more classic aerobatic competition aircraft. Perhaps the most iconic was the Zlin 526 wearing the military markings of the Yugoslav Air Force while there was a rare CAP 21 displaying as well.

One of the stars of the show were the CAPTENS display team of Marianne Maire-Shaw and Adam Shaw flying a pair of CAP 10bs. Marianne is seven times French National Aerobatic Champion with 5000 hours of flying. Adam is a very experience pilots in both military and civilian aviation. He was also one of the pilots that brought the HU-16 Albatross across the Altantic in 2003 when it appeared at many European airshows. Completing the line up of stunning aerobatic displays were the Swift Aerobatic Display Team from the UK with their stunning routine of aerobatics on and off tow!

The bad weather prevented many of the more historic types from attending. There was a solo of a North American T-6 Harvard as well as a pleasing formation routine with a Beech 18 and a pair of Harvards. Classic Wings also provided a display by it's Antonov An-2P which had been provided pleasure flights all day. The only classic jet was the L-39 Albatros from Skyline Aviation. Skyline's pair of L-39s together with a Learjet are involved in a number of military training contracts with the Royal Netherlands Air Force .

The display was closed with a series of flypasts from four Volkel based F-16AM Fighting Falcons. While there was no solo display, the sights and sounds of the four jets roaring around the local countryside was an impressive finale to a difficult day for flying displays.

Al the display crews and the organisers did a superb job in tricky conditions to provide a varied and very different flying display. While Volkel in de Wolken may not be as famous as the larger "Open Dagen" airshows hosted by the Air Force, it's a superb relaxed day out with some of Europe's best flying.

Thanks to Hans van de Werf and the Swift Aerobatic Display Team.

What did you think of the show? Which displays did you enjoy? What didn't you enjoy? Let us know on our Facebook page!

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