Leeuwarden Airbase, 16th of February 2009

Report and photos by Stacey Kort-

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Because we had some time off, fellow photographers Erwin Doornkamp, Robbin Stalma and I decided to visit Leeuwarden Airbase, in the north of The Netherlands. Our preferred choice was Volkel Airbase because it was closer to our location, but Volkel was conducting night-flying operations so that would mean low-light photography, and we decided it was best to go to Leeuwarden. It is home to two fightersquadrons (322nd and 323rd) and it is also home to the 303rd SAR squadron.

We made sure to arrive early so we could familiarize ourselves with the spottinglocations. While we were near Leeuwarden we heard an AB412SP depart to Cornfield Range (Vlieland). Dang it, missed that one! Oh well, at 10:00 a Belgian ERJ-135 was expected, so we headed to Jelsum for the arrival shots. We knew that you faced the sun at the official spot, so we crossed the road and made sure we stayed south of the centreline to have the sun in our back... But there wasn't any sun really, infact it was very cloudy! Not a good thing when the minimum aperture of your lens is F/5.6. Oh well, I don't mind a challenge! At 10:15, the ERJ-135 arrived through the clouds and landed on runway 24. Then we went to Marssum to catch the first wave of F-16s taking off. Sadly due to the weather only four F-16s were launched. My shots didn't turn out too well because of low hanging clouds and rain. Slightly dissapointed we returned to Jelsum to get shots of them arriving, which turned out better.



After that we were off again to Marssum. On the radio we heard a jet checking on the ground frequency, so we went out to see if anything would takeoff, but after twenty minutes in the rain we heard the words "engine testing completed, shutting down", so we stood in the rain for nothing. A PC-7 came in though, but it was too far away to take any decent shots.

At 15:00 the second wave of F-16s took off and we hoped that it would be more fruitful that the first wave, but this time there was only one four-ship and one more jet, the jet which underwent the engine tests... Well atleast we saw it this time. A lonely Alouette III came in for a fuelstop, but it was way too far for pictures...

Returning to Jelsum we heard a German Tornado requesting a low approach, so we tried to get there as fast as we could, but due to a mongloid driver in front of us we weren't able to make it and we were forced to witness the low aprroach in the car. But not soon after we heard two F-16s of the four-ship checking in on the arrival frequency; both F-16s had a hung BDU-33 (training bomb) and requested to land. The first F-16 used its dragchute, but the second didn't. The rest of the four-ship had problems too; the leader had radio problems and the fourth F-16 had a loose knob in the cockpit, but they came in for a normal approach. So we still had to catch two planes: The fitfh Viper and the AB412SP "Tweety". At the same time the "Tweety" was on approach, the Belgian Embraer lined up for departure, but the "Tweety" was there first and with a hard turn over the runway it returned to the platform. The Embraer departed and executed a pretty steep climb into the clouds. Not too soon after the fitfh and final jet came in to land, and that was the end of our day at Leeuwarden!