Soesterberg Airbase, 12th of November 2008

Report and photos by Stacey Kort

© Code ALPHA Aviation Photography. Email for photo and/or text usage!


In 2003 it was announced that Soesterberg Airbase, the cradle of the Royal Netherlands Airforce, was due to close. After many delays, Soesterberg was officially closed on the 12th of November 2008. Due to the base's symbolic value a farewell ceremony was held, which included static and flying shows of aircraft which had a history at Soesterberg Airbase. Highlights were the American F-15C Eagles and the Greek F-4E AUP Phantom II. Due to an arrangement between the airbase and the spotting group "The Hillkillers", it was possible for several spotters to enter the base that day.

Since 1913 the Royal Netherlands Airforce operated from Soesterberg. Because The Netherlands remained neutral during the 1st World War the RNLAF remained passive throughout the war, but during the 2nd World War the airbase was occupied by German forces and the Luftwaffe based several aircraft at Soesterberg. In 1944 the airbase was bombed and the Luftwaffe relocated from Soesterberg. The RNLAF rebuilt the airbase and it was activated again in 1951. The United States sent a squadron to Soesterberg, the famous 32nd Tactical Fighter Squadron "Wolfhounds", which was then called the 512th Fighter Day Squadron. The "Wolfhounds" remained at Soesterberg until 1994, when the last three Eagles took off, never to return again.

Together with fellow Soesterberg spotters Erwin Doornkamp and Robbin Stalma I visited the closure ceremony. At 11:00 it would be possible for us to enter the base, but we decided to go to the spottershill early to catch the arrivals. We were greeted by an Alouette III which performed several flybys over the spottershill, eventhough there were very little people there. As time went on, more aircraft started arriving and the Hawker Hunter took off to make several touch and go's. In the mean time I met up with fellow photographer Nils Kolstein. After a while we got the sign to enter the bus which would bring us on base, but we where held up for some reason. We could only sit and watching the two Eagles from Lakenheath coming in for landing.



When we arrived on base we were told that we were able to photograph for several hours. We would then go watch the official closing ceremony and the final flyby. A nice bonus was that the two Eagles were going to depart "Alpha Scramble" style back to Lakenheath. While everyone was photographing the static show, it became evident that the weather was beginning to worsen and it was rare for the sun to break through the clouds, but when it did all photographers started snapping away. At 14:15 we entered the bus again which would take us to the official closure ceremony in a hangar. After the ceremony we went back to photograph the flyby and departure of the Eagles.



But when we got out of the hangar we noticed that the weather and light was getting pretty bad, so we all hoped that we could take some good shots of this sad event. The first formation was visible around 17:05, which was the beginning of the end for Soesterberg. Sadly not all aircrafttypes of the RNLAF were able to participate in the flyby due to operational responsibilities. The RNLAF premiered it's newest specially painted F-16, the J-008, which was decorated with a nice tigertail. After the flyby of the F-16, a German F-4F suddenly popped up at low-level altitude. The word was that the F-4F was cancelled, so this was a very nice suprise. After all flybys we all waited for the Eagles to depart and everybody looked for a good spot. I was able to stand close to the runway with a pretty much unobstructed view. In the mean time the weather became very dreadful, and I had to crank up my ISO to around 400 and I would still get shutterspeeds of 1/60 and the like. In the mean time the Eagles were started up and were taxiing to the runway. Runway 27 was in use, but the Eagles used runway 09, the runway the "Wolfhounds" used when they scrambled. With an extremely loud roar both the Eagles took to the skies, banking hard and disappearing into the clouds... The ceremony was over and Soesterberg was officially closed.



The very last aircraft to depart from Soesterberg was a Chinook helicopter on the 21st. This meant an end to 95 years of military aviation in Soesterberg.