Bye bye "Mitch"...Welcome "Grat"...

Text: Serge Van Heertum - Pictures : SBAP collection via 1st Wing © sbap 2013


After the arrival of the first Belgian Air Force F-104G on April 18th 1963, the 1st Wing of Beauvechain was performing fast changes to adapt themselves to the first Mach 2 fighter.
The first delivered fighter was the FX04 and the delivery rate of single seat fighters took a fast pace. Meanwhile the 12 last “Canuck” were grouped in a single base flight, and gradually disappeared, following the F-104 pilot conversion. The sophistication of the new aircraft forced the authorities to create specialized departments such as the Electronics and Armament section. At the end of 1963, the maintenance team was formed and ready to take care of the “Starfighter” and the base inspections could start. Other sections had to adapt to the new aircraft as well, like the survival team. April 30th, 1964, the King Baudoin I went to the first Wing himself, to be introduced to the brand new fighter. The pilot conversions continued, and on August 1st, 1964, the 350th Squadron was declared operational, and were soon to be followed by the 349th Squadron at the end of 1964.  The delivery of the plane assembled by SABCA Gosselies continued, but the delivery of the first twoseater TF-104G occurred only at the beginning of 1965. The two first TF-104G’s were shipped directly from the US in “kit” and the delivery to Beauvechain air base was done by the Flying Tiger Line Company. It is in January 1965 that the first Canadair CL-44 landed at Beauvechain with the FC01 and FC02 on board. In June 1965 the Starfighter Conversion Flight was formed and the future F-104 pilots could stay in Belgium to follow the full theoretical and practical course. No need to go to the Netherlands or Germany anymore. This “Squadron” adopted the name “TF FLIGHT”. Now that the 1st Wing was going at cruise speed, the two operational squadrons could take part in different exercises, squadron exchanges and other shooting campaigns, but these are other stories…
Time to watch some pictures of the 1st Wing life between  1964 and 1965.
Ready?...Go for Mach 2!

Communication center Early radar systems
Medical control Testing new helmet
The flight simulator A great step forward in the pilot formation
Flight simulator control
The flight sim "computer"
Engine shop Avionic shop
Telex room Communication room
Survival kit The same open with the dingy
Inflated dingy The survival equipments
Inflated mae west The parachute
Parachute folding...a great responsabilty to safe the life In the dispersal
Intelligency room
Instruments removed The back side with the complex connections
Ejection seat
Left instrument panel Right side
TF backseat cockpit F-104G cockpit
The maintenance started in the late 1963 Main instrument panel removed
Access to the ejection seat Main landing gear control
Engine inspection Tail removal
Engine maintenance
Some view of the hangar...
Engine run up
The King talking with Maj Ongena (CO 349) and Maj Legrand (CO 350)... ...during the F-104G presentation on April 30th, 1964
Early 1965, the two first TF-104G were delivered "in kit" from the US Note the CL-44 cargo bulk open. The wings can be seen in the cargo
January 26th, 1965, the two first TF are ready in the hangar

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