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

Text: Serge Van Heertum - Pictures : Serge Van Heertum collection sbap 2011


After the war, the idea to ​​create a display team sprang up quickly in many minds. Several attempts were made within different squadrons. It was in 1951 that things became reality under the leadership of Captain Robert "Bobby" Bladt, CO (Commander Officer) of the 350th Squadron at Beauvechain. After a few months of formation flights between the pilots, the real birth of the team happened in 1952. Naturally the Belgian team took the name "Acrobobs" a acronym of the team mentor nickname "Bobby" remembering the war years spent in the Royal Air Force. After creating a program in late 1951 until early 1952, the team was performing its first airshow at Gosselies on May 18th. The presentation was a great success. Then came the meeting of Deurne on July 6th and the team became known internationally with the first participation in an airshow abroad, in Lyon (FR), where the team distinguished itself by winning the cup for the best aerobatic team, against the French, English and Americans. Be proud! Then there was the airshow of Melsbroek, Ypenburg (NL) and Casteau. The team, despite the airshows, remained fully operational (their planes didnt have any special decoration) and took part in the NATO maneuvers of September. At that time, things were going relatively quick in the Air Force and in October the leader was transferred to Koksijde air base where there was an urgent need for instructors. 1953 was some kind of team disband due to career development which resulted in many transfers. Bladt went to the fighter school in Koksijde, Ongena as well ... However, in early 1953, most of the "old" team members were back together at Koksijde. The opportunity was perfect to restart the team! Soon, they started doing formation flights again, just like "the good old days". At the moment of the NATO airshow held at Soesterberg (NL), The "Acrobobs" were there again, to represent Belgium. The team resumed training in May 1953. It was at this time that Sergeant Pierre Tonet joined the team and quickly put his undisputed pilot talent to work for the team. A few weeks later, Pierre Tonet replaced Pol Dewulf in the composition of the team. The years 1954 and 1955 were really quiet for the "Acrobobs". The Air Force, being in full mutation, put the highest priority on young pilot training and left the airshow demonstrations on the side, except some wing parades or internal events. The year 1956 was most prolific for our national aerobats. Indeed, early 1956, Italy organized an international airshow, and invited the silver birds. The team was chosen after an internal competition because other squadrons had the same ambitions, but the "Acrobobs" had kept all their verve and therefore they were chosen to go to Italy, under the eagle's arrow logo of the fighter school. In Roma, they even had the opportunity to meet the Pope Pie XII at the Vatican during the morning of the airshow. Once again they prevailed, and praise was uttered everywhere. In June 1956 they were at the meeting of Gossoncourt,  and afterwards the Belgian Air Force commemoration ceremony on October 11th, for the 10th anniversary of its creation. Weather that day was really bad and even with visual limitations, the team gave a great demonstration. That good, that King Baudouin the 1st himself set out to meet, and personally congratulate the pilots. It speaks for itself that Major Bladt found this one of the most beautiful moments for the team. The 1956 season ended in beauty! But it was also the end of the team and the Meteor F.8. Indeed, most of the pilots were transferred, some of them to the 7th Wing, which had been equipped with the new Hawker Hunter. Soon another team would be formed ... which would later be called the Diables Rouges (Red Devils) ... but that's another story!

1951-1952: n1 Bobby Bladt  n2 Bill Ongena  n3 Pol Dewulf  n4 Ivan Deprins
1953-1956: n1 Bobby Bladt  n2 Bill Ongena  n3 Pierre Tonet  n4 Ivan Deprins
Lyon (FR)
Ypenburg (NL)
Soesterberg (NL)



No airshow
Only intern events



No airshow
Only intern events

Roma (IT)



Bill Ongena, Bobby Bladt, Ivan Deprins & Pol Dewulf 1951, the begin...
After a mission Hot debriefing
Go for a training An interview
Ready for take off... ...and here we go!
Formation flight training In box formation
1952 Gosselies airshow At this time it was not Canon or Nikkon...
Box Line astirn
Low level Climbing
Another box formation pass Low level, hight speed pass
1953 back at training but at Koksijde airbase In the formation
Koksijde air base in the background
1956 Roma, visit to the Pope before the airshow (Deprins & Bladt)
Royal congratulation to Bobby Bladt the leader
One of the most beautifull day for the team

The King with Ivan Deprins

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