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

Text : Serge Van Heertum  &  pictures : Jean-Marie Cuvelier via "Buzz"  © sbap 2012


Jean-Marie Cuvelier was a member of the Belgian Air Force meteorological wing and during his career he did some special missions. In 1957 he was detached at Butzweilerhof in Germany for the Light Aviation of the Belgian army. During this period Jean-Marie had the opportunity to take some pictures of interesting planes, Belgians but also some foreign visitors. The publication of his pictures is also the occasion to make a little history of this historic airfield.
Butzweilerhof was built in 1911 nearby Köln. In its early days this airfield saw many manifestations and presence of well-known aviation icons like Louis Blériot or Léon Delagrange. When the Imperial Flying Station and an associated flying school were founded at the airfield in 1912, all civilian aircrafts had to move to nearby Köln-Merheim. Some great pilots like Manfred Von Richthofen, Werner Voss or Gerhard Fieseler did their first flights over there. After the First World War, in 1926, the airfield was converted as civilian airport. Thanks to its central location it soon became the second largest airport in Germany, after Berlin-Tempelhof. On 25 July 1936 a new representative and modern terminal building was opened, with many monumental elements of the National-Socialist architecture. With the outbreak of World War II civilian use of Butzweilhof ended temporarily. On May 10th, 1940, the Junkers JU-53-3M towing DFS-230 gliders took off from Butzweilerhof with target the Eben-Emaël fortifications. After the war the airfield, now much smaller in size was used by Allied and later NATO forces. The location became known as RAF Butzweilerhof when the RAF moved in somewhere in August 1951. The RAF authorities stationed two squadrons of Gloster Meteor NF11 (68 Sqn and 87 Sqn). The RAF left the airfield on 27 January 1967.
Belgian “Butz”… The Belgian Headquarter decided to take position at Butzweilerhof in 1953 and detached there the two first Auster Mk VI of the 16 AOP Squadron (still under  the Aeronautique Militaire authority). End of 1953, the Auster Mk VI is replaced by the Piper L-18c acquired thru the Mutual Defense Aid Program (MDAP) established by the United States. On April 1st, 1954 the 15th AOP and 16 AOP squadrons are placed under the Belgian army authorities and became officially the Light Aviation of the Belgian Army. The Belgian Light Aviation was growing along the years and in 19
59 the famous helicopter Alouette II was acquired and equipped three squadrons (16th, 17th and 18th). Later on Butzweilerhof some Alouette II presentation teams along the years saw the light…
In 1965 the “Red Pitch” from 16 Esc Lt Avi
In 1968 the “Blue Bees” from 17 Esc Lt Avi
In 1970 the “Larks” from 18 Esc Lt Avi
This was a little bit too much regarding the financial and supporting aspect. In 1971, only the “Blue Bees” remain and each year the team moved from squadron to give the opportunity at the three light aviation squadrons to represent Belgium during international manifestations.
In 1980, due to the economic crisis and recession the “Blue Bees” are disbanded and never flew again.
The new restructuration plan of the Belgian Defence established in 1993 makes that all the squadrons and the 255 maintenance company are set under the new “Light Aviation Group”. In 1995 all the Belgian squadron and personal left definitively Germany and the Butzweilerhof installations. This situation was initiated by the German reunification process started in 1989. Belgian where the last users of this airfield that definitively close his door. Currently the installations remain and a museum was opened to remind the past of this prestigious historic airfield.

Line up of the Piper L-18c fleet, in front the OL-L50 A visitor from Goetsenhoven, SV4bis V42
Majestic belgian built aircraft V42 instrument panel, 1957 configuration
Tactical drop from a C-119G of the 15th transport Wing The material landed safely
And a low pass for verification of the CP25
U.S.Army visitor, a Cessna L-19/O-1 Bird dog 15067 Dornier DO-27A  PL+407 from the Heeresflieger
Royal Air Force Avro 652A Anson C19 The WJ549 was owned by the 3th group communication flight
Hiller H23B from the Royal Netherland Air Force This helicopter was flown by the 298 Squadron

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