Text & Pictures: Serge Van Heertum - Translation: Marc Arys  © sbap 2016

Which youngster did not dream about becoming a pilot, particularly becoming a fighter pilot?
But becoming a pilot is not given to everybody and aviation also brings along other appeals. Quite frequently one can hear: if I cannot become a pilot, I'll work on these airplanes!
This is indeed another way to look at how you can approach your passion, these mythical airplanes which are regularly displayed in the media. To accomplish this goal you need training and an education at the leading edge of technology and the Royal Technical School of the Campus Saffraanberg addresses this domain since the end of the second world war.
On March 20, 2016, this mythical training place opened its doors to the public within the frame of recruitment policies. This was the opportunity for SBAP to pay a visit to the Campus and show the excellence of this place where leading edge technicians and other Defence specialists are trained.
At first let us have a look at an historical overview followed by the open-door, preceding the Fly To Your Dream day of April 05, 2016.

A location with an educational vocation
At the beginning of the XXth century, the religious community of the Ursulines built a gigantic cloister designed as a boarding-school for young girls of the better European society. But World War I put an end to this ambitious project. In its aftermath the Belgian State, having acquired the site for a reasonable two millions francs (at that time), installed the Pupil's School of the Army in this ancient convent, which the Cadets took over in the 1930's.
During the Second World War, Saffraanberg became an important link within the German anti-aircraft defence system, housing the staff headquarters of Brustem airbase nearby. However the educational vocation did not disappear as the conqueror used the Campus to train its air traffic control assistants. By some miracle the site escaped a high altitude bombing run during which a new guidance system for allied aircraft was tested.
In between the wars, the technicians for the Belgian military aviation were trained at Evere and the link with the ancestors of the Royal Technical School was broken during the collapse of May 1940. The issue was taken up again in England in October 1944 when the Belgian section of the RAF was given the authorization of opening a "Belgian Initial Training School" at Snailwell. Besides this elementary flying school a technical school appeared also, the "Technical Training School". But the school had to wait until October 1946 to complete its move to Saffraanberg.
The "British touch" was withheld, men wearing their RAF uniforms with the well proven Anglo-Saxon pragmatism influencing education for a long time : theory (just what needed) with an enormous instructional support : spare parts, mock-ups, engine cross cuttings,...

Destroyed by fire
On August 08th, 1948 a violent fire destroyed the buildings, ruining the precious materials. This time, no miracle! From the cloister of the Ursulines only remained some walls and cellars. The Technical School moved to the Caserne Ambiorix at Tongeren. During this exodus which will continue until 1952, masons got on to work. Besides a big quadrangle at the same spot of the ancient convent, they erect fifteen buildings with red roof tiles mainly destined as housing. We must not forget we were within the Cold War and the number of trainees exceeded two thousand units. Wooden barracks (all gone by now) were also urgently built as to cope with the lack of premises.

Certified degree
At the end of the 1950's, the international tensions falls down and the duration of the military service is brought back to two years. These service personnel could not be trained as technicians anymore. As for the technical non-commissioned officers, every class but, most of all, every conversion on equipment needed a stay at the Technical School and thus an absence on base. Yet, the third generation of jet fighters appeared on the scene so the Air Force decided to break with the British mould, by giving a more in depth basic training to its technicians, which should allow them to adapt more rapidly during their career.
The Superior Secondary Technical School (SSTS) is set up by the Royal Decree of April 07th, 1959, welcoming the future technicians of the three Defence forces. Trained and educated by civilian teachers, they receive a certified A2 degree at the end of their training period.
Actually there are two training divisions at Saffraanberg. The technical non-commissioned officers receive a general training (D1) followed by a division of specialized courses (D2) to be trained on the materials in use with the Air Force.

After the flames, the water
During 1967, the building that succeeded the convent starts to emit strange noises. Doors become stuck, windows breaking up... One day, a thundering and threatening crack blared throughout the premises... The school building broke up. After some research, it was found that a water pipeline connecting to the water tower had shattered spilling millions of liters of water washing away the basements. Finally the building dislocated and broke up.
A rapid solution was on hand in 1968 with ultramodern blue-tinted prefabricated constructions which should last ten, fifteen years at most. They still stand today!

A perpetual fight: to adapt and to evolve
The technical developments condition life at the Technical School. Emulating the civilian sector, the school welcomed its first female teachers in 1976, followed shortly after by female trainees. A fair return for this ancient convent!
Taking advantage of an unceasing academic collaboration, Saffraanberg installs one of the first computerized question database optimizing suchlike the evaluation of the trainees. These latter always took quickly advantage of the latest audiovisual means. Every class building is equipped with a video-projection room and nowadays the implementation of multimedia and computer assisted education is completed.
For more than thirty years, a Spitfire, emblematic aircraft of the Second World War reminding us on the origins of the school, sat at the entrance of the premise. The replacement by an F-104G, although giving the Technical School of the Air Force a more modern or futuristic look, arouse a nostalgic irritation among the ancients.
But in the hangars, pupils are trained on the F-16 aircraft, fourth generation fighter literally stuffed with electronics and computerized systems.
From 1988 on a computerized center worth its name was created within the Technical School. The introduction of composite materials, optical fiber, new "nondestructive" inspection technologies... quite a number of upheavals representing much more than just a simple dust-off of former matters or practices.
1994 was in all aspects remarkable for Saffraanberg. The Technical School became a respectable ageing lady with 50 years since its creation in England. An exhibition was organized and a background (3 volumes) was published. A big military parade was held at the Grote Markt at Sint-Truiden during which the Air Force Commander, Lieutenant-general Aviator Vanhecke, handed over to the commanding officer of the school a degree granting the Technical School to hold the adjective "Royal".

   
 The origin, The Royal Air Force  -  The fire disaster in August 1948  -  The Spitfire as gate guardian replaced later by a F-104G
Badges : ERSO (Ecole Royale des sous-officier) (above)
DPERM (Division préparatoire à l’Ecole Royale Militaire)   -  CC Sp Dept Tech Air (Centre de Compétence de la Formation Appui – Département Technique Air)
(Courtesy Belgian Defence)
  

Ready for the XXIst century
In between the wall of Berlin came down taking the potential enemy with it. Few units were spared by the successive restructuring plans. Following the new bylaw of the non-commissioned officers, Saffraanberg lost the first year of the A2 cycle, bringing this back to two years. The closure of various units on the other hand entailed a substantial growth of the Royal Technical School. The Military Training Center at Koksijde and the non-technical courses of Bevingen also rejoined Saffraanberg. Encompassing henceforth four directions, the academicals group was renamed "Training Group".
If we exclude the specialization phase of the air traffic controllers, the meteorologists and firemen, Saffraanberg ensures the training of all ground personnel and some phases of the training of the auxiliary pilots of the Air Force. As such the space was a little bit cramped, but luckily the official inauguration of the renovated main building (Bloc 13) took place in 2001. The Royal Technical School had at its disposal premises allowing a modern and efficient education given by motivated military and civilian staff as well. The demanding and voluntary trainees can find themselves in an educational environment worth of the XXIst century where everything will be put forward for their success!

New century, new structure, new challenges...
Since september 2000, the Royal Technical School has taken up and takes up every day a new challenge, the training of the non-commissioned officers candidates within the frame of the "New Concept of Training Non-Commissioned Officers". In 2002 a new quake hit Saffraanberg as the whole of the Defence. The restructuring plan was not as prompt and dramatic as a fire or a bombing but, in the long term, it modified greatly the structures, the functioning and the mentalities.
Starting from 2006 the school intended to take on new thorough challenges. From school year 2007-2008 on the two other schools for non-commissioned officers of Zedelgem and Dinant were integrated within Safraanberg. From then on all basic military training, the joint trainings for the non-commissioned officers and the general technical training for the technicians was given at Saffraanberg, under the new name of Royal School for Non-Commissioned Officers (RSNCO).
As such the number of trainees reached 1.400 and to accommodate these trainees, infrastructure works started in 2005. The existing buildings were renovated in depth and modified in class buildings or housing. These works were necessary to be able to accommodate 800 pupils in boarding school regime.
The glorious name of "Royal Technical School" seemed to be mend to disappear, but more than ever the motto of the school stays actual and is still under the command of the Centre de Compétence Formation Appui Département Technique Air (CC Sp Dept Tech Air), a department ensuring specialized training for the Air Component, also located at the Campus Saffraanberg.

Possibilities of degrees
The possible guidance's in the technical domain are: aircraft mechanics, electro mechanics, military armament techniques, high frequency electronics, optronical electronics and TIC electronics.
In the non-technical domain you have: social and military sciences, meteorology, aerial operations.
The department "Division Préparatoire à l'École Royale Militaire" (DPERM) of the RSNCO - "Département Formation Scolaire", prepares candidates for the Royal Military School (RMS) to provide them with the best chances and conditions to succeed for the admission tests and to successfully conclude the academic courses of the RMS. A language center is also part of this department.
The "Département Formation Militaire" is as well part of the RSNCO and provides all its trainees and the trainees non-technical level 2 with the military education. This department ensures also the basic military training for officers be them generalist or specialist (pharmacist, engineer, lawyer,...).
The Campus Saffraanberg also accommodates the "Centre de Compétence Formation Appui Département Technique Air" (CC Sp Dept Tech Air), responsible for the Organisation of professional courses, mainly on technical means regarding the operations and maintenance of the flying material of the Defence department.

   
   
Alouette II A27 Alouette II A53...or 72?
Alouette II rotor mast  -  Ejection seats: Martin Backer Mk 4 & Martin Backer Mk 10 (both from Mirage V B)
Siai Marchetti SF.260M  ST09 Lycoming 0-540E-4A5 engine close up
General Electric M61A1 Vulcan  gun (6-barrel 20mm) GBU-31: An Mk84 bomb fitted with JDAM kit
Fighter tails: The FA03 and brother FB03 Armament formation
The F-16 always the spearhead of the Belgian Air Force Electronic generation
Can also be a female job
Pratt & Withney  F100-PW-220E The difference between F-16 and F-104 radar antenna
Agusta A109BA  H14 Rolls Royce 250-C20R1
Technical details of the Agusta turbine Pilot helmet technologies
The technician support: Systems Schematic... ...technical books
High quality tools Teaching materials
Student and monitor: the knowhow transmission Metal and composite material works
Comopsair IPR always present...
The F-16 flight simulator, always a success for the youngsters Being a member of the Air Force ... always a great pride
Some tips are always welcome Like a real pilot!
   
B-Hunter Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Control post: Pilot left, Mission commander center and observer right
Another well known Agusta Spatial orientation test
Some vehicles in exhibition: IVECO carrier vehicle Iveco LMV
Pandur I 6x6 wheeled armored fighting vehicles Piranha IIIC
Unimog U1350L Leopard 1 ARV
 The Dassault Mirage V BA (BA17) as gate guard and a wonderful signed plate from the inauguration
More informations about a formation at Saffraanberg, click on the picture
   
Labor Omnia Vincit Improbus
(Labor conquers all)

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