Text & Pictures: Alain Debras - Translation: Marc Arys  © sbap 2016
 

This Wednesday 28 September, Beauvechain airbase was host to the yearly Wings Parade where the pilot trainees get their much coveted wings after the flying courses on Marchetti and Alpha Jet. This ceremony was led by Colonel Aviator Frédéric Givron, Commander of the Air Component Competence Center and headed by General-Major Aviator Frederik Vansina - Air Component Commander to hand over the wings to the newly graduated pilots. Civil and military authorities also attended this heartily parade. 

For obvious security matters the names of the pilots will not be published.
Eight pilots received their wings from the hands of Gen-Maj Avi Vansina, of which four 1 Lt followed the course through the Royal Military School (RMS - TAW-department) and four Slt (freshly promoted) from the Auxiliary Pilot Promotion 2013. One of the officers from the RMS course previously gained his silver wings in the United States within the frame of the collaboration between the USAF and the Euro Nato Joint Jet Pilot Training (ENJJPT) at Sheppard AFB, Texas.

This entire promotion is intended to provide fighter pilots for the F-16AM and the graduates will continue their training through the Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) based at Kleine-Brogel. Later on they will be assigned to the operational squadrons at Florennes (1 & 350 Sqn) or Kleine Brogel (31 & 349 Sqn).

Before handing over the wings, Gen-Maj Avi Vansina praised the merits of these young men, who are to dedicate their life to the Nation at a particular moment where the world is getting more and more complex and tensions are very extreme on several continents. After completion of their training they will participate in the various missions of the Air Component. The General also emphasized on the efforts of these youngsters as to fulfill their dream and thanked the mothers, parents and friends who supported them throughout the harsh and demanding courses.

After the wing ceremony, the junior lieutenants were sworn in as officers before the whole assembly, not without some emotions...
"I swear allegiance to the King, obedience to the Constitution and to the laws of the Belgian people".

The ceremony was concluded by a fly-pass of 3 Agusta A109BA, 1 NH-90 TTH, 5 Siai-Marchetti SF.260, 1 Alpha Jet 1B, 1 C-130H Hercules and 3 F-16AM, followed by a photo session flanking General Vansina before the traditional "cap throwing".
There were also some aircraft on static display : a special painted F-16AM from the 350 Sqn anniversary, Alpha Jet 1B, Siai-Marchetti SF.260D, Embraer Emb 121 Xingu (from the French Armée de l'Air in a new white and grey paint scheme), NH-90 TTH, A109BA and a EC-120 "Colibri" from the AAF.

SBAP wishes to thank the 1st Wing (Col Avi Franchomme), the Competence Center Air (Col Avi Givron) and Comopsair IPR for the quality of their welcome and the facilities granted during our stay permiting the capture of this touching ceremony.

  
The promotion Godfather: Squadron Leader Florent Van Rolleghem DSO DFC
 

Born in Dendermonde (Belgium) on November 10th, 1912, Florent Van Rolleghem first entered the Cadet School in 1927 followed by the Royal Military School in 1930. Promoted sub-lieutenant in 1932 he trained as a gunner, then as a radio operator, as a navigator and received his pilot wings in 1935. He was promoted captain in 1939.
In 1940 he left Belgium to escape the German invasion, but returned after the French surrendering and joined the Secret Army. Eager to combat the Germans, he again escaped Belgium to rejoin the United Kingdom through France and Spain. At the beginning of 1941 he decided to go for it and tried to cross the Pyrenees but was intercepted by the Spanish police. He was jailed in various prisons of which the sinister camp of Miranda de Ebro. After three months, he succeeded to escaping to Portugal and joined England by boat.
At his arrival he needed to spend a month at the Patriotic School so the Englishmen were reassured of his sincerity and his pilot capabilities,  who he told them to be.
He entered the RAF in June 1942 and was posted to the n° 5 School (Advanced Pilot Training Unit) at Ternhill. On September 28th, 1942 he was assigned to Ossington to train on the twin-engines Airspeed "Oxford" and on November 14th found himself with the 81 Operational Training Unit at Whitchurch where his first crew was formed with four Englishmen, one Scotish and one Canadian. He was promoted to the rank of Flying Officer on December 9th, 1942.
In March 1943, Van Rolleghem started his training on the heavy bomber "Avro Lancaster" with his crew at Lindholme and on April 28th, 1943 was assigned to the 103 Bomber Squadron at Eslham Wolds from where he started his first operational tour.
He completed three operational tours on bomber in European skies in 1943 and 1944, during which time he flew about 70 war missions. He received the Distinguished Service Order in October 1944, the second highest British military distinction. At that moment the RAF ordered him not to fly anymore and was posted to the RAF-college at Cranwell.
Florent Van Rolleghem returned to Belgium on December 24th, 1944 and continued his flying career in the Belgian Air Force. He fulfilled several staff headquarter's jobs at the War School, the SHAPE and at the Military Committee of the NATO in Washington.
He retired as a lieutenant-general in 1970 and took off for his last flight on April 30th, 1983.

 
 During his gunner career in the Aviation Militaire
(Courtesy G. Lecomte collection)
At the command of his "Lanc"
(Courtesy G. Lecomte collection)
103 Squadron Avro Lancaster Mk III (ED905 -/ PM-X) from Sqn Leader Van Rolleghem  (Coll SBAP)
 
The Wings ceremony
 The progression of the helicopter course: EC-120 Colibri, Agusta A109BA & Airbus Helicopter NH-90 TTH
 Siai-Marchetti SF.260D the little "Delta" Dassault Alpha Jet 1B 37 years of excellence
 The F-16AM Fa129 specialy painted for the 350 Squadron anniversary Eurocopter EC-120 Colibri Dax based flying school
 Agusta A109BA  Airbus Helicopter NH-90 TTH
 Embraer 121 Xingu, the French way of transport formation
 The ceremony Officer, our National Colours and the arrival of the CC Air Commander
 A formal ceremony The eight laureats
 General-Major Avi Frederik Vansina The eight brand new wings...a great awaited moment
 
 Got the wings...a great moment and certainly a good souvenir for the General ! The eight laureats with their wings now
 Swearing for Belgium and the constitution The future pilots in course at 5th Squadron
 A109 fly by followed by a NH-90 TTH
 The "Agile Penguins" in Beauvechain skies Alpha Jet 1B almost a fighter !
"Hercules" forever since 44 years The fighter...the next mount for the eight laureats
 The time for decompression The respect  of the tradition
 Posing for posterity with the General and the family representative of Squadron Leader Florent Van Rolleghem DSO DFC, Godfather of the Prom

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