Text: Serge Van Heertum - Pictures: Serge Van Heertum & Danny Carels - Translation: Marc Aryc   sbap 2017
 

Ursel Avia 2017 was organized in collaboration with the Air Force, which gave a combined panel of aircraft together with the Open Door of the Air Traffic Control Center (ATCC) at Semmerzake. Organizations like this are undeniably a win-win situation for both the organizers but also for the visitors of the event.
Consequently the aircraft of the Air Force attended Ursel Avia, like the Alpha Jet, Embraer ERJ-135, NH-90 TTH or the good old Seaking, which still gets the admiration from the crowd by its size and litheness in flight. Of course, the 'Red Devils', ambassadors of our Air Force were present at Ursel and took advantage to emphasize on the 60th anniversary of the existence of the Red Devils. But we will come back on this subject later on as this anniversary is the focus point of our report.
Besides the Air Force, Brussels Airlines was also present with the venerable Avro RJ-85 (OO-DWE), but the distinguished guest of the event was the Royal Air Force (RAF), as we all know that Ursel, alias B-67, was at the end of the war, used by the Typhoons, ideally located to harass the German Army and to force the enemy back within his borders.
So the RAF dispatched a Beechcraft King Air 200 from 45 (R) Squadron, a pair of Short Tucano T.1 from 72 (R) Squadron and a pair of Bae Hawk T.2 from 4 (R) Squadron. For the record, a pilot from our Air Force is actually on secondment at the 4 (R) Squadron for three years, and so it was a fellow-countryman who flew one of the two Bae Hawk T.2 to Ursel.
This secondment is a unilateral squadron exchange to evaluate the advanced training course of the RAF. Another Belgian pilot is also on a secondment in Italy for the same purpose. These secondments are within the frame of a study regarding the future replacement of our fighter aircraft and to prepare the most adapted course for this.

But let us come back to Ursel and our "Red Devils". Indeed, our national team had decided to earmark this weekend and the Saturday evening in particular to emphasize on the 60 years of the team. 60 years interspersed by aircraft changes or financial hazards of the ministry of Defence. But 60 years with mastery and panache to the greatest happiness of the public and with the support of this public (of which I proudly am part of).
In 1957, under the impetus of Major Robert "Bobby" Bladt, a team of 4 Hunters started an aerobatic display. This basic concept evolved in 1958 during the World Fair in Brussels, but the name "Diables Rouges" - "Rode Duivels" (Red Devils) was taken on in 1959, in accordance with the national soccer team which held already this patronym.
60 years later, the team's spirit is still unscathed and our Devils thrilled the crowd flying their Siai-Marchetti SF.260M. The weather at Ursel on Saturday was not that brilliant, even compelling the team to cancel their 16 o'clock display, but at 18:00 hours, they were up and flying against the grey skies.
After this flight, the guests of the Devils were invited to the VIP enclosure to admire a photographic exhibition, attend a slideshow made by Devil 2, alias "Jean", and listen to the various speeches concluded by a drink to our "Reed Devils", passed, present and why nor future...
On the pictures you will see some former Devils, like "Stef", "Jief" or "Mag" but also a special guest, the grandson of "Bobby" Bladt, who started all this 60 years ago!
What is paradoxical, is the name of the team, "Devils" as all the members are, in fact, big hearted angels who put themselves in for the good cause. Does not one say that the line between love and hate is a very thin one? This is certainly true for the Devil and the Angel, within our Air Force anyway...
Long live the 'Red Devils' and let us thank them to carry so proudly our national colours everywhere they go.
We would like to thank especially Mr Jo Van de Woestyne, chairman of Ursel Aeroclub and his team, for our accreditation and the facilities granted during our stay at Ursel Avia 2017.

 
Historical note on RAF B-67 Ursel
 

Ursel airfield was a military airfield near Ursel city, south of the road between Ursel and Knesselare.
The airfield was built by the Belgian Army in the 1930's. After the Battle of Belgium in May 1940, it was taken over by the Luftwaffe and used as an auxiliary airfield during the occupation period. It was briefly used by the Italian Corpo Aereo Italiano, creating a diplomatic break between Italy and the Belgian government in exile which led to a Belgian offensive against Italian East Africa.
The area was liberated by British Army forces in September 1944, and Royal Engineers converted the airfield to Royal Air Force use, designating the field as Advanced Landing Ground B-67. Four squadrons of the RAF (609 - 164 - 183 - 198), flying the Typhoon fighter-bomber, landed at the airfield on October 30, 1944. Their mission was to break the resistance of German troops at the Dutch island of Walcheren, which controlled the entrance to the harbours of Antwerp. The four squadrons, which combined formed the 123 Wing, flew daily missions to the area, until they succeeded. At this time the 609 Squadron was under the order of Charles Dumoulin (C/O). The 123 Wing remained at Ursel airfield until November 24, 1944.
Once the entrance to Antwerp was cleared, the Wing moved to the Dutch airfield of Gilze-Rijen.
The Typhoon stayed in the heart of many of the 700 Belgian pilots in the RAF, particularly because most of them flew with 609 squadron. At the beginning, this squadron was known as an elite squadron due to its actions during the Battle of Britain. Some Belgian pilots, of which some were from noble families, joined the British students. The best knows amongst those pilots was Jean de Selys Longchamps.
After the war, the airfield was dismantled and another built to NATO standards for the Belgian Air Force, which had great ambitions. After some cogitations, mostly economical ones, no fighter Wing was ever based or assigned at the new (actual) Ursel airfield.
Nevertheless, this airfield stays the property of the Belgian Defence, using it as a reserve airfield during various exercises.

 
Ursel Airfield plan of the war period 
(Coll Serge Van Heerum / SBAP)
Some RAF Typhoon's on taxi at Ursel B-67
(Coll Serge Van Heerum / SBAP)
Ursel Airfield today  (Courtesy Ursel Vliegclub)
 
UrselAvia 2017
 
 
Airbus Helicopter NH-90 TTH
(Serge Van Heertum )
Dassault Alpha Jet 1B
(Serge Van Heertum )
 RAF 45 Squadron Beechcraft King Air B200
(Serge Van Heertum )
Lest we forget...
(Serge Van Heertum )
 Some details of the commemorative paint scheme
(Serge Van Heertum )
The 45 Squadron Camel
(Serge Van Heertum )
 (Serge Van Heertum ) (Serge Van Heertum )
 The RAF in force at Ursel...
(Serge Van Heertum )
RAF 4 (R) Squadron BAE Hawk T2 (ZK013)
(Serge Van Heertum )
 RAF 4 (R) Squadron BAE Hawk T2 (ZK019)
(Serge Van Heertum )
Our Belgian pilot on secondment at the 4 (R) Squadron
(Serge Van Heertum )
 RAF 72 (R) Squadron Short S-312 Tucano T.1 (ZF377)
(Serge Van Heertum )
RAF 72 (R) Squadron Short S-312 Tucano T.1 (ZF135)
(Serge Van Heertum )
 Former RAF Bristol Bulldog XX518
(Serge Van Heertum )
Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina from Sailplane UK
(Serge Van Heertum )
 Piper PA-28-181 Archer III
(Serge Van Heertum )
B&F Technik FK-9 ELA
(Serge Van Heertum )
 Evektor-Aerotechnik Sportstar RTC
(Serge Van Heertum )
Light Helicopter project...this was an artist view
(Serge Van Heertum )
 North American TF-51D-25-NA "Scat VII"
(Serge Van Heertum )
(Danny Carels )
 Old vehicles, Civilian...
(Serge Van Heertum )
...and military in exibition
(Serge Van Heertum )
 Hangar exhibitions
(Serge Van Heertum )
Magni Gyro M-24 Orion and the fire brigade
(Serge Van Heertum )
 First flight possibilities with a Bell 206B JetRanger II
 (Laurent Bladt )
(Serge Van Heertum )
 The "Victors" team on their homebase
(Serge Van Heertum )
The four ship Piper PA-28-161 Warrior III formation
(Serge Van Heertum )
 (Serge Van Heertum ) (Serge Van Heertum )
 Westland Seaking Mk.48 demonstration
(Serge Van Heertum )
(Serge Van Heertum )
(Serge Van Heertum )
 
 RED DEVILS 60 
 
 T65 XW-wing...sadly not in the Belgian fighter replacement course
(Serge Van Heertum )
R2D2 team
(Serge Van Heertum )
The Stormtroopers at Ursel...
(Serge Van Heertum )
When the Empire meet the Devil...
(Serge Van Heertum )

 (Serge Van Heertum ) (Serge Van Heertum )
 With a "Devil" car...
(Serge Van Heertum )
The Potez CM-170R Fouga Magister from Deurne
(Serge Van Heertum )
 (Serge Van Heertum ) Devil Duck for charity...
(Serge Van Heertum )

 The Granson and Great Granson of "Bobby" Bladt
(Serge Van Heertum )
The Fouga front cockpit...some good souvenir...
(Serge Van Heertum )
 The Devil himself...
(Serge Van Heertum )
"Papy", "Jean", "Paolo", "Meel" & "Tcholle"
(Serge Van Heertum )
 Mr Danny Cabooter
(Serge Van Heertum )
Kris Van den Bergh the Whistling Turtle pilot
(Serge Van Heertum )
 "Red Devils" Didier from the technical team making a Fouga taste flight
(Serge Van Heertum )
Start up
(Danny Carels )
 (Serge Van Heertum )
 Taxi
(Serge Van Heertum )
The Fouga remain an elegant aircraft
(Danny Carels )
 (Serge Van Heertum ) (Danny Carels )
 (Serge Van Heertum ) Back to the 60's and 70's
(Serge Van Heertum )
 (Serge Van Heertum ) It was a pleasant flight for Didier I guess...
(Serge Van Heertum )
 Preparing the "Red Devils" aircraft
(Serge Van Heertum )
(Serge Van Heertum )

 Go for the show...
(Serge Van Heertum )
(Serge Van Heertum )
(Serge Van Heertum )  (Serge Van Heertum )
 (Serge Van Heertum ) (Danny Carels )
 (Serge Van Heertum )
 n1 (Serge Van Heertum )  -  n2 & 3 (Danny Carels )
 (Serge Van Heertum ) (Serge Van Heertum )
 (Serge Van Heertum )
 The devil's pearls
(Serge Van Heertum )
(Serge Van Heertum )
 (Serge Van Heertum ) (Serge Van Heertum )
 "Ste", "Jacko" & "Peter"   (Serge Van Heertum )
 "Paolo" & "Jean"
(Serge Van Heertum )
"Tcholle"
(Serge Van Heertum )
 "Meel"
(Serge Van Heertum )
"Papy"
(Serge Van Heertum )
 On taxi   (Serge Van Heertum )
 "Papy" at take off
(Serge Van Heertum )
Bad weather display
(Serge Van Heertum )
 (Danny Carels ) (Danny Carels )
 The team in good company   (Serge Van Heertum )
 The pictorial exhibition in the VIP
(Serge Van Heertum )
(Danny Carels )
 The past and the present with "Daffy", "Stef", "Mag" & "Jief"
(Danny Carels )
The shadow men...the technical and PR team
(Danny Carels )
 The former "Hardship Red" team leaders: "Tcholle", "Jief" & "Papy"
(Serge Van Heertum )
Happy Birthday the "Reds" but 2017 continue...
(Serge Van Heertum )

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