Text: Serge Van Heertum - Pictures: Serge Van Heertum & Archives as mentioned - Translation: Marc Arys
İ sbap 2019
 
The SF.260, born out of the fertile imagination of Mr. Stelio Frati, an Italian engineer, became a real commercial success, on the military as well as on the civilian scene.

The Italian genius: Stelio Frati was born in Milan in 1919. Soon passion for aviation rushed in and as a talented model builder, he won an Italian free flight championship (radio control did not exist at that time).
From 1938 till 1943 he studied as a mechanical engineer at the Polytechnic Institute of Milano. From 1941 to 1643 he contributed to the design of various glider types and even a piloted flying bomb. Let us not forget that the second world conflict was raging in Europe.
1944, the war was over for Italy and an aeronautical department opened its doors within the school where Stelio Frati hit the books. He was enrolled as a teacher and shared his knowledge with his students for ten years.
After this experience as a teacher, Stelio Frati went on as an independent aeronautical designer and started to draw his creations, having all the same common thread, aircraft with sleek lines and incredible speeds in regard to the engine specifications.
After several other productions Stelio Frati designed the F.8 Falco, equipped with a Lycoming engine of 135 Hp. This remarkable airplane took off for the first time on June 15th, 1955 and was an unarguable success.
In the early 1960, Stelio Frati started to conceive complete metallic airplanes. Building upon the successful Falco, he created the first prototype F.250, equipped with a 250 Hp Lycoming and a retractable landing gear. This prototype of the F.250 (I-RAIE) made his first flight on July 15th, 1964 and was followed by the second one (I-ZUAR) built as the first aircraft by Aviamilano. Quickly it appeared that this elegant designed plane was a great touring aircraft but also a great trainer.
At that time, the SIAI Marchetti Corporation contacted two Belgian pilots, Serge Martin and Bernard Beefs, test pilots at SABCA, to evaluate his F.250. Various modifications later, the two test pilots presented the aircraft to the Belgian military authorities and to the managers of the SABENA flight school as well.
The F.250 was produced under license by SIAI Marchetti, as the SF.260, equipped with a 260 Hp Lycoming.
The first aircraft were the SF.260A for the civilian market and SF.260M for the military part. Due to its excellent flying qualities, the SF.260 was a real success and more than a thousand aircraft, in 15 different versions, were built.

The choice of the SF.260:

Since 1948, the Belgian Air Force was using the Belgian built Stampe & Vertongen SV4bis for the elementary training of her pilots; an extraordinary biplane which was supposed to stay in service until 1973. This was without the technical problems that arose around 1965. Throughout the years, the problems became more serious, mainly with the Gipsy Major engine, but also with the airframe. Problems multiplied, even with serious crashes, and the authorities discarded the possibility of costly modernizations of this aircraft, which led to the proceedings for a new airplane.
The market study for a new trainer aircraft started on February 21th, 1968. The specifications were: low wing aircraft, metallic construction, powerful and fast, built for basic aerobatics, variable pitch propeller, retractable tricycle landing gear, good rate of climb, high service ceiling, ability to use medium runways and equipped with IFR instruments.
The British manufacturer Beagle proposed the "Pup" model, which later became the "Bulldog", used by the Royal Air Force. Germany had its Siat/MBB 223 "Flamingo", Stampe and Renard presented the SR-7, similar to the SV4bis but monoplane, Sweden with its Saab Scania S-91 "Safir" and at last, Italy, through SIAI-Marchetti, with its SF.260.

 
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
A logo for the 50 years...Like an Ace card (Design SVH / SBAP)
 
Evaluations: On April 23 and 24, 1968, several evaluation flights were done with the manufacturer's aircraft I-SIAD. Seven flights with a total of 06.30 flight hours. These evaluation flights were flown by Col Avi Roger Taymans (VSP), le Maj Avi Marcel Terrasson, Maj Avi Jacques Dewaelheyns (Sec Trg), Alain Blume (Sec Trg) and Pol De Beurme (Sec Tech). The choice was ratified by Col Avi Roger Taymans (VSP) and Lt Gen Avi Jean Ceuppens, with the approval of the Minister of Defence of the time, Paul Vanden Boeynants. Contract SVK 931750 for the acquisition of 36 aircraft (ST-01 to ST-36) was signed in February 1969.

History of the flights before delivery:

21-01-1969 : instruments evaluation flight on I-SIAD (1.00 Hr)
09-03-1969 : instruments check flight on I-SIAD (0.30 Hr)
25-03-1969 : 2 fuel system check flights on aircraft n°122 (0.10 hr and 0.15 Hr)
February, April and May : study of the cockpit and instrument panel at VSP
10-06-1969 : 2 test flights and verifications on aircraft n° 122 (0.40 Hr and 1.10 Hr)
10-07-1969 : 1 test flight on I-SJAD (0.45 Hr)
12-07-1969 : first flight of the SF-260M, registered ST-01 (0.20 Hr)
From 16-07-1969 till 01-08-1969 : 34 check, verification or modification flights, on the ST-01 for a total of 13.10 flight hours.

ST-01 was finally handed over to the Belgian authorities in November 1969, with the official ceremony in May 1970 with the baptism of the ST-01, in presence of Lt Gen Avi Jean Ceuppens, his spouse, who baptized the first SF.260M, and the authorities of the Belgian Air Force.

The first 40 years of excellence of the, affectionately named "Agile Penguin", were related in our book edited in 2009, upon the 40st anniversary and the 300.000 flight hours of the SF.260M.
Since this memorable date, the SIAI-Marchetti, be them "M" Mike or "D" Delta (delivered in 1992) have continued to discretely potter along, continuing to train fighter pilots, transport pilots or helicopter pilots of the Belgian Air Force.
No big changes, apart from the reemergence of the "Red Devils", close to the heart of Jacques "Red" Dewaelheyns and all the fans of our Air Force.
The 50th anniversary of the SF.260 was emphasized during the Beauvechain Airbase Days on April 10th, 2019 and it seemed appropriate, together with our readers, to have a pictorial overview of this half-century success and serviceability.
This elegant monoplane trainer aircraft, originated from the genius of Stelio Frati, still has some beautiful years to go, but apparently, governmental agencies have given their formal agreement to start a replacement study. Nothing has already been done as such, and the future will tell us which way the basic training within the Air Force will evolve.

 
 1969 Test flights in Italy
(Via Siai)
1970 Baptism of the ST-01 by Mrs Gen Ceuppens
(1st Wing archives)
 1971 The old and the new one
(1st Wing archives)
1972 David and Goliath at EBBE
(Coll Serge Van Heertum)
 1973 The "Swallows" are born
(1st Wing archives)
1974 Day Glo tail standardization
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
 1975 Belly landing
(1st Wing archives)
1976 Security first...an helmet for the pilots
(1st Wing archives)
 1977 NBC exercise for the ST-11
(1st Wing archives)
1978 After a first solo flight
(Marc Van Gindertaelİ)
 1979 Welcoming the new Alpha Jet
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
1980 The pilot office
(1st Wing archives)
 1981 A Royal student
(1st Wing archives)
1982 Preparing for a training mission
(1st Wing archives)
 1983 Long final
(Coll Serge Van Heertum)
1984 5th sqn traditions reactivated
(Coll SBAP via LS)
 1985 Heavy maintenance
(Coll Serge Van Heertum)
1986 3 tone camo and sharkmouth apparition
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
1987 Squadron exchange TB-30 Epsilon
(Via 5th Squadron)
1988 Simply elegant
(Coll Serge Van Heertum)
 1989 Goetsenhoven apron
(Coll SBAP via LS)
1990 20 years of service paint scheme
(Via 5th Squadron)
 1991 Squadron exchange with the Royal Air Force
(Via 5th Squadron)
1992 Nine "D" models are delivered
(Coll Serge Van Heertum)
 1993 On the way for a Squadron exchange
(Via 5th Squadron)
1994 Feminism into the Air Force. The Barbie scheme
(Coll Serge Van Heertum)
1995 25 years of duty and 45 years Goetsenhoven Airfield
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
1996 The "new swallows" team with the FAé 50 years logo
(Coll Serge Van Heertum)
 1997 Apparition of the 1st Training Wing Wolf head
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
1998 Normal operations
(Coll Serge Van Heertum)
 1999 Happy birthday 5th squadron
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
1999 new white paint scheme test
(1st Wing paintshop)
 2000 The yellow scheme become the standard one
(Coll Serge Van Heertum)
2001 In the paintshop for the new uniform
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
 2002 From basic to advanced
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
2003 250.000 flight hours at counter
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
 2004 Hard break
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
2005 Discreet 35 years logo
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
 2006 Somewhere above Belgium on a National Day
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
2007 Tweeties on the apron
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
 2008 Born of the "Hardship Red" team
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
2009 40 years in Belgian service
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
  2009 Also 300.000 flight hours for the SF.260 fleet
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
2009 A penguin disguised as a tiger
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
2010 "Hardship Red" get colours
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
2011 Reborn of the "Red Devils" for the 65th Air Force anniversary
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
 2012 His red coat suits him perfectly
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
2013 Red Devils together, Red Devils forever
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
 2014 The "Delta" is going grey
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
2015 Only 3 for the season above the Netherland
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
 2016 A Royal souvenir 35 years later
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
2017 When the past meet the present
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
2018 Maintenance...the secret of a long life
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
2019 Half a century of Stelio Frati Baby!
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
 
 
 (Serge Van Heertumİ) (Serge Van Heertumİ)

The SF.260 with 50 years marking:

ST-02  Red Devils
ST-06  Red Devils "Spare"
ST-16  Red Devils
ST-22  Red Devils "Jean"
ST-30  Yellow "Mike" bird
ST-31  Red Devils "Al"
ST-34  Red Devils "Papy"
ST-35  Red Devils "Meel"
ST-44  Grey "Delta" bird

 (Serge Van Heertumİ) (Serge Van Heertumİ)
 (Serge Van Heertumİ) (Serge Van Heertumİ)
 After 50 years of loyal service, the design of this aircraft did not take a wrinkle.
But his replacement is apparently envisaged within the Belgian governemental instances... (to be continued)
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
 
50 years of SF.260 Display Teams
 
N° "Swallows" 1973-1974 * N°2 "Swallows" 1975-1979 * N°3 "Swallows" 1980-1981 * N°4 "New Swallows" 1995-1997
N°5 "Hardsip Red" 2009-2010 * N°6 "Red Devils" 2011-2018 * N°7 "Red Devils" 2019 
 

Once the SF.260M had been declared operational, the idea to present the new airplane during air displays took hold. This new and modern training tool had to be demonstrated to the public so as to attract enough potential trainees for a career as pilot. At first, the Marchetti was flown in solo presentations. This later progressed to the formation of an aerobatic team that was to leave its marks, not least because of the talent of the different pilots that participated in it over the years.

Solo Display
In 1969, Commander (avi) Siccard took it upon himself to organize a display and set out to train for a flying program. He presented the Marchetti during the 1970 and 1971 seasons, flying the nimble plane at several airshows. Following his retirement in 1971, the torch was then handed to Adjutant (avi) Serrien and Warrant Officer Delacuvellerie for the 1972 season, with each pilot taking on about half the demonstrations. Commander Siccard used ST-08 as his display mount, with ST-10 acting as spare. Both aircraft therefore carried the name "Sic" on the tail, being his tactical callsign. As the aircraft were painted in a Vietnam-style disruptive camouflage scheme at the time, Commander Siccard suggested painting the vertical tail and the underside of the engine cover in "day-glo". His proposition was accepted, as a result of which over the years all SF.260's gained a day-glo vertical tail, thus improving the visibility of the aircraft when flying.

The "Swallows"
After Lieutenant Delacuvellerie left the Elementary Flying School in 1973, his place was taken by Commander Fonderie. He proposed to form a team consisting of two aircraft. The proposition was accepted, and Commander Fonderie chose Adjutant (avi) Serrien to be his wingman. It is also Frank Fonderie who finds out the team name: "The Swallows".
The idea to start with an aerobatic team came in fact from Adjutant Serrien. Together with Frank Fonderie, they thought up a display-program of about 8 minutes 30 seconds, in which Frank Fonderie was the leader and Karel Serrien was the wingman. In order to find a name for the team, they made a shortlist, but couldn't find the right one. In the garage of Frank Fonderie, a swallow had made his nest and they found the fast flying of this bird so remarkable, that it gave the idea to name the team the "Swallows".
The team could be seen at airshows throughout Europe, displaying the skills and professionalism of the Belgian Air Force. The "Swallows" held the stage for nine years, at first with two planes and during 1976-1977 seasons even with three.
Due to a lack of successors for one part and the economic situation for another, the Swallows ceased to exist in 1981.
In December 1985, a new call went out to form a display team, but due to the lack of available aircraft and the tight schedule for the instructor pilots, nothing materialized.
Throughout the seasons, the team used different aircraft. Their (special) markings differed from one season to another, sometimes being painted on the engine cover, or on the rudder.
However, the first "Swallows" did not use specially marked aircraft in the 1973 season. Adjutant (avi) Serrien used ST-14, while Commander (avi) Fonderie flew ST-35. Marchetti ST-36 was used as back-up plane.
In 1981, the pilots of the team proposed special markings for their aircraft, consisting of black and white. These were both the colours of the swallow (after the team's name) and of the penguin (of the Elementary Flying School). Black was to be used instead of the camouflage colours, with white replacing the day-glo bands. In spite of having made a thoroughly researched proposition, permission was declined.

The "New Swallows"
A new, official request for permission to reform the team was made in April, 1994. Two volunteer pilots, Capt. P. L'Hoest and Capt. J. Deblock had committed themselves to rebuild the team. The request met a favorable reception and preparations got under way. However, by the time that all hurdles were finally taken the two pilots were no longer available! Their place was taken by Capt. Marc Casteleyn and Lt. John Vandenbosch. It wasn't until 1995 that the Swallows finally reappeared, once more moving the audiences with their maneuvers and cross-overs wherever they went.
At the renaissance of the "Swallows" in 1995 however, the major update was a full makeover for the aircraft of the team. Their Marchetti's had swapped their camouflage for a coat of (Air Force) blue, highlighted by the colours of the Belgian flag. This scheme too had previously been proposed (for the 1980-1981 team) but at that time to no avail.
From June, 1995 until December, 1997, the "New Swallows" (so named to distinguish them from the earlier teams) appeared like the proverbial flock of swallows during numerous air displays. The team was in good hands, being coached by former Air Force pilot Xavier Ellebout. Yet again, when their posting to new units came through and it was time for them to leave 5 Squadron, no successors were found. The Swallows finally landed on the Beauvechain runway on December 5th, 1997 and never took off again.

The "Hardship Red"
In 2008, a team of four aircraft displayed on numerous occasions during the airshow season. Although unofficial, it met with great success. Finally, following approval by the authorities, a new team was born in 2009. Still with four planes, it is known under the name of "Hardship Red", the callsign allocated to training flights on the Marchetti.
Formed on the basis of the 2008 team, "Hardship Red" flew their proving display in front of the military authorities in May, 2009. They happily accepted.
However, it was not a demonstration team in the strictest sense of the word, as "over the top" maneuvers were not allowed; its main goal being to highlight the qualities of both aircraft and instructors in a series of close formation passes.
As this elegant single-engine aircraft designed by Stelio Frati returns to the airshow scene, a new team was born and in 2010 a full display with "over the top" maneuvers was agreed by the Belgian Air Force headquarter.
During first season the Hardship flown the normal yellow aircraft but in 2010, the tailfin was repainted with the team logo and the belly marked with the position number.

The "Red Devils"
In  october  2010  the  Belgian  Air  Component  Commander,  General Major  Van de Voorde,  decided to reform the "Red Devils" team   under the “patronage” of Jacques "Red" Dewaelheyns to underline the 65th anniversary of the Belgian Air Force.   This new  team is the successor of  the  previous  Hardship Red display team of the 5th and 9th Squadron.  They fly four SIAI Marchetti SF260 aircraft painted in an overall red paint scheme with the Belgium national flag colors painted on the under wing and vertical stabilizer; which is the same as it was for the previous two Red Devils teams. The only difference with the Fouga is the "Sharkmouth" present on all SF.260 that is kept on the current paint scheme. In 2019, for the 50 years of service the team changed the Belgian flag of the vertical into a black tail with the anniversary markings.

   
1970-1971
Cdt Jean Siccard (solo)

1972 Duo presentation not named
SLt Alain Delacuvellerie (solo)
ADC Karel Serrien (solo)

1973 "Swallows"
Commander Frank Fonderie (leader)
ADC Karel Serrien (wingman)

1974 "Swallows"
Commander Frank Fonderie (leader)
ADC Karel Serrien (wingman)

1975 "Swallows"
ADC Georges Goussens (leader)
Lt Alain Delacuvellerie (wingman)
Lt Luc Meynckens (reserve)

1976 "Swallows"
ADC Georges Goussens (leader)
Cpt Alain Delacuvellerie (n° 2)
WO Ulrich De Bruyn (n° 3)

1977 "Swallows"
Cpt Alain Delacuvellerie (leader)
Lt Xavier Elleboudt (n° 2)
Lt René Marchoul (n° 3)

1978 "Swallows"
Cpt Alain Delacuvellerie (leader)
Cpt Xavier Elleboudt (wingman)

1979 "Swallows"
Cpt Alain Delacuvellerie (leader)
Cpt Xavier Elleboudt (wingman)

1980 "Swallows"
Cpt Xavier Elleboudt (leader)
Cpt Dany Payeur (wingman)

1981 "Swallows"
Cpt Xavier Elleboudt (leader)
Cpt Dany Payeur (wingman)

1995 "New Swallows"
Cpt Marc Casteleyn (leader)
Lt John Vandebosch (wingman)

1996 "New Swallows"
Cpt Marc Casteleyn (leader)
Lt John Vandebosch (wingman)

1997 "New Swallows"
Cpt Marc Casteleyn (leader)
Lt John Vandebosch (wingman)

2008 "Hardship Red"
Maj Jean-François "Jief" Balon (leader)
Cpt Christophe "Tcholle" Deroubaix (n°2)
Cpt Nicolas "Choco" Delfosse (n°3)
Cpt Sam "Fonske" Van Der Linden (n°4)

2009 "Hardship Red"
Maj Jean-François "Jief" Balon (leader)
Cdt Alain "Papy" Collard (n°2)
Cdt Nicolas "Choco" Delfosse (n°3)
Cpt Kristof "Cloety" Cloetens (n°4)
Cdt Christophe "Tcholle" Deroubaix (reserve)

2010 "Hardship Red"
Cdt Nicolas "Choco" Delfosse (Leader)
Lt Olivier "Mel" Gilson (n°2)
Cdt Kristof "Cloety" Cloetens (n°3)
Cdt Alain "Papy" Collard (n°4)

2011 Red Devils
Cdt Alain "Papy" Collard (Leader)
Lt Stefaan "Stef" Braem (n°2)
Cpt Albert "Al" Baltus (n°3)
Lt Olivier "Mel" Gilson (n°4)

2012 "Red Devils"
Cdt Alain "Papy" Collard (Leader)
Lt Steve "Mag" Malburny (n°2)
Cdt Albert "Al" Baltus (n°3)
Lt Stefaan "Stef" Braem (n°4)

2013 "Red Devils"
Cdt Paul "Paolo" Leys (Leader)
Cdt Davy "Daffy" Vanhaeren (n°2)
Cpt Steve "Mag" Malburny (n°3)
Lt Stefaan "Stef" Braem (n°4)
Cdt Alain "Papy" Collard (coach)

2014 "Red Devils"
Cdt Paul "Paolo" Leys (Leader)
Cdt Davy "Daffy" Vanhaeren (n°2)
Cdt Corentin "Regio" Leveau (n°3)
Cpt Steve "Mag" Malburny (n°4)

2015 "Red Devils"
Cdt Paul "Paolo" Leys (Leader)
Cdt Davy "Daffy" Vanhaeren (n°2)
Cdt Corentin "Regio" Leveau (n°3)
Cdt Alain "Papy" Collard (n°4)

2016 "Red Devils"
Cdt Paul "Paolo" Leys (Leader)
Lt Col Jean Van Hecke (n°2)
Cdt Davy "Daffy" Vanhaeren (n°3)
Cdt Alain "Papy" Collard (n°4)

2017 "Red Devils"
Cdt Paul "Paolo" Leys (Leader)
Cdt Christophe "Tcholle" Deroubaix (n°2)
Lt Col Jean Van Hecke (n°3)
Cdt Alain "Papy" Collard (n°4)
Cdt Yves "Meel" Meelbergs (Reserve)

2018 "Red Devils"
Lt Col Jean Van Hecke(Leader)
Cdt Yves "Meel" Meelbergs (n°2)
Cdt Albert "Al" Baltus (n°3)
Cdt Alain "Papy" Collard (n°4)
Cdt Christophe "Tcholle" Deroubaix (Reserve)
Cdt Paul "Paolo" Leys (Reserve)

2019 "Red Devils"
Lt Col Jean Van Hecke (Leader)
Cdt Yves "Meel" Meelbergs (n°2)
Cdt Albert "Al" Baltus (n°3)
Cdt Alain "Papy" Collard (n°4)
Maj Christophe "Tcholle" Deroubaix (Reserve)
Cdt Paul "Paolo" Leys (Reserve)

 

 
 

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