|Text & Pictures: Serge Van Heertum & SBAP Archives ©SBAP 2013|
The Brussels air museum is located within the Royal Museum complex at the 'Cinquantenaire'. The facility for these exhibitions was built from 1875 on to commemorate the 50 years of Belgian independence. The construction and enlargement continued steadily to accommodate the world universal exhibition of 1910. This was not only the location for various events, horse shows and competitions, but also a particular storehouse. Indeed, some parts of a German bunker or classified monument façades were stored here. In 1923 a part of the buildings was allocated to the Ministry of Defence to create the primary Belgian museum of military history. The museums of the Cinquantenaire comprise the archeological museum (Roman and Egyptian era, etc...), the Autoworld museum (history of the automobile), the army and military history museum with collections of marvelous weapons and uniforms and at last, the Marine, the Armoured and the Air & Space (Air museum) departments.
The Air and Space department was created in 1972 under the impulse of passionate Air Force men, namely Mike Terlinden and Jean Boten, joined later on by Hervé Donnet.
Their only idea was to emphasize the value of the Belgian aeronautical heritage.
After a lot of negotiations, the great hall next to the Army museum was allocated. This hall built from stones, metal and a glass partition was a good start regarding the offered space for the exhibit. This building with an area of almost 12.000m2 and 40 m in height had the potential to become a magnificent museum. One has to know that at that time, this quite abandoned hangar was used as a storehouse (a unique surviving Mosquito NF-30 was found at the premises) and still had a shuffled soil.
It was a real challenge and the first thing to be done was to concrete this soil. Then we had the first planes coming from the Air Force or from unusual locations such as the basements of the University of Gent. Little by little the collections grew to one of the richest regarding World War I.
This notoriety soon became international and exchanges started, so the exhibits were not limited anymore to only Belgian items.
After 40 years the museum has largely evolved and at this moment includes a mere of 130 airplanes and other flying machines. Despite the huge hangar, the management of the museum had to decide to remove various aircraft and store them away due to a lack of space.
Some ideas to enlarge the exhibition space were put forward, such as making a story onto the existing balconies, but unfortunately in Belgium history is not the main concern of the high-level decision-makers and the project fell into oblivion.
New airplanes are restored bit by bit like the Battaille triplane or lastly the DH-89 Dominie. These miracles are due to a handful of volunteer’s scarifying their leisure time and knowledge so history can live on (yours truly was part of this team in his early years...).
Be that as it may, this museum is certainly worth a visit for the neophyte as well as for the passionate enabling them to discover the big pages of Belgian aeronautical history. From the "Belgica" balloon and the Gordon Bennet trophy to the F-16 fighter through the experiences of professor Piccard; see the workshop of the renowned manufacturer Renard, learn who the inventor Florinne was or even be aware of the Belgian presence in Antarctica during the expedition of Gaston de Gerlache in 1957-1958 (60 years after his father Adrien de Gerlache left for the South Pole with the ship Belgica).
Besides these collections of aircraft, multiple departments are also represented, such as the para-commando regiment, the Sabena Company or the Belgian aeronautical archeology section allowing us to discover other aviation related items in Belgium. Not to forget the numerous display cases with a unbelievable collection of aviation machine-guns dated from WWI.
You can conclude your enjoyable visit by having a drink at the "Sky Bar" and a tour at the museum shop where you can buy a little souvenir such as books, models, badges, etc...
In one word, the ideal place to be for a nice and pleasant day when visiting Brussels.
Ernest Antoine Joseph Paul Demuyter was born in Gent (March 26th, 1893 – February 7th, 1963). He was one of the Mayor of Ixelles (Brussels commune).
In the years '20 the Ernest Demuyter won several times the Gordon Bennett race. He won the race three times in a row (1921-1922-1923). This meant that he could keep the Gordon Bennett trophy. The cup is now preserved at the Royal Army Museum (Air & Space section) in Brussels. Ernest Demuyter participated with his balloon the Belgica 1. Ernest Demuyter wrote two very beautiful books: "Belgica" and "La Navigation Aerienne et les randonnées victorieuses du Belgica."
|The famous Gordon-Bennett trophy||Ernest Demuyter in the Belgica|
Zeppelin Airship LZ-62 L-30 Gondola
|Zeppelin Airship LZ-62 L-30 Gondola|
|L-30 radio and bombs||Graf von Zeeplin in the L-30|
|Auguste Piccard, was born in Basel - Switzerland (January 28th, 1884 - March 24th, 1962), This Swiss-born Belgian physicist notable for his exploration of both the upper stratosphere and the depths of the sea in ships of his own design. In 1930 he built a balloon to study cosmic rays. In 1932 he developed a new cabin design for balloon flights, and in the same year he ascended to 17,008 meters (55,800 feet). He completed a bathyscaphe in 1948 and later made several dives with his son Jacques. For a complete history of Auguste Piccard check the web page: http://www.theguardian.com/science/2011/mar/27/auguste-piccard-will-gregory|
|Some books written by the Professor|
|The early years and First World War|
Voisin de caters
|Voisin de caters|
|Baron Pierre de Caters|
|Battaille Triplane||Battaille Triplane|
|Nieuport 23 C.1||Sopwith Camel F1|
|SPAD XIII C1||Sopwith 1 ½ Strutter|
|Bristol F.2 b||RAF RE.8|
|Fba type H||Caudron G.III|
Fokker DR1 replica in the Army Museum 14-18 section
|Halberstadt C.V||Halberstadt C.V currently in restoration|
|LVG CVI (Removed for restoration)|
|Lewis light gun 1914 model & Vickers 0.303||German LMG 08/15|
|Between the wars|
|Morane Saulnier MS.315||Morane Saulnier MS.230|
|World War II|
|Supermarine Spitfire LFIXC||Hawker Hurricane IIC|
|Fairey Battle I||Stampe & Vertongen SV-4c (Donnet & Divoy escape)|
Fieseler Fi.156 C3 Storch
Bücker Bü181B Bestmann
|Nord N.1002 (Messerschmitt Bf 108)||Junkers Ju.52 /3mg3e|
|V1 flying bomb (Replica in the Army Museum 40-45 section)||Supermarine Spitfire Mk IX (Replica in the Army Museum 40-45 section)|
|Miles Magister I||De Havilland DH 82 Tiger Moth II|
|Bristol Bolingbroke IV||Fairchild Argus III|
|Douglas A-26 B Invader||Douglas A-26 B Invader|
German bomber landing gear found on Belgian beach
|Spin and screw probably from a FW-190|
|Belgian Air Force|
|De Havilland DH98 Mosquito NF30||De Havilland DH98 Mosquito NF30|
|Percival Proctor IV||Airspeed Oxford I|
|Supermarine Spitfire FRXIVcC||Stampe & Vertongen SV4 B|
|North American T6 Harvard III||Bristol 171 Sycamore Mk.14|
|Gloster Meteor F8||Gloster Meteor F8|
|Gloster (Armstrong Withworth) Meteor NF.11||Gloster (Armstrong Withworth) Meteor NF.11|
|Republic F-84G Thunderjet||Republic F-84G Thunderjet|
|Republic F-84F Thunderstreak||Republic RF-84F Thunderflash|
|Hawker Hunter F4||Hawker Hunter F4|
(Data Display Control) NADGE system from late 60's
(Thanks Cyriel De Groof for info)
|Avro Canada Canuck CF-100 Mk.4|
|Potez CM-170R Fouga Magister||Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star|
|Sikorsky S-58 (HSS-1)||Douglas C-47B Dakota|
|Percival Pembroke C51||Fairchild C-119G Flying Boxcar|
|Para-Commando section||Lockheed F-104G|
|F-104G 20mm Vulcan gun||AMD BA Mirage 5BA|
|Westland Sea King Mk 48||Lockheed Martin (General Dynamic) F-16A|
|Light Army Aviation|
|Auster AOP VI||Piper Super Cub L-18C|
|Dornier Do.27 J-1||Britten-Norman (Fairey) BN-2A Defender|
|Sud Aviation SA313B Alouette II||Agusta A.109 BA|
|Drones and Anti Aircraft systems|
|Northrop MQM-36A Shelduck||Radioplane KDR-2|
MBLE D5 Epervier
|Some anti aircraft systems|
Raytheon MIM-23B Hawk ground to air missile battery
|Hawk guidance system|
|Bell-Douglas MIM-14 Nike-Hercules, Bell-Douglas MIM-3 Nike Ajax and Vought MGM-52 Lance balistic missile|
|Belgium in Antarctic|
|De Havilland Canada DHC.3 Otter U-1B||The 1957-1958 expedition logo|
|Snow truck||A part of the team during the expedition with the snow truck|
Belgian presence in Antarctica during the expedition of Gaston de Gerlache
(60 years after his father Adrien de Gerlache left for the South Pole with the ship Belgica).
|SE 210-6N caravelle||SE 210-6N caravelle|
|Boeing 707-329 OO-SJA nose section||Boeing 707-329 engine and Cessna 310 tail|
|Les avions Renard section|
|Stampe & Renard SR-7||Stampe & Renard SV4 D|
|Renard R36||Renard R35|
|Renard R31 replica being built for the museum||The renad facilities|
|Alfred Renard (April 21st, 1895 – June 20th, 1988) was an eminent Belgian aviation pioneer. In 1925 Alfred Renard creates his own company as “Société anonyme des avions et moteurs Renard “in Brussels. The main activity was the design and production of aircraft engines of 100, 120 and 240 hp. Some of them served Belgian military aviation; some were sold in Poland and in the USA. Also, a Renard 240 hp engine powered the second version of Belgium's first helicopter, built by and named after Russian engineer Nicolas Florine. In 1928, his brother Georges Renard joined the company which was then renamed “Renard Constructions Aéronautiques”. The brothers shifted away from engine design: their R-31 and R-36 were powered by engines from abroad. For a complete history of Alfred Renard check the web page: http://www.vieillestiges.be/fr/rememberbook/contents/40|
|Some real interesting books about Mr Renard and his planes|
|Sport Aviation and Gliders|
|Aero KZIII||Tipsy Belfair|
|Pissort JP.11 Pou-Planeur||Tipsy Trainer|
HM Pou du ciel “Pou Plume”
|This HM Pou du ciel was owned by Fernand Noiset|
|Kreit Lambrickx KL2||Percival "Gull"|
|Tipsy T66 Nipper||Tipsy S2|
|De Havilland DH 89 Dominie I||
Morane-Saulnier MS-892A Rallye Commodore 150
|Grunau Baby III||Caudron C 800 Epervier|
|Schleicher Ka.6CR Rhönsegler||PZL Bielsko-SZD 8bis 'Jaskółka'|
|Pottier P.40||Ulm Huntair Pathfinder|
|Grasshopper Mono 01||Fulmar Trident I|
|Nicolas Florine, born Nikolaï Anatoliévitch Florin (August 1st, 1891 – January 21st, January 1972), was an engineer that built the first tandem rotor helicopter to fly freely in Belgium in 1933. He was born in Batumi, Georgia. After the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, Florin left Russia to Germany but still in danger he came in Belgium in 1920 via Finland. For a complete history of Nicolas Florines check the web page: http://users.skynet.be/mda.hdv/vtb_memorial/florine.html|
|Foreign Modern Aircraft|
|Mc Donell Douglas Phantom RF-4C||Let C-11 (Yak 11)|
|Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23BN 'Flogger'||
Mil Mi-24D 'Hind'
|De Havilland DH 100 Vampire T11||MD.450 Ouragan|
|AMD Mirage F-1||North American Sabre F-86F|
|A great engine collection is also exhibed||Didactic view of an engine|
|Turbo Prop and Gipsy Major engines||Can anular jet engine from the begins|
|Stored or removed aircraft|
|Auster AOP VI used for outside exhibitions|
|Stampe SV4 C (Temporary stored)||Stampe SV4 B (Temporary stored)|
|De Havilland DH 82 Tiger Moth II wearing the RAF scheme now||De Havilland Canada DHC-1 "Chipmunk" (Stored for later restoration)|
|Sikorsky S-55||Aero L-29 Delfin|
|Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15bis 'Fagot-B'||Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21F-13 'Fishbed-C'|
|Saab J-35A Draken||Fiat G-91 R/3|
The Museum is very easy to get to, as it is situated close to the center of Brussels.
Take the train or subway to Brussels Mérode or Schuman station.
The opening times are from 09 AM to 04.30 PM. Closed on Mondays and National holidays.
Entrance is free.
Parc du Cinquantenaire 3
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