100 years of aviation – SPA Airfield 1909-2009 



Text : Eddy Devroey -  pictures : Eddy Devroey  - S.B.A.P. ©




On the 9th of august the Royal Spa Aeroclub in the Belgian Ardens celebrated 100 years of aviation with a splendid fly-in event and retrospective.  All the ingredients were present to make it a remarkable day for all airplane enthousiasts.  The beautiful scenery of the Ardens in this pittoresk place and the nice sunny weather offered the perfect conditions for a fine display of historical machines that ones ruled the skies.


Most people know the city of Spa ofcourse as the origin of the world famous waterbrand and a place were tourist from around the world come to enjoy the nature, healthy air and the healing power of the iron containing water in the different bathhouses for wich Spa is famous. According to a legend the name Spa was derived from the Russian word ‘Spacibo’ wich means ‘thank you’.  The Russian Tsar Peter The Great visited Spa in the 18th century and was offered water by the inhabitants.  He answered their gift with the word spacibo wich than later was shortened to Spa. 


The event wich took place was a joint venture between several organisations. The Royal Aeroclub of Spa, le société pour la promotion de l’aérodrome de Spa, Skydive Center Spa, Société d’Hélicoptères and the Retromobile Club Spa.  The last one presented a fine collection of beautifully restored ancient automobiles and motorbikes.


Back to main event now.  The airfield offered besides a display of the clubowned fleet a nice presentation of oldtimers that are really unique and not often visible for the greater public.


Overview of the participating planes :



Blériot XI Monoplane

Navy N3N

MS 317 Morane Saulnier

Stampe SV4c (1933)

North American P-51D Mustang

Piper L18c ( 1954)

Yakovlev Yak 52

Short SC-7 Skyvan 3-100

Rockwell OV-10 Bronco

Antonov AN-2

North American T-6 Harvard

Cessna 150 and 152

Cessna 208 B of the Spa Skydive Center

Royale Aircraft Factory SE-5A (Replica based on a SV4)



Helicopters :


Aerospatiale AS 355N and AS 350 BA

Robinson RH 44

Robinson RH 22

Eurocopter EC-120



During the day there were several displays of para drops who were brought to an altitude of 10 000 feet by the Cessna 208B and the incredible Short Skyvan. The Skyvan has a backdoor wich allows the parachutists to walk into the plane wich inside is like a huge container with enough place to accomadate 19 para’s. The plane is a twin turboprop and manufactured in Northern Ireland. It’s first flight was in 1963. It was sold both to military as civil buyers and used for freight transport and para-dropping. It is a short take-off plane with excellent stoll performance and the demonstration of this capability was quiet impressive since the runway of the Spa airfield is not that long.

Cessna 208 B of the Spa Skydive Center Short SC-7 Skyvan 3-100
The special lines of the Short SC-7 Skyvan 3-100 Parachute is one of the activities at Spa


At 14.00 h pm the flight demo started wich a magnificent flying display of the Blériot XI replica. The plane was constructed by the French aviation pioneer Louis Blériot and on july 25th 1909 it was the first plane to cross the Brittish Channel in merely 37 minutes. It was a special moment for all plane lovers that felt like being thrown back 100 years in time. After his succesfull flight more than 130 Blériot XI were build and used by Brittain and French military forces in the beginning of WOI but soon replaced by more performant machines and reduced to a role of training aircraft.


Blériot XI Monoplane , the same one who did the comemorative flight over the channel some days ago


Another ghost from the past was the Stampe SV4 ( also known as the Stampe & Vertongen SV4) A plane designed and manufactured in Antwerp in the early 1930’s by the company Stampe et Vertongen.  There were only 35 aircraft build and the factory closed it’s gates during WOII. Belgian, French and Brittish airforces used this plane as trainer and fighter.


SV4c and Piper L18C as wingman


Also Russian historical planes were present with the arrival of Yakovlev Yak 52 and Antonov AN-2.

The Russian Yakovlev airplane factory was founded in the former Sovjet Union in 1934 by Alexander Sergeevitch Yakovlev. The factory became famous since it was the birthplace of numerous planes that became known all around the world.

The Yak 52 was used as a trainer and aerobatic aircraft by the Sovjet military airforces and other Eastern European countries that were in that era members of the Warsaw Pact. About 1800 of them were built and after the collapse of the Sovjet Union many of them were exported to the West.


The Antonov AN2 double winged plane was designed during the second world war by Oleg Antonov and was constructed this way it could be equipped with tires, ski’s or floating pontons.  It was a plane that was very suitable for the harsh conditions in far away regions of Russia and used as passenger plane but also for freight carrying, exploration and agricultural purposes. By 1960 more than 5000 AN-2’s were constructed. It is a plane with a stall speed that is only 55 mph. 170 meters is all the runway stretch he needs to get airborne illustrating his amazing stol characteristics.

Antonov AN-2 from Classic Wings (Germany)
Yakovlev Yak 52, owned by Etienne Verhellen registrated in the UK but based at Cerfontaine Airfield  and the other one from Sanicole Airfield


The fly-in also welcomed a guest that took the special attention of many visitors. It was the Rockwell OV-10 Bronco.

The OV-10 Bronco was designed in the 60’s as a multipurpose light attack and reconaissance aircraft. It was used by USAF, US Navy and the US Marine corps.

The plane served also during the Vietnam war and proofed to be very usefull because of his ability of short take-off. The plane was used also during the first Gulf war but is out of service with American airforces since 1994. The Bronco was also in use with the German Luftwaffe from 1970 up to 1992 as a reconaissance plane.  Nowadays the Bronco is still in use with the Philippine airforce as light attack plane and Venezuela operates it to fly border patrols. In the USA some Bronco’s now serve with the government as fire spotters.


Rockwell OV-10 Bronco, an amazing aircraft in the sky of Spa Airfield


During a little pause the Société des Hélicoptères gave a demo flight with 5 yellow painted helicopters and showed the capabilties of rotor bladed machines.




The end of the day brought another surprise.  A tastefull display of the wonderfull Fouga Magister. This Fouga is privatly owned and painted in metallic grey.

The demo pilot is a former French miltary pilot, Jack Krine, who also was a member of the Patrouille de France.

The whistling turtle ended the day and as the public started to leave the airfield there were some nice low passes of the Bronco in formation with the short Skyvan.  A nice a rarely seen view.  Also a sudden low pass-by at full speed of the P51D Mustang awakened all those who were tired after a day of wonderfull aviation history.


The always apreciated Fouga Magister
The North American P-51D Mustang

The other planes

Great Lakes 2T-1 Bücker T131-PA Jungmann
The World War I SE5A replica, based on a SV4 airplane is based in France at La Ferté Alais
Navy N3N
HB Brditschka GmbH & CoKG HB 23/2400 from Austria
Yakovlev Yak-18T from Hungaria
Pilmatus PC-7 still wearing the falcon of  Belgian F-16 OCU Robin DR400
Schempp Hirth Janus. Gliding is another activity that can be performed at Spa la sauvenière


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