Going Dutch, Twice Over: Oostwold and Volkel

Filed in Team News by on 10th June 2015
Image © Twister Aerobatics Team

Image © Twister Aerobatics Team

By Chris Burkett

As the “new boy” with Twister Aerobatics this season, it has been fun to appear in shows which are new to me, if not to the team. Two such were back to back weekends in the Netherlands at the end of May – firstly at Oostwold and then to Volkel.

Transits into Europe are quite comfortable in the Twister – which is just as well, since the team can cover huge distances over the course of a season, and the countryside rolls past at a relatively modest pace (around 120 knots). The efficient airframe/engine combination gives a frugal fuel consumption and an endurance approaching 4 hours. Even so, Oostwold in the north of Holland is close to the limit of practical range without en route fuel stops. In this respect we fare better than the Breitling Wingwalkers team, whose Stearmans require two en route refuels and, depending on headwinds, even more than this sometimes.

Arriving at Oostwold on the Saturday evening before the show, various of the ‘advance guard’ were already in residence – notably Brendan O’Brien and his barnstorming Cub. Having been talked into holding Brendan’s limbo poles for a practice, we were saved in the nick of time by a pair of Dutch lads who had been button holed by Brendan, allowing us to observe proceedings from a safe distance.

Oostwold is a delightful ‘farm strip’ airfield, run by Tom van der Meulen, an ex crop duster pilot himself and owner and pilot of Mustang “Damn Yankee”. He has also done a great job building the Oostwold airshow into one of the strongest warbird line-ups seen on continental Europe. Several of the Duxford and North Weald based machines were invited over for the show, with pilots such as Alan Wade, Brian Smith, Steve Jones and Peter Teichman.

Having had to contend with poor weather for our previous displays, the weekend weather at Oostwold was fabulous, especially on Sunday. We performed our daytime duo show quite early in the programme, and were then able to enjoy the rest of the show. It was a great day to remind ourselves why we do this – for FUN! Sunday evening with friends, sunshine, beer and barbecue was perfect. A strong UK contingent also featured the boys and girls of the Breitling wingwalk team. By this time yet more of our friends had arrived, ready for the Monday show. This included members of the Global Stars, who I was flying with in India during the European ‘off’ season. It was also great to see Tony de Bruyn and colleagues from the Bronco display team, including the ‘Bronco girls’ – togged up in very fetching costume.

Monday at Ooswold featured a very full flying programme – lots of warbirds, and lots of civvy formation teams. These included the Dutch ‘Fokker Four’ team. Radio comms in accented English gave us the opportunity for much sniggering: “Could the last Fukker vacate right”.

Decent weather gave us the chance to show off the new party piece of mirror 360, with me closed in on Peter flying a sustained outside turn.

Soon after our display we managed to slip out in between acts, for the long transit home.

The following weekend we were back: this time to Volkel in de Wolken. This is an active F-16 fighter base, and the airshow is staged as a ‘thank you’ from the base to the local community. It actually takes place off-airfield at the showground adjacent to the local village.

Due to the prospect of poor weather for show day, with an early start and lengthy transit, we elected to travel the night before to the nearby gliding site of Goch-Asperden, where we were made to feel very welcome – thanks guys for your hospitality. Our friends from the Gobal Stars elected to do likewise. However on arrival they were a man down – Mark Jefferies had had to make a forced landing en route. On changing fuel tanks from wings to centre, his engine had failed to pick up, and surveying the options the only reasonable one seemed to be a dual carriageway beneath him. Having dead-stick landed in a suitable gap in the traffic, he managed to push the plane onto the hard shoulder and get it started again, so elected to take off and continue! However the Dutch authorities weren’t terribly happy with this – so whilst the rest of us enjoyed our supper Mark was being interrogated… End result however was plane and pilot intact, and available for the show next morning.

Weather for the Volkel show was ‘challenging’ – a very gusty on-crowd wind with drizzle coming and going. In these conditions our LED lights show up quite well – even though their original purpose was for twilight displays.

Despite conditions it felt like we did a good show, so we were able to head for home feeling satisfied with our 2015 Dutch foray. Thanks to Hans van der Werf, ex Starfighter pilot and long-time Volkel display director:

2015 was his last Volkel display- thanks Hans, hope to see you at future Dutch shows nonetheless.

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