International government summits can be a big draw for the aircraft enthusiast, and 2014 is looking like a good year for these. The chance to catch a lot of government and military VIP aircraft in the same place at the same time, can be a winning ticket, although of course it depends on what countries are involved, and more importantly, how strict the security plan will be handled at the host airports. This is especially important for the photographer, with very strict security possibly making an event very difficult. Of course, number crunchers will usually be ok, but if you want to come away with a decent amount of quality shots, that may not be so easy, and maybe not even worth trying.
A good example of this was the recent 'nuclear' summit in Holland, with quite extreme security at Schipol certainly putting my plans to go on hold, with the threat of on the spot fines for 'illegal' photography quite a surprise from the usually more chilled-out Dutch! This seems to happen more at airport venues that are not used to hosting major summits, whereas other airports that regularly do so are certainly more relaxed about it all, such as Zurich for the WEF every January, and the many summits held in Brussels etc. So, it will be interesting to see how security is handled at the major NATO summit in Cardiff in September, where around 60 heads of state are expected. Another event for the diary is the next CHOGM, to be held in Malta around November 2015, where a potential 50+ heads of state could attend, with the huge bonus of it being at such a great airport for photography, with usually great weather... just as long as security doesn't get silly!
So, after reluctantly 'binning' the Schipol plan, another very good summit for the enthusiast was being held only a few weeks later, with the 4th EU-Africa Summit taking place in Brussels on 2-3 April. Coincidentally, a smaller NATO meeting was also taking place at the same time, which provided a few other aircraft. Again, with Brussels being used to hosting regular summits, it was hoped that there would (again) be no 'extreme' security here. Thankfully there wasn't to be, after deciding to go for this one, at an airport which is pretty good for photography. Having said that, unfortunately the photo oportunities around the fence next to the Abelag ramps (where most government VIP aircraft will park) have recently been made much more difficult, with the building of a high wall that pretty much ruins any photo ops that previously existed there. Not connected with this summit of course, as the work was started last year, some shots may still be possible, but only with a large set of steps, and of course if there are no restrictions from any police presence.
Not held that frequently, the first EU-Africa summit was held in Cairo in 2000, the second in Lisbon in 2007 and the third in Tripoli in 2010. With more than 60 heads of state expected, with many arriving on rare and exotic aircraft from Africa, this was a very good, rare chance to photograph all of these in one place. Of course, there are usually some 'issues' with certain African leaders, which lead to several no-shows. These included under-fire Zuma, and less surprisingly, Mugabe, who binned it after 'her indoors' was refused a visa. Even more unfortunate, from an aircraft point of view, was the lack of a Sudanese IL-62, due to the matter of an arrest warrant out against their leader. No surprise there, though one aircraft that was really hoped for, was the ultra-classic Congo B707. However, if reports are correct, this has recently suffered some bullet holes, and didn't make it (nor did any other DRC aircraft unfortunately). Infact, some countries that only sent 'minor' delegations, used scheduled flights, while others used chartered aircraft (some of which are still rare catches). This made the couple of true Afro-classics that did turn up, even more special!
So having decided to go for it, the plan was for four days in Brussels, with the main summit arrival day on 1st April, and the main departure day on the 4th. In between there was time to take in a few other places in the wider area around the capital, catching up with some very nice retired old classics, as well as an unexpected little excursion or two, including popping over the border into Holland chasing another classic. For this trip, Turkish Airlines was the best carrier to use, flying from the local at Dammam for a change (instead of the more usual Bahrain). This had the bonus of a full afternoon at Istanbul on the way back, for a return visit to Ataturk, following the only previous visit there exactly five years ago.
DAY 1 TUESDAY 1ST APRIL
Leaving Dammam in the early hours, first flight was TK151 to IST, operated by A321 TC-JRY, off at 0155 and landing 3 hours later at 0555L. Connecting onto TK1937 to BRU, operated by B737-800 TC-JGT, departure was at 0815, landing 3.10 hours later at 1025L. Being my first time to actually 'do' this place properly, we finally got to the good photospot for runway 25R landing shots without too much trouble, though just missing the Turkish Government Gulf 4! Thankfully the weather was glorious, as it was to be for the first couple of days here, as we then joined quite a few other photographers awaiting the bulk of the summit arrivals. BRU has two parallel runways, 25R and 25L (and a lesser used cross runway), with 25L being used by most regular airline traffic, and 25R used by most biz, cargo and government flights, with the cargo ramp and Abelag FBO (that handle the VIP movements) ramps nearby on the Northside of the airport. And so, with the good photospot just to the South of 25R being good for almost all day, it was only for the last couple of hours before sundown, that everyone re-located to a spot just to the North of the final approach, after the sun had got around onto the other side of the aircraft. With the first summit aircraft actually arriving on the Sunday night (30th), and a couple more by last night, with the remainder by the end of today, meant the following were now present...
CN-AMK Cessna 560XLS+ R Moroccan AF 'RMAF1'
CS-DTP Falcon 900B Omni Aviation (with Portuguese and Equatorial Guinea flags next to the door)
CS-DTW Global Express Omni Aviation (operating for the Mali Government)
CS-TFY A320 Masterjet (operating for the Benin Government)
ET-APM B737-800 Ethiopian Airlines 'ET8704'
F-HEBO Falcon 900EX Dassault Falcon Services (operating for the Guinea Government)
N777AS B777-200ER Mid East Jet 'Cameroon 1' (operating for the Cameroon Government)
P4-CLA B767-200ER Comlux Aviation 'Congo 1' (operating for the Congo Brazzaville Government)
SX-GJJ Gulfstream 550 GainJet Aviation 'GNJ50' (operating for the Rwanda Government)
TR-KPR B777-200 Gabon Government/Afrijet Business Service 'Gabon 1'
TR-KSP Gulfstream 4SP Gabon Government 'RCA1' (operating for the Central African Republic Government)
5U-BAG B737-200C Niger Government 'Niger 001' (arrived via Marseille)
5X-UGF Gulfstream 550 Uganda Government
6V-ONE A319CJ Senegal Government 'Senegal 001'
7T-VPC Gulfstream 4SP Algeria Government
9G-EXE Falcon 900EX Ghana Government 'Ghana 01'
9H-AVK A319CJ Comlux Aviation 'LuxMalta 337' (operating for the Djibouti Government)
Meanwhile, the NATO Foreign Ministers meeting had brought the following arrivals today, which used runway 25R... Bulgarian AF Falcon 2000LX LZ-001, French AF EMB-121AA 072/YA 'CTM1714', Italian AF Falcon 900EX MM62244 'IAM3107', Turkish Government Gulf 4 TC-ATA 'Turkish 5' and USAF C-32A 98-0001 'Sierra 621' (with US Sec of State, John Kerry). Unfortunately, 25L was used for the following arrivals (most before we had arrived)... Czech AF Yak-40 0260 'CEF05B', German AF A340-300 16+01 'GAF886', Greek AF EMB-135BJ 135L-484 'HAF352C', Italian AF P-180 Avanti MM62203 'IAM1400' and Spanish AF Falcon 900B T.18-2/45-41 'AME4509'. Over the next few days, there were a few more Euro VIP visitors, though none of these were photographed. Also, departing today, following another unconnected government visit, was the Chinese President in Air China B747-400 B-2472 (which had arrived from Dusseldorf on the 30th). Finally, others that were photographed today, not already mentioned, included arrivals... Belgian AF ERJ-145LR CE-03, C-130E CH-07 and classic Falcon 20E CM-01 'BGF001' ('40 Years' markings), Asiana Cargo B747-400F HL7417, NetJets Cessna 560 CS-DXS, Mjair Management AB Cessna 525B SE-RMJ and AeroLogic B777-200F D-AALH.
DAY 2 WEDNESDAY 2ND APRIL
With news of Russian AF 'Open Skies' An-30 01 Black operating from here today, following its arrival late on 31st (and parking on the Melsbroek military ramp), we decided to head down to the take off end of 25R, where hopefully it would stay low on departure (of course, its Russian!). Spending around three hours at this spot, the 'Clank' was indeed caught on departure, on its first OSY mission over Belgium and Holland. While at the take off end, others photographed included... Blue Air B737-400 YR-BAR, Korean Air Cargo B777-200F HL8252, Adria CRJ-900 S5-AAN, Croatia Airlines Dash 8-400Q 9A-CQE, Brussels Airlines A320 OO-SNC (in special 'Belgian Red Devils' colours), LOT ERJ-190LR SP-LNC, the Jet Airways A330-300 departure slot of VT-JWR, VT-JWS, VT-JWT and VT-JWU, Belgian AF C-130H's CH-11 and CH-12, Tarom B737-300 YR-BGA, JAT B737-300 YU-ANK (all white), Corendon Airlines B737-800 TC-TJL, Air Arabia Maroc A320 CN-NMH (delivered five weeks earlier, ex A6-ANJ), Monaco Government Falcon 7X 3A-MGA (not connected with either government meeting?), EL AL B737-700 4X-EKE, Turkish Airlines A330-300X TC-JNO, Freebird A320 TC-FBH, TUI B767-300(WL) OO-JAP, RAM Cargo B737-300F CN-ROX and German AF Global Express 5000 14+04.
We then headed to the 25R landing end for the return of the Russian An-30, and after talking with a photographer from Ostend there, decided on having a drive up to Woensdrecht, with a stop at Antwerp on the way back. Antwerp, and a old classic nearby, had been planned for this trip, and doing it now (with it being to the North of Brussels, on the way to/from Woensdrecht) would save doing it tomorrow with the other places, more to the West of Brussels. Word of a very nice aircraft at Woensdrecht made us decide to go for the 40 mile trip up the road, though there was no guarantee it would be outside for a shot, so a bit of a gamble. Another Afro-classic, 1978-built Tanzania Government F28-3000 5H-CCM was undergoing engine runs and test flights this week after a major check. A case of 'some you lose' though, as it was back inside the hangar for the day. Not just that, but even the old SonAir Fokker 50 D2-ESW that had layed here derelict for a few years was also gone! Apparently finally dismantled this week! That left just a few of the other 'residents' here to be worked... all white Fokker 100 PH-CXF (stored), the old demonstrator Fokker 100 PH-MKH (wfu around five years ago, after last being operated by Stork Aerospace as a testbed for the 'Sostar-X' ground surveillance radar), and all white SmartLynx A320 YL-LCH (ex Thomas Cook lease). So, after grabbing the few 'consolation' shots, we headed back South into Belgium, firstly to Antwerp. A nice little airport, often with something of interest, it has a very nice open air cafe/bar overlooking the main ramp, and a grass mound close by, overlooking the fence onto the taxyway and runway nearby. As well as being busy with the resident Cityjet Fokker 50's, with OO-VLI, OO-VLN and OO-VLS present, other commuter types were Welcome Air Do328-100 OE-GBB (which arrived on an ambulance flight), while similar Sun Air Do328-300JET OY-JJB was parked-up. Also arriving was resident all-grey Flying Service Falcon 900DX OO-VMI, while also understood to be based is Cessna 404 LZ-ESA of Eurosense (aerial photography company).
From here, the final stop of the day was less than ten miles to the East, at what looks like an old airfield (but isn't?) at Emblem (Ranst), to catch the first of several old classics on this trip. Partly dismantled here is ex Bazair Andover C1 9Q-CDY, which has been (still is?) used as a fire trainer. Lying on its belly with wings and props removed and placed next to it, it is otherwise complete, with the colour scheme, titles and reg still clearly visible. Built in 1966, it was operated by the RAF as XS604 before going to the RNZAF as NZ7623. Later purchased by Eureka Aviation, it was stored at Antwerp from January 1998 until being transported here by road in September 2006 for use by the PIBA (Provinciaal Instituut voor Brandweer).
DAY 3 THURSDAY 3RD APRIL
Todays plan was to round up the rest of the W&R classics in the area, to the West and North West of Brussles. Heading off first thing to the furthest location, Zomergem is around 40 miles NW of BRU, where the Kokorico nightclub was the destination! Mounted on poles next to the club is Viscount 813 G-AZNA, which has been on display here since 1992. Basically complete, in good condition, it has quite realistic wooden replica props, and is still in the overall white scheme with red detail from when leased to Gambia Air Shuttle in 1989-90. Although the titles and tail logo have been painted over, the 'Viscount Banjul' name is still visible on the left side nose.
Next up, around 15 miles SE of here in Wetteren, is an absolute classic that i had been looking forward to catching, the former Benin Government B707-321 TY-BBW. Built in 1961 for Pan Am, it was later operated for the Benin President from 1987-1989, before making its final flight from Manston to Ostend on 20/5/89. Later purchased by Walter Govaert, it was transported from Ostend to Wetteren on 10/7/97, to be used as a club/restaurant, after being re-assembled on the Expo Gowalt car park. Still in the full colours, only the 'Benin' from the 'Republique Populaire Du Benin' titles has been painted over, and although not accessible, apparently the interior is still in very good condition, with complete cockpit and original VIP interior. Unfortunately there were problems to come, when a court ruled that the aircraft had to be removed, as its condition worsened. In 2010 the tail fin, outer wings and engine nacelles were removed (and still remain in the car park), before in 2012 the airframe was then lifted by two cranes onto the rear roof extension of the GoWaltcomplex, with the forward fuselage hanging over the edge, propped up by the nose wheel on a container-type structure! With possible on-going legal issues and rumours that the aircraft will be scrapped, sadly the future of the 'GoWalt 707' may be bleak.
From here, the next stop was 20 miles to the South at the small airfield at Overboelare. Long-term 'resident' here is ex Trans Atlantic Airlines C-54A N90443, also marked with fake reg N2849C. Impounded at Brussels in 1967, it was then auctioned and transported to Geraardsbergen to become a bar, before being moved here in May 1971 after being purchased by a Mr A Coessens. Then used as the clubhouse for the Phoenix Gliding Club here, it was last on the FAA register as owned by the 'European Research Supply Corp'. As well as the fake reg and faded original reg and titles, on the left side it has the interesting inscrption '17Bn HATk, The Prince And His Royal Griffons Were Here 7-11 May 99'. As for the fake reg, there is a story of skullduggery involved here! Apparently based at Gatwick at the time, the aircraft was impounded at Basle in 1962 due to non payment of fees. While here it was allowed to have its engines run up regularly, when on 14th June 1963 during another run up, it followed a departing BEA Comet to the runway under the cover of darkness and departed illegally, without any radio contact and its lights switched off, to a then unknown destination. After a European-wide search, a few days later it was traced to Milan, where the crew had applied the fake registration and departed. A few days later the aircraft was found again, at Brussels, and finally seized, with the naughty pilot later arrested in Paris in 1964 and handed over to the Swiss authorities!
Now heading back towards Brussels, 25 miles to the East, our final stop was at the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces in the city centre. A bit of a challenge driving here, in a typically hectic European capital, it was worth the effort and stress! The huge 1880-built Aviation Hall here certainly contains plenty of classics, among the many aircraft present. Highlights we came for, include two historic Sabena jetliners, with their first Caravelle 6N OO-SRA, which was delivered in 1961, retired in 1974 and arrived here in 1976. The forward fuselage (and a JT-4A engine) of Sabena B707-329 OO-SJA is also on display, after arriving in 1983. This was the first jet airliner in Belgium, delivered at the end of 1959 as part of the first European order for the 707. In March 1981 while operating for Sobelair, the number 3 engine caught fire on take-off at BRU, resulting in an emergency landing and the aircraft's subsequent retirement. 'Propliners' present are Belgian AF C-47B K-16/OT-CWG, C-119G CP-46/OT-CEH and Pembroke C51 RM-4/OT-ZAD, as well as extensively resotred (to its previous identity) Dragon Rapide G-AKNV in Lancashire Aircraft Corporation colours (which was last used as a para-dropper as OO-CNP until 1970). Finally, pick of the 'whizz-booms' include the first Belgian AF F-16A FA-01, which was assembled by SABCA and delivered in 1979, sweet USAF RF-4C 68-0590/SW of the 16TRS/363TFW, French AF Mirage F.1C 100/33-LA in desert camo, and 'Russian AF' Mig-23BN '23 Red', whose real identity is far more interesting, being ex Egyptian AF 4421. Just a few mentioned from the nice, large collection here, unfortunately some of the best photo ops are now not possible, due to the upper 'balcony' floors (where some other aircraft are on display) now closed (permanently?) for 'security reasons'!
Now returning to BRU, we first headed to the 25R departure end to catch the departing Hainan Airlines A330-200 which was due out. As well as B-6519, others over the next hour or so here included Thomas Cook A320 OO-TCH ('Ice Watch' logojet), Ukraine International ERJ-190LR UR-EMA and Thai B777-300ER HS-TKN. Unfortunately, after being spoiled by great weather so far, it was starting to turn, with mostly overcast conditions for the remaining day and a half here now. With the EU-Africa summit ending at mid-day today, it wasn't confirmed how many of the related government aircraft would be departing straight away, with most thought to be departing tomorrow. However, a few did get away today, including one that caused the most excitement, 'Burkina Faso 01' Super 27 XT-BFA. Spending the rest of the day on top of the multi-storey car park, with views of the 25R departures, to catch these and anything else of interest, others (not already mentioned) included Dasnair Falcon 7X HB-JSL, Singapore Cargo B747-400F 9V-SFO, Blue1 B717-200 OH-BLO, Blue Air B737-400 YR-BAK and Mycargo Airlines 'Magma' B747-400SF TC-ACH.
DAY 4 FRIDAY 4TH APRIL
The final day here, with the plan to catch the remaining departing summit aircraft. Heading straight back to the multi-storey car park, with views of the 25R departures, the weather was now a bit grimey, as the following were among those photographed (again not including the stuff already mentioned)... Saudi Cargo/Air Atlanta B747-400BCF TF-AMP, VistaJet Global Express 6000 9H-VJC (not summit related?), CSA A319 OK-OER (with 90th anniversary and 'Instaforex' logos), British Airways/Sun Air Jetstream 32 OY-SVB, Brussels Airlines 'Star Alliance' A319 OO-SSC, the other Afro-classic getting away, 'Niger 001' B737-200C 5U-BAG, VistaJet Learjet 60 OE-GVH, departing Hinson Corporate Flight Services Gulf 650 N650GL, TiriacAir Gulf 200 YR-TII, Poste Italiane/Mistral Air B737-300QC EI-DVA, Japat AG Falcon 900DX M-MNDD, Tailwind B737-400 TC-TLE, Sky Service Cessna 525B OO-LIE, Singapore Cargo B747-400F 9V-SFP, and all white HiFly A330-200 CS-TQP, which departed from the Lufthansa Technik ramp, positioning to Oslo as DY8893 to operate flights for Norweigan.
With all but the Swazi MD-87 now departed, and word of a Russian An-72 in Charleroi yesterday, we decided to go for it. A bit of a gamble it was still in, but only 40 miles to the South, and there was at least a B727 to be had there as well. Lets just say the 72 was gone!... so just ex DHL B727-200F OO-DHS, which was retired at BRU in November 2003 and arrived here in 2004 after being donated to the Wallonie Aerotraining School. Still complete, in the old scheme, the fin has been painted all white, while the large titles were painted over but are still clearly visible. So, straight back up the road to BRU, the last couple of hours were spent at the 25L landing end, and although the LOT B787 was delayed until almost dark, the following were photographed to finish of a great few days in Belgium... Croatia Airlines Dash 8-400Q 9A-CQC, JetairFly B737-700 OO-JAN (in old TUI colours) and B737-800 OO-JLO (in new TUI colours), all white Blue Air B737-400 YR-BAE, Tarom 'Skyteam' B737-700 YR-BGF, Air America Jet Charter CL604 N604BA, British Airways/Sun Air Do328-300JET OY-NCU and Freebird A320 TC-FBV.
DAY 5 SATURDAY 5TH APRIL
With an early start to catch the Turkish flight out to Istanbul, there was the chance for a few night shots from the departure gates. As well as Hainan Airlines A330-200 B-6133 and BA 'Golden Dove' A319 G-EUPD, there was a bit of a party going on around the gate for TUI/JetairFly's first US service, with the start of twice-weekly BRU-Miami flights using B767-300ER's. As OO-JAP taxied out and received a water cannon salute, with a load of happy punters heading off to the Sunshine State, we were off the other way, after boarding TK1942 to IST. Operated by B737-800 TC-JFT, departure was at 0810, for the 3 hour flight, landing at 1210L. On taxying in, a few shots included Kuzu Air A310-300F TC-SGM in basic Saudi colours, and MNG Cargo A300B4-605F TC-MCD. With the full afternoon free here, until the connection to Dammam that night, it was straight into a taxi and off around to the Fly Inn Mall on the Western perimeter, where the Lavazza Cafe has a perfect outside terrace overlooking parallel runways 17R/35L and 17L/35R. The very close 35L was the main departure runway today (35R occasionally), while the more distant 05 was the landing runway, which is just about close enough from here for half decent shots of bigger stuff.
Now, with a good five hours to be spent here, and the sun getting better in the afternoon (although it was becoming a bit overcast), highlights photographed among the regular traffic included... Iraqi Airways B737-800 YI-ASE (full colours), Afriqiyah A320 5A-ONA, AtlasJet A319 TC-ATD (still with Royal Falcon fuselage colours (ex JY-JRE) and Atlas tail), Ukraine International B737-500(WL) UR-GAW, Malaysian B777-200 9M-MRE, Aeroflot A320(SL) VQ-BRV (delivered 10th Feb), Iraqi Airways A321 YI-AGR (white scheme), Saudi A330-300X HZ-AQB, Air Moldova ERJ-190LR ER-ECB, Libyan Arab A330-200 5A-LAR, Turkish 'Star Alliance' A320 TC-JPE, MASkargo A330-200F 9M-MUC, Turkish Cargo A330-200F TC-JDO, Saudi A320 HZ-AS33, KLM 'Skyteam' B737-900 PH-BXO and LOT B737-400 SP-LLG.
An 'OK' afternoon here with nothing amazing, unfortunately the expected Ghadames Air A320 5A-WAT was running late. Of interest parked over outside maintenance was one of the first aircraft on the Guernsey register, Ural Airlines A319 2-ABIF (ex Air Blue AP-BIF). Was news to me! Apparently, commercial aircraft will only use the regs when in storage or between leases etc prior to taking up other regs when in service? Throws up another reg system to play with, such as the Baron which has become 2-DALU! Istanbul is certainly recommend, a fantastic and easy place for shots, with obviously a lot of stuff not seen in the UK. Plus, e-visa's are now very easy to get online, to save hassle at immigration, with a 6 month multi-visa costing $20. So, a nice little end to a great little trip, as it was onto TK150 to DMM, operated by A321 TC-JRR, off at 2140 with the 3.20 hour flight in on the 6th at 0100.