Zoersel, Belgium 13-16 May 2010
Review - The 12th annual Chipmeet was held at Zoersel airfield in
Belgium over May 13 to 16. Located to the east of Antwerp, Oostmalle-Zoersel
is a NATO reserve base and located in a nature conservation area, an idyllic
setting for the informal gathering of historic and modern machines that took
place, with over 150 aircraft visiting over the four days.
Hosted by the Aero Para Club der Kempen, the Chipmeet is open to the public
and allows some great opportunities to get close to the action with flying
going on almost continuously throughout the day. The atmosphere is friendly
and informal and, with appropriate high-viz wear, enthusiasts could get as
close to the aircraft as they wished.
The aim of the meet is to bring together pilots and owners of the De
Havilland Canada Chipmunk with experienced instructors on hand to help
pilots brush up on and hone their skills, particularly in formation flying.
Organising the instructors for the meet since 1998 is Robert Miller, an
ex-RAF Canberra and instructor pilot currently teaching RAF recruits to fly
on T67 Fireflys with the Joint Elementary Flying Training School. With eight
Chipmunks visiting from Belgium, Holland and the UK (see below), and weather
that got better as the weekend wore on, a successful programme was flown
culminating in a seven-ship formation that overflew Antwerp on the Saturday
Chipmunk G-BWVY - Didier Campion
Chipmunk G-DHCC - Tony de Bruyn
Chipmunk G-BYSJ - Chris Hadlow
Chipmunk G-BXDM - Guillaume Hubsch
Chipmunk G-ULAS - Peter Royce
Chipmunk G-AOJR - Gerard Caubergs
Chipmunk G-BWTG - Christian Beenen
Chipmunk G-BCPU - Peter Waller
Miller also flies with Kemble based Ultimate High, who offer a wide range of
flight experiences. With a full cadre of instructors available the
opportunity was taken this year to extend the formation training to pilots
and owners of Cirrus SR touring aircraft. Part of the process involved the
Cirrus pilots receiving formation training in Ultimate High Scottish
Aviation Bulldogs prior to attending the Chipmeet, the large canopy and good
visibility of these ex-military training aircraft more suited to formation
work than the more enclosed cockpit of the Cirrus.
The Cirrus SR series has been in production since 1998 and is renowned for
its Cirrus Airframe Parachute System, which is designed to save the aircraft
occupants in the event of a major in-flight emergency. Six SR22s and a
single SR20 attended the meet (see below) culminating in a seven-ship
formation that followed the Chipmunks over Antwerp on Saturday evening.
The formation flight was especially poignant for Jon Butts who organised the
Cirrus participation and who flew formation lead under the expert guidance
of instructor John Plummer. Butts’ great uncle, Sergeant Jack Newton, was
part of the crew of a Vickers Wellington that was brought down over Antwerp
and crash landed at nearby Deurne in 1941. Jack evaded capture and
eventually made it back to the UK becoming the first airmen to be rescued by
the resistance via the Comete escape line. His dramatic story is told in the
book ‘Evader’ by Derek Shuff.
Commenting on what it is like to fly the Cirrus in formation Butts said ‘the
Cirrus is not the ideal aircraft to learn formation skills in, military
training aircraft like Bulldog and Chipmunk have canopies for a reason, i.e.
maximum visibility, which is key when learning formation. All of the Cirrus
pilots have taken formation courses on Bulldogs with Ultimate High, before
transitioning their skills to fly Cirrus in two and then three formation
practice sorties, before becoming the primary handling pilot in larger
Cirrus formations. The instructors we have flown with agree the Cirrus is a
good formation machine. We have learned the right speeds to operate
formation at, including mixed formations of SR22 (310HP) and SR20 (200HP).
The handling and throttle response is very adequate for (non-aerobatic!)
The Chipmeet also saw the first occasion of Eric Coeckelberghs Air to Air
Academy which gave many enthusiast photographers their first experience of
air to air photography shooting from the back of Invicta Aviation’s Short
Skyvan G-BEOL. Benefitting from the many formations and individual aircraft
flying at the Chipmeet the Academy was a great success.
Summing up the event well Butts said “many thanks are due to Tony de Bruyn
and the local teams, Robert Miller and the Chipmeet team and Eric
Coeckelberghs and the Air Academy team. It was a real case of a team of
teams making something special and unique happen at Chipmeet 2010.”
Dedicated to Jack
airshow photographs from 2010