The military airfield of Ursel is a well-known name in East and West Flanders (Belgium) and in Zeeland (The Netherlands) when we talk about aviation. The large NATO reserve airfield was built exactly 70 years ago. And despite the fact that it is only sporadically used as a military airfield, Ursel has had numerous aviation activities over the years, which underlines the importance of this unique airport. Vliegclub Ursel (VCU) has had a permanent place there since 1979 and with 300 flying members is one of the largest flying clubs in Belgium. In the nineteen-eighties and -nineties, you could go there for the large international airshows organised by current VCU chairman and Ursel Avia Chairman Jo Van de Woestyne.
After 1997, the airshows disappeared. Since then, VCU has organised a number of open-door weekends, which have been given the name ‘Ursel Avia’ since 2015. After the 2018 edition, ‘Ursel Avia’ became a biennial event. However, the 2020 edition was cancelled due to Covid.
What exactly is Ursel Avia?
Ursel Avia can be called an outsider in the world of aviation events. It is a special mixture of Open Door, Fly In and Flight Meeting. Without wanting to detract from the large international airshows, our softer approach is more focused on the whole family with a very strong emphasis on experience. The visitor of Ursel Avia steps into the magical world of aviation and goes home with a lot more knowledge, experience and even understanding.
On Saturday 9 July there is an ‘Open Cockpit Day’. ‘So many buttons and instruments’ is often heard when people let themselves slide into a cockpit for the first time. When visiting Ursel Airfield on Saturday, you will be able to get acquainted with more than seventy aircraft and helicopters. You will meet domestic and foreign pilots and crews, and you can take a look at their cockpit. You will experience the passion of flying and maybe you will also fly in a legendary plane or a helicopter, or you will feel like a pilot in one of the aircraft of VCU for half an hour.
On Sunday 10 July, the ‘flying day’, we present a unique programme for the whole family. The organisation has opted for a very special direction and takes the audience through various themes to the pioneering time of flying, over the ‘Golden Years of Aviation’ and many legendary aircraft from the middle of the last century, to the future with electric flying, drones and flying cars. The entire flying event is supported by evocations on the ground with perfectly matched extras and vehicles. Together with matching music and dance, we want to raise the experience level to a higher level.
During Ursel Avia there will certainly be a wealth of beautiful and exceptional flying heritage to see at the Ursel airport. The legendary Spitfire will not be missing, as well as a Blériot XI from the beginning of the last century. The eye-catching amphibious Catalina aircraft comes from across the Channel and the Swiss Classic Formation will vividly remember the romantic years of aviation with a formation of a DC3 and three Beechcraft Model 18, a first for Belgium. The flying star from the serial M*A*S*H*, the Bell 47 Sioux is also here and we are responsible for the comeback of the legendary Westland Sea King rescue helicopter. We also bring some items from the Netherlands. The Koninklijke Luchtmacht Historische Vlucht will provide a nice demo with the legendary Harvard and the Postbellum Foundation brings the Cessna O-2, a Vietnam veteran. Furthermore, a lot of special gliders from the Netherlands. In addition to our friends from Axel, the Dutch Association of Historical Gliding is present with a Historical Slingsby and the Dutch Glider Aerobatic Show Team promises a breathtaking aerial ballet. The Ostend company North Sea Aviation Services will premiere the brand new maritime patrol aircraft DA42 MPP. VCU is also very honoured to welcome the Royal Jordanian Falcons. The team, founded by the Jordanian king, starts its European tour in the Meetjesland.
Due to the precarious situation in the world, there is remarkably and understandably little military participation for this edition and some previously promised participations were cancelled for operational reasons. But no Ursel Avia without the presence of the Belgian Defence. The Air Component flies ahead with the new Airbus transport aircraft A400M Atlas and the NH90 helicopter of Koksijde Airbase.
The Razzle Blades demo team also shows what the A109 helicopter is capable of.
Why Ursel Avia? The history…
When you talk about Ursel, you quickly end up at Ursel airport. Something that the people of Ursel are quite proud of and that pride is justified. Aviation has a long history in Ursel and by extension Aalter. In 1911, on 9 and 10 July, day after day 111 years ago, the first Flying Days took place in Aalter. During the First World War, the occupying forces built an airfield at Knesselare. In 1939, the Belgian aviation industry built another airfield in both Aalter and Ursel. Both Italy and Germany made use of these areas during the Second World War. At the end of 1944, the Royal Air Force landed at the Urselse B67 airfield and from there supported the liberation of Zeeland and the Scheldt estuary, a history that is still honoured by VCU and the B67 working group. And then, exactly 70 years ago, the beginning of the Cold War, there was a NATO reserve airfield in our municipality. Around the airport, there was the green lung in the Meetjesland and also with our Flying Club we are concerned to protect and honour this unique landscape.
It is a big challenge in terms of scenario construction to get all this done. Logistics and safety are also a huge challenge for Ursel Avia. The organising team has been working for more than a year and a half to prepare the weekend of 9 and 10 July with a 14-member task force, led by Kurt Plyson, coordinator and driving force of Ursel Avia. Over 150 employees and volunteers will give the best of themselves in the coming days to make Ursel Avia 2022 a successful and above all safe event.
Ursel Avia is there to bring aviation to the visitors, but is also an excellent time to get acquainted with the history of aviation in our region. We are proud that with VCU we have already brought many people into aviation. Bet you have ever gone on a flight with a man or woman in the cockpit who started his or her flight training in Ursel?
So welcome to Ursel Avia 2022! We look forward to welcoming you on 9 and 10 July, each time from 10:00, at the military airfield of Aalter (Ursel), Urselseweg 183a.
Tickets can be bought online here or at the enctrance.