Belgian Air Force quietly retires its last Embraer Regional Jets and its Airbus A321

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Belgian Air Force Embraer ERJ145 © Malek Azoug

The Ministry of Defence on Wednesday bade farewell to the Embraer ERJ fleet, which the 15th Wing of the Air Component had been using for nearly twenty years.

The last two ERJ-135 aircraft (CE-01 and CE-02), without markings, left the military airport of Melsbroek yesterday morning around 09:00 with destination Brest-Bretagne airport to operate for Amelia airline.

On 19 December 2019, Belgian Defence sold its four Embraers – two 34-seat ERJ-135 and two 49-seat ERJ-145 – to Amelia, a subsidiary of the French group Regourd Aviation.

The decision to sell the “white fleet” had been taken as early as January 2018. The Dassault Falcon 20 and Falcon 900 were retired last year.

Within the 15th Wing, the four Embraers were replaced by two high-end long-range business jets Falcon 7X (reg. OO-LUM and OO-FAE) that the Defence has rented out on a “dry lease” basis from Luxaviation.

As for the Airbus A321-231 (reg. CS-TRJ) with a capacity of 152 passengers leased since May 2014 from Portuguese ACMI company HiFly, it will make its last flight from Melsbroek this Thursday before being returned to its owner before the end of the year.

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Belgian Air Force Airbus A321 CS-TRJ (HiFly) © Bram Botterman

To guarantee the continuity of our operations and exercises, Belgian Defence will partially use charter flights in 2021 and 2022. Around twenty flights which will take place in January and February 2021 will be carried out by TUI“, specified the press service of the Defence.

History of the Embraer fleet

In the spring of 2000, the Belgian government approved the purchase of four short- and medium-haul transport planes. The contract for the delivery of two ERJ135s (CE-01 and CE-02) and two ERJ145s (CE-03 and CE-04) was finally awarded in October of the same year to the Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer (Empresa Brasileira de Aeronautica ).

These aircraft had the advantage that the two types easily allowed three different modules, including the “standard” for 39 (ERJ135) or 49 (ERJ145) passengers, the VIP version comprising four compartments and the MEDEVAC version with three stretchers for intensive care and 15 to 30 seats.

The four Embraer aircraft have been used almost daily in a wide variety of missions over the past 20 years. Versatile but mainly focused on the transport of Belgian soldiers in Europe and Africa, these were mainly coordinated by the European Air Transport Command in Eindhoven (the Netherlands). Embraer aircraft could also land and take off from sites inaccessible to civilian aircraft, a valuable advantage for missions requiring discreet management. In this case, we will mention the contact teams, close protection teams and other security agents. Flights for the benefit of European partners, NATO, members of the government and the royal family were also regularly planned and carried out.

Over time, 57 pilots of the 21 Squadron of the Melsbroek airbase will have taken place in the cockpits of the ERJ fleet. These planes will have logged 36,774 flight hours, comparable to some 20,000 flights from point A to point B.

Regourd Aviation France will use the former Defence aircraft in addition to its own Embraer ERJ135/145 fleet. They will be intended for regional flights with passengers both in Europe and Africa. The first aircraft had already been delivered to its new owner on 18 November. The second followed in early December with spare parts. The departure of the last two aircraft meant, for its part, the farewell of our Belgian Air Component to its own commercial fleet.

Source: Belga & BelDefNews

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