An online petition has been launched for keeping one C-130H Hercules military transport aircraft that the army is preparing to withdraw from service at Melsbroek military airport rather than within the historic centre of Beauvechain, which aims to keep the aeroplane intact to present it to the general public.
“The only home base to keep our C-130 CH-13 (its registration) after its retirement is Melsbroek. The Ministry of Defence made the disrespectful decision to give CH-13 to the 1st Wing Historical Centre in Beauvechain. We want CH-13 as a gate guardian“, say the initiators of this petition.
More than 300 people had signed it on Saturday morning, including former pilots and mechanics, as well as para-commandos, frequent users of this type of plane.
Among the first signatories is retired Major General Karel Vervoort, a former commander of the 15th Wing Air Transport – the Air Component unit based in Melsbroek – who writes that “there is no reason to send the C-130 to Beauvechain“.
“It is a clear manipulation of the clan Flahaut1 supported by a few idiots, including a former commander of the 15th Wing“, he adds, without naming him.
The base in Melsbroek is home to non-profit organisation Dakota (named after the C-47 aircraft from WWII), which serves as the documentation centre for the 15th wing and which restores old transport planes used by the unit: a C-47, a C-119G Flying Boxcar – which Flanders wanted to “nationalise” by registering it as part of its heritage of major interest – and a Percival Pembroke.
The 1st Wing Historical Centre (1WHC) retraces the history of the units at the Beauvechain base, where no C-130 has ever been based, from 1935 to the present day, and has several decommissioned planes that it presents to the public thanks to an entrance distinct from that of the base.
While refusing any “dispute” and regretting that two planes are not available for preservation – one per base -, the historic centre of Beauvechain highlights its desire to allow the general public to have access to C- 130 and not to reserve it for the privileged, as would be the case in Melsbroek, where it would be shown within the enclosed military base.
“We wish to keep the aircraft in its entirety to offer it to the public” to allow them to “admire it up close“, an official of 1WHC explained on condition of anonymity to the Belga press agency.
Mr Flahaut defended the choice of Beauvechain by a recommendation made in this sense by the War Heritage Institute (WHI), the parastatal of the Ministry of Defence dedicated to the conservation of historical-military heritage and to Memory.
The Belgian Army resold nine C-130s, spare parts, tools and other related systems to Sabena Aerospace, a company belonging to the new Blueberry group, and Blue Aerospace, a company of the American group Heico. These aircraft will all be withdrawn from service by the end of 2021 and replaced by eight Airbus A400Ms, including one from Luxembourg, but one of them (CH-13) will have to be contractually preserved.
Aviation24.be doesn’t want to take sides: both locations have their advantages. But if you want to sign the petition, here is the link: https://www.petitionenligne.be/theres_only_1_homebase_4_the_belgian_herc
1 Former Minister of Defence André Flahaut