On Friday 18 December 2020, the Belgian Air Force officially retired CH-09, on of its remaining Lockheed C-130H Hercules transport aircraft.
On Sunday 13 December 2020, the Belgian Air Force announced on various social media platforms that, on Thursday 17 December 2020, CH-09 would operate a final scenic flight over Belgium, including a flyby or landing at some of Belgium’s most important airports and air bases. During the week, more updates were communicated, and on Wednesday 16 December a final update was communicated, including a flight plan for that final flight as follows (source: Facebook 15th Wing Air Transport):
Thursday 17 DecTake-off Brussels 25R 1345LRouting VFR to Coast via AffligemOostende if granted 1405 LKoksijde Low Approach 1410LKortrijk Stop&Go 1420LBeauvechain T&G 1450LIFR to Liège due Météo T&G 1505LIFR to Brogel, multiple appr 1530LVia Schaffen 1600LBack to Melsbroek especially for spotters corner planned landing on 25L. 1610L
And indeed, the aircraft did operate two flights on Thursday 17 December 2020: one morning sortie to Limburg, Belgium and the announced final flight in the afternoon, followed by the announced landing on RWY 25L at Brussels Airport, where Melsbroek Air Base is located (on the north side of the airport).
Melsbroek Air Base (EBMB) is the home of the Belgian Air Force’s 15th Wing Air Transport and 20th Squadron, who operate the Belgian Air Force’s fleet of Lockheed C-130H Hercules transport aircraft. At moment of writing, there were still seven Lockheed C-130H Hercules aircraft in the active fleet (including CH-09).
During its latest update on social media, the 15th Wing Air Transport already stated there might be one more flight for CH-09 the day after, i.e. on Friday 18 December 2020. This was confirmed on Thursday 17 December 2020.
On the early morning of Friday 18 December 2020, Lockheed C-130H Hercules CH-09 spread its wings one last time and took off from RWY 25R at Brussels Airport as flight BAF677. Its mission: an aerial drop over Schaffen, Belgium.
At around 10:30 CET (09:30 UTC), the aircraft headed back to Melsbroek Air Base, its home for the past 47 years (CH-09 was delivered in February 1973). Before landing on RWY 25L however, CH-09 performed a low level flyby over RWY 25L with open cargo doors. This was followed by entering a left traffic pattern for the very last landing, also on RWY 25L.
With the retirement of CH-09, the Belgian Air Force will now operate just six Lockheed C-130 Hercules aircraft (CH-01, CH-05, CH-07, CH-11, CH-12 and CH-13). By the end of next year (2021), all of these are expected to be retired as well. They will be replaced by the bigger, more powerful and more versatile Airbus A400M Atlas transport aircraft. The Belgian Air Force ordered seven aircraft, together with the Luxembourg Armed Forces, who ordered one aircraft. All eight aircraft will be operated by the 15th Wing Air Transport, under a bilateral partnership between Belgium and Luxembourg. The first aircraft, owned by the Luxembourg Armed Forces and registered as CT-01, was delivered on Friday 9 October 2020. The second aircraft, the first one for Belgium and registered as CT-02, is expected to be delivered on Tuesday 22 December 2020.
So long Lockheed C-130H Hercules CH-09. Godspeed and thank you for 47 years of loyal duty.
Hi-res versions of my photos of the final landing of Lockheed C-130H Hercules CH-09 at Melsbroek Air Base are available here.
18 December 2020
All photos copyright © Ivan Coninx unless stated otherwise.