A Royal Air Force Chinook helicopter from 27 Squadron based at RAF Odiham has deployed to take part in the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show. During the flight to Berlin the crew also visited the locations of the former RAF Germany airbases.
The visit to the former RAF air stations was part of the RAF100 celebrations and the opportunity was created by the transit to the Berlin Air show.
“We are incredibly proud to be visiting Germany in the 100th year of the Royal Air Force, firstly in association with the show, but also as a good proportion of our service operating Chinooks was spent here between 1981 and 1997 so this gives us an opportunity to reflect on a little bit of history as part of the RAF100 celebrations”, said Flight Lieutenant Andy Donovan, Co-Pilot of the Chinook.
Lifting from RAF Odiham on 24th April, the first leg of the route saw the crew drop into the one time RAF Geilenkirchen, now a NATO Air Station and the main operating hub for the Alliance’s E-3A Sentry airborne early warning and control aircraft.
The second visit of the tour was the former RAF Wildenrath, once home to eleven RAF squadrons over the years, but now the Wegberg-Wildenrath railway test and validation centre. Unfortunately unable to land, the pilots of the Chinook acknowledged the history of Wildenrath with an over-flight of this once impressive RAF Station.
It was then on to former RAF Brüggen and RAF Laarbruch. The latter once being home to the Chinook that was making the flight.
Later Flight Lieutenant Andy Donovan said: “It dawned on me as we climbed out that we may well be the last crew ever to land an RAF aircraft at Brüggen. A sad thought for a base with so many years of service behind it.”
Finally it was on to the former RAF Gütersloh where again the helicopter could not land but once again the locals saw the RAF Chinook in the sky.
“It was really good to be able to bring RAF aviation back to some of our former stations, especially returning the Chinook to its former home at RAF Laarbruch. The reception we received at all the bases was great and the active airfields did everything they could to help this happen. It was really interesting to see the remains of our past infrastructure at various sites,” said Flight Lieutenant Stuart Kynaston, the pilot of the Chinook.
2018 is also the 70th anniversary of the commencement of the Berlin Airlift, during which the RAF flew nearly 400,000 tons of supplies to Berlin over an eleven month period. 27 Squadron flew Dakota transports in to the city and were part of the multinational effort which kept the city fed, clothed and fuelled during the blockade.