A night at the museum
The Beauvechain Air Base (EBBE) in Belgium is not only the home base of the 1st Wing of the Belgian Air Force but also of the 1Wing Historical Centre which was founded by "The Golden Falcon", an association of retired airmen. This beautiful museum has a number of historic aircraft, aircraft engines and service vehicles on display. The main purpose of the 1Wing Historical Centre is to evoke the history of Beauvechain Air Base since 1935 and especially the history of the fighter squadrons between 1946 and 1996. While the inner part of the 1Wing Historical Centre can be found in a restored old farmhouse, the aircraft on display can be seen in a small forest near the farmhouse. The farmhouse is a special place because it was occupied and adapted by the Germans from 1940, then by the Allies from 1944 and finally by the Belgian Air Force from 1946. After it was decided in September 1997 to set up a historical museum at the Beauvechain Air Base to display the rich history of this Belgian air base, it first opened its doors in February 1998. A group of thirty volunteers renovated the buildings that were given to the museum, after which they designed them as different exhibition spaces. In addition to a few buildings, the historic center also uses some land on which it displays numerous historic aircraft.
The aircraft that can be seen outside of the museum are a General Dynamics F-16A Fighting Falcon (FA-18), a Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet 1B (AT32), Dassault Mirage V BR (BR 10), three Lockheed F-104G Starfighters (FX-04, FX-15, FX-47), a Republic F-84F Thunderflash (RF-32), a Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star (FT 24), a Gloster Meteor 8, Mikoyan-Gurevich a MiG-21 (24+29), a Britten Norman BN2A/B-21 Islander (B-11), two Fouga CM.170 Magister (MT-35, MT-48) and a SIAI-Marchetti SF.260 (ST-11). Almost all aircraft on display outside the museum have a close relationship with the airbase since they were used to train pilots or were part of the fighter squadrons in the past. The reason why this museum also owns a beautiful but rare MiG-21 is because this was the counterpart of the F-104G Starfighter fighter jet who were based at the Beauvechain Air Base between 1963 and 1981. The MiG-21 was beautifully restored and can now be seen in the colours of the East German Air Force. In 2020, the 1Wing Historical Centre also bought a Hawker hunter jet from the Swiss Air Force that will be placed in a special shelter.
The latest addition to the museum’s impressive collection is a former Swiss Air Force Hawker Hunter that will be exhibited in a special shelter. The aircraft are being restored and maintained by an enthusiastic team of volunteers, many of whom have worked at the Beauvechain Air Base. In addition, you can also find an impressive collection of aircraft engines, ground support equipment, radio and radar equipment and hundreds of old photos about the history of the Beauvechain Air Base and the different aircraft operated by the 1st Wing. Apart from beautiful old jets, there are also some old vehicles to been seen outside, such as an old fuel truck and several fire trucks. The museum also has a huge collection of aircraft engines such as a Griffon 65, a Cheetah X, an Allison J-33, a General Electric J79-11-A and a Pratt & Whitney F100 PW 200. Inside the 1Wing Historical Centre there are also various dioramas that show the history of the Beauvechain Air Base. In 2022, the museum also bought a replica of a Supermarine Spitfire IX with the RAF 1944 colors of 349 and 350 Squadrons.
In January and November, 2020, together with another Belgian aviation photographer Gert Trachez, I had the opportunity to take some beautiful pictures of the aircraft at this museum during sunset and night. Due to the special location of the aircraft and the use of some light effects, this photo shoot resulted in some unique, timeless photos. We would like to thank the 1Wing Historical Centre for this unique photo shoot and their warm hospitality. When you are near the Beauvechain Air Base in Belgium, do not hesitate to visit this beautiful museum!
Text & photos: Kris Christiaens