Brussels Air Museum

 

People who visit Brussels will certainly visit the famous Parc du Cinquantenaire. This is a large public park in the easternmost part of the European Quarter in Brussels with several museums which are located in historic buildings. The Brussels Air Museum is part of the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History that occupies the two northernmost halls of the historic complex of the Cinquantenaire. The aviation museum is located in the largest hall of this historic complex which was built by Gédéon Bordiau for the 1880 National Exhibition commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the Belgian Revolution.

 

Unique about this museum is that because of the many aircraft in one hall, you can see how fast aviation has been evolving in the last 100 years. In addition to a large collection of aircraft from the First World War, the Brussels Air Museum also has more than twenty fighter jets and trainer jets, most of which were used in the 60's, 70's and 80's by the Belgian Air Force. This collection includes some iconic jets such as an F-104G Starfighter, an F-84F Thunderstreak, an RF-84F Thunderflash, a Mirage V and an F-16 Fighting Falcon. You can also admire some aircraft at the Brussels Air Museum from the Cold War era such as a MiG-21 Fishbed, a MiG-15 bis and an impressive MiG-23 Flogger. This last one is famous in Belgium and among Belgian aviation spotters since in July 1989 a Soviet MiG-23M crashed on a house in Kortrijk, killing one person.

 

The two greatest showpieces of this museum are undoubtedly the Sud Aviation Caravelle of the former Belgian airline company Sabena and the Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar former military transport aircraft of the Belgian Air Force. In addition to these two impressive aircraft, the Brussels Air Museum also has some very special and rare aircraft. For example, the Brussels Air Museum owns a Spad XIII, a Hanriot-Dupont HD1, a Bristol Fighter F2B Type 17 and a Royal Aicraft Factory RE8 all of which are biplanes used in the First World War and of which only a few exist in the world. One of the museum's latest acquisitions was the legendary Westland Sea King Mk.48 rescue helicopter (RS01) of the Belgian Air Force. In this aviation museum you can also admire the predecessor of the Westland Sea King Mk.48, the Sikorsky H-34. The Brussels Air Museum has a large collection of transport aircraft too, such as a DC-3 Dakota, a Percival Pembroke, a Junkers JU 52 and a Britton Norman Islander. Aircraft used by the Belgian Army such as the Aérospatiale Alouette II helicopter or the Dornier Do 27 are also exhibited in this museum. 

Sud Aviation Caravelle
Sud Aviation Caravelle

A Sud Aviation Caravelle of Sabena at the Brussels Air Museum.

World War I biplane.
World War I biplane.

A World War I biplane at the Brussels Air Museum.

Westland Sea King Mk.48
Westland Sea King Mk.48

A Westland Sea King Mk.48 rescue helicopter of the Belgian Air Force at the Brussels Air Force.

Douglas DC-3 Dakota
Douglas DC-3 Dakota

A Douglas DC-3 Dakota aircraft at the Brussels Air Museum.

Britton Norman Islander
Britton Norman Islander

The Britton Norman Islander at the Brussels Air Museum.

Supermarine Spitfire
Supermarine Spitfire

A Supermarine Spitfire at the Brussels Air Museum.

RF-84F Thunderflash
RF-84F Thunderflash

A RF-84F Thunderflash of the Belgian Air Force at the Brussels Air Museum.

Hawker Hunter
Hawker Hunter

A Hawker Hunter of the Belgian Air Force at the Brussels Air Museum.

 

It must be said that this museum also has a downside. The condition of the construction of the aviation hall is very bad (broken windows, broken wooden floors, ...) and a lot of aircraft can use a facelift because they look dirty and very dusty. Many visitors also complain that the displayed aircraft are too close to each other and that the collection has become too large for its current location. Yet this does not diminish the admiration for the volunteers who work hard every year to maintain the impressive collection of this museum with the resources they receive. Since 2017 the Brussels Air Museum is now part of the Belgian War Heritage Institute (WHI). This is an organization of four independent institutions that previously fell under the supervision of the Belgian Ministry of Defense. One of the four institutions which is now under the supervision of the War Heritage Institute (WHI) is the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History at the Parc du Cinquantenaire in Brussels. For those who love aviation and historic aircraft, this museum is definitely worth a visit!  

Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar
Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar

The cockpit of the iconic Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar at the Brussels Air Museum.

Republic F-84F Thunderstreak
Republic F-84F Thunderstreak

The Republic F-84F Thunderstreak at the Brussels Air Museum.

DC-3 Dakota
DC-3 Dakota

The DC-3 Dakota transport aircraft at the Brussels Air Museum.

Supermarine Spitfire
Supermarine Spitfire

The cockpit of the legendary Supermarine Spitfire at the Brussels Air Museum.

Jets on display: 

  • F-16 Fighting Falcon (Belian Air Force)

  • Dassault Mirage V (Belgian Air Force)

  • Republic F-84 Thunderstreak (Belgian Air Force)

  • Republic F-84 Thunderjet (Belgian Air Force)

  • Republic F-84F Thunderflash (Belgian Air Force)

  • Lockheed F-104G Starfighter (Belgian Air Force)

  • Hawker Hunter (Belgian Air Force)

  • Gloster Meteor Mk. XIII (Belgian Air Force)

  • Fouga CM.170 Magister (Belgian Air Force)

  • Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star (Belgian Air Force)

  • Avro Canada CF-100 Canuck (Royal Canadian Air Force)

  • McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II (USAF)

  • Dassault Mirage F1C (French Air Force)

  • Dassault Ouragan (French Air Force)

  • North American F-86 Sabre (Portugese Air Force)

  • Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23 Flogger (Russian Air Force)

  • Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 (Czechoslovak Air Force)

Other aircraft on display: 

  • Douglas A-26 Invader (USAF)

  • North American T-6 Texan (Belgian Air Force)

  • Supermarine Spitfire XIV (Belgian Air Force)

  • Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar (Belgian Air Force)

  • Douglas DC-3 (Belgian Air Force)

  • Hawker Hurricane (Belgian Air Force)

  • Percival Pembroke C.51 (Belgian Air Force)

  • Britton Norman Islander (Belgian Army)

  • Dornier Do 27 (Belgian Army)

  • Piper Super Cub L-18C (Belgian Army) 

  • Sud Aviation Caravelle (SABENA)

  • Junkers Ju 52 (German Air Force)

  • Hanriot HD.1

  • SPAD S.XIII

  • Morane-Saulnier MS.230

  • Stampe-Vertongen SV-4B

  • Auster AOP Mk. 6

 

Text & photos: Kris Christiaens 

Location: Brussels Air Museum, Belgium

More info: https://www.warheritage.be/nl