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Stampe-Vertongen SV.4 sunset flying

 

In August 2022, I had the opportunity to fly aboard a Stampe et Vertongen SV.4 biplane during a beautiful sunset formation flight. The formation consisted of six SV.4 aircraft all stationed at Antwerp International Airport which is also home to the Museum Stampe-Vertongen. To honor the rich history of this Belgian aircraft, the Museum Stampe-Vertongen organizes formation flights over the city of Antwerp during the summer months so that everyone can admire these vintage aircraft once again.

 

One of the pilots aboard the SV.4 airplanes during this formation flight was none other than Danny Cabooter, former military pilot and founder and chairman of the Museum Stampe-Vertongen. During this formation flight he flew the SV.4A OO-GWC which is the oldest flying SV.4 in the world. After takeoff, we flew in formation to Brasschaat Airfield where all SV.4 aircraft performed a low approach. After this, the formation flight continued back to the Port of Antwerp and we flew over Linkeroever which is a famous area in the city of Antwerp, on the left bank of the Scheldt river. Finally we flew in formation over the city of Antwerp after which we flew back to Antwerp International Airport. The flight lasted about 50 minutes and became an unforgettable experience thanks to the amazing sunset and the professional skills of the pilots. 

 

The Stampe et Vertongen SV.4 is a Belgian two-seat aerobatic/trainer biplane designed and built by the Belgian aircraft manufacturer Stampe et Vertongen. At the request of Jean Stampe, the aircraft engineer Georges Ivanoff designed a unique trainer biplane after which the engineer Demidoff modified the airplane. This aircraft was designed in the early 1930s and the first model, the SV.4A, was an advanced aerobatic trainer, followed by the SV.4B which had redesigned wings and a de Havilland Gipsy Major engine. The first SV.4 flew in May 1933, with Jean Stampe at the controls and after its first successful flight Stampe’s company built six more SV.4’s that were used in the company’s flying school. In 1947, The Belgian government decided to buy 33 SV.4B trainer aircraft for the Belgian Air Force to replace its Tiger Moths aircraft. In 1952 a second batch of SV.4B aircraft was delivered and a third batch in 1953. Finally, the last eight aircraft for the Belgian Air Force were delivered in 1954 at the Goetsenhoven airbase. Within the Belgian Air Force, these biplanes were used for initial pilot training and these aircraft were also used by the famous ‘Manchots’ stunt team. The SV.4, the only Belgian aircraft of international fame, remained in service with the Belgian Air Force until 1978. 

 

In addition to the Belgian Air Force, the SV.4 biplanes were also used by the French Air Force, French Navy and French Army for pilot training and reconnaissance. France ordered more than 900 SV.4 aircraft built under license by the Société Nationale de Constructions Aéronautiques du Nord (SNCAN) and the Atelier Industriel de l'Aéronautique d'Alger (AIA). The French version of this aircraft, the SV.4C, was powered by a Renault 4Pei engine (175 hp) and could be equipped with a closed cockpit. This airplane proved to be so successful in France that it was even used by French aerobatic champions such as Marcel Charollais, Léon Biancotto and Louis Notteghem. The famous Patrouille de France used twelve SV.4 aircraft for their impressive formation shows and the use of SV.4 biplanes by several civil aviation clubs led to widespread aerobatic activities. With a total of more than 1,000 aircraft manufactured, the SV.4 was the most successful Belgian aircraft ever produced. 

 

Because of its ingenious design and the fact that so many aircraft were built, there are still many SV.4 aircraft flying around today. All of these beautifully restored SV.4 biplanes are today owned by private pilots and commonly seen participants at fly-ins and airshows. Today we can still see SV.4 aircraft flying or at museums in Belgium, France, Germany, United Kingdom, United States and South Africa. 


 

Text & photos: Kris Christiaens 

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