King Philippe flew one of the army’s new NH90 helicopters during almost one hour on Wednesday, leaving from the Beauchevain air base, and thus reconnecting with feelings dating back to his training as a fighter pilot. Upon landing, the king was welcomed by the minister of Defence, Steven Vandeput, and military authorities, with General Gerard Van Caelenberge, chief of Defence, leading the welcoming delegation.
For the first time since acceding to the throne in July 2013, he was wearing his khaki flight suit with his badge of air force general and a name tag saying “HM King Philippe”, it was revealed.
He inspected various types of aircraft currently in service in Beauchevain, the training airplane Siai Marchetti, the Agusta A109 helicopter and its new larger companion, the NH90, a middle weight class tactical transport helicopter.
The 18th squadron, based in Beauchevain, now has 4 such aircraft, which improves the air transport capacity of Belgian armed forces. They are part of a total order for 8 helicopters – 4 TTH (for transport) and 4 NFH (for naval forces), which will replace the aging Sea Kings based at Coxyde. The order was placed in June 2007, for a total of almost 300 million euros. 7 have already been delivered.
According to the Royal Palace, the King, who used to own a helicopter, still flies regularly in France to keep his pilot’s license. He was therefore able to take control of the NH90 during the flight on Wednesday, and even saluted the press who were flying in close formation to the left of him.