BA113 Portes Ouvertes, St Dizier, France 1 – 2 July 2017
Report by Peter Davison
Regular military airshow visitors have grown fond of the Dassault Rafale with its sleek lines, auto-focus loving edges and dynamic performance in recent years. As France’s primary Rafale base, St Dizier did not disappoint with numerous examples on show in special marks, under maintenance and in action. The squadron is to be commended for not subscribing to the regrettable adage ‘seen one and you have seen them all’.
Over twenty Rafales were accessible to the large crowds who tolerated a fairly confused entry process in indifferent weather. Once inside however, visitors were able to see a good variety of French types plus a varied assortment of foreign visitors, vintage types and flying replicas, many from nearby Luxembourg.
In addition to the excellent alpha-jets of the Patrouille de France a competent and original formation display was flown by the Pilatus trainers of the Croation Air Force plus the Breitling L39s flying at their usual high standard.
It would have been useful if a longer portion of the runway had been accessible to the public as the central zone became very congested. Having an active row of hardened shelters between part of the ramp and the runway deserved a creative solution.
Worthy of particular praise were the maintenance officers who excelled themselves providing demonstrations and explanations to an eager public, educating the adults and inspiring the youngsters.
In celebration of its long history in air defence, St Dizier is home to numerous preserved airframes some exhibited at the main gate and others dotted around the base buildings. These range from the larger Vatour and Mirage IV to past fighters and trainers. How many were seen at close quarters depended on your route in or out. the public would have found these more interesting had some explanations of their past roles been available.
With its southerly aspect the base is good for photography though the proximity of a major road along the norther perimeter necessitated some long diversions for attending and passing traffic alike.