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Switzerland Tour,  15-19 February 1999

The winter of 1999 was again one to remember. Mark Verstraaten and I planned a tour to Switzerland to see the Mirage IIIs and F-5s of the Swiss Air Force. Despite the heavy snow storms in the two weeks prior our departure we decided to go. On Monday morning Mark and I drove in his Citroën BX to the south. The first aircraft we noted was a Dakota which was preserved along the highway near Arlon.


At first we planned to visit the aircraft museum at Nancy-Essey, but as we were a bit late we skipped the museum and drove directly to the airbase of BA133 Nancy-Ochey. We found ourselves a nice spot in the landing area. From here you don't have  a view on base, but it was good enough to read the landing aircraft. In a few hours we scored a very nice total of 18 Mirage 2000Ds and three nice visitors.


After this nice score at Nancy we decided to find ourselves an hotel on our way to Luxeuil. Late in the evening we finally found an hotel in Epinal, where we finally were able to catch some sleep.











The next day, we went to the French airbase BA116 Luxeuil-St.Sauveur to score some more Mirage 2000s. Here we found a nice spot in a very small village where you have a nice view on the landing area. Unfortunately it is impossible to read the departing aircraft from here. In the morning seven Mirage 2000Ns left for the first mission of the day. We had a lot of bad luck this morning as they decided to change runways. The seven Mirages landed from the other side, so we were again unable to read them. Despite some nice visitors we were a bit disappointed when we left Luxeuil.


From Luxeuil we drove to BA132 Colmar-Meyenheim to see the afternoon wave. We had some trouble finding a nice spot, but after an hour we finally found the right spot in the landing area. Here we parked the car behind a small hill to stay out of sight. Just like the day before we were able to score a lot of aircraft in the afternoon. No less than 16 Mirage F.1CTs flew in the afternoon. Unfortunately we were unable to take some good shots of them. Nevertheless we were very happy with the score at this French airbase. When the last Mirage F.1 was on the ground we left and drove towards Switzerland. In the evening we arrived at the civil airport of Zürich-Kloten where we had a nice dinner. We were also able to note two preserved aircraft inside the terminal of the airport.


Early in the morning we drove to the Swiss base Dübendorf which is located very close to Zürich. When we arrived here the runway and taxiways were still covered with snow, but the snow removal was already in progress. We saw some Mirages and Tigers parked outside and an hour later they started flying. At Dübendorf a taxiway in very close to the fence, normally you can take some very nice shots here. Unfortunately the weather during our tour was very bad, which made it very hard to take good shots. Halfway the morning it started snowing again, this didn't have consequences for the flying activity. But made it impossible to take more shots. On the other side of the runway we saw some Alouettes parked, from a nice spot along the fence we were able to read them all. In the afternoon we visited the Flieger-Flab Museum of Dübendorf. Here you'll find a nice collection of Swiss Aviation history. Unfortunately it is very hard to take shots inside the museum, due to the lack of light.


In the end of the day we drove towards Emmen. This was a very scary ride due to the heavy snow storms we had underway. At the Swiss airbase Emmen nothing much was going on, only one Alouette 3 was parked at the apron which left before we were able to read it. Inside one of the hangars on the north side of the airfield we saw seven Hawks parked, unfortunately we were able to read only two of them. After a small security check by the local police we decided to search for the Backpacker Hotel in Luzern which I found via the internet.


After a very good night rest we went back to Emmen again. When we arrived here nothing much was going on, but suddenly they started pulling some Tigers out of the hangars. No less than 14 F-5 Tigers were towed to the flightline, including test bird J-3001. Ninety minutes later we left Emmen and drove towards Stans-Buochs. Here the runway was covered with snow, so nothing much was going on. Later we drove towards Alpnach, again same story. From Alpnach we drove through the mountains towards Meiringen. This was one of the scariest moments I've ever had on the road. Big trucks were sliding down the road towards us. And snow walls on both sides of the road of at least two meters high. Finally we arrived at Meiringen airbase, which was covered with more than a meter snow. Next we tried our luck at Interlaken airbase, again no activity. We did see some aircraft here, a Tiger inside an hangar and a Hunter which is used as a gate guard.


It was already two o'clock in the afternoon when we arrived at Payerne. We were pretty surprised the snow was almost gone here. Finally some flying activity here, but we decided to read the aircraft inside the hangar first. Here we saw some Hornets and Mirage IIIs, and we were pretty happy with those French-build fighters. We decided to spent the last part of the afternoon at the end of the runway to take some taxi shots. Here we were shocked to see two Dutch F-16s of Leeuwarden. Later that evening when we were in our hotel in the village of Payerne we heard some Hornets depart for an evening sortie. We couldn't resist and went back to the field to see some Hornets depart, which was really awesome.


The next day we went back to the airbase of Payerne again. Unfortunately they weren't flying as much as the day before, probably due to the night flying of last night. The weather was also much worse compared to yesterday. Suddenly halfway the morning we were extremely happy when we saw the Mirage IIIDS was towed out of an hangar. This jet was really the highlight of our Switzerland tour, and we were even able to take a photo of it. It was not the best shot, but what the hell.


Early in the afternoon Mark and I drove towards BA102 Dijon-Longvic to make a quick lunch stop. On our way to Dijon we saw a French CM-170 on a pole near the aero club of Portalier. At Dijon we had lunch in the small lunch corner near the small civil terminal. From here we were able to read five Mirage 2000s. This was the last stop we made on our way back home, where we arrived late in the evening.


At first I didn't want to add this report to my website as the quality of the photos are far below my standards. However, my good friend Mark reminded me on this very nice story. Therefore I would like to dedicate this report to our very nice friendship. Thanks Mark for another great tour, I really hope we make many more tours in the future.    (Click here for a full log of the tour)
















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