© Stijn Mennes
Several years ago Xavier Méal started a very worthwhile tradition with the yearly Chipmeet gatherings in Lons-le-Saulnier at the foothills of the Jura mountains in France.
From the outset the goal of these meetings was to assemble as many Chipmunks with their owners/pilots as possible for an informal get-together over a long weekend. While at the same time providing them with plenty of opportunity to sharpen their flying skills under professional supervision on a variety of flying disciplines. (aerobatics, formation flying,...)
Due to its success the event quickly outgrew the capacity of the local aeroclub at Lons, who had kindly facilitated the Chipmeet for a number of years.
This year a new suitable location was found at Brasschaat airfield close to Antwerp in Belgium. Hence Chipmeet 2002 was planned to take place there following the same successful format Xavier had introduced earlier; i.e. find a relatively uncongested airfield - preferably without any landing or other fees in order to keep operational costs low - with a friendly locally based aeroclub and a fully licensed bar/clubhouse, camping facilities on the field and hotel facilites not too far away. All this to accomodate as many Chipmunks with their owners/pilots as you can certainly no limits here! Then add a well equiped briefing room and throw in a good number of highly qualified Instructors (most ex military) in order to supervise the safe conduct of all flying. Last thing to do, is to plan for some good weather, as this is highly conductive to many flying hours and lots of enjoyment for all.
Chipmeet 2002 took place from thursday 9 to sunday 12 May. A total of five Chipmunks had indicated their firm intention to participate by mouth of their owners, each Chippie crewed by two pilots. Potentially several more Chipmunks from France would join the ranks, albeit briefly due to an aerobatic competition going on over the same weekend in France.
Although the week before the weather had been quite fair, thursdaymorning dawned grey and drizzly, thus sadly setting the mood of the weather for the duration of the event. At the start of Chipmeet 2002 one Chipmunk was present, G-DHCC, belonging to the host, Tony De Bruyn. This Chipmunk had to position only from the neighbouring Antwerp airport. As soon as the weather lifted just a touch, a Dutch based Chipmunk, G-BWTG, arrived with Peter de Graaf and Henk van Harselaar on board. In the meantime another Belgian based Chippie, G-AOJR, owned by Nicole Mariën and Gerard Caubergs, had to stay firmly on the ground at Namur aerodrome closed in by the weather. Chipmunk guru-instructor Robert Miller had arrived early that morning by ground transport and was accompanied by fellow instructor Nick Riddin. They remained in constant contact with both UK would be participants G-HAPY (Harold Preiskel and Stephen Bruh) and G-AORW (Phil Cotrell and Paul Avery), which remained grounded too by the adverse weather. The group was completed that thursdaynoon by three further instructors, all (ex) Belgian Air Force Eddy "Rusty" Kerkhofs, Peter "Patja" Stams and Tom "Gismo" De Moortel. Two sorties were flown that day in abysmal weather.
The next morning only, G-AOJR made it to Brasschaat, conquering the still marginal weather. To the amazement of all the arrival of G-HAPY was witnessed late that friday afternoon after what seems to have been a heroic Channel crossing in very marginal conditions indeed. Phil Cottrell and Paul Avery had to admit defeat to the weather that day. During this second day only some low level circuits could be completed due to the very low ceiling (500 ft at best).
Interestingly three out of the four Chipmunks present that evening displayed proudly their still fully original liveries of the their respective UK military operators, namely Royal Air Force (WP803 G-HAPY), Army Air Corps (WG321 G-DHCC) and Royal Navy (WB671- G-BWTG).
The flying programme was by now already severly curtailed due to the inclement meteo conditions which remained largely the same throughout the remaining two days. On saterday one formation (blue) managed to complete its sortie, while the second (red) formation had to be abandoned due to the low ceiling. On the last day another fomation could be launched just before noon, with the final sortie flown in the afternoon.
© Peter Stams
A total flying time amongst all participants of only 6 hours and 5 minutes was logged in six sorties over the four days. This however did not mean that spirits were not kept high and all participants and instructor pilots engaged in many (un)scheduled extra curriculum activities which ranged from cart racing, a friday nite barbeque fiesta, Antwerp city historical visits, lots of socializing at the bar, taking in ARIA (Always to be Remembered Instructors Advice), etc...
Despite the absolutely awfull meteo conditions throughout Chipmeet 2002 all participants returned home in good spirits with the definite promise to be there again next time. All 2002 participants are looking forward to be joined by many more Chipmunks for even more fun and enjoyment at Chipmeet 2003.
G-AOJR C1-0205 Nicole Mariën & Gerard Caubergs
G-BWTG C1-0119 Peter de Graaf & Henk van Harselaar
G-DHCC C1-0393 Tony de Bruyn & Jan Possemiers
G-HAPY C1-0697 Harold Preiskel & Stephen Bruh
Excused (due to inclement weather)
G-AORW C1-0130 Phil Cottrell & Paul Avery
© Stijn Mennes
Grateful thanks to all those involved, especially those who provided their time and services totally for free, the Instructors Tom de Moortel, Eddy Kerkhofs, Robert Miller, Nick Riddin & Peter Stams, the Royal Aero Club of Brasschaat and the Light Aviation of the Belgian Army for providing the infrastructure.
© Stijn Mennes
© Stijn Mennes
© Stijn Mennes