The entombment of the BEAUVECHAIN spirit of the fifties
The other side of the coin

The website “
LES AILES MILITAIRES BELGES”, tells us wonderful stories of wonderful old timers where everybody was nice to each other, was open and honest and completely up front and sharing the same flying ideal …
But is it honest to talk only about one side of the coin ?
Would the history of the Christianity be complete without the Inquisition ?
At the twilight of my life they are some truths that I don’t want to take into the tomb.

The superiority complex of Beauvechain
Once they have left Germany for Beauvechain, the 349 and 350 squadrons become the corner stone of the first Belgian Wing and of the Belgian Air Force. Most of their pilots are veterans or graduates of the Royal Air Force.(
They consider themselves as survivors and will educate their followers in their warrior spirit: “be good, follow me or die”. (be the best of the bests).
The squadron leaders are manning their flying units by selecting the best recruits of the operational training unit. They will not hesitate to get rid of those “not suitable guys” by sending them to the night fighter squadrons of Beauvechain, to the fighter bomber wing of Florennes (1) or to a lesser extent to Chièvres. In the fifties, Beauvechain is “the interceptor unit” where the individual capacities are pushed to their limits in air combat and in all weather flying (2).

The pushiness spirit
The “right stuff” mentality will lose some of its dominance in 1958 with the arrival of the all weather fighter CANUCK. This “safe”(3) two engines / two seats aircraft, chosen by a navigator of the MOD, is tailored for the ambitious careerists :  excessive “G” forbidden, a seat for a radar/navigator(4). The CANUCK will offer a super “manoeuvring desk” for these individuals, up to the point that a navigator will be promoted squadron Commander and that his Staff College friend, the Wing Commander Flying, former night fighter pilot (1), will ground the pilots who dare to perform aerobatics. Some fatal accidents in 349 due to command impairment (Commanding Officer revoked) and flying procedures ignorance (OSN ✚), degrade a little bit more the already dying fighter spirit. Pilots that deviate from 'the book' to get the job done are known as "Cowboys". Those that label them that are jealous "Suits" that don't have equal talent.

Resurrection of the fighter spirit ?
In 1962, one of the remaining figures of the Beauvechain "50" spirit, Yves Bodart becomes Wing Commander Flying for the launching of the F104. He took me as his assistant. Short time after, he succumbed to a failure of oxygen flying on a CANUCK.

(1) Pilots who could not fly in formation and/or practice dogfight.
(2) The instrument flying unit of the BAF is created in Beauvechain.
(3)The engines “glued” to both sides of the fuselage prevent important asymmetric unbalance.

(4)The navigators, often “washed out pilots” compensate for their flying career failure by a Staff College patent, which give them a decision-making power in the air staff offices. Many fearful pilots will follow that trail… In some hazardous missions pilots had to take the places of the navigators in the back seat due to their sudden "diseases".

A new spirit : promiscuity
After Yves Bodart's death, the Wing becomes a prey for those it dismissed in the fifties.
Room is made for the newcomers and a new “spirit” takes place
many former Beauvechain pilots give up and quit, the remaining ones are sent abroad,
the excluded of the fifties take their revenge;
the squadron names can‘t be changed, but their homes may be, 349 will move to the 350 blocs and vice-versa;
the officers club becomes dedicated to the ladies of the new comers inhabitants of “La Chise”; they have their shopping centre, their dancing lessons, their parties in the “Mess”;
when complains are introduced officially to the base Commander, the lady/chief promises to ruin the career of the complainants because the General’s wife’s are members of their club …
the Air Defence Competition, Air Chief Marshall Sir Edmund Huddleston trophy, won by the Wing, gives the impression the fighter spirit is back … ;
according to a F102 pilot, later on shot down in Vietnam, it is the award of a popularity contest for the participants : “what is it, if not a navigation coupled with a Ground Controlled Approach in altitude on a dead duck".
My last trial as 350 C.O.
In 1968, when I was in charge of 350, it was my third squadron command (5).
I applied what I had learned from my Beauvechain mentors of the fifties (most of them dead or “dismissed”).
one for all and all for one
the C.O. gives the example, what I order I can do, I share …
pilots and ground crew are to be managed as a team
  - daily cooperation and contact
  - during alert and exercises same treatment: guard change, feeding
on the ground each team member must know his commitment :
  - generally on a routine basis
  - particularly when a mission is assigned
in flight :
  - regardless of the rank, the leader decides
  - no interference may jeopardize the decision of the leader
  - in air combat the leading may change according to the threat
When these basic rules were applied :
the national and NATO exercises were highly successful
the squadron obtained the rating ONE for its tactical NATO evaluation
When the above rules were disregarded :
two fatal accidents occurred;
3 mutinies took place in 349 (6); from that time on, the C.O. 350 was in charge of both squadrons during the exercises;
the wing is downgraded a few months after my departure, and the commanders are replaced.
Once this “healthy environment of command exists, subsidiary actions can be taken:
the national Air Meeting is “ground” managed by 350;
the aerobatic team “THE SLIVERS” is promoted by 350;
the officers club debts are cleared thanks to the management of 350. (-370.000 BF due to the Lady’s club reign)

(5) in 1957, C.O. and creator of the BAF VSV Flight (METEOR VII, T33); in 1959, 349 C.O. in order to restore the squadron operational status, when its Commanding Officer was fired, he made full Colonel and was my boss in the MOD…
This was my last commitment on an airbase, which I was “wrongly” considering to be my home.
What still puzzled me after 50 years, it’s that the ones I replaced or helped have achieved a brilliant military career and when, for once, I go to a 350 squadron "70 year anniversary" my place at the squadron commander’s table is ignored (?)
Happily, I ended up being an executive of General Dynamics after a “dogfight” against the French/Dassault mafia of the BAF led by the Florennes relegated …