Low fying is connected to helicopter capacity inseparably. Dutch Forces can be deployed by the government to any part of the world in a very short time to perform its task. To guarantee this capacity, personnel and equipment must be prepared for operaltional deployment contantly. According to the doctrine “train as you fight”, realistic scenarios are performed during daytime as well as during nighttime. For helicopters this means, amongst others, low flying has to be trained. Low flying is inextricably linked to the operational concept of helicopters, which are mostly dependable for cover of terrain for self protection. In operational situations, flying at medium- or high altitude is not an option.
Exercise is essential
Flying at low altitude, especially during darkness, requires special training and skills, due to the risk of colliding with obstacles which are barely visible. Helicopter pilots first have to quilify before they are allowed to perform operational tasks. The required skills are statet in the JOP, Jaarlijks Oefen Programma (Yearly Exercise Program), which are different for each helicopter type. If a helicopter pilot is not qualified for low level flying, he or she is only limitedly operationally deployable. When helicopter pilots are qualified for low level flying, these skills must be maintained. Low level flying can not be postponed until an operational deployment for, by example crisiscontrol or humanitarian aid. In that case the period to qualify a sufficient number of pilots is too short to complete qualifying training. Result of the facts mentioned above, exercise is essential at a regular base.
The excercises, both night and day, are devided between the low-flying areas in the Netherlands and areas in Germany. The training areas where low flying training is performed in the Netherland are devided over the country and have the name GLV, Gebied Laag Vliegen (Low Flying Area). In total 8 areas marked as GLV are designated low flying areas. GLV-V is situated near Eindhoven Air Base at the Oirschotse Heide. Helicopters of the DHC (Defensie Helicopter Commando) make use of this area, together with vehicles of the Royal Netherlands Army from the nearby Generaal Majoor de Ruyter van Steveninckkazerne.
The area is public, so everybody can enter the training area. The helicopter crews are used to the public and not rarely make an extra approach for the photographers on the ground. The public is advised to wear high visibilty vests, to show their presence to the crews.
We visited GLV-V in may 2020 on two occasions. One morning session and one evening session. We were fortunate to see all the helicopter types we were after, as nothing is guaranteed at the GLVs. As the Royal Netherlands Air Force is starting to replace its green CH-47Ds with brown CH-47Fs, it was a good opportunity to photograph some of the CH-47Ds.