A double-decker bus fully loaded with photographers and enthusiasts (plus one without any interest in aircraft, but just joining for fun and being company) had applied for the first of two bus trips to the NATO Tiger Meet at the French Navy base Landivisiau (located in Brittany). Unfortunately the traffic situation during the departure on Wednesday afternoon (7 June 2017) appeared to be dramatic. This not only led to delays for the bus reaching the next pick-up locations, but also (and this is more serious) to five participants never reaching the pick-up location and saw their plans to visit the Tiger Meet end before it all really started. Very unfortunate! It was already late in the evening before we met the last participants in Southern Belgium and our new bus driver. Our new and “fresh” driver luckily knew how to keep the pace and thanks to him we arrive at the gate of Base d’Aéronautique Navale de Landivisiau at 8.30 in the morning (8 June 2017), after our nightshift in the bus with only one stop. Here we were immediately attended to by a Rafale pilot who spoke perfect English and took care of the formalities. Unfortunately checking all people and all the bags was a lot less efficient. Also the driver of the military bus that would take us on base was busier trying to find his lost access pass than trying to get his guests on base fast. This resulted in not everybody being on base on time. Literally some of the group were already capturing a departing French Navy Hawkeye along the runway, while another part of the group was still waiting for their checks outside the gate…
Eventually all succeeded in getting on base. While the weather forecast was not very promising, there was sunshine during the first hour, when the aircraft taking part in the morning sortie took off. The sun would later disappear, in the afternoon it even got pretty dark. But, there was no real rain and we didn’t count more than four of five raindrops. The platform with the Tiger Meet participants was within reach for photography, but not as good as hoped for. Despite this, photography options were fine and no complaints there. Also along the runway (at a fair distance) and the taxi track (very close by) it was a pleasant experience. If would have been a plus though if they had taken care of the long grass along the taxi track. Furthermore there were quite some sales booths of all Tiger squadrons with the usual special patches, t-shirts, bottles of wine and lots more.
From 11 o’clock it was possible to collect a nice goody-bag and extensive packed lunch. Unfortunately it wasn’t really clear how and where, which led to confusion and to long waiting lines (again). While a large number of people was still enjoying their lunch or standing in line to get it, the German Tiger visitors (Tornado’s and Eurofighters) arrived. This resulted in many people missing these on the taxi track. This wasn’t understood by all, which also was the case when all photographers and spotters present were asked to leave the base at 5 o’clock, precisely at the moment that aircraft were being fired up for their launch. A Tiger Meet is not an air show organised for us obviously, but a military exercise that is being executed regardless if anybody is visiting or not.
Fortunately they did take our presence serious, since every aircraft that flew made sure it taxied in front of us on the taxi track, some of them stopping regularly and showing of speedbrakes. The French Hawkeye even folded its wings back and forth a couple of times for the visitors. Also the helicopters that were present made sure that photography was possible. While a real sortie was flown in the morning, the afternoon consisted mainly of formations of different aircraft types. We are pretty sure this was done to get nice air-to-air formation photos.
Feeling satisfied and still dry we were brought back to the main gate around 17.30. There our own bus was waiting, with a drive that had rested all day. We still had to drive for about two hours to get to our hotel near St. Malo. It will not be a surprise that it became very quiet in the bus after a while. Being in the bus all night, followed by full day in the open air immediately after that takes its toll! After arriving the hotel everybody was settled in the room pretty quickly (either alone are sharing a twin room) and the McDonalds, pizzeria and wok restaurant nearby came in handy.
The next morning, Friday 9 June, we “only” had to undergo the journey home, visiting the various pick-up locations in Belgium and the Netherlands. It appeared to be very busy on the road again. Despite a queue near Lille and delays around Antwerp we only lost 20 minutes. This meant that everybody could travel the final mile back home on time.
We can look back at a very nice event with nice aircraft that could be photographed well. We even had some sun. Certainly worth the long bus ride!