BA279 ‘ Lieutenant BEAU ‘ Chateaudun AB – may 2005
report by: P.Y.LECOEUR
Chateaudun Air Base is situated close to the eponymous city, at approximately 80 miles south west of Paris. The base was established in 1934. 3 years later the Villacoublay warehouse was tranfered to Chateaudun AB. After the Allies bombardments of 1943 and 1944 , nearly all of the base was destroyed; and taken over by the Americans in august 1944.
After the War , in 1946 to be fully exact; the field was retuned to the French Authorities. Then in 1954 the name of ‘ Base Aerienne 279 ‘ was officially given . In 1967,after the 6 days war; following the General de Gaulle order to edit an arms enbargo to all the belligerent parties, Chateaudun received 50 Mirage 5J. The initial destination was the ,state of Israel. After that, all the planes were bought by the Armée de l’ Air.
Nowadays, Armée de l’ Air have established 2 different services to take over the task to preserve the Warplanes . The GERSA: ‘ Groupement d’ Entretien Reparation et Stockage des Aeronefs ‘ who is responsable of Storage, Repairs and Maintenance .The second is ETRDC ‘ Equipe Technique de Reparation des Dommages de Circonstance ‘. This service is editing special procedures manuals for Repair of damage in non prepared environments.
GERSA is responsable for all the kinds of storage . When an aircraft arrives in Chateaudun ,the technical documentation advises the Gersa crews what work or maintenance the aircraft needs. The aircraft will be held in storage for at least one year and often for two years or even more in some cases. Aircraft manufacturers have stated that an aircraft can be in storage for a maximum of two years, after which time it has to be returned to full flying order. After flight testing at Châteaudun it can be retournée to storage for up to another two years assuming it is not required by an operational unit. GERSA crews are trained to work on ten types of aircraft ( Mirage-2000C/-5,D,N and B, Mirage F.1B , CT , CR , Alpha-jet , Epsilon and Tucano ).
During our visit we were only allowed to see One of the main storage areas is the southern end of the disused cross runway known as the “German runway.” At its southern end there are over 50 forlorn looking airframes in various stages of dismantlement including; Mirage 2000C/N, Mirage F.1, Alpha Jet, Sepecat Jaguar, Fouga CM-170 Magister and the fuselages of 13 former French Navy (Aeronavale) Nord 262E transports the last of which flew in 2009. Outside at the nearby Nivouville site are another 19 Nord 262D Frégate which had operated with the AdA up to 2004. With these sorry looking aircraft are some eleven wingless Transport Allianz C-160F Transall and half a dozen or more Dassault Mystère 20. Some of these aircraft will linger on for a decade or more; others won’t be so fortunate and will go to the melting pot.
Our many thanks goes to our guides during this fascinating visit!