Trip Report: SAR Katwijk

In another example of how this relentless pursuit is just so addictive. I’d like to share my story of how I got the images featured in this post. SAR Katwijk has been on my radar for a number of years however its only until this year that I’ve managed to find time to go. A very last minute decision on the Thursday before the event saw me booking the Friday afternoon off work and flying out of Bristol to Amsterdam-Schiphol on a rather battered Embraer 190.Waking up at my hotel in Hoofddorp just outside Schiphol the weather was certainly not the weather for VFR flying let alone photography. However I didn’t travel over 500km’s just to sack it off at the last stage, so a train and a bus ride later I found myself on the North Sea town of Katwijk aan Zee a rather pleasant seaside town

Dating back to 1928 SAR Katwijk and is held annually on the first Saturday of July. Attracting emergency services from across the Netherlands with activities and demonstrations on land, sea and in the air. The main aim of SAR Katwijk is to promote the work of Katwijkse Reddingsbrigade as well as educating the public on safety in the sea. Katwijkse Reddingsbrigade provide both lifeguarding and lifeboat services in the local area similar to the RNLI in the UK. Aviation participation at SAR Katwijk dates back to 1951 when a Supermarine Sea Otter landed off the coast, since then aircraft from all over The Netherlands and beyond has participated in SAR Katwijk:

Royal Netherlands NavyANWB Medical Air Assistance
Lockheed SP-2H NeptuneBolkow 105CBS-4
Lockheed P-3C OrionEurocopter EC135 T2
Westland Wasp AH-12A
Westland Lynx SH-14DBristow Helicopters
Sikorsky S-61N Mk.II
Royal Netherlands Coast GuardEurocopter AS332L2 Super Puma
Dornier Do-228-212Agusta Westland AW-189
Royal Netherlands Air ForceNoordzee Helicopters Vlaanderen
Agusta-Bell 412SPEurocopter AS365N3 Dauphin II
NH Industries NH-90 NFH
Boeing AH-64D Longbow ApacheBelgian Navy
Aerospatiale SA.316B Alouette III
Dutch PoliceWestland Sea King Mk.48
AgustaWestland AW139
Eurocopter EC135 P2+

The 2023 edition of SAR Katwijk celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Katwijkse Reddingsbrigade as well as the introduction of two new aircraft types into Royal Netherlands Coast Guard service, namely the Agusta Westland AW-189 and De Havilland Canada DHC-8-102A(MPA). Both of which were due to featuring in the role demonstrations along with a Netherlands Police EC-135, with the the rotary elements operating off of the closed Boulevard, in fact the local council went to great extent to make the Boulevard helicopter friendly removing numerous lampposts, street signs and even a pay and display machine. Leading up to the show translation from Dutch to English wasn’t a problem with multiple apps and plug ins now available that automatically translate webpages and social media posts for you. On the day however was slightly differant I know no Dutch what so ever, so could not understand any public announcements, this did mean that my situational awareness of what was going on was limited to monitoring FlightRadar24 and ADSB Exchange or staying near the Boulevard not to miss any movements.  As the morning progressed the weather marginally improved, and by mid morning the familiar sound of a EC135 orbiting in the overhead could be heard. PH-PXF making the short hop from their home base of Amsterdam-Schiphol Airport. Atleast it wasn’t a blank but I didn’t come to The Netherlands for a 135. By this time the crowds were enjoying the many differant activities, demonstrations and vehicles on display from Emergency Services from across The Netherlands, my eyes however were fixed on FR24 just before lunchtime Rescue 08 appeared on the murky horizon, its white, orange and blue color scheme contrasting nicely against the low dark cloud. The same low dark clouds which sadly prevented the Dash Eight from being able to perform its role demonstration. With the 189 now at “show centre” it began a series of winching demonstrations with various vessels off the coast. Once finished its demo, PH-SAR then came into land on the Boulevard with two rather large sand dunes encasing it on either side. The rotor blades hadn’t even had chance to stop before a real life rescue job came in for Rescue 08, unfortunately it appeared to be a rather serious Rescue 08 being joined by the Dash – Eight which was still holding out in the North Sea hoping for the cloud base to improve along with lifeliner 02 the EC135 air ambulance.

With the aviation activity quiet for the moment I went for a wander around the various stalls and stands admiring the diverse collection of emergency service vehicles from across The Netherlands before taking up a spot to watch the multi agency demonstration, which thanks to a video being played on the jumbotron I understood the storyline to be the following. A fisherman has a medical emergency out in the North Sea and is brought back to the coast by the local lifeboat, the air ambulance is scrambled to meet the lifeboat at the beach, however….. (this is where it gets a bit extreme) the air ambulance has a birdstrike, crashes into the lighthouse causing a fire in the lighthouse and trapping the lighthouse keeper with the wreckage of the helicopter landing on two passing cars trapping both occupants. As I said quite extreme however I suppose it had to quite extreme to get such a diverse range of emergency services involved in the demo.

With the multi agency demonstration completed for the Police EC135 to participate in a short demonstration providing air support to the local police arresting some smugglers. Then a some what crazy 90 minutes in a surprise billing having already seen Rescue 08 from Midden-Zeeland earlier in the day, I was surprised to see Rescue 06 from Den Helder-De Kooy to arrive and carry out winching practices with pretty much every vessel off the coast for a whole hour and a half, giving plenty of photographic opportunity. Only to be followed in with only 30 minutes before the event closed was Rescue 08 coming back to land from its previous tasking.

From a photographical point of view I was shooting with a pair of Canon 7D MkII’s, 100-400 Mk2 and 24-105. For landing shots on the Boulevard the 24-105 was more than enough. For the winching demonstrations the 100-400 was predominantly the main weapon of choice. However for some of zero six’s winching with some of the smaller vessels the 24-105 was adequate. Would I got again? If there wasn’t anything else on that weekend potentially yes!

Report by Matt Sudol

© South West Aviation Photographers 2023