GLV V

Low flying in the lowlands

GLV V low fly area at the Oirschotse Heide

Located near Eindhoven Air Force base, the Dutch Air Force use the extensive sand plains on the heath fields as low fly area for their helicopters. This area is called GLV V or GLV 5. Which stands for Gebied Laag Vliegen 5 (Low Fly Area 5). Throughout the year you can observe the helicopters of the Defence Helicopter Command (DHC) practising low level navigation, medevac, brown out landings, sling loads and tactical troup droppings. 

GLV V

Low flying in the lowlands

Sometimes the magic is just a few miles away from your doorstep. I have never been a fan of static shots of fighter jets and helicopters at airshows. I want to see them up close, doing real life missions. That is exactly what you will get at GLV V Low Fly Area in the Netherlands. A mix of forest, heath fields and sand plains that creates a perfect visual blend with the helicopters of Dutch Defense Helicopter Command.

As usual the best shots come at a price, as you sometimes wait for a day for nothing to show up. But when they do, be prepared to deliver a fast sprint in the soft sand as they can land anywhere. The joy of eventually finding that right spot can quickly turn into more danger as you protect your expensive gear against the sandblast caused by the rotor wash. I would not have it any other way. It is my place to go when I need my chopper shot.

GLV V

Low flying in the lowlands

Sometimes the magic is just a few miles away from your doorstep. I have never been a fan of static shots of fighter jets and helicopters at airshows. I want to see them up close, doing real life missions. That is exactly what you will get at GLV V Low Fly Area in the Netherlands. A mix of forest, heath fields and sand plains that creates a perfect visual blend with the helicopters of Dutch Defense Helicopter Command.

As usual the best shots come at a price, as you sometimes wait for a day for nothing to show up. And when they do, be prepared to deliver a fast sprint in the soft sand as they can land anywhere. The joy of eventually finding that right spot can quickly turn into more danger as you protect your expensive gear against the sandblast caused by the rotor wash. I would not have it any other way. It is my place to go when I need my chopper shot.

GLV V LOW FLY AREA

PRACTISE MAKES PERFECT

HELICOPTER TRAINING AT THE OIRSCHOTSE HEIDE

What is a GLV?

The term GLV means Gebied Laag Vliegen (which translates best as Low Fly Area). The Dutch Air Force has many designated Low Fly Areas at her disposal throughout the Netherlands. The areas can be used by Fighter jets as well as helicopters. Most of the time though, the DHC (Defense Helicopter Command) use these areas, often in cooperation with Army troops.

GLV V utilisation

The GLV V low fly area is located on the Oirschotse Heide. It is a large training area situated to the west of Eindhoven Air Force Base. The area is basically a large heath plain with large sand patches, surrounded by dense mixed forest. This means that the area is suitable for all kinds of training. For example: troop extractions, fire fighting training, sling load trainings, confined area landings, brown out landings, flying while staying under cover of the trees and many more.

Visiting GLV V 

Another interesting aspect of GLV V is that the area is publicly accessible. This means that the enthusiast can observe all the action from a relatively close distance. Needless to say that GLV V has become a very popular destination for Military Aviation enthousiasts over the years.

The natural surrounding and the size of the GLV V low fly area make it very popular with the Army and Air Force as well. Many Army trucks and tanks can be observed driving through the sand plains on a daily basis. The Air Force Helicopters of DHC are almost daily visitors as well, and can be seen from dawn until after dusk.

Luckily a sensible coexistence has developed between enthusiasts and helicopter crews. Many of the spectators for example, wear hi-vis vests and avoid getting too close to the action. A good thing as crews tend to abort their intended landing immediately if they see something they don’t like and find a more remote place to continue their exercise.

GLV V LOW FLY AREA

THE MAIN CHARACTERS

DUTCH AIR FORCE HELICOPTER TYPES

Helicopter types at the GLV V Low Fly Area

The Defence Helicopter Command (DHC) Currently operates three helicopter types, The Boeing CH-47F Chinook, the Boeing AH-64D Apache and the Eurocopter AS532 Cougar. All of which can be regularly seen at the GLV V area. DHC also operates the NH90 on behalf of the Navv. The NH90 comes by very rarely.

The Dutch Police operate the Eurocopter EC-135 and the Agusta Westland AW139. An appearance at GLV V is very rare although they tend to drop by once or twice a year. 

Chinook on fire

D-103 was one of the CH-47D Type Chinooks that was phased out 2021. The CH-47F MYII CAAS spec has joined the Dutch Air Force as a replacement. Here she is pictured doing a brown out landing during an amazing sunset.

Apache blizzard

Snowfall is quite rare in the Netherlands. 15cm of snow even more. Combined with limitation in foreign deployments due to COVID-19, the Dutch Air Force did not miss on the opportunity to do some white out training with their crews in February 2021. The Defence Helicopter Command operates 28 Apache Helicopters. 20 of them in Gilze Rijen and 8 in Fort Hood (TX)

Shy Wildcat

For some reason the 300 Squadron Cougar Helicopters always seem to avoid me. In my many visits to GLV 5 I have been able to capture them only once. Fortunately with exactly the shot  I had in mind. “Dat dan weer wel” we say in Dutch. Currently the DHC has 12 operational Cougar Helicopters in service.

GLV V LOW FLY AREA

BROWN OUT LANDINGS

IN REAL LIFE

Sandblasted

All talking aside about the heath fields, and the awesome nature that surrounds you. The main reason why I visit the place is the chance to see brown out landings: massive piles of sand being swept dozens of meters into the air by the downwash of the rotors. It changes any peaceful heath plain into a battlefield in a matter of seconds. I cannot mention a lot of places in the world where you can witness military action from so close by. Just make sure you protect your gear.

Orange out

On one occasion got lucky enough to whitness brown out landings during sunset. Two Chinooks played around for half an hour, making items best day at GLV V ever.

Apache kicking sand

Due to the nature of their missions Apaches rarely see the need to touch the ground during their training. Occasionally thought they get low enough to kick up enough sand.

D-666 Dutch CH-47D Chinook at GLV V low lfying area during sunset

The Beast

The D-666 registered Chinook was aptly named “the Beast” and was an enthousiast favourite. Not in the least place due to special 298 squadron paintings she wore.

Head on

Rarely I choose another stand point than head on. For brown out landings the head on shot simply works the best

A forest

One of the CH-47D Chinook that are now put out of service, just after landing in front of the “spottersbos” with some nice backlight.

GLV V LOW FLY AREA

HINTS AND TIPS

FOR A SUCCESFUL TRIP

Where to go

Centrally located on GLV Low fly area you will find two big rectangle shaped forest areas. They are the default areas where the enthousiasts that visit GLV V meet. The eastern forest aptly named “spottersbos” is a nice place to have a chat with your fellow enthusiasts as you wait for the next helicopter sortie to arrive. The forest is placed slightly higher than the sandplains. The elevated view you get as a result is a small bonus to a place that will also cover you from the burning sun in summer and freezing wind in winter. Of course there are many, many other interesting vantage points in the area. But I have come tot the conclusion that the Spottersbos is the best default location. You will have the highest change of coming home with the best shots from this place. Here is a link with the exact coordinates of the GLV V low fly area.

Hints and tips

If you follow these tips and hints your GLV V visit can’t go wrong. Unless you pull a blank of course 😉

  • The best place to park your car is the parking on the Eindhovense dijk. Cross the road and walk SSE until you reach the Spottersbos. If the parking lot is full there are some alternatives along the same road. These will lead you to the same place.

  • Typically you can expect traffic in the GLV V low fly area on any weekday during office hours. Although helicopters occasionally operate sunset and evening missions as well. During weekends and holidays there is no flying activity.

  • The Air Force recommends and highly appreciates you wearing a hi-vis jacket or vest when you visit the area.

  • It is OK to cross the sand plains, when you arrive, depart or move to another spot. But never cross the plains while there are helicopter operations in progress.

  • Do not stand in the flying path of the helicopters while they are doing their touchdown and take off manoeuvres. 

  • Keep more than safe distance to the operations and do not proceed towards the helicopters when they are in the landing zone.

  • A 100-400 lens, or any other lens in that range, is more than adequate for catching all the action if you want to take pictures. 

  • Just as in any low fly area, there is no schedule, and zero guarantee that helicopters will visit the area. You might see all three DHC helicopter types performing multiple missions on a day. You might also go home not having seen any helicopter. 

  • While you are there take a moment appreciate the amazing landscape that you are in. The surroundings can be breathtaking at any time of year. 

Dutch Cougar Helicopter doing a brown out landing at the GLV V low fly area

Final thoughts

GLV V is an amazing place to visit. And I would strongly recommend a visit if you have the opportunity. If you do visit the area please remember to adhere to the tips in the section above. It does not only ensure the long term preservation for us to see this amazing action in real life. But it even might increase your own change of getting superb shots on the day.

I will explain: The pilots or the loadmaster will not hesitate for a moment to abort the intended landing, or even their entire training, if they see people behaving unpredictably. Running towards the helicopters, being too close or in the path of the landing zone can all be reasons for a crew to find another spot for their training. That spot maybe kilometers away. On top of that and even more importantly, the crews will more often than not make a spectacular low and fast “goodbye and thank you pass” to a group of well behaved photographers. 

You may find that some of the pictures on this page seem to be awfully close to the action. I can assure you that I always keep my distance when I am at GLV V. Most shots were taken with 500mm or even 700mm focal length. This enables me to capture the action whilst not interfering with the operations.

Almost every day you will find people with enough experience in the area. So if you are in doubt, you can always ask a local. On the other hand: using your common sense and the aforementioned tips should be more than enough to have an amazing day at the GLV V low fly area. Enjoy!

Also make sure to read my other photo stories about the Axalp Fliegerschiessen Airshow and the KLM Boeing 747.

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