Today is the tenth anniversary of the entry into service of the Embraer Regional Jet (ERJ) 135 and 145 with the Belgian air force's 15th Transport Wing in Melsbroek, Brussels' military airport.
The Belgian air force operates two ERJ 135s with a passenger capacity of 34 and two ERJ 145s with 49 seats. The aircraft are used for VIP flights but also for such missions as medical evacuation. In the last 10 years, the aircraft have made 15,035 flights totaling 26,226 hours to destinations ranging from southern and eastern Europe to Congo. Passengers have included the Belgian royal family and NATO officials.
I have always found my flights on the Belgian ERJs to have been fast and comfortable, having included press trips to Siauliai, Lithuania, when the Belgian air force kicked off NATO's Baltic air policing mission in April 2004, and to a NATO Response Force exercise in France with Prince Philippe of Belgium in February 2006.
When the latter trip began, the prince's aide-de-camp, a Belgian officer, instructed me not to speak to the prince unless he spoke to me. While waiting at Bitche (which by the way honored its World War II U.S. liberators by naming them sons of Bitche) airport to board the ERJ for the flight back to Melsbroek, I gave the Belgian officer a scare when I joked that I was ready to interview Prince Philippe.