|ex Musee Aeronautique de Champagne
|Lockheed SP-2H Neptune (147563 '563') ex French Naval Aviation (Aéronavale).|
|Brienne-le-Château airfield is the former home of the Musee Aeronautique de Champagne. Opened in the 1970s it cared for a number of aircraft for around 40 years before it was closed. The museum's aircraft were moved to the southeast dispersal ('marguerite') in around 2000. Some of its aircraft lingured for many years. This included; MD-312 Flamant (235), MH.1521 Broussard (91 '8-OZ') which went to Vichy in 2015 and N.2501 Noratlas (31 '44-GK') which was transferred to La Chapelle-aux-Bois in April 2019 to become tourist accommodation. Fouga CM-170 Magister (7) moved to Troyes in October 2020. This finally left just Lockheed SP-2H Neptune (147563 '563') which was exhibited at the museum from at least 1983. Previously with 25 Flotte Aéronavale at Lann-Bihoue. Apparently the Neptune belongs to the Musee de l'Air at Le Bourget, Paris.
The airfield itself dates back to 1913 and was utilised by the French air force until the German invasion of France in 1940. During the 'Cold War' considerable construction began in 1953 for an air base to operate 50 fighters with three large hangars. From 1953 to 1965, then known as Vitry-Brienne it served as NATO as a dispersed operating base (DOB) for the US Air Force in Europe. It was mainly used by the 48th Tactical Fighter Wing with its F-100D Super Sabres based at Chaumont-Semoutiers. Vitry-Brienne Air Base was deactivated in 1959 leaving the 7544th Support Group from Chaumont AB to maintian the base until 1961. It was then transferred to the United States Army who operated it as depot for helicopters including; the H-19 Chicasaw, H-21 Shawnee, H-34 Choctaw and H-37 Mojave. Light aircraft including; the L-19 Piper Cub, L-20/U-6 Beaver and U-1A Otter also flew from here. The US Army handed back the base to the French in 1965 and by 1970 it became a civilian operated airfield.
At the time of my visit there was some civilian flying at the largely abandoned airfield. The military dispersals still exist as you can see here in Google Earth.