Alouette III withdrawn from service in the Netherlands
The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) officially retired its final Sud Aviation SA316B Alouette III helicopters on 31 December 2015, after 51 years of service. Two weeks earlier they had already logged their final flights.
No other aircraft or helicopter has served the RNLAF longer. Out of 77 Alouette IIIs purchased from 1964 only four still remained in service. The others had already ended up in museums, technical schools and were sold back to Eurocopter (when the AS532 Cougar entered service) as well as to the air forces of Chad, Malta and Pakistan.
Dutch pilots and technicians loved the Alouette III for its reliability, simplicity and its strong engine. Even after 50 years of service, up to three helicopters would be flightworthy on any given day. Flying it required nothing but pilot skill.
The Alouette IIIs were particularly busy in the 1990s, with deployments to Northern Iraq, former Yugoslavia and Cambodia. After the turn of the century they had been replaced by AS532 Cougar and CH-47 Chinook helicopters in their operational roles, so aerial photography and VIP transport became their primary role.
Although queen Beatrix of the Netherlands was allegedly offered a modern alternative, she preferred to keep flying the Alouette for its great outside visibility. For this reason, the motto has always been to keep the Alouette III flying as long as queen Beatrix was in charge.
In 2013, queen Beatrix was succeeded by her son king Willem-Alexander, but the end of service date of the Alouette III had already been set at the end of December.