The Armée de l'Air et de l'Espace, (AAE, French Air and Space Force) will definitively vacate the former Châteaudun « Lieutenant Marcel Beau » air base at the end of the year 2021. Earlier, on 21 July, a ceremony was held for the effective disbandment of the site with the departure of almost all of the personnel.
The disbandment ceremony consisted of the presentation of decorations, the review of the troops and an air parade with the passage of Rafales. Commander Jean-Pierre Le Menach led the ceremony “with pain in his heart” as he had personally served at Base Aérienne BA279 Châteaudun for many years.
Already in July 2014 the military site of Châteaudun lost its status of Base Aérienne (Air Base) and became Élément Air Rattaché 279 (EAR 279). As such it was coupled to that of Base Aérienne 123 Orléans-Bricy , following the restructuring that was decided by the Ministry of Defense.
Laid down by the (then) Armée de l'Air in 1934, and expanded by the Luftwaffe during WW II (responsible for the famous “German runway”) the base has a long history.
Until today, Châteaudun’s main purpose is the storage of all the French military aircraft that were taken out of service. Having reached the end of their life, these aircraft are waiting to be finally dismantled. There has been an attempt to install an industrial dismantling sector in 2015-2016, but these plans failed. So the AAE finally decided the withdrawal from the site by the end of the year 2021.
It is 2021, but the AAE doesn't wait until December to vacate the scene. Gradually going from 350 soldiers in 2015 to around 150 in summer 2020, there will now only be around 20 people present in Châteaudun to manage day-to-day business until this winter. The grounds of the former airfield will then be offered for sale.
The base aérienne is the third of Châteaudun’s military installations that was closed. Earlier the Kellermann barracks and the army ETAMAT closed their doors.
Fortunately there are plans to retain some aviation activities and redevelop Châteaudun into a small airport with business aviation. According to market studies by Nice-Côte d'Azur airport and aeronautical experts there is a potential for 600 business aircraft movements in two years, and 1,100 business aircraft in motion by 2031.
In addition to these plans, parts of the area will be developed into an ecological park dedicated to the protection of biodiversity and others into a solarpower plant project. The CANOPEE museum, which stands for Conservatoire d'aéronefs non-opérationnels préservés et exposés, (Museum for the conservation and exposition of non-operational aircraft) will also remain on site. It has a collection of 45 planes, mostly originating from the Armée de l'Air.
Photos: Barry Swann via Flickr