Peter Verheyen

Interview



Peter Verheyen and Johan Wolfs have been the house painters of the Belgian Air Force's 31st 'Tiger' squadron since 1991. Together they are responsible for the most stunning designs ever displayed on F-16s. In total they accomplished 14 F-16 projects together up to now (2005).


BAF F-16AM #FA-106 is adorend with 60 years 349 sqn markings in 2002. (BAF photo by Antoine Roels)

F-16.net: How did you guys came up with the idea to paint fighter aircraft? Has this to do with your backgrounds? In short, tell our readers what you do for a living and how you came in contact with the Belgian Air Force?

Peter: It has all been a bit of luck actually. As all young boys in the 80s or early 90s, when military service was still an obligation in Belgium, I had to perform my military service after I had finished secondary school and university. After 1 month basic military training at Koksijde I was sent to KB airbase and more specifically to 31 sqn. One can only be so lucky! There I was a timekeeper for 11 months, basically a job no conscript (milicien) wanted, because it meant spending 11 months under ground in a bunker. However, to me it was fantastic as it meant I could get very close to all 31 sqn pilots. The pilots called me the 'Ing. MIC Peter'. 'Ing.' because I am an engineer by education, 'MIC' because, next to the PIC (Pilot In Charge), I was the Milicien In Charge (joke). As the year 1990 drew to a close it was all sadness for me because my time at 31 sqn came to an end.

After that I started working at Arte in Zonhoven where I met Johan Wolfs, who has had a graphics education. Arte is a manufacturer and distributor of high-end wallcoverings and fabrics. In 1991 we learned that 31 squadron was granted permission to paint a complete F-16 for the 1991 NATO Tigermeet and to celebrate 40 years of 31 sqn. Obviously this presented a challenge for us. Another design was already approved, but when the squadron saw the design by Johan and myself the previous one was cancelled and they chose our design. The rest is history. We painted #FA-94 and remained the house painters for 31 sqn until now.

F-16.net: Where do you get the inspiration to start with an assignment? How does such a thinking process develop?

Peter: It is difficult to say how these ideas come to fruition. Sometimes the squadrons have a faint idea of what they want and ask us to work this out, but mostly they give us carte-blanche. During the year Johan and myself talk constantly about planes and so when a project presents itself, it usually does not take us that long to come up with one or more proposals. We always have some ideas in the closet. When we go for a certain idea, Johan works this out completely on his PC, and the result is always stunning. He is a real genious. Up till now, the squadrons always have fallen immediately in love with our proposals. Important however is that we always paint our own designs, never designs or ideas from other people.


BAF F-16AM #FA-94 from the 31st sqn is coming in for landing at Kleine Brogel AB adorned with the 2005 Tiger scheme. (Photo by Dirk Voortmans)

F-16.net: Isn't it difficult to transfer a 2-D design to a 3-D object? The curved surface of the F-16 probably provides some interesting perspective 'problems'?

Peter: Yes, this is not always simple. Mostly the problems present themselves when we are actually painting the aircraft. Sometimes there is a small airscoop or antennae where the mouth or the eye of the tiger needs to come, but then we adapt and change our plans. We always have to come up with a solution to the problem.

F-16.net: How does the actual painting take place? How is the original paintscheme of the F-16 protected? Can the special scheme be removed easily? If yes, how do you protect the paint to come off too easy (for example by friction during the flight)?

Peter: The surface we have to paint is normally 'prepared' by the paint shop at KB airbase. With 'prepared' we mean that it is sanded down, cleaned, and painted in a neutral colour. When we have finished our paintjob, we mostly apply one layer of varnish after which the paintshop KB applies additional layers. These layers of varnish make sure the paintwork is kept intact while flying at high speeds. When the paintjob has to be removed, the tail has to be sanded down again.

F-16.net: Can you give us an overview of the colorschemes that you guys painted through the years?

Peter: This is an overview of projects up till now. We have done 14 F-16 projects so far:

  • 1991: #FA-94 - 31 sqn - 40 years of 31 sqn & Tiger Meet Fairford
  • 1991: #FB-15 - B-Flight Kleine Brogel - Air Show KB
  • 1994: #FA-82 - 31 sqn - Tiger Meet Cambrai
  • 1998: #FA-71 - 31 sqn - Tiger Meet Lechfeld
  • 2001: #FA-116 - 31 sqn - 50 years of 31 sqn & Tiger Meet Kleine Brogel
  • 2001: #FA-61 - 23 sqn - 50 years of 23 sqn
  • 2002: #FA-106 - 349 sqn - 60 years of 349 sqn
  • 2002: #FB-24 - OCU - 15 years of OCU
  • 2002: #FA-122 - 31 sqn - Tiger Meet Beja
  • 2003: #FA-93 - 31 sqn - Tiger Meet Cambrai
  • 2004: #FA-87 - 31 sqn - Tiger Meet Schleswig-Jagel
  • 2004: #FA-56 - 349 sqn - 25 years of F-16
  • 2004: #FB-24 - OCU - 25 years of F-16
  • 2005: #FA-94 - 31 sqn - Tiger Meet Balikisir

Besides these 14 projects, Johan also made a design for a new KB Wing badge (a stylised Lion), which was applied to #FA-111 for some time. Furthermore we also did the designs for 3 Alpha-Jets (painted by the Belgian Air Force themselves):

  • Black and yellow 'Bat' Alpha-Jet, AT-12, 11 sqn
  • Blue and yellow 'Breitling' Alpha-Jet, AT-18, 11 sqn
  • BAF display Alpha-Jet, AT-25, Pat De Schrijver

Johan Wolfs so far also made the following squadron prints:

  • 1991: 31 sqn - Tiger F-16A (40 years of 31 sqn)
  • 1998: 31 sqn - Tiger F-16A (Tiger Meet Lechfeld)
  • 2001: 31 sqn - Tiger F-16A (50 years of 31 sqn & Tiger Meet Kleine Brogel)
  • 2001: 23 sqn - Devil F-16AM (MLU) (50 years of 23 sqn)
  • 2002: 349 sqn - Maces F-16AM (MLU) (60 years of 349 sqn)
  • 2002: OCU - Hawk F-16BM (MLU) (15 years of OCU)


BAF F-16A block 15 #FA-94 wearing an overall tiger scheme celebrating 40 years of 31 sqn and used for the 1991 Tiger Meet. (Photo by Stefaan Ellebaut)

F-16.net: What do you feel is the most succesfull assignment you ever accomplished?

Peter: I think the black and yellow Tiger F-16A #FA-71 from 1998 was the most beautiful ever, although our first project from 1991 (the yellow and grey #FA-94) comes very close. As tail-only I like our OCU #FB-24 from 2002 very much, as well as the Devil #FA-61 from 2001. But it is difficult to choose, they all are beautiful. Johan also has difficulty to choose between the different creations, although the 1998 Tiger has his preference. As tail-only, Johan prefers the Devil tail of 2001, as this was our first real non-tiger tail.

F-16.net: What is the finest anecdote that you remember or a nice joke, something that went wrong for example?

Peter: Naturally, there are always anecdotes. Here are some examples:

Once we were present at KB very early to finish our project. Our accompanying pilot was not there yet, so we went along and opened the hardened shelter in which the F-16 was sitting by ourselves. After very few minutes we were 'intercepted' by airfield security and held at gunpoint because they thought we were trying to steal 'their' F-16. Once they saw what we were actually doing they were full of admiration. Obviously there was a problem with communication.

In 2001 we had to paint the tail for the Devils and the Tigers. Due to the year-long rivalry between the 2 squadrons and the upcoming unification later that year, we painted '23 sqn' into the yellow part of the Belgian flag on the tail of the Tiger jet and '31 sqn' into the red part of the Belgian flag on the tail of the Devil jet. Nobody ever noticed though, it was our inside joke.

In 2001 we painted the Tiger tail. Then my good friend, Lt.-Col. (then Major) Ronny Vaerten asked me if we would also like to paint the 2001 Devil tail. Obviously we could not say no to Ronny, so we agreed. But at the first flight celebration of the new Tiger tail, Johan tore his achilles tendon. He was operated that same night and had to wear a plaster around his left leg for 6 weeks. When I called Ronny the next day to tell him what had happened, he thought I was joking and that the Tigers had set me up to call him. However it was the really true and Johan painted the Devil tail wearing a plaster around his left leg and seated in a wheel-chair!


BAF F-16A block 15 #FA-71 from the 31st sqn is seen on the tarmac at Koksijde AB in July of 1998 with the fabulous Tiger scheme. (Photo by Dirk A. Geerts)

This year I could still be charged for 'destruction of military property' as I broke the key of the Paint Shop at KB (héhé). On top of that, we were never so wel protected as this year because on the saturday there was a big protest going on by both Mother Earth and Greenpeace, so the entire KB-base was mobilised.

On a more dismal note. When we were painting our first F-16 in 1991 (#FA-94) and were nearly finished, I was called away because my brother had fallen into a deep coma after a cerebral haemorrhage. He died a few weeks later.

F-16.net: You're doing this for 14 years now. Never getting bored?

Peter: No, the moment it gets boring, we stop with it!

F-16.net: Thanks for the interview!

- Peter was interviewed online by Bjorn Claes in April of 2005 -


Photo overview of Peter and Johan's work


Year: 1991
Airframe: FA-94
Unit: 31st sqn
Event: 40 years of 31 sqn & Tiger Meet Fairford

Year: 1991
Airframe: FB-15
Unit: B-flight
Event: Air show Kleine Brogel

Year: 1994
Airframe: FA-82
Unit: 31st sqn
Event: Tiger Meet Cambrai
Winner of the 'Silver Tiger Trophy'

Year: 1998
Airframe: FA-71
Unit: 31st sqn
Event: Tiger Meet Lechfeld

Year: 2001
Airframe: FA-116
Unit: 31st sqn
Event: 50 years of 31 sqn & Tiger Meet Kleine Brogel

Year: 2001
Airframe: FA-61
Unit: 23rd sqn
Event: 50 years of 23 sqn

Year: 2002
Airframe: FA-106
Unit: 349th sqn
Event: 60 years of 349 sqn

Year: 2002
Airframe: FB-24
Unit: OCU
Event: 15 years of OCU

Year: 2002
Airframe: FA-122
Unit: 31st sqn
Event: Tiger Meet Beja

Year: 2002
Airframe: FA-111
Unit: 10th wing
Event: Wing batch

Year: 2003
Airframe: FA-93
Unit: 31st sqn
Event: Tiger Meet Cambrai
Winner of the 'Silver Tiger Trophy'

Year: 2004
Airframe: FA-87
Unit: 31st sqn
Event: Tiger Meet Schleswig-Jagel
Winner of the 'Silver Tiger Trophy'

Year: 2004
Airframe: FA-56
Unit: 349th sqn
Event: 25 years of F-16

Year: 2004
Airframe: FB-24
Unit: OCU
Event: 25 years of F-16

Year: 2005
Airframe: FA-94
Unit: 31st sqn
Event: Tiger Meet Balikisir




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