After months of anticipation it was finally time to cross the border to Botswana for the 7th Annual Wesbank Botswana International Airshow at Matsieng airfield 30km north of Gaborone. Matsieng Airfield is located at the De Wet Drilling headquarters and is the perfect venue for a fly-in airshow and as in the past it definitely didn’t disappoint.
Friday was arrival day and the with the provision of a customs centre set up on the field the visitors from South Africa and other countries could fly direct to Matsieng without the tedious trip to Sir Seretse Khama International Airport to clear customs. The festivities went on late into the night with old friends meeting up again and lots of new friendships forged around the many bonfires. Absolute Aviation sponsored a live band that kept the party going and in backdrop a balloon was demonstrating a “Night Glow”.
Show-day arrived and it was an early start for all the participating pilots, the morning started with a safety briefing held outdoors under a gazebo, true Botswana style. Chris Briers and Francois Hanekom the safety officers for the day ran through the programme and the regulations for the day.
Immediately after the briefing Darius Briers got airborne in the PAC 750 with a load of skydivers from both Botswana and South Africa and very soon the beautiful Blue Botswana sky was filled with canopies officially opening the show.
The Goodyear Eagles were the first display team to thrill the growing crowd with brilliant display by Denis Spence and Larry Beamish, Unfortunately due to pilot unavailability only a two ship formation could make the trip from Rand.
Neville Ferreira who had just returned for Budapest where he test flew a brand new aerobatics aircraft was the second display on the programme . Neville has recently repainted his beautiful Slick 540 the new colour scheme was chosen for it presentation during aerobatic competitions.
From Hi-energy to extremely graceful aerobatics, Ivan van der Schaar in his 1941 Boeing Stearman filled the sky with smoke trails and hopefully his story of determination inspired some of the young people in the crowd to follow their dreams. Ivan washed aircraft at Nelspruit Airfield to earn a few flying hours and is now a captain and BA Comair.
Ivan van der Schaar
Conrad Botha came all the way from Bloemfontein in the Free State to fly his Slick 360 at the show, Conrad is a relative newcomer to the airshow world. The Slick that Conrad flies is the smaller sibling of Neville’s Slick 540, Slicks are designed and built in South Africa at Wonderboom Airport.
Juba Joubert and Rob Osner kept the crowd on their feet with a brilliant display of Rotarwing precision in two ex SAAF helicopters Juba in and Alouette II and Rob in his Alouette III, these guys can really operate these machines.
Juba Joubert and Rob Osner
The roar of Pratt & Whitney Radials filled the when the Puma Energy Flying Lions took to the air, sadly only three of the usual four aircraft could fly the first display as Arnie Meneghelli found a massive African thorn with his main gear tyre. Scully Lavin, Sean Thackwray and Ellis Levin were more than up to the task and delivered a magnificent display.
Puma Energy Flying Lions
Some local Moto X riders kept the spectators entertained in a brief interlude in the flying programme, the organisers built a Moto X track on the opposite side of the runway.
While the bikes were wising around the track the previous president of Botswana, Ian Khama ,arrived at the airfield. President Khama himself a pilot really enjoys the Matsieng Airshow and has attended most of them if not all of them. President Khama was invited to hand over the charity donations on behalf of the Matsieng Flying Club to the very grateful recipients.
Matsieng always donates the profits of the Airshow to deserving charities and this year the donated a total of 180000 Pula which is approximately R230000.
In a short address President Khama welcomed everyone to the show and reminded everyone about the “Race for Rhinos” that will be held at the end of July at Sua Pan in Northern Botswana. After a bit of banter with Brian Emmenis from Capital sounds Pres Khama handed the microphone to Hentie de Wet who sincerely thanked his team and all the spectators that made their way to Matsieng to enjoy the show.
President Khama and Brian Emmenis
Hentie de Wet
While the donations were handed over yet another load of skydivers were dropped one jumper flying the National Flag landed close to the podium.
After the formalities an Air tractor from true north aviation took to the skies to display both there agricultural and firefighting abilities.
Capital sounds kept the large crowd informed and entertained throughout the day, the team travelled by road all the way from Welkom in one of the biggest deployments I have ever seen. Thanks Brian, Loen and team airshows just wouldn’t be the same without you guys.
Leon Du Plessis
Just Love Missions Antanov AN2 flown by Jon-Marc Hill kept up the “fast pace” of the show with a great display of flying skill. Little Annie had taken many young people for a flip on the Friday before the show, hopefully igniting a love for aviation in some of them.
Pierrre Gouws and Larry Beamish joined True North aviation in a wonderful aerobatic display in three Decathlons, it was great seeing these beautiful and very versatile aircraft taking part in an airshow.
Menno Parsons from Master Power Technologies stunned the spectators with a brilliant display of flying skill in his Bell 407, Menno also owns the airshow favourite his P51 Mustang but unfortunately it is undergoing routine maintenance at the moment and could not make the trip to Botswana this year.
Sticking with the rotarwings Matthew Zalewski threw the Magni Gyro around like a model aircraft Matthew is fast becoming a favourite on the airshow circuit.
Andrew Blackwood- Murry performed a very slick and fast display in his Nashua Extra 300LP, Andrew is a 737 captain at South African Airways and made the trip all the way from Cape Town to display this wonderful aircraft.
Andrew Blackwood- Murry
In a very welcome return to the airshows members of the Raptors RV display team, Pierre Gouws, Ryan Beaton and Larry Beamish showed why they were invited to take part in the world team aerobatic competition in China last year. Unfortunately both Pierre and Ryan had technical snags before leaving Gauteng and ended up borrowing aircraft to use for the displays.
Pierre Gouws, Ryan Beaton and Larry Beamish
Louis Jordaan showed off the abilities of the very versatile Bat Hawk, The Botswana government have recently taken delivery of many of these aircraft to be used in anti-poaching and border patrol work. The Bat Hawk used for the display is fitted with the very powerful Rotax 914 motor.
Neville Ferreira once again took to the air this time in a Yakovlev Yak 52 the Yak 52 is Soviet primary trainer aircraft which first flew in 1976. Neville took part in the Yak world aerobatics championships a few years ago.
The show continued at a very fast pace with never a dull moment having a cross runway helped a lot as one aircraft could get airborne while another was displaying . Menno Parsons managed to sneak out in his PC12 while Neville was displaying and surprised the crowd with a very low hi-speed pass from the south and then continued to fly a wonderful display.
As soon as Menno was safely on the ground Alister Brown shook Matsieng with the air-beating Bell 430, The Bell 430 is a very powerful helicopter based on the Bell 222 design, the Bell 222 distinctive pointy design was made famous in the 80’s by the TV show Airwolf.
Ivan van der Schaar once again displayed his pride and joy , the Randolf Eyeware Boeing Stearman the sound of this magnificent aircraft always makes for a goosebump moment.
Ivan van der Schaar
In a first for any airshow in this part of the world the founders of Matsieng Flying Club filled the air with some amazing aircraft. The formation was led by Larry Beamish in a Cirrus followed by Pierre Gouws and Ryan Beaton in two Cessna 210’s, Chris Briers was in the box in a King Air. After the aircraft broke off for landing Chris did a very Hi-speed low level pass with both motors feathered.
Matsieng Flying Club founders formation
In yet another first Neville Ferreira and Andrew Blackwood Murry joined forces and delivered a stunning display of hi-impact formation flying, I hope we see them flying together in the future.
Neville Ferreira and Andrew Blackwood Murry
Local Botswana aviation enthusiasts showed off their aircraft building and flying skill with a display of “scratch built” models one of which was to be controlled from a sit in simulator but unfortunately they had a technical snag. Seeing this level of skill votes very well for the future of aeronautical engineering in Botswana and Africa as a whole.
After a short break in the programme everyone present was asked to acknowledge the National Anthem of Botswana while Corne Voster floated gently down to the ground flying a massive Botswana Flag, he was accompanied by a wing suiter who had to cutaway when his main parachute didn’t open correctly, he landed safely under his emergency canopy.
As the shadows grew long and the light became no less than perfect for the photographers, Glen Warden joined the Matsieng airspace form Sir Seretse Khama Airport in Gaborone, Glen was flying a Aerovodochody L-29 Delfin. This particular L-29 was part of the Sasol Tigers, a four ship formation team that were regulars on the airshow scene some years ago.
President Mokgweetsi Masisi arrived for a shot visit, Pres Masisi became president when Ian Khama’s term came to an end earlier this year, he arrived in the Bell 412 presidential helicopter.
Bell 412 presidential helicopter
The Puma Energy Flying Lions took to the air for a display with a difference as the four Harvards performed a low flypast a massive wall of fire was exploded, the heat from the fire was pretty intense even from where we were standing . The screams and cheers from the crowd was a testament to the appreciation of the spectacle and as always Brian had built the anticipation to a fever pitch.
Wall of Fire
The Show then started winding down with repeat performances from Juba and Rob in the Alouette duo , Neville in his Slick 540, Matthew in a different Magni Gyro, Andrew and Neville in the Slick and Extra combo and the Goodyear Eagles.
The show was closed by a beautiful twilight display by the Flying Lions the organisers of the show are invited along for this display just to thank them for all the hard work put in to host such a successful show.
To Hentie and the team thanks again for inviting us to join this amazing event somehow you manage to make it better year on year and I hope to see you all next year again.