After all the anticipation the day finally arrived for the Rand Airshow, which over the years has come to be known as the most diverse airshow in South Africa. Unfortunately for the early birds the gates opened almost an hour after the advertised time, some people actually got so upset that the decided to leave. Once inside it soon became evident that the crowd was one of the largest I have ever seen at an airshow at Rand. No airshow in South Africa is ever complete without the brilliant commentary by Brian Emmenis and his team form Capital Sounds.
Capital Sounds broadcast tower
The show stared at exactly 10:00 with a very graceful de Havilland display, the formation was led by Flippie Vermeulen in a beautifully restored de Havilland Dragon Rapide followed by Nigel Hopkins, Jason Beamish and Steve Brown all in de Havilland Chipmunks. The Chipmunk that Jason was flying was teat flown the week before after extensive repairs due to a mishap a few years ago.
de Havilland Dragon Rapide
de Havilland formation
“Little Annie” the Russian built Antanov AN2 got airborne with a load of skydivers while The Rapide and one of the Chippies landed. As soon as Little Annie cleared the “Box” Jason and Nigel performed a breath-taking display of tight formation aerobatics in the two Chipmunks.
Jason and Nigel
Little Annie arrived overhead, unfortunately they were not granted permission by OR Tambo radar to climb to a very high altitude, as a result the skydivers had to deploy their canopies as soon as the departed the aircraft. The skydivers landed the full length of the display line.
As soon as the last skydiver landed Rand was awaken by the wonderful sound of radials coming to life. Seven Harvard T6’s a Trojan T28 and a Beechcraft 18 took to the cool morning sky for a mass Radial flypast the sound of these wonderful machines still creates a “Goosebump” moment in all aviation enthusiasts.
The Puma Energy Flying Lions remained airborne after the radial flypast, Scully Levin, Arnie Meneghelli , Sean Thackwray and Ellis Levin have been flying together for many years and this is very evident in the precision of their display.
Puma Energy Flying Lions
While the Harvards were on final approach for runway 35 the focus turned to the eastern side of the airport, no less than five Bell 222’s came in low and fast with their familiar sound of the air being beaten into submission by their very large two bladed rotors. I believe this is the most 222’s flown in formation at an airshow in South Africa.
Nigel Hopkins, Jason Beamish, Dion Raath and Trevor Warner then took to the air in a display of Vans RV aircraft. Nigel, Jason and Trevor were all flying RV7’s and Dion was in an RV8. It was great to see RV’s taking part in an airshow again after the disbanding of the Raptors RV formation team.
Barrie Eeles and Elton Bondi performed a very well-choreographed simultaneous display in an Extra 330sc and an Extra 300L respectively. This display is only possible at Rand Airport with its unique 270° display line. The Extra aerobatic aircraft has been dominant in all categories of world aerobatics since its first flight in 1988.
From the current dominant aircraft to the previous dominant. The Pitts Special which has been gracing our skies for well over 70 years, four of which make up the Tailifts Flying Cows. The team is led by Scully Levin and has been performing at airshows for over 30 years. Scully is joined by , Arnie Meneghelli , Sean Thackwray and his son Ellis Levin.
Tailifts Flying Cows
Nigel Hopkins the current South African Freestyle Aerobatics Champion then took to the beautiful Highveld skies in his Extra 330SC, the very vocal crowd cheered at every figure in his action packed sequence. Nigel is sponsored by Porsche South Africa and Absolute Aviation amongst others. Nigel managed a fourth position in the world Freestyle Aerobatics Championships held at Malelane last year.
Captain Rodney Chinn assisted and Assistant Chief Pilot Juan Naude performed a flawless display in the Mango airlines Boeing 737-800. Both Rodney and Juan are very experienced airline pilots they were joined on the flight deck by Captain Mathew Rogers taking the role of Safety Pilot. Mango’s first flight took place on 15 November 2006 and they have grown considerably since then.
Mango airlines Boeing 737-800
Local businessman and very familiar face at airshows throughout Southern Africa, Menno Parsons, Started his hi-energy display in his Bell 407 but unfortunately the display had to be cut short when his hinged engine cowl came loose and created a potentially dangerous situation. Menno Landed safely and without any damage to the helicopter.
Former Mirage Fighter pilot Glen Warden satisfied all the “Jet Junkies” with a brilliant display in the Eastern Block Aero Vodochody L-29 Delfín, The L-29 was selected to become the standard trainer for the air forces of Warsaw Pact nations after having a “shoot-out” against the Polish PZL TS-11 Iskra and the Russian Yakovlev Yak-30, it was later placed by the L-39 Albatros.
Sticking to Eastern Block aircraft the father and son team of Mark and Jon-Marc Hill put the Antanov AN2 “Little Annie” through her paces. Little Annie was donated to “Just Love Mission” for the purpose of introducing orphans to the joys of flying. The aircraft was then flown from the Baltic Sea in Siberia all the way to Cape Town. Mark was fortunate to be invited along from the Ukraine to South Africa.
The pace was raised significantly when “Team X-Treme” took to the air, Nigel Hopkins, Jason Beamish, Mark Sampson and Mark Hensman teamed up a few years ago and now are flying shows in China on a regular basis. At this show they were flying two Extra 300SC’s, an Extra 300 and a Sbach, when they are in China they fly four Sbach’s
The sound of Radial engines once again filled the air, The Puma Energy Flying Lions joined Flippie Vermeulen in his beautifully restored Beechcraft 18 for a very graceful display.
Ivan van der Schaar the took to the air in his beautiful Boeing Stearman, Ivan and his wife Sonica rebuilt this aircraft from nothing more than a frame in only a few short years . Ivan recently secured a sponsorship from Randolph Eyewear, without generous sponsors like these many of these graceful old ladies of the sky would no longer be able to fly.
Ivan van der Schaar
South Africa’s first and only Red Bull Air Race Challenger Series Pilot, Patrick Davidson could fortunately fit Rand Airshow into his very busy schedule, Next weekend he will be competing in Kazan in Russia in the next instalment of Red Bull Air Racing.
Matthew Zwolinski slowed things down a bit with a brilliant display of the Magni Gyro’s capabilities, Gyrocopters have now become the fastest growing section of general aviation in South Africa. Magni currently have four models available; the M24 Orion, M22 Voyger, M14 Scout and the M16 trainer like the one Matthew displayed.
The Goodyear Eagles comprising of Glen Warden, Nigel Hopkins, Jason beamish and Johan von Solms wowed the crowd with their amazing close quarter’s formation flying. Dennis Spence started the team 29 years and they have been actively involved in airshows ever since , in 2009 Goodyear joined the team as a sponsor and nine years later they still the title sponsor of the team.
Sally Levin daughter of Scully and sister of Ellis joined the Flying Cows for a unique display, not only is the first time that a father, daughter and son team flew together at an airshow but the display was done in two aircraft types Scully, Sean and Sally in the Pitts Specials with Ellis and Arnie flying in Extra 300’s.
As the sun got lower the excitement went exactly the opposite way Jason Beamish flew a very fast and intense display in another legendary aircraft, The T-28 Trojan was originally designed to replace the T-6 Harvard.
Nigel Hopkins and Menno Parsons took their ongoing feud into the afternoon sky in the form of a helicopter and fixed wing race, Menno in the helicopter seemed to have a slight edge on Nigel in the Extra 330 but not to be outdone Nigel proved that it’s not only Helicopters that can hover .
Nigel Hopkins and Menno Parsons
The Show was then closed off with a tribute flypast to the eighty years of service by the North American T-6 Harvard.
North American T-6 Harvards
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A big thank you to all the display pilots for your continual support of the media, guys we really appreciate all you do.