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Middelburg Airshow – Setting the Standard

The 2019 Middelburg Airshow, what can we say? It was amazing setting the benchmark for all the airshows to follow this year. Richardt Lovett and his lovely wife Irene assisted by their dedicated team once again put on a show that was world class.

The airshow concluded the Aero Club of South Africa’s Airweek, which was held at the Middelburg Airfield for the second year running. The show which only started at 13:00, was by no means a “Mini” Airshow, with over thirty acts it was crammed with excitement and fast paced action.

At exactly 13:00 the Brian Emmenis form Capital sound tested the dreaded crash hooter and the Fire & Rescue teams did a short patrol of the runway clearing the way for the show to begin. A squad of massive trucks did a slow parade past the crowd line accompanied by Johan “Juba” Joubert in an Alouette II, as they passed “show Centre” the first of many surprises took place, colourful daylight fireworks were sent high into the sky in ribbons of colour.

As soon as the Alouette had landed and the trucks had left the runway a group of Skydivers exited the Atlas Angel which had taken off earlier. One of the skydivers was flying the massive National Flag, Brian played the National Anthem as he descended which got all the patriotic spectators to their feet.

Mustang Sally the P51 Mustang owned and flown by businessman Menno Parsons was next on the programme. Mustang Sally has been away from the Airshow Circuit for the last few seasons due to major maintenance, it was great to see her back in the air the sound of that Rolls Royce Merlin motor will give any aviation enthusiast a serious case of goose-bumps.

In yet another return to the Airshow scene, this time due to illness, Gary Whitecross was towed into the Middelburg sky by Derek Hopkins. Gary performed graceful display of aerial ballet in his Pilatus B4 glider, Gary was flying the flag of PinkDrive, a cause that has become very personal to him since he was diagnosed with cancer himself over a year ago.

After the silence of the glider display things got pretty noisy with Team Xtreme showing of their skill in a brilliant display of hi-energy aerobatics. The two-ship formation was led by Nigel Hopkins in his Extra 330SC joined by Jason Beamish in his brand new Extra 330LX, Jason received his authority to fly this beast only hours before the show started, the aircraft had all of four hours on the Hobbs when he arrived at Middelburg.

The next aircraft were somewhat smaller but no less exciting than their full-scale counterparts. Phillip Lewis and Riaan le Hanie threw a RC scale RV4 and Yak 55 around the sky, and even did some formation flying which is incredible difficult with RC aircraft.

Scully Levin and Arnie Meneghelli displayed the abilities of the agile Pitts Special. It was great to see Arnie in the air after his horrific forced landing a few weeks ago, unfortunately Ellis Levin was not able to join the team as he wasn’t feeling well when they departed for the show.

Middelburg Airfield became a mini warzone with the simulated hi-jacking of an Atlas Angel, Anton van Willich responded in his Aérospatiale Gazelle with the assistance of Middelburg’s Hi risk Response team and Canine unit the Hi-jackers were quickly apprehended or eliminated.

The four ship Raptor Formation in a selection of vans RV aircraft were next to wow the large crowd, the Raptors made their return to the airshow circuit after a short break last year. Leading the team was Pierre Gouws in a RV8 flanked by Nigel Hopkins and Ryan Beaton and Trevor Warner in the box all in RV7’s. The Raptors took part in the World Formation Aerobatics Championships in China in 2017 and managed a fourth place, it’s great to see you guys back again.

Andre van Zyl in his maiden display, put on a wonderful show in his Magni Gyro. Andre was coached by Gyro Ace, Len Kloppers, only recently received his display rating we hope to see many displays in the future.

The children (of all ages) got a sweet surprise when Little Annie the famous Antanov AN2 dropped marshmallows over the large crowed, hours were spent before hand fastening streamers to each marshmallow. Little Annie is operated by Just Love Mission and travels all over South Africa and Neighbouring States giving orphan children the gift of flight.

After all the children settled down it was time for the Goodyear Eagles Pitts Special team to build the adrenaline levels, Glen Warden, Johan von Solms, Nigel Hopkins and Jason Beamish effortlessly threw these seventy plus year old machines around the sky in four ship aerobatic display to rival anything the world can offer.

From props to the first of the Jets, Mike Weingartz flew the last remaining Impala lead in trainer with the precision that has come from his 5000 plus Impala hours, Mike is the pilot with the most Impala hours anywhere in the world. This beautiful bird belongs to Pretoria businessman Dawid Lass and is one of the Impalas that was assembled by Dawid’s late farther when they were delivered to the SAAF many years ago.

The first session of this great show was closed off by the T6 Harvards of Puma Flying Lions, Scully Levin, Arnie Meneghelli and Sean Thackwray have been flying together for many years in the “School Masters of the Sky”, normally in a four-ship formation but unfortunately Ellis Levin didn’t join the team for this outing.

Middelburg Mayor Tsietsi Tolo accompanied by MMC Sonto Malepheng addressed the large crowd from the Capital Sounds Tower, the mayor welcomed everyone to Middelburg and thanked the organisers for brining this spectacle to their town in the heart of Mpumalanga.

After a short break to accommodate departures it was back to the action Gary Whitecross was once again towed into the sky by Derek Hopkins, this time to race a Rail Dragster. Gary dived down from high and pulled out at 240 Km/h and the race was on after a very close finish it was decided that the dragster just edged in front to take the win.

The next race on the cards was between Juba Joubert in a Aérospatiale Gazelle and a V8 Sprint Car that is used in Oval Track racing, the start timing was a bit off and the V8 left Juba in its wake. Another round of daylight firework was set off as the Sprint Car passed the Finnish line.

Veteran Pilot Flippie Vermeulen took to the now blue sky in Beech 18, Flippie is a retired SAA Captain and now operates Springbok Air Safaris out of Rand Airport. They specialise in scenic tours in classic early era airliners such as the Beech 18, Douglas DC4 Skymaster and the Iconic Douglas DC3 Dakota.

In an East meets West meeting Pierre Gouws, Glen Warden and Mike Wiengartz flew a magnificent display in three early generation jet aircraft. Pierre was flying a Soviet Block Aero L-39 Albatross, Glen in an Aero L-29 Delfin and representing the East was Mike in the Atlas Impala. The three aircraft flew a very impressive formation and later broke off for individual displays.

After the Jets it was time for a second helping of Extra action, Nigel and Jason once again had the crowd in awe with their flying skills. Team Xtreme’s famous double knife edge was taken to a new level with the firing of colourful daylight fireworks perfectly time as they passed by.

In its first outing the new “Naked” BatHawk flown by Bobby Rowe showed why its is the go-to aircraft for nature conservation organisation throughout Africa. Bobby was joined by Andrew Pappas in a standard BatHawk. The success of these versatile aircraft has put Micro Aviation and South Africa squarely on the map as aircraft designers and builders.

The show was brought to a close by a magnificent display by the Puma Flying Lions joined by the Beech 18, the sound of these Radial motors gracefully rumbling through the sunset skies to Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture was a thing of beauty, the fireworks set off every time they passed show centre made the experience that much more special.

After all the Aircraft were safely on the ground the show was officially closed with an epic fireworks display, while the fireworks display was happening a hot air balloon was inflated and added to the spectacle with its night glow.

To everyone involved thank you for a wonderful show, Richardt you and your team have certainly set the bar high for the other shows to follow this year.

Brian and the Capital Sounds team you exceled at this show the creativity shown in the choice of music made for a wonderful complete experience, and last but not least the display pilots you guys Rock!!!. No one could ask for a better opening show for the 2019 season.

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