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ABSA -Kishugu Lowveld Airshow – Fast and Furious

An air show is an air show is an air show and how does one top the best air show 2018 in SA?

Let me put that opening statement into perspective. In South Africa we only have so many air show rated pilots, air show aircraft and Sponsors.

We as media are very blessed to be able to watch many shows a year.

I digress slightly, when I get bored or complacent when watching shows I remind myself how much I love the smell of burnt Jet A1 and the sound of those Pratt and Whitney radials and Bam!! my feet are back on the ground, but this is me.

How does one stand out from the crowd and as an airshow?

How do we create the hype to break the mould where attending public say, “it is the same planes and acts why must I pay to go and see the same”?

Yes, we go to beautiful settings like Stellenbosch and Salt pans in the middle of nowhere, but none have a theme or something different a Jenesaisqua.

Let me explain further, two years ago the Kishugu Lowveld show placed tables on the runway (after the show of course)for a VIP dinner experience under the stars in the lowveld. Last year they drove a flatbed horse and trailer in front of the crowd (again after the show) with a rock band on the back for a rock the runway experience.

This year the theme was a fast and furious.

With lots of fast and a lot of furious.

One has to pay credit where credit is due. To try something new the 2019 ABSA and Kishugu Lowveld air show turned the traditional air show on its head.

The show only started at 2pm instead of 8 am so they had no repeat flying displays.

They had Jacaranda FM broadcasting and DJ’ing till way after the fireworks display.

I think there is room for change in all that we do, and we live and learn however one must realize what it is we want to be.

Having said that, the nice thing this year is that the show started at a more reasonable time and because we finished so late us media guys were able to catch the golden hour in our photos.

The Show started at exactly 2:00 with radio controlled aircraft flown by the local RC club, followed by a BMW bike run down the runway, the bikers took full advantage as its not often they get the privilege to race down the runway of an active airport.

The emergency service guys did their customary emergency drill as was practiced the day before and then “Little Annie” the famous Antonov AN2 drop a load of skydivers, the massive 83kg South African flag was carried by a parachutist as the Goodyear Eagles Pitts Special team flew a wide loop around the flag as it descended to the earth.

Andrew Blackwood- Murry in his Nashua Extra 300 was next on the programme, we all realised something was going to be different about this show when Andrew got airborne low level while the Pitts’ were in full swing.

The heritage plane display comprising the “Little Annie” a Yak 18T, Boeing Stearman and the Husky entered the “box” as Andrew called complete, this truly was a fast paced show. During the Heritage plane display the first of many daylight fireworks were let off, with ribbons of coloured smoke being shot high into the Lowveld sky. Each aircraft then broke off to complete a solo display.

Next up was a beautiful display by Gary Whitecross in his Pilates B4. With both planes on climb out and at a height of no higher than 500ft AGL Derek Hopkins calmly reported on the radio that he had engine trouble, Gary released and had to perform a very tricky teardrop to return to the runway. Derek with his spluttering engine also managed to turnaround and land downwind very closely behind Gary. This is a classic case of being prepared for an emergency, having a plan if does happen, having decision heights where one moves from one plan to another and following the plan. Well done gentleman you make us proud. This so easily could have gone so badly wrong.

The Goodyear Pitts team of Nigel Hopkins, Jason Beamish and Johan von Solms entered the box for their display as they had still been holding from the opening skydiver act, while they were in their routine the heritage planes came into land keeping the fast paced nature of the show flowing.

A Duet of Kit Foxes were the next to wow the growing crowd with the amazing agility of this light sport aircraft. Both the Kit Foxes are based locally at Nelspruit Airport. No sooner had they called complete when Andrew Pappas and Bobby Rowe entered the fray with a proud product of Nelspruit. The Bat Hawks are built at a factory not far from the airport known as Bat Hawk City. Andrew and his son have managed to design and build a wonderful aircraft which is now being utilised all over Africa and they have recently armed them with large calibre machine guns and even rocket launchers.

The Flying Lions expertly flown by Scully Levin, Ellis Levin, Arnie Meneghelli and Sean Thackwray as always delivered a smooth, tight and polished performance. The Flying lions have recently signed and extended contract with Puma Energies, so we are guaranteed to see them for many years to come.

The Nelspruit Airport was then plunged into a scene taking place all to often in the African bush and especially in the Kruger National Park. Poachers had just killed a Rhino and were in the process of removing the horn when members of the SANDF came across them and engaged, one of the poachers was wounded and the other decided to run. The well trained dog of the anti-poaching unit made short work of bringing him down and he was promptly arrested. They were then backed up by members of SA Army Para bat units unconventionally deployed from an AN2.

As soon as the troops left the scene the Raptors and Team Xtreme got airborne and performed something never been seen on the airshow circuit in South Africa. Both teams formatted and commenced a nine ship loop this was truly a treat to watch. Team Xtreme then broke off and went into a hold while the Raptors put on a great display with five aircraft and not their usual four. Pierre Gouws the leader was followed through their display by Ryan Beaton, Trevor Warner, Dion Raath and the newbie in the team Johan von Solms.

As soon as The Raptors exited the airspace Team Xtreme ran in for a high energy display, Nigel Hopkins, Jason Beamish, Mark Hensman and Mark Sampson delivered a brilliant display of formation aerobatics the likes of which can only be achieved by pilots that spend many hours practicing together. For Mark Sampson this was a special display as it was the first time, he displayed in his newly painted XtremeAir Sbach.

In yet another first the Tail Lift Flying Cows, flown by Scully, Sean and marking the welcome return of Scully’s daughter Sally were joined by Arnie and Ellis in two Extra 300’s. Their display really seemed to step up a notch, as soon as on formation left the airspace the other would run in. Ellis and Arnie attempted a double inverted line cut with the extras something that has never been attempted at an airshow in South Africa.

Not to be outdone the fling-wing guys showed what they are capable of, Johan “Juba” Joubert in the Gazelle as usual showed why he is respected as one of the greatest helicopter pilots on this planet. Juba raced against a tag team from Jaguar consisting of a Jaguar I-Pace and the F type. The Jaguar team was declared the winner after a photo finish.

After the very fast and furious race things slowed down considerably when Jon-Marc Hill and Keith Fryer flew Little Annie low over the crowd and dropped a load of marshmallows each one individually wrapped and attached to a parachute.

Juba in the Gazelle returned and brought some of his friends with him Enstrom with a crop spraying kit, an Airbus Ecureuil and a UH1 from the Kishugu Stable, its always a beautiful sight to see helicopters flying in formation.

Sa Airlink joined the party in an Embraer E190, this must be one of the most beautiful airliners ever built, Capt. Jaco Henning put this graceful aircraft through a series of low-level passes before lining up for a simulated touch and go, the aircraft presented so well in the late afternoon sun.

Pierre Gouws and Mike Wiengaartz took everyone by surprise as the entered low level with the Aero L39 and the Atlas Impala, both of these aircraft were used as lead in trainers for jet pilots but in opposite sides of the world.

As the light started to fade Kishugu put up three of their Working on Fire Bell Huey’s, If the sound of these iconic helicopters doesn’t move your soul, I’m sorry to say you don’t posses one. After a simulated fire bombing run, they lined up and the last of the daylight fireworks were shot off making for wonderful photo opportunities.

The Puma Energies Flying Lions closed off the flying part of the programme with a spectacular display of formation flying accompanied by fireworks as they passed show centre. What a fitting way to end a high energy fast paced Airshow.

When the Harvard’s were safe on the ground things got very loud, the lowveld Airshow is becoming well known for its awesome fireworks displays and this year was no exception. The spectacle had adult and child standing with eyes pointed upwards not saying a word.

Big thanks need to go to:

Monic Fourie from Kishugu for all the arrangements for all of us.

Absa and Kishugu for their financial involvement as these events cost a fortune to host.

Koos Kiek and his team for keeping the show safe and running smoothly.

All the aviators and of course the spectators without them there would be no show and Mr Airshow himself Brian Emmenis and the Capital sounds team you took the changes in your stride and showed great restraint and Guidance; Well done!

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