After a very busy few weeks the South African Airshow Machine made its way to the Northern KwaZulu Natal town of Newcastle for what was the only airshow planned for KZN this year. Johan Peters assisted by his team of dedicated volunteers worked tirelessly for the last few months to prepare for the show. This year with the assistance of the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs of KwaZulu Natal, KwaZulu Natal Tourism, and the Champ Group of companies it was decided that entrance would be for free to the community.
The eagerly anticipated spectacle was kicked of with a rendition of the National Anthem performed by the Newcastle High School, as the massive South African flag slowly descended to the airfield. Ralph Ridge uses a tandem canopy when flying the 82kg flag. The team of skydivers were taken to jump altitude in a C182 that had to be brought in on short notice from Pietermaritzburg after Little Annie the famous Antonov AN2 experienced technical problems on the journey from Pretoria.
The Silver Falcons team #82 were next on the programme, originally the plan was for them to be joined by a SAA Airbus A320, unfortunately the Airbus was cancelled, and the team performed their normal polished display. Team #82 led by Major Omphile Matloane recently took part in the presidential Inauguration flypast in Pretoria, formatting on an Airbus A340-600 and joined by yet another A340-600, something that is not often seen anywhere in the world.
The current SAAF initial trainer was followed by the previous SAAF initial trainer in the form of the Puma Energy Flying Lions. Scully Levin, Arnie Meneghelli and Sean Thackwray have been performing in these amazing aircraft for many years and displaying so early in the morning was a wonderful advert for any locals that didn’t know about the airshow, the sound of Harvard’s in the sky will get anyone’s attention.
As the Harvard’s landed everyone’s eyes were turned high in the sky as Gary Whitecross Started his graceful display of energy management in his Pilatus B4 glider, Gary is currently the only certified glider aerobatics instructor in South Africa and his abilities with his glider are fast becoming legendary. Derek Hopkins flying a locally manufactured Lambada Motor glider ensured Gary had the necessary altitude for his display.
Nigel Hopkins our recently crowned South African unlimited aerobatics champion took to the beautiful cloudless Newcastle sky in a magnificent solo display of the Extra 330Sc’s agility, Nigel has a zero foot rating which means his display is flown without any height restrictions. Nigel’s display was concluded with a race against a dragster driven by
Just prior to Nigel’s display a SAAF Casa 212 got airborne carrying a load of military skydivers who exited the light transport aircraft as soon as Nigel landed. The team of Skydivers was made up of SA Army special forces jumpers as well as members of the SAAF Golden Eagles skydiving team. Once all the skydivers had landed safely the 44 Squadron Casa did a low-level flypast with daylight fireworks, all under the watchful eye of the Chief of the Airforce, Lt Gen Fabian "Zakes" Msimang accompanied by his wife Africa.
Major Lee-Roy “Shinobi” Goosen made an appearance in a 2 Squadron JAS39 Gripen, He and his “backseater”, LT Col Marc “Bluebird” Wilson, flew from their home base at Air Force Base Makhado did their display and then promptly went back, hence the long-range belly tank they were carrying. Maj Mandisa “Comet” Mfeka, South Africa’s first black female fighter pilot watched the display with excitement, knowing that she will soon be strapping into the cockpit of a Gripen, she was joined by the first black female commander of a C130 Hercules, Maj Nandi Zuma.
After the excitement of the jet display the Goodyear Eagles took to the sky with an excellent four ship display, the team was led by retired fighter pilot Glen Warden he was joined by Nigel Hopkins, Johan von Solms and Jason Beamish. The double heart had the crowd cheering.
Andre van Zyl in his Magni Gyro seems to be getting better and better with every display, he manages to manoeuvre the machine in ways that most people wouldn’t have expected was possible in a Gyro. Andre was followed by Andrew Blackwood Murry in his Nashua sponsored Extra 300L Andrew currently competes at the intermediate level on the South African aerobatics championships and recently achieved a fourth place in the Free State Regionals.
Andrew had just landed when the crowd erupted in applause when the SA Airlink Embraer E190 approached from behind and delivered a beautiful low-level display in this graceful airliner. Sa Airlink operate the E190 on many local and regional routes including a weekly flight to the Island of St Helena.
A short break in the programme allowed for departures including the Chief of the Airforce in 21 Squadron Pilatus PC12, the runway then belonged to the “Motorheads” with a series of drag races in a selection of cars including a beautifully restored 1950’s Studebaker Golden Hawk.
After the break it was time for some Eastern Block power in the form of an Aero L-29 Delfín expertly flown by Glen Warden. This L-29 was part of the Sasol Tigers display team that was disbanded a few years ago.
The Vans RV Raptor team were the next team to wow the crowd, the Raptors have been displaying for the last few seasons and took part in the World Formation Aerobatics Championships in China three years ago. Jason Beamish joined them as soloist in his Extra 330Lx.
Ivan van der Schaar in his Boeing Stearman was the next act to get airborne the programme had seemed to have gone a bit out of whack as there were long gaps between each display and the spectators definitely picked up on it as the crowd started to shrink. Ivan nevertheless put on one of the best displays I have ever seen him perform in this beautiful old bird.
The Magni Gyro piloted by Andre van Zyl took to the sky for his second display followed by a brilliant display of unlimited freestyle aerobatics by Barrie Eels in his Extra 330Sc, Barrie is one of only three pilots in South Africa competing in the Unlimited Aerobatics Class and is edging very close to the illusive 80% mark.
The Goodyer Eagles went out for a second display in their Pitts Specials followed by another helping of the Aero L-29 Delfín once again flown by Glen Warden. The Military Skydivers then did a second drop from the CASA 212As well as another display by Andrew Blackwood Murry in his Extra 300L.
In a rare treat the RV Raptors joined the Team Xtreme for a eight ship loop before the RV’s broke off and cleared the airspace for Team Xtreme to perform their highly polished sequence including their trade mark double Knife edge by Nigel Hopkins and Jason Beamish, Mark Sampson did a hi-speed knife edge next to Mark Hensman flying inverted. Unfortunately, the lack of wind tended to create IMC conditions with all the smoke laid down by the team.
As the sun started to set Menno Parsons got airborne with the one and only Mustang Sally, the P51 Mustang always creates excitement, the sound of a Rolls Royce Merlin at full tilt is something any aviation lover will always appreciate.
After a stressful forty minute aero-tow Derek Hopkins finally got to release Gary for his second display of the day which was to end with a race against a drag car, but this was called off at the last minute. Gary’s display in the late afternoon sun was something to behold.
The show was then closed off with a Sliver Falcons display, they could easily have changed their name to the “Golden Falcons” for this display, the late afternoon sun reflected a beautiful golden glow off the Pilatus Pc7 Astra’s.
Brian Emmenis and his very professional team once again kept the crowd informed and entertained throughout the day with their wonderful choice of music to accompany the displays. Hopefully some of the young people that attended were inspired to go forward and seek out careers in the aviation sector weather in the military or in the civilian sector.
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