As the SA National aerobatics championships wound down the crowd slowly trickled into the PC Pelser Aerodrome in Kleksdorp for the first airshow to be held there since the fatal accident in 2012.
This year the Sport Aerobatic Club decided to end the weeklong competition with an airshow in a bid to create awareness for the sport of aerobatics.
The gates opened at 7:00 and by this time many of the aerobatic pilots were already busy with final preparation on there machines for the final round of the competition. After a short briefing it was time to fly, the Competition took the greater part of the morning.
Once the Aresti part of the SA Nationals was done and dusted it was time for the airshow to start in earnest, the first display to take to the perfect blue skies was Team X-Treme with their own brand of Hi-Energy formation flying, all the members of the team had taken part in the competition. Team X-Treme are, without a shadow of a doubt, the best and most polished act on the local airshow circuit and they definitely deliver a world class act. Their signature low-level knife-edge manoeuvres have become a talking point after every show.
Ivan van der Schaar in his Boeing Stearman (AKA Schaarman) was next to entertain the growing crowd with his display of graceful loops and barrel rolls, the sound of this “old lady” of the air stirs the soul of any aviation enthusiast.
The scale of things took a slight drop in size with a display of Large scale RC aerobatics by one of SA’s best RC pilots. Large Scale Aerobatics is one of the fastest growing categories in RC aviation in South Africa.
The Puma Energy Flying Lions completed the first section of the Airshow, Scully Levin, Arnie Meneghelli and Sean Thackwray delivered a flawless three ship display. The Harvard’s have been thrilling crowds for 20 years at airshows all over Southern Africa.
Once the Harvard’s had landed and the smoke cleared it was time for the last section of the SA Nationals, The Four Minute Freestyle, each pilot gets four minutes to impress the judges with a sequence of their choice fitting in as many manoeuvres as they can. Patrick Davidson was the first pilot to punch a hole in the Northwest sky, and this in his brand new Gamebird GB1. Patrick had just returned from Kazan, Russia where he achieved a brilliant second place in the Red Bull Air Race Challenger series. The Freestyle competition is very crowd friendly as it is flown pretty low, compared to the Aresti competition and of course they fly it with smoke on.
Barrie Eels was the second pilot to strut his stuff, Barrie is a businessman from Walkerville in Gauteng and competed in his beautiful Extra 330Sc. He has competed at every level of competition and has represented South Africa on the world stage as well.
Next up was in all probability the greatest freestyle pilot ever to emerge out of South Africa, Nigel Hopkins. Nigel narrowly missed out on a bronze medal in the 2018 World championships, and when I say narrowly, I mean by less the a tenth of a percentage point. In the lead up 2016 world Nigel’s MX2 suffered a catastrophic structural failure and he had to parachute to safety unfortunately eliminating him from the competition.
Nigel’s brilliant sequence was followed by Mark Hensman in the only remaining MX2 in South Africa, Mark is an Airline pilot and spent a few years on the Red Bull Air Race circuit as an engineer for Zimbabwe pilot Nigel Lamb.
The final entrant in the Freestyle competition was Mark Sampson in his X-treme Air Sbach, The Sbach was designed by Philipp Steinbach who also designed the Gamebrid that Patrick flew. Mark currently flies a Boeing 747-400 for Cathay Pacific.
Once the Freestyle Competition was out of the way it was time for the Airshow to continue, the RV Raptors were next on the programme, the team was led by Nigel Hopkins he was joined by Ryan Beaton, Trevor Warner and Johan von Solms all flying in RV7’s.
Oscar Goudriaan, the many times National and World champion glider pilot displayed the latest marvel to come out of the Jonkers Stable in Potchefstroom, this jet powered glider is really something to behold. Oscar was aerotowed by a Zenith and once released he fired up the tiny turbine motor which is positioned on top of the aircraft just behind the canopy.
The silence of the Glider was shattered as the wonderful sound of a Rolls Royce Merlin filled the air; Menno Parsons flew a beautiful display in his beloved P51 “Mustang Sally”. Watching this stunning WWII machine slice though the air will never fail to impress, a real “Goosebump” moment. Menno has an impressive list of aircraft in his stable, but I do believe the Mustang is his personal favourite.
Nigel Hopkins, Jason Beamish and Johan von Solms were at it again this time in the Goodyear Eagles Pitts special team, the success of the Pitts as an aerobatic aircraft is legendary and it still baffles people when they learn that this design is seventy- five years old and is still much the same aircraft that was produced then.
Throughout the day members of the public were treated to short helicopter flights in a Bell 206L operated by Henley Air, for many of the pax this was their first flight in a helicopter and for some the first taste of flight of any kind.
The display’s continued to flow with no quiet periods at all, the show was very well coordinated with aircraft getting airborne while the previous display was busy, credit must go to the team of Cliff Lotter and François “Hosepipe” Hanekom for keeping the show on time( actually having to make up time as the competition went on for longer than planned).
Andrew Blackwood Murry was the next act to wow the Klerksdorp locals, Andrew flew a solo display in his Nashua sponsored Extra 300L, When Andrew ids not throwing his Extra around the sky, he flies a Boeing 737 for SAA Cargo.
The crowed made a mad dash for the front of the line when Brian Emmenis from Capital Sounds announced that there would be a plane and car race. Barrie Eels, flying Nigel Hopkins’ Porsche sponsored Extra 330Sc was to race against a highly modified Toyota Corolla. As could be expected the Extra was much faster but the Toyota manged to turn much quicker.
With the race complete the organisers made provision for departing aircraft to leave as they had to reach their destination with some daylight to spare, the show however was by no means over. Menno Parsons was at it again this time in his personal Pilatus PC12. The PC12 is one of the most successful single engine turbine aircraft ever built and is extensively used for medivac flights worldwide as it is able to negotiate unpaved rough airstrips without any problems.
After the smooth sound of the PT6 on the PC12 it was time for some Russian Muscle, Nigel Hopkins, Jason Beamish and Mark Hensman delivered a beautiful display in three Yak 55’s, this is something we haven’t seen at an airshow anywhere in South Africa for quite a while.
Trevor Warner the did a solo display in his Vans RV7 followed by a display in rotar-wing agility the magnificent Bell 206L that had been treating people to flights the whole day took on a different personality as it was thrown around the blue sky.
The show was then closed off with a second display by Menno in Mustang Sally followed by another hi-energy display by Team X-Treme. Well done to Cliff Lotter and team for a putting on a Brilliant Airshow and SA National Aerobatics competition.
From a personal note I would like to thank Werner from DJA Aircraft Insurance for taking care of the members of the media the constant flow of substance was greatly appreciated.
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