By Garth Calitz, photos by Andre Venter and Louisa Bernard
The South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) hosted a successful aviation youth awareness expo to celebrate International Civil Aviation Day (ICAD) at Heidelberg Airfield on Friday and Saturday. ICAD is celebrated annually on 7 December to help generate and reinforce worldwide awareness of the importance of international civil aviation to the social and economic development of States, and of the unique role of ICAO in helping States to cooperate and realize a truly global rapid transit network at the service of all mankind.
On Friday school children were bussed in from all over Gauteng to attend the youth aviation awareness section of the celebrations, the South African Airforce and South African Police Services as well as many private aviation-related businesses were on hand to enlighten the children on the many aspects that make up the wonderful world of aviation.
Saturday was set aside mainly for aerial displays, this was by no means a full-on airshow as we have come to expect over the years, but for everyone there, it was exactly what the doctor ordered as Gauteng enthusiasts have been rather starved for aerial action since the onset of the pandemic.
The morning kicked off with a display jump by three SAPS task-force members, they exited an Airbus H125 Squirrel Helicopter, the exit was pretty low so they didn't really get a chance to free-fall. Once they had landed it was time for various dignitaries to address the guests in a marque placed just off the main display line.
Once the formalities were dispensed with it was time for the show to get underway in earnest. Menno Parsons took to the air in his Bell UH-1 Tiger Helicopter the sound of this monster beating the air into submission always invokes strange emotions.
While Menno was still in the air the sound of three Pratt n Whitney redials could be heard in the distance, as soon as the Huey landed the three-ship Puma Energy Flying Lions Harvard formation ran in for one of their signature performances. Scully Levin led the team and was joined by Arnie Meneghelli and Sean Thackeray.
The Goodyear Eagles were next to wow the relativity small crowd with their own brand of formation aerobatics the team for the day was made up of Dennis Spence, Jason Beamish and new member Gareth Gill. During their flight, a flock of Storks found a thermal very close to the display line but fortunately they didn’t stick around for too long.
The SAPS Task force skydivers then climbed into the Squirrel for yet another display jump, by this time the wind had picked up and the jumpers were dropped behind the crowd and had to make their way over them to land on the grass next to the runway.
Andre van Zyl then took to the air in his Magni Gyro, Andre has become a regular at any form of aviation demonstration throughout the length and breadth of South Africa and when he is not flying displays he is in the air assisting local policing at his home in Centurion.
Scully, Ellis and Sean returned in the Hired Gun Pitts Specials and performed a flawless display, Ellis Levin started Hired Gun Coffee when he was retrenched from SAA and like many other aviators had to find an alternative income source.
The weather was starting to build towards the North and we all were worried that Menno, who had left a little earlier in the Huey, wouldn’t be able to return with the well-loved Mustang Sally. These fears were baseless as in the distance the rumble of the V12 Merlin could be heard. Menno did a series of high-speed passes, a real goosebumps moment, the whistle of P51 gun barrels accompanied by the unmistakable growl of the Merlin is always something to behold.
Once the Mustang departed the Police Task force jumpers once again boarded the Squirrel for a jump, but once on the ground they waited for the squirrel to return and then took up their positions on the skids for a demonstration in a quick insurgency.
The wind had picked up to fairly uncomfortable levels by now and was pushing a massive thunderstorm towards the airfield, The Puma Energy Flying Lions did attempt a second show but had to knock it off as the storm was about to ruin everyone’s day. No sooner had they departed the airspace when the first drops began to fall, this was the cue for the spectators to run to their cars and head for home.
The people who did brave the storm were in for a treat, once the rain moved off to the south-east Dave Mandel took off in his stunning Aero L39 jet, the sight of the lightly coloured jet contrasting against the black sky was amazing and just top it all a wonderful rainbow had formed making the backdrop amazing.
The SACAA appear to be making a serious effort to bridge the animosity that has developed between them and the GA community, events like this are going a long way to achieve this goal. Well done to the SACAA team, ASSA and Heidelberg Flying Club for putting together a fun-filled and informative expo.
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