By Garth Calitz
Newcastle Airshow started in the heyday of South African Airshows when the KZN Winter Airshow Tour was sponsored by the KZN provincial government. Sadly, that came to an end when the funding was pulled, Johann Pieterse and his team decided to continue with the Newcastle airshow and they have presented their tenth airshow this year.
With the current fuel price and rising cost of flying airshows are becoming very difficult to host the cost has become prohibitive, especially for the smaller airfields, sponsorship for these events is a must if they are to continue in future. Despite all these challenges the team at Newcastle managed to still put on a very good event.
The Airshow was officially opened by LtGen Wiseman Mbambo, the current chief of the Airforce. Gen Mbambo hails from the region and has always had a soft spot for the Newcastle Airshow and as a result, is more open to approving SAAF participation at the show. This year the SAAF were once again present with two Agusta A109s and Two Hawk lead-in trainers that did two wonderful displays.
The massive South African flag never fails to impress as it is flown under parachute by Ralph Ridge, he and his fellow skydivers jumped for a Cessna 206 Stationair, It must have been really cold when they reached altitude. Brian Emmenis and his team from Capital Sounds are getting really good at starting the National Anthem at precisely the correct time so Ralph can reach the ground and drop the flag on the last note of the anthem.
Once all the skydivers were safe on the ground the two SAAF BAE Hawks flew in for the first of their displays, both the Hawks were sporting external drop tanks as they had flown all the way from AFB Makhado. By this time the crowd was really beginning to grow, in an attempt to nurture aviation awareness the organizers decided to not charge children under sixteen years of age.
The Goodyear Eagles took to the crisp morning air with a separably flown two-ship formation, Trevor Warner and Johan “Solly” von Solms threw the Pitts Specials around the sky showing off both the aircraft and their own abilities. Andre van Zyl had the crowd gasping in disbelief when he performed gravity-defying manoeuvres in his Magni Gyro.
While Andre was entraining the crowd Scully Levine, Arnie Meneghelli and Sean Thackwray started up the Harvards for the Puma Flying Lions display, unfortunately, Ellis Levine was unable to join the rest of the team at Newcastle. The Flying Lions as per usual did not disappoint, the Puma Energy Flying Lions have always been a firm airshow favourite.
Andre Coetzee, the executive chairman of Henley Air took to the beautiful blue sky in a Bell 222, Henley Air is the largest operator of Bell 222 and 230s in the world, many of them being used as medical transport under the banner of the newly formed Rocket HEMS.
Trevor Warner and Johann von Solms then took to the air in their RV7s flying yet another very entraining display, the Vans RV range of aircraft proved their awesome abilities and have over the years become the most popular home built aircraft all over the world.
Dave Mandell was next up in his Aero L-39 Albatross and after a stunning display things took a bit of a turn for the bad. When Dave landed he suffered a blow-out on his port side main gear forcing him onto the grass next to the runway, he handled it very well bringing the aircraft to a halt safely. This led to quite a lengthy delay before the safety team, led by Rikus Erasmus, gave the go-ahead for the show to continue.
After the break Ivan van der Schaar took to the Newcastle sky in his Boeing Stearman, Ivan’s display was very well narrated by his son Jeandre. Ivan and Jeandre are hoping to get clearance to perform a father and son display in the near future, Jeandre will be flying an RC aircraft while Ivan is performing the same display in the Stearman.
Andre Coetzee took the Bell 222 up for his second display followed by a second RV Display by Trevor and Solly. Johann “Juba” Joubert showed what an ex SAAF Aérospatiale Alouette II was capable of in the right hands, Juba has quite a resume having flown a wide selection of helicopters all over the world including many Eastern block Helicopters.
After this breathtaking display, it was time for Andre van Zyl to once again entertain the crowd with the abilities of the Magni Gyro. Followed by a second display of the Boeing Stearman.
The three-ship Harvard formation then took to the air for a flat display concluded with a very sombre missing man formation for Mark “Sammy” Sampson who was tragically killed in an accident while performing in Harare. The Marksmen Aerobatic team, a four-ship high energy display team, were scheduled to be the headline event at the airshow but sadly tragedy struck on their return from Nairobi in the preceding week. Our heartfelt condolences go to Sammy’s family, friends and his teammates Mark Hensman, Eugene du Preez and Marty Schultz.
A very successful Newcastle Airshow was closed off with a second display by the Hawks from 85 Combat Flying School. Well done to the team for pushing ahead and delivering a beautiful spectacle and promoting aviation to the youth in the area. Special thanks to Andre Burger and David Toma for allowing me to tag along too and from Newcastle.