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Parys Airshow 2023 – A New Standard Has Been Set

By Garth Calitz, Photos by Andre Venter and Tim Homman

Parys situated just South of the Free State province border from Gauteng is normally a quiet weekend getaway destination for Gautengers that want to leave the Rat race behind them for a day or two. This past weekend that was definitely not the case, aircraft made their way there from all over the country to experience one of the best airshows we have seen in a long time.

I left Pretoria at 6:00 making sure I had enough time to comfortably drive the 150km and arrive before the 8:00 briefing. The weather was pleasant with a very comfortable 13° on departure, that all changed as soon as I crossed the Vaal River the temperature dropped to 3° a typical Free State welcome this time of the year. Arriving at the airfield one could feel the anticipation the local Vaal Triangle aviation enthusiasts were out in full force and the queues were already starting to grow. Parys Airshow in 2022 was very successful so it came as no surprise to see people hungry for another dose of excitement.

The show started off at exactly 10:00 with a skydiving display by the local skydiving club exiting the club's turbine Trojan. The Trojan is a tricycle version of the SAAF Kudu that was purchased by the Rhodesian Airforce, the name came about as an order of T28 Trojans was cancelled due to US sanctions and they were replaced by Aermacchi AL-60F-5 which then got the name Trojan. One of the three jumpers arrived pretty fast and made a rather hard acquaintance with the tarred taxiway.

As soon as all the skydivers landed the Puma Energy Flying Lions started up for their display, Arnie Meneghelli over-primed his Harvard slightly and it discharged a spectacular flame out of the exhaust. The weather had warmed significantly leaving an absolutely perfect day for an airshow.

While the Flying Lions were performing impressive display Andrew Black-wood-Murray was preparing to get airborne in his Nashua Sponsored Extra 300, Andrew showed off the skills that have earned him a place on the South African team that will be competing in the Advanced World Aerobatic Championships later this year in Las Vegas.

The Airshow Director managed to keep the show flowing with very little quiet time between displays, Andrew had bearly landed and the RV Raptor formation had taken to the air and went directly into their display. Trevor Warner, Ryan Beaton, Dion Raath and Johan von Solms arranged their normal display going directly into a tail-chase ad finishing with formation aerobatics.

Menno Parson took to the air in his Bell Huey, the sound of this machine is always a crowd favourite, the Huey display had to be cut a bit short due to a “student pilot” taking a Rainbow Skyreach Bush Cat for an unauthorised flip, Sally Levin had to talk the rouge student down and after multiple hairy approaches, he finally got the little aircraft safely on the ground. It turns out the student was Jason Beamish a very accomplished aerobatics and airshow pilot.

While Sally was giving Jason a rather forceful post-flight debrief Filppie Vermeulen taxied out with the Springbok Classic Air’s Beech E18, once airborne he delivered a graceful display of the abilities of this airliner from yesteryear.

As a show of abilities goes, not many can top the display by Andre van Zyl in his Magni Gyro, Andre has become a regular on the airshow scene in the last few years. An Attractor AT-402B and a Robinson R44 gave the public a glimpse into the world of the crop spraying pilot with a wonderful display of the skill and control needed in agricultural flying.

The South African Airforce decided to grace the Parys public with a display from the mighty Rooivalk and a BK117 helicopter. It was great to see these war birds in action especially the Rooivalk playing hide and seek behind a sand mound and then a big tree. The BK117 was very well executed with a host of wingovers and high-speed passes.

As the shadows started getting a bit longer the air filled up with the sound of hi-performance aerobatics aircraft, the Hired Gun Pitts Special team are one of the favourites on the airshow circuit and has been for many years. They were followed by one of the newest acts to join the airshow circus, Ivan and his son Jeandre van der Schaar flying a Boeing Stearman and an RC Extra 300, as far as I know, this is the only display where radio-controlled aircraft join their full-scale brothers in the same airspace.

Three de Haviland Chipmunks took to the air expertly flown by Steve Brown, Rodney Chinn and Grant Timms in rather nasty windy conditions, they were being bounced around but still managed to stick very tight. Sticking with the vintage war birds Menno Parsons arrived with his P51 Mustang performing a series of high-speed passes and rolls. The sound of the Rolls Royce Merlin engine roaring seems to always create excitement.

Scully Levine got airborne in a Cirrus SR22 to show off the abilities of the luxurious four-seater speed machine, the SR22 series has been the world's best-selling general aviation aircraft every year since 2003.

Rocket HEMS displayed their brand new Bell 230 helicopter, this amazing machine is earmarked to be used for a very special purpose that will be disclosed at a later stage, the aircraft paintwork was inspired by children’s art. Henley Air kindly took some lucky spectators for a flight around the area in this remarkable helicopter.

The oldest continuously sponsored display team in the country then took to the sky, The Goodyear Eagles team pilots may have changed over the years but the quality of their displays is still as good as ever. The display on Saturday was flown by Jason Beamish and Johan von Solms.

The Parys faithful were then treated to a second display by Andrew Balckwood-Murray followed by a flight of two pre-war de Havilland Tiger Moths flown by Grant Timms and Steve Brown.

Once the historic Tiger Moths landed it was time for Johan "Juba" Joubert to display exactly what is possible in an Aérospatiale Gazelle, these manoeuvres are possible but definitely not for inexperienced pilots, Juba has 1000s of hours of operational flying where he has honed these skills.

As the show was reaching a close some people started to head for the gates but quickly made a U-turn when Brian Emmenis announced that a very special visitor was expected. Arnie Meneghelli, Scully Levin, Sean Thackwray and Ellis Levin kept the interest with a second Flying Lions display. While the Flying Lions were busy with their last manoeuvres the special guest could be seen in the distance. Denis Spence was busy forming up with the Goodyear Eagles he was in a Boeing 737-300, the formation made its way to the airfield and did a series of passes before a spectacular break. Denis then performed some dirty passes before slapping on the power for a spiral climb and return flight to OR Tambo.

This brought a spectacular show to a close, the 2023 Smoke on Go Parys Airshow will definitely be remembered for being one of the greats. Everyone involved in the planning and exaction of this show must be commended on their brilliant work.

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