The Bethlehem Air Show hosted on the 1st of September 2012 had something for everyone to see. The air show acts on the day were more than we could have asked for and included the Eqstra Harvard team, The GoodYear Pitts Special team, The Gabriel Pitts Special team, Neville Ferreira in his Yak 55, Brad Bennetts in his Extra 300, The Silver Falcons in their PC-7 Astra's, Shark in a SAAF Hawk, Pierre Gouws in a L-39 and also led a three-ship T28 formation, Mike Weingartz in an Impala and South Africa's best - Nigel Hopkins in his MX-2.
One thing the organizers did not get right was the wind on the day. Conditions were terrible to say the least and certainly made it challenging for the display pilots to keep their formations together, maintain a safe distance from the crowd and deliver a good performance. However, this is South Africa's best and they did not disappoint. Scully Levin landed on a moving truck in these conditions proving once again that aviation is in his blood.
I think that the organizers may be a little disappointed with the spectator attendance and the strong and unpleasant wind must have been the major deterrent. Only five non-participating aircraft flew in for the day and I suppose that the Bethlehem fiasco of a few years ago is still fresh in everyone's mind. It is sad and it only confirms the saying “Do something good and nobody remembers - Do something wrong and nobody forgets”.
The Silver Falcons flying the Astra PC-7 flew a few flawless displays in truly poor conditions. The crowd was also thrilled when the Silver Falcons approached later in the afternoon with a SAAF Hawk in the center of the formation. The Hawk flew in from Bloemfontein and also delivered a thundering display which included a touch - and - go.
Shortly after lunchtime a simulated warfare with soldiers brought in by a UN Oryx, gunfire, explosive experts and a bomb disarming demonstration had the crowd back on their feet.
Two ex-military jets now in private hands performed at the show. Pierre Gouws flew a L-39 with some fast and energetic manoeuvres while Mike Weingartz brought back fond memories when he took an Impala through its paces.
Who doesn't like the sound of radial engines or even better, that of a Rolls Royce Merlin? Well, there was plenty of that at the show with six Harvards performing, three T-28 Trojans and “Mustang Sally”, a P-51D flown by Menno Parsons.
An air show will be incomplete without the Pitts Special teams and both the GoodYear and Gabriel formation aerobatic teams showed their skills a few times during the day.
But the cream of the crop is still Nigel Hopkins in his MX-2 and Brad Bennetts in his Extra 300. Nigel flew a brief formation with a Cirrus and then continued with a breathless solo display. Nigel was certainly the talk of the day. Brad's displays never fail to impress with low level inverted flights, complex manoeuvres and his signature side-slip. Brad also took part in an airplane & car race adding more excitement to the day.