AAD 2012 featured many international exhibitors and visitors during the trade days but it was mostly the South African participation that entertained the crowd on the public air show days. Although I was originally disappointed by the absence of the Americans and Europeans, South Africa once again demonstrated that we are independent and can stage a world class event even if it is with our own inventions developed during the years of isolation.
The air show had a shaky start on Saturday the 22nd of September when we woke up with poor weather and rain but I will be surprised if the organizers did not exceed their 100,000 visitor expectation on the day. The rain did not delay the proceedings either although the first hour saw visitors seeking shelter from sporadic downpour. Fortunately, by lunch time the ordered weather arrived and we had blue skies for the rest of the day.
The show was opened with a mass parachuting display and all of the initial acts performed in the drizzle. I must say that these guys demonstrated their professionalism once again by performing flawlessly in these adverse conditions. Unfortunately the rain did not offer any award winning photographic opportunities but we still enjoyed it.
I am not sure what the most fascinating part of was. Was it the flying, the thundering sound or the colour schemes?
Several of the SAAF Museum aircraft participated throughout the day and their contribution included an Alouette II, Alouette III, Oryx and the favourite Vampire.
The Silver Falcons graced the skies several times during the show and twice with two unusual additions in close formation. The first was with their C47TP painted in the Silver Falcon colour scheme and the second was with the SAA Olympic Dream, an Airbus A340.
The South African Police Service showcased their capability with the SAPS parachuting team skydiving from a helicopter, a car chase on the runway and their special task force being deployed by helicopter during this exciting display.
AAD showcased the first real “simulated war” (excuse the punt). During this exercise we saw a C130 deploying troops, a Casa dropping supplies, an Oryx delivering small army vehicles, Rooivalk attack helicopters providing air support, an Olifant tank performing ground attacks, a Rooikat, a Ratel and explosions galore. Wow, this was truly well done and to all those involved we want you to know that this was way beyond what we have seen before.
Of course the jets were what most came to see and there were more than enough throughout the show. The Gripen flew many awesome displays with lots of noise, steep turns, vertical climbs and the jettison of flares.
The Hawk was also a frequent performer during the show and it impresses me more and more every time I see it. The Zimbabwean Air Force displayed a K-8, an Impala flew solo and in formation and so did a L-29 and two Vampires.
The Gripen is a fourth generation fighter aircraft and very impressive but it is the Cheetah that gives us goosebumps. I am not sure if it is the sound, the looks or just the nostalgia that still make this one of the most popular jets of our heritage. Regardless of what it is, it had everyone on their feet when the heat was on.
Other performers included a PAC-750, MX-2, Cirrus, P-51D Mustang, Slick 360, GoodYear Pitts special formation, Eqstra Harvard formation, and a rather exciting performance by some motorised paragliders.
The day was closed with two jet formations. The first was a formation with two Vampires, an Impala and a L-29. The second formation was led by a Cheetah with two Hawks and a Gripen at the rear.