The Virginia Airshow, the last of seven shows in the KZN Winter tour closed a successful seven shows back to back tour that successfully brought aviation to the people.
Virginia like almost all other shows were opened by Skydivers that descended from the PAC 75 XStol piloted by Chris Briers, a director of Wonderboom Based Airteam, agents for the PAC 750 and CT4E trainer. The Skydivers from the Durban Skydiving club plus some others from across the country landed with pin point precession along the crowd line proving once again that today's Skydivers are aviators in their own right. There to meet them was the MEC for Finance of KZN Ina Cronje who was instrumental in arranging the support of the province for the initiative of bringing aviation to the people of the province.
Following the Skydivers was a parade of vehicles without whom no show could successfully take place.
The first act of the show was Barberton based and bush pilot extraordinaire CC Pocock who flew his 172 in a display that probably had Claude Cessna turning in his grave. CC has the uncanny ability to judge the limits of each aircraft and to safely fly within these limits and his display at Virginia again displayed his genius and had the crowed in awe.
Next up was Luke Rattray in the Federal Air Cessna Grand Caravan. Federal Air was one of the main supporters of the KZN Tour and the Caravan a regular at the seven shows.
A rather unusual visitor at Virginia was the Hovercraft of Barry Griffon. Designed and built in Pinetown the cross between a aircraft, car and boat and uses a Rotax engine for propulsion and a Brigg and Stratton for lift.
Michael Leutch a local KZN resident and regular on the tour displayed the R100,000 plus radio controlled jet of Clint du Toit to perfection. The Jet is capable of speeds up to 420 kph and Michael has piloted the rather expensive toy part in various competitions worldwide.
Next up and making its second visit to Virginia was the Quest Kodiak marketed by Lanseria based National Airways Corporation and piloted by JP Fourie. JP displayed the flight envelope of the custom designed STOL aircraft to perfection. The Kodiak has already found a market in Sub Saharan Africa and is sure to become a favourite with operators into short bush airstrips.
A first for Virginia and only the second time its displayed in South Africa was the Jonkers JS 1 Sailplane powered by a retractable jet engine. Piloted by Oscar Goudriaan the Jonkers is a proudly South African product produced at the companies' factory at Potchefstroom. The JS 1 was launched by Dave Lentel using a Dynamic as the tugplane.
The first Warbird on the program was the P51 North American Mustang of Stu Davidson expertly flown by son Patrick. The Queen of Hearts looked absolutely splendid in its new colour scheme and Patrick's displayed showed why he is rated as one of the country's best display and aerobatic pilots. There are currently three P51's in the country of which two are airworthy.
The Goodyear Pitts Special that in the past featured three of the iconic bi-planes now has a fourth member and during their display is so packed with action and high speed low and close passes that one can be forgiven to think that there are actually more than four aircraft in the team.
Airliners have for long been part of the Durban Airshow and the example has been followed by many other shows. The CRJ 200 of SA Express painted in special colours was a first of the type at an Airshow if my memory serves me correct. Flown by Captain Lloyd McIntosh the display of the regional airliner was one of the highlights that kept the crowd entertained.
Next up was a beast of another nature, the PAC 750 Xstol with its almost helicopter like takeoff and landing abilities. Chris Briers of Wonderboom based Airteam, who has the agency to market this remarable aircraft flew a display that left most in awe.
Next up was the Eclipse six seater business jet of which 260 were build. Captain Francois Naude flew a gracefull display in the clear Durban sky.
Warbirds is what draw the people to shows and Dawid Laas's Atlas Impala Mk 1 flown by Mike Weingaartz is a regular performer and crowd favourite. The Impala of which more than 600 were build has the distinction of having been the training mount for more a extremely large number of SAAF Pilots.
The Hawker Seafury of Stu Davidson was developed for the Royal Navy and powered by an 18 cylinder twin Wasp Radial engine it was the fastest piston engine aircraft then in production. Stu displayed the last of the piston fighters to absolute perfection.
Nigel Hopkins who is the current South African Aerobatics Champion was just absolutely awesome. Just when one thinks that you have seen it all Nigel goes out there and does something new and something more breath taking.
The Eqstra Flying Lions are such a integral part of Airshows that it is almost impossible to imagine a show without them and at Durban, as at all other shows they did not disappoint.
A nice touch and something that the paying public appreciates is the opening of the barriers to enable those that have paid good money to view the aircraft from up close and to mingle with the pilots. The queue was so long that not all had the opportunity.
Champions in various Aviation disciplines there were a plenty at Durban and Glenn Dell, ex Red Bull Air Racer showed why he is one of the best in the world with a spectacular display in the Extra 300.
Local lad, Michael Leutch and a regular on the KZN Airshow scene who earlier had entertained the crowd with his RC display showed that he could fly real airplanes as well when he flew the high wing conventional looking Decathlon in stunning display of precisions aerobatics.
Next up was Team Extreme consisting of Nigel Hopkins and Mark Hensman in the MX2's whose high energy display always amaze and leave one a sense of pride at the standard of South Afircan pilots and display teams.
Another first was the Warbird formation consisting of the P51 Mustangs flown by Patrick Davidson and Menno Parson and with Stu Davidson in the Seafury . Sadly it only consisted of two flypasts before Stu and Patrick broke to head home whilst Menno carried on in a solo display in Mustand Sally.
Perennial crowd favourites the Gabriel Pitts Specials were next with their signature display of close and precision formation flying.
Another first on the KZN Tour and a South African first was the PAC CI/4E trainer. The CI had made its debut at the Botswana International Airshow and like the Xstol it was displayed by Chris Briers.
Another business jet that made its debut was the Embaer Phenom flown by Capt Cornelius Bekker who displayed the aircrafts flight envelope to perfection.
The legendary King Airs marketed by Absolute Aviation also had their turn when two of these majestic aircraft were displayed in the late afternoon of what was a wonderful sunny and wind free day.
The last Jet and one of only two on the day was the L29 flown by Martin Schulze. The L29 served with most of the Warsaw pact forces during and after the Clod War.
With Durban the KZN organisers turned out all the stops and presented a show filled with action packed acts at a venue that has been synonymous with quality shows.
Many thanks to NAC for the lift in the awesome Quest Kodiak, Brian Emmenis and Leon du Plessis and the crew of Capital Sounds for providing accurate information and keeping us entertained and the organisers for a show well worth visiting.
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