A hour and half's drive form Pretoria and 40 minutes by air from Johannesburg nestles Zebula , a private residential estate in the heart of the Bushveld and a game reserve. Boasting its own tarred runway, Zebula has for the last couple of years hosted the South African Airways Pilots Association's airshow.
The show, that this year attracted almost 4,000 spectators and 130 visiting aircraft, started at eleven and finished at three and always offers something different to what regular airshow visitors are accustomed to.
Zebula's unique control tower
Air Traffic and Navigation was expertly handled by Marlise Scheppers (Lanseria), Vicki Nel and Ivan Louw (Cape Town) and Ricardo Alfonso (Grand Central)
Opening the show was Phillip Cope of Hover Dynamics in the Robinson R44
Mike Weingarzt, who has 1,600 supersonic hours to his credit, displayed Dawid Laas's Impala. ZU-IMP was the only jet on the programme.
Boeing Stearman's are rarely seen at shows nowadays. However those visiting Zebula were treated to two of the legendary American Bi-planes flown by Deon Raath and Adam Putchi.
Pierre Gouws's then took to the air in the noisy Bosbok and displayed it to absolute perfection. There were very few breaks between acts, whilst one act was in air the next was on the taxi way, ready to take off.
The first of two Quest Kodiaks that were on the programme was the one of National Airways Corporation flown by JP Fourie who displayed the Kodiak's short field capabilities to perfection. The turbo prop Kodiak was designed specifically with rough and short bush strips in mind and
Following the Kodiak was the Cessna Grand Caravan with the Blackhawk conversion, another favourite of charter operator flying to lodges with short strips. Francois Naude flew a spirited display keeping the aircraft as close to the spectators as the display line allowed.
Today's aerobatic pilots are the barnstormers of yester year and like those dare devils they too draw the crowds to airshows. Every airshow must have at least one aerobatic act. Zebula had Nigel Hopkins in his MX2. First racing a Bentley down the runway……….
Then flying a close formation with sponsor CDC Aviation's Deon Wentzel the Cirrus……….
Before going into his solo display that always leaves the spectators breathless.
New boys on the block, Rob Kennedy, Paul Quick, Ryan Beaton and Neil Murray debut the RV Formation team that was long overdue. The RV is not only the world's bestselling kit aircraft; Van's sell more aircraft than any of the long established manufacturers. The formation was tight and well-rehearsed, well executed and hopefully we can look forward to see the RV's at more shows.
The T28 Trojans with their distinctive sounds have been regulars at shows for a number of years and at Zebula. There two were displayed by Pierre Gouws and Nigel Hopkins.
Father and son, Larry and Jason Beamish in their Triton Express sponsored flew a close formation display in German designed and built Extra 300s'.
The second Kodiak flown by Nigel Hopkins with Lanseria based Cirrus and Kodiak agents CDC Aviation's Andy Currin then took to the blue Bushveld Sky. Nigel displayed the Kodiak's full flight envelope.
Trevor Warner who at the RV Revolution Pylon Time Trials held earlier in the year took the honours when he was clocked at 314.75 km/h showed that the RV7 is not only a pocket rocket but also the ideal aircraft for basic aerobatic manoeuvres.
A show without Harvards, unthinkable! A four ship formation displayed at Zebula. The School Masters of the Skies were flown by Pierre Gouws, Larry Beamish, Nigel Hopkins and Deon Raath.
The Beechcraft display is becoming a Zebula trademark. This year two King Airs, a 250 and 350 as well as two Bonanzas treated the crowd to a graceful display. One of the “Bonnies” is the newest addition to the fleet of the legendary type that is already flying in South African skies.
Neither was the Pitts Specials forgotten and closing the show was the Goodyear Specials with team owner Dennis Spence, Glen Warden and Johan von Solms flying one of their actions filled thrilling displays.
In keeping with the new regulations the crowd line was 100 meters from the runway. This did not seem to have a bad effect except when smaller aircraft were flying. It was also welcoming to see the emergency services being taken on a tour of all participating aircraft and shown how to open the canopies and undo the safety harnesses. The Capital Sounds Team was on form as usual, keeping the crowd informed and entertained. The media enclosure was well laid under some welcoming trees that provided welcome shade. The spectators were well catered for although the view for those behind the media enclosure were restricted by the trees. A large number of aviation businesses had stalls and displayed their products.
Zebula has established itself as a show with a unique relaxed atmosphere and Paul Weich and his team deserves a pat on the back for organising another superb and save aviation event.