Middelburg Airshow 2017- Excitement and entertainment for all

By Willie Bodenstein

In 2009 Middelburg Airshow was rated in the top 5 best airshows in South Africa. In 2010 the show was rated the second best airshow in South Africa and in 2016 it was rated as the fourth best airshow in South Africa and attracted almost 12000 people.



This year the crowds again flocked in their thousands to what was not only a superbly organised event but also a spectacular airshow with sufficient motorsport content, excitement and entertainment that captured the imagination of the whole family.


Dragster and Glider Race. Photo Cheryl Smit.


Neville Ferreira in the Slick 540 racing a car. Photo Deon Prins.


Johan "Juba" Joubert in the Gazelle racing a Chevrolet Camaro dragster.

The relationship between Air Shows South Africa and Motorsport SA is gaining momentum with beneficial results for both disciplines and a number of Motorsport SA sections were present at Middelburg. More aviation acts are integrating a motorsport element into their acts and air shows are drawing visitors that might never have considered attending an airshow.


Mark Hensmann's daring low inverted flight in the MX2 along the runway left the crowd amazed.


Smoke trials in the sky


Gary Whitecross in the Pilatus glider in one of his displays.

Most airshows now highlights the massacre of the rhino population and Middelburg was no exception. An anti rhino poaching display and the simulated rescue of hostage taken during a farm attack show the public the preparedness of special reaction units to combat these problems.




Dispatching an off road motorcycle from an Allo II for quick access in inhospitable terrain in remote areas.




Anton von Willich piloting his Gazelle used during the anti-rhino poaching demonstration.


Dogs apprehending a suspect during one of the demonstrations.

Skydivers are crowd favourites at airshows and at Middelburg they heralded, as they do at most airshows, the opening of the show. After posing for a group photo they walked down the crowd line where every child wanted to shake their hands.







If it is noise and speed that is what you were after then Middelburg did not disappoint. What the cars did on the ground the jets did in the air. Two Czechoslovakian Aero Vodochody L-28s one flown by Koos Kieck and the other by Glen Warden, and one L-39 flown by Peirre Gouws as well as an Atlas Impala with Mike Weingartz at the controls did a number of displays during the day.





Middelburg also catered to those that prefer to fly their aircraft remotely from the ground with a number of displays by very fast RC Jets. These jets are rather expensive high tech toys that are expertly put through their paces by their very competent pilots.





Except for the Pitts Specials there are not many bi-planes any more that are regularly displayed at airshows. Fortunately two others have now become regulars and although not the fastest aircraft around their sheer presence in the air and expert display by their pilots always thrills the crowd.


Ivan van der Schaar in the Boeing Stearman that he and wife Sonica had restored.


Mark Hill and son Jon-Marc in the Just Love Mission's Care to Share Antonov AN-2 'Little Annie'.

Aerobatics is the practice of flying manoeuvres involving aircraft altitudes that are not used in normal flight. South Africa does not lack of world class aerobatic pilots and will host the World Unlimited Aerobatic Championships during September 2017 in Malelane, Mpumalanga. Thrilling the crowds at Middelburg were some of the South Africa's best.


Andrew Blackwood Murray in the Extra.


Neville Ferreira in the locally designed and build Slick 540.


Mark Hensmann in the MX2


Neville Ferreira in the Yak 52. The popular Yak 52 was once a common sight at shows but is now seldom displayed.

After all the high speed action of the jets and daring aerobatic displays it is always a pleasure to watch the soothing graceful display by Gary Whitecross in the Pilatus Glider.





However, air shows are not only about high speed daring action but also about displaying aircraft in general use. During these slots pilots will display the full flight envelope of the aircraft.


Mathew Zalekski preparing for his display in the gyrocopter.


Bobby Rowe in the Bathawk that is manufactured in Mbombela in Mpumalanga. The Bathawk has been sold in large numbers to nature conversation agency and even some defence forces across the African Continent.

Formation flying is defined as "two or more aircraft traveling and manoeuvring together in a disciplined, synchronized, predetermined manner in a tight formation as if they are joined together. Aircraft may fly less than three feet (one metre) apart and must move in complete harmony." At Middelburg the formation teams did just that.


The Puma Energy Flying Lions in their iconic North American Harvards.


The Goodyear Pitts Specials.


Mark Hensmann in the MX2 and Pierre Gouws in the Vans RV7.


The Team Torre Pitts Specials.

One reason not to leave early is the Puma Energy Flying Lions dusk show. Flying at low level with lights on the graceful display in itself is a fitting finale of any show. Coupled with multi coloured pyrotechnics it reached new heights at Middelburg and despite the cold and Springboks playing the French in the final test match of the current series a large number of spectators remained and stood in awe at the precision and sheer beauty that heralded the end of a wonderful show.





Ensuring the safe running of the show was Rikus Erasmus, Flight Display Director and Flight Safety Officer Koos Kieck assisted by John Fairhurst as Ramp Director. Capital Sounds was appointed as the Public Announcer at the event and Brian Emmenis supported my Leon du Plessis in the twin roles of researcher and the second voice as well as a team of trained technicians ensured that those that attended were kept informed and entertained.



Event organiser Richard Lovett and his team can really feel proud for hosting an event that has now become of one the most popular airshows on the calendar.


Richard Lovett (third from left) and his team during the dinner after the show.

Middelburg, as its name implies, is situated very central and is not too far away from the main business centre in Gauteng to draw participation in the event. In flying terms, Middelburg is only 30-45 minutes away from large Airports in Gauteng. The airfield is situated about 6km out of town and outside the major controlled airspace boundaries.






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