Yak Weeks - Down Memory Lane - Yak Week 2007 - part 2 of 4

By Brian Spurr

Group photo, 2007 participants.

After the first successful formation flying school at Virginia Airport in 2006, there was an increase in interest from the South African Yak pilots and owners to join in the fun in 2007. Version two took place in Durban from the 20th to the 26th of April 2007. As in the previous event, the calibre of instruction was outstanding. Once again, this year's instructors included members of the RAF (and Red Arrows), the SAAF (and Silver Falcons), ex SAAF pilots, airline pilots and other very experienced instructors and pilots. That year, the event was sponsored by Nationwide Airlines and Sibaya Casino.

Mark Carstens and Johann Venter.

Charles Urban runs up his Yak 52.

ZU-DSI gets some attention.

An event like this requires a lot of logistical support and one person who played a big role in this was Chay White. At the time, he was operations manager for Sheltam Grindrod Aviation. Sheltam held and supported the week through their facilities at Virginia. He was involved mainly with ground logistics (towing, fuelling, parking and the briefing room). Maintenance when required was done by Jacques Navarro. Chay also assisted with some of the sponsorships (accommodation at Sibaya Casino and ground transport through Mazda Amanzimtoti). In this series I am sure many people that helped or sponsored the week may have been omitted but this is only due to fading memories, it was a while ago! My apologies to anyone that has not been mentioned.

Group photo with names

Chris Heames gives Chris Vogelgesang the go signal from Gerald Williams' Yak 52.

Formation take off.

Alan Wight and Chris Esterhuyse ready for take-off.

Roger Deare and Mike McFall.

Mark Carstens lands with Ryan Cokane in the rear seat.

Yak Week 2, as with the first one, was based on similar courses run at North Weald Airfield, England for many years. This year well-known RAF pilot Chris Heames was back to lead the instruction heading a team of highly experienced formation flying instructors, for the second time. Also, back for a second year was RAF Tornado pilot Squadron Leader Dan Arlett. Joining them were three other RAF pilots: -

ZU-HOG ready for action.

Another group head out for a sortie.

Darrell Lush does his run up in the 18T before heading out.

Al Kinsella joined the RAF in 1999 and was a pilot on the C-130 for four years. He then became an instructor on Tucano and Hawk for three years. After this he became a Chinook pilot and saw service in Afghanistan. After some 21 years in the RAF, he became a C-17 Globemaster pilot for Boeing Defence UK. He now works for the Delaware Resource Group in Abu Dhabi as a C-17 pilot/instructor.

Warm up prior to a take-off on runway 23.

Ready and waiting.

Annie Boon and Vaughan Gryffenberg at the end of a sortie.

Paul Dixon joined the RAF in 1964 training on the Chipmunk, Jet Provost and Gnat. He was then posted to 85 Squadron at RAF Binbrook flying the Canberra. He then retrained on the Hunter before moving onto Phantoms with 31 Squadron RAF in Germany. Paul has now retired and ended his career with his first parachute jump which was organised by his family.

Gerald Williams heads off to debrief.

Mark Carstens comes in to land with Ryan Cokayne.

Formation take off.

Panel of the 18T - ZU-CFT

Scene from the Durban Wings Club.

Refuellers hard at work.

The final member of the RAF contingent was Dave Davies (RAF - Squadron Leader), another Tornado pilot. Dave also flew with the Red Arrows from 2008-2012, amassing 1200 display hours. In 2008, he was a Hawk solo display pilot and in total flew over 100 displays. He has also flown a variety of other aircraft including Typhoon and Tucano. He later flew for British Airways.

Part of the line-up seen from the fire truck.

Ready to go, lined up in front of the terminal.

ZU-CWK fires up.

The other instructors in 2007 were Stuart Low. Stuart was in the SAAF (course 1/80) flying fixed wing (Harvard's) and also got his wings on helicopters. He went to 19 Squadron on Pumas for a year and then went back to Alouettes. He was with 15 Sqn from 1983 to 1986 and then went to Dunnottar where he instructed until the end of his SAAF career in June 1990 (10 Years). Stuart was an A Category instructor and a member of the Harvard formation aerobatic team. He is now with Acher Aviation at Virginia and still flies helicopters and fixed wing aircraft.

Gianfranco Cicogna-Mozzoni and Dan Arlett take power.

Another formation take-off.

We have lift off!

Paul Dixon and Annie Boon head in after the formation flight.

Other instructors were Gideon Langeveld (SAA training captain); Major Johann 'Geronkie' Venter (SAAF Mirage and Cheetah pilot and ex Silver Falcon); the late Chris Esterhuyse (ex SAAF, also a fixed wing and helicopter pilot - Acher Aviation); Mike McFall (SAAF - Harvards, Impalas and Cheetahs etc., Comair and SAA); Ryan Cokayne (SAAF, Silver Falcon, SAA), Richard Greef (SAAF - Harvards, Impalas and PC-7s, Fastjet, SAA, British Airways and Nippon Air Cargo) and last but not least Vaughan Gryffenberg (Captain in the SAAF, Silver Falcon and currently with Emirates) . What a star line-up of experienced talent in instruction and formation flying!

Adding to the atmosphere during the week was the presence of the L39 ZU-TEE being flown by Pierre Gouws.

One of those lucky enough to get a flight in the L39 with Pierre, was Russian student pilot Yekaterina Yufereva.

For the second year the list of trainee formation pilots comprised the following: -

De Wet Davel - ZU-BHR - Yak 18T - Howick (De Wet now flies for Emirates).

Darrell Lush - ZU-CFT - Yak 18T - Johannesburg.

Graham Hall - ZU-CWK - Yak 52 - Vereeniging.

The late Gianfranco Cicogna-Mozzoni - ZU-CWM - Yak 52 - (Owned at the time by the late Dave Gouws).

Roger Deare - ZU-CWR - Yak 52 - Durban.

Findlay J Smith - ZU-DGA - Yak 52 - Cape Town.

Francois Davel - ZU-DGD - Yak 18T - Howick.

Alan Wight - ZU-DOB - Yak 18T - Cape Town.

Chris Vogelgesang - ZU-DSI - Yak 52 - Germany (he later owned a rare Yak 3UA).

Mark Carstens - ZU-DTL - Yak 52 - Durban.

Gerald Williams - ZU-HOG - Yak 52 - Durban.

Charles 'Boris' Urban - ZU-TRS - Yak 52 - Johannesburg.

Annie Boon - ZU-WAN - Yak 52 - Johannesburg.

Also present for part of the time were these five: -

Riaan Prinsloo - ZU-BCK - Yak 18T - Southbroom (Riaan had to leave before the end of the week).

John Wright - ZU-CWL - Yak 52 (left after a couple of days as his aircraft was damaged).

Phil du Toit - ZU-CWP - YAK 52 - Durban (did not take part in the final formation).

Pete Featonby-Smith - ZU-RUS - Yak 52 - Durban (his aircraft was there but he did not take part).

Nick Cooke - ZU-DSI (shared) - Yak 52 - began the course but did not complete it.

Most pilots came back for a second course and were joined by several new candidates. In total it made quite an assembly of Yaks and Yak pilots! In total there were 17 Yaks on the field, 12 Yak 52s and 5 Yak 18Ts. At the end of the week an excellent formation of 13 aircraft were flown, 10 x 52s and 3 x 18Ts.

Each sortie was thoroughly briefed (and de-briefed). Most teams flew several sorties a day to build the skills of those doing this for the first time and for the others to brush up what they had learnt the previous year. The concentration required under the eagle eyes of the instructors was mentally and physically draining for many:- they would arrive back covered in perspiration. To illustrate the point, Francois Davel sent me this experience of his, from the previous year (2006). "That year, on my very first formation flight ever, I had Charlie (Brown) as instructor and Laurie and Graham Smith in the back seat of the 18T, while I was trying to hold station (in the formation) .....Laurie looked at me and wrote on sick bag that was in the back seat....BREATHE!!!! I think I still have that bag in the plane.... unused!"

Francois breathing easier in year two!

During the week there was one incident that damaged two aircraft fortunately without injuries. A group of three Yaks taxied to the holding point of 23. Annie Boon in ZU-WAN was following John Wright in ZU-CWL and was unable to stop due to a lack of air pressure on the brakes. ZU-CWL sustained damage to the left horizontal stabiliser and elevator and ZU-WAN had a broken propeller. Unfortunately, this accident prevented CWL from taking further part in proceedings but WAN's propeller was replaced.

The climax of the week was a magnificent 13-ship formation over Virginia of ten Yak 52s and 3 Yak 18Ts. This would be the largest formation formed at any of the Yak Week events. It was a truly wonderful sight to see these machines fly past and to hear the sound of the big radial engines.

At the end of the course, the pilots received their display pilot ratings and this enabled them to show the Yaks at several air shows over the following years. In 2007 these included the Margate Air Show where an eight-ship formation was performed and also the Durban Air Show, where they did an eleven-ship one.

In July 2007 at the Durban Air Show.

The week was an amazing experience for all the pilots, and apart from the one small incident, it went without a hitch. This in spite of the fact that there were some pilots with low time and no formation experience together with some of the most highly skilled pilots in the world. It is testament to those instructors and mentors that the week went so well and was carried out in such a safe manner. Pilots looked forward to the next one scheduled for 2008. More of that in Part 3.

Aviation Personalities
Sport Aerobatics

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