Yak Weeks - Down Memory Lane - Yak Week 2008 - part 3 of 4

By Brian Spurr

The participants

The third Yak Week was held from the 5th until the 12th of July 2008, the week before the House of Paint Durban Air Show, held at Virginia Airport. This time 11 aircraft took part, seven Yak 52s and four Yak 18Ts. The Week was sponsored by Ecko Unltd., Durbanville Hills and Subway.

Getting in close line astern.

Francois Davel breaks hard with Riaan Prinsloo about to do likewise.

William O'Driscoll comes in to land.

The ground crew working hard! Christopher O'Grady pulls and Gary Joubert pushes.

Some of the machines lined up with Durban in the background.

The composition of the group of instructors for the third Yak Week was a little different to the previous two events. For the first time, it was run with local experts and for the first time did not include the RAF contingent. Exciting news however, was the participation of pilots of the crack SAAF Silver Falcons Display Team. The team was given authority to fly up to Durban early, in the week prior to their participation in the Durban Air Show. They therefore were able to provide six highly experienced formation (and aerobatic) display pilots to train formation flying. It was a fantastic opportunity for the civilian pilots to fly with the cream of South Africa's aviation talent. The format, as before, was based on similar courses held in England at North Weald Airfield. Much of the organisation and planning was taken over from Gerald William by Stuart Low of Acher Aviation. Acher's premises were used for pre and post flight briefings.

Stuart Low leads the pre-flight briefing

For the third Yak Week the list of trainee formation pilots comprised the following people and aircraft: -

Riaan Prinsloo - ZU-BCK - Yak 18T - Southbroom.

Brendan Adams - ZU-BHR - Yak 18T - Durban.

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

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

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

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

William O'Driscoll - ZU-DSJ - Yak 52 - Durban.

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

Pete Featonby-Smith - ZU-RUS - Yak 52 - Johannesburg.

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

At the start of the week, Charles Urban was using Yak 52 ZU-CWL as his own 52 (ZU-TRS) was not ready. A few days later, his aircraft was flown down by Pieter van der Westhuizen. So, there were 11 aircraft taking part in Yak Week, but only 10 pilots! Pieter later used his aircraft as a camera platform, see below.

Most pilots were back for the second or third time, but there were two first timers as well. After the week of training, an excellent ten ship formation was flown. This formation then displayed during the Air Show. Virginia was abuzz with flying for the whole week. In the beginning, it was sorties of Yaks going out several times a day to practice formation flying in smaller groups. The Silver Falcons arrived and then aircraft started arriving for the air show. On Friday, validations were flown for the weekend's air show on the 12th and 13th.

Brendan Adams, Christo Jansen and Mike Mason above the sugar cane.

Charles Urban gets serious!

Riaan Prinsloo below and Francois Davel above.

Francois Davel leads Riaan Prinsloo as seen from Brendan Adams' aircraft.

Alan Wight crosses the coast with Chris Esterhuyse in the right-hand seat.

The instructors actually outnumbered the pilots and sometimes they took turns or flew two instructors in the four seat Yak 18Ts. Stuart Low was in charge of the instruction team. He is a fixed wing and helicopter pilot and is one of several ex SAAF pilots acting as instructors. He flew Harvards, Pumas and Alouettes during his military service.

Roger Deare comes in.

Ready for a formation take off Roger Deare and Johann Venter in the rear seat.

Alex MacPhail seems happy in the back of the Yak!

On the initial, Roger Deare, Pete Featonby-Smith and William O'Driscoll.

Annie Boon lands with Scott Ternent in the back seat.

The Silver Falcons were represented by Major Scott Ternent, Captain Guy de Sautoy, Major Alex MacPhail, Captain Du Toit Deetlefs, Lieutenant (soon to be Captain) Buti Tsebe and Lieutenant Christo Jansen. They were extremely motivated and seemed to enjoy every moment of this new experience. Several of them did conversions during the week onto the Yak.

(L-R) Scott Ternent, Du Toit Deetlefs, Guy Du Sautoy, Buti Tsebe, Christo Jansen and Alex MacPhail. 7461, 7465 all the formation trainees had photos taken with the Falcons. These two examples show Brendan Adams and Duncan Gillespie with the team.

The late Chris Esterhuyse was back for his third Yak Week as instructor. Chris was ex SAAF and flying for Acher Aviation at the time. Chris was also a helicopter and a fixed wing pilot. Another top SAAF pilot participating for the first time was Captain (later Lt. Col.) Koos Kieck, who flew Harvards, Impalas and Mirages. He has numerous aircraft types on his licence and is currently a fire bomber.

Koos Kieck

Another ex SAAF helicopter pilot Duncan Gillespie joined the instructors this year. His start with the SAAF was on pilot's Course 1/80 (Mar 80 - Dec 81). He was a co-pilot on Puma helicopters with 19 Sqn, Pretoria (Jan 82 - Dec 82). He was then posted to 15 Sqn, Durban, flying Alouettes (Jan 83 - Apr 84). He then returned to flying Pumas with 19 Sqn (Jun 83 - Jul 86). After this he was seconded to the SAP Airwing, Pretoria, flying Messerschmitt BO-105 and BK117 helicopters (Jul 86 - Jun 87). He continued with the SAP Reserve until Feb 94.

He then moved on to join Heliquip, Johannesburg as a charter pilot flying Squirrel and Puma helicopters (Jul 87 - Dec 87). After this, he went to NAC, Johannesburg, flying a BK117 at Johannesburg Hospital and a King Air 200 aircraft for National Airlines (Jan 88 - Dec 88). He then went to SAA as a co-pilot flying B737 and A320 aircraft. He was also third pilot on B747 Classic and B747-400 (Jan 89 - Jan 94). After this he was co-pilot on A320 for Gulf Air, Bahrain (Feb 94 - Jan 95). He was upgraded to Captain (Feb 95 - July 96). After this he joined Air Mauritius as a Captain on A340 (Aug 96 - Aug 99). He then went back to study and completed an MSc in Aviation Management at London City University (Sep 99 - Dec 00). At the same time, he flew as Captain on B737 for Go Fly, a low-cost division of British Airways, London (Oct 99 - Jun 00). After that, he became Captain for Atlas Cargo, London, flying B747-400 (Jul 00 - Jan 01). He also flew A340, B767, B747-400 for HRH Akwaleed bin Talal Al Saud, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (Feb 01 - Nov 08). Since that time, he has been flying various BBJ aircraft since (Dec 09 - Present) for various billionaires in Europe, India and the Far East. He was based out of Durban from (Nov 08 - Mar 16) but since then has relocated to Franschoek. What an amazing and varied flying career!

Brendan Adams selects undercarriage up with Chris Esterhuyse in the right-nd seat.

Two 18Ts on the initial, Brendan Adams and Alan Wight.

Francois Davel brings his 18T in to land.

Yak 18T flown by Alan Wight pulls over 4Gs on the break over Virginia.

William O'Driscoll's Yak 52 waits patiently in front of the terminal.

Other instructors were Major Johann 'Geronkie' Venter (SAAF Mirage and Cheetah pilot and ex Silver Falcon); Maurice Odendaal (SAAF Harvard Formation Team and SAA); Mike Mason (SAAF and SA Express) and Mike McFall. Mike was on SAAF course 1/88 flying Harvards at Dunnottar. He then went onto Impala Mk I/II with 83 Jet Flying School and from there to 7 and 8 Squadrons. After that he went onto Cheetah C/D with 89 JFS and then on to 2 Squadron. He was in the SAAF From Feb 87 - Jan 95. After leaving the SAAF, Mike joined Fed Air Balmoral flying the Caravan Cessna 208B and King Air 200 and during this time spent nine months in Angola. He switched to Comair flying B737-200 for a year and 4 months before joining SAA in Dec 1997. For SAA he has flown B737-200, B737-800, B747-400, A340-200, A340-300, A340-600 and was Senior Training Captain on A319 and A320. He has his Grade 2 Instructors rating but unfortunately, he is currently medically boarded.

Mike McFall.

Roger Deare lands with Johann Venter behind him.

Brendan Adams pulls some Gs on the break with Alan Wight about to follow suit.

Three more 52's, Annie Boon, Charles Urban and Mark Carstens breaking.

A late winter afternoon sortie up the coast. Brendan Adams and Francois Davel's machines seen from Riaan Prinsloo's 18T.

A highlight for this writer was being invited to fly several times during the week during the training. This was an amazing experience and enabled some air-to-air photography. These were not dedicated photo shoots as the purpose of the sorties was the formation flying. Seats were only available in the Yak 18Ts due to the fact that they are 4 seaters. Huge thanks for the privilege go to Alan Wight, Riaan Prinsloo and Brendan Adams. The one exception was a flight in a Yak 52 camera ship flown by Pieter van de Westhuizen.

10 ship formation

Each sortie was thoroughly briefed both before and after each flight. Several sorties were flown each day to get those new to formation flying up to speed and those who had attended previously, to sharpen up what they had learnt on the previous course. Although mentally and physically tiring, great fun was had by all and the spirit of the group was high.

Post flight analysis with Riaan Prinsloo, Mike Mason and Brendan Adams.

Walking through the formation sequence.

Annie Boon on finals.

Pete Featonby-Smith on finals with Stuart Low.

Morning sortie along the beach - Riaan Prinsloo and Buti Tsebe front and Brendan Adams, Christo Jansen and Mike Mason back.

At the end of each day, the group would wind down on the Durban Wings Club balcony. The day's flying and progress would be summarised by Stuart. Then amid much banter each day, a pilot would be selected for having made the biggest mess-up of the day! The unfortunate recipient was made to wear an outsized bra for the remainder of the evening! This included when they went out to the restaurant to eat. That is one way to improve the concentration levels! It was all good-natured fun and was the source of much hilarity and teasing.

Three 52s run in - Annie Boon, Mark Carstens and Charles Urban.

Annie Boon breaks with Mark Carstens and Charles Urban to follow.

The climax of the week was a magnificent 10-ship formation over Virginia of six Yak 52s and four Yak 18Ts.

This formation was also flown at the Durban Air Show that weekend and this was a big highlight for the group.

Yak 18T flown by Alan Wight with Buti Tsebe instructing.

Yak 18T flown by Alan Wight with Buti Tsebe checking the positioning.

Once again, the week had been a great success. The flying was safe and the skill levels and the confidence of the pilots had greatly improved. Yak flying was fun and the group of instructors all seemed to have had enjoyable experiences. They all appeared keen to be back the following year in 2009. More of that Yak Week in the next episode (part 4).

Sport Aerobatics

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