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Two years ago, many of us had booked our air tickets and B&B bound for Stellenbosch airshow 2020. Little did we know at that stage that we would not see another airshow until 2022. Fast forward to the present day - 25/26 March 2022.
The whole airshow fraternity were eagerly awaiting the date - the first airshow for two years! And it happened to be Stellenbosch airshow. It turned out to be an absolute cracker of an airshow and it is going to be very hard to beat anywhere else in South Africa. The backdrop of the Hottentots-Holland and Simonsberg mountains has to be one of the most dramatic airfield backdrops in the world.
The airshow was held on Friday afternoon (a shortened version of just 3 hours) and Saturday the whole day. To be honest, I just loved the Friday airshow - the late afternoon/early evening flight by the Flying Lions was absolutely beautiful against the mountains and the sunset on those mountains. The lighting was a gift to the photographer present.
Saturday was a beautiful day - hardly any wind and very warm - 27 deg at least and the public area filled up rather quickly and soon, the public were being treated to some excellent pilot skills - from formation displays by the Flying Lions and the newest team in South Africa, the Marksmen lead by Mark Hensman who leads with Martin (Marty) Schultz in the number 2 slot, Eugene du Preez in the number 3 slot and Mark Sampson in the Box and solo slot. The team had been practicing very hard for months and had already flown 160 sorties before arriving for their very first public appearance on Friday. The display is one of total trust by the four pilots and superb skills. Their display is reminiscent of the Red Arrows display with the Cockscrew (called the Koeksister here) and the opposing pair plus of course, the heart drawn in the sky. They fly a very tight display and are definitely going to be a hit on the airshow scene in South Africa. Well done to the team. I bumped into Martin on Saturday who hails from Durban and we chatted about my old home town. However, I am glad to be a Capetonian now it must be said!
One of the highlights (and there were many) was undoubtedly the Airlink Embraer 190 airliner which gave a superb display - it is always nice to see heavy metal at these "country" airshows. The crew of the 190 kept the aircraft fairly low and put it in a great position for us photogs to get excellent photos against the mountain.
As with all SA airshows, there is always a parachute team dropping in and this airshow was no different. We had the Kelloggs team and another team whose name I did not get (apologies) and the very large SA flag floating down while the national anthem was played. The anthem ended just as the last skydiver landed which was a nice touch.
So good to see a C47 TP Dakota arrive and display (and then land) - we haven't seen one of those for a long time.
Also good to see was my old friend Pierre Gouws back on the airshow scene flying - well, just about anything in sight - or so it seemedÖ He first flew a Bosbok (I guarantee that aircraft has not been flown quite like that before. Pierre has this knack of flying the aircraft in such a way that looks extreme and yet it is not being stressed very much at all. Pierre then jumped into one of two RV's and the two aircraft gave a faultless performance - tight and skillful flying.
There were some other very interesting aircraft such as a Howard DGA 15P flown by Alewyn Burger - a beautiful specimen painted in a lovely colour scheme - it has the original engine and propellor, which is testimony to the design and build of this aircraft.
Another oldie was the De Havilland Chipmunk flown by David Cook - a gentle aircraft which was the grounding on many pilots from 1946 onward. The fact that many are still airworthy is great - good, solid aircraft and by all accounts, a great training aircraft.
Aerobatics was provided by Patrick Davidson in his Game Bird, Andrew Blackwood Murray in his Nashua sponsored Extra and of course, the beautiful Yak 55 owned by Mark Hensman. This particular YAK was part of a formation that I did an air-to-air sortie in 2003 over False Bay, so I was happy to see that Mark still owns the aircraft - even though he had sold it some years back, but bought it back because he loves the aircraft.
Another of the highlights was a "skit" by an old (90 something year old) WW2 pilot who just wanted to sit in a Piper Cub, start the engine and get the feel of the old aircraft, which he apparently "trained on" before the war and thereafter took to the air with a current pilot. Well, of course, a set up. He climbed in leaving his "crutches" next to the aircraft and the pilot in command started the engine and removed the chocks. Before he could climb in, the "old guy" darted off with the aircraft with the ground crew in pursuit. He managed to get to the runway and took off and what followed was hilarious with Brian Emmenis and his commentators going frantic, explaining that he was not capable of flying the aircraft anymore. The real "old guy" was in fact Alewyn Burger, who gave a fantastic display with some remarkable flying, swooping really close to the ground beyond the runway and probably scared the living daylights out of the chickens and birdlife beyond the airfield's surrounds and at one point, apparently caught someone's clothes line with what looked like bloomers and shirts attached to the plane. Soon after, the aircraft touched down on one wheel, then the other and then trundled to a stop in front of the crowd. All was revealed and the crowd (some of which thought it was real) applauded a really clever display.
The Working on Fire and Leading Edge helicopters plus two Air Tractor water bombers filled the sky with aircraft and water as they demonstrated how they go about fighting fires, which is always a huge problem down here in the Cape. Fantastic to see them displaying although I have seen them in action for real - this is a really good initiative by government and the private sector in combating the real problem of fynbos and forest fires in our country. So well done to both teams and thank you to Kishugu for hosting me for the day. Much appreciated.
Present as always, what would a show be without them was the Puma Energy Flying Lions? As a team they surely must be one of the longest continues displays not only locally but worldwide.
So many displays and aircraft flying that I will probably forget someone so apologies in advance. Ivan van der Schaar in a Being Steerman, Andre van Zyl in his Magni Gyro, Marko Nel in his slick Tucano replica (very nice looking aircraft Marko), radio control aircraft, a Cessna C180 flown by Alewyn Burger (he was busy) and of course, the 5 ship flypast of the Astra PC 7's by the SAAF and a solo display by one of the pilots. Mike Weingartz in the L-29, a welcome return to the show secene byt his Russian classic. The arrival of the Chief of the Air Force in an Oryx - low level - was the only other SAAF participant. We miss the SAAF in the airshows.
What can we say about Brian Emmenis and his Capital Sounds team. Mr. Airshow commentator brings any airshow to life. A very professional team and without his and his commentary team of Leon du Plessis and Charlie Marais, airshows would be just another event. Well done guys.
Stellenbosch airshow organisers did a fantastic job it must be said. It is not an easy airfield to hold such an event and yet they managed so well. Anton, Rikus and Loiuse, who I dealt with, were professional and helpful. Well done to the team and I look forward to another great event next year.
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