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The weekend of 28 May 2022 saw the eagerly anticipated return of the Parys Airshow at the Parys Airfield, located inside the Vredefort Dome area. Hosted by the legendary and much-loved Scully Levin and Air Shows South Africa (ASSA) with commentating by Mr Airshow himself, the voice of South African Airshows - Brian Emmenis, the day was on course to be nothing but spectacular.
The Parys Airfield has not hosted an airshow for more than a decade and the time for its return was perfect! After the unfortunate restrictions posed by the recent pandemic, avid supporters of air shows were left empty and heartbroken. Luckily, 2022 is showing the resilience of the aviation community and the return of airshows. The Parys Airshow was the second airshow on the calendar, following the brilliant Stellenbosch Airshow and was aimed to heal some of these broken hearts - and it did not disappoint one bit!
Due to the restrictions on public gatherings, the airshow unfortunately had limited tickets available and all tickets were sold out more than a week prior to the event, again showing the hunger of the aviation community for the return our much-loved airshows.
After the pilots briefing held by the Flight Director of the day and Chairperson of ASSA, Rikus Erasmus, the show started with the resident Parys Skydiving Club skydivers taking to the sky in the red ex-Rhodesian Airforce Apollo T Lockheed Aermacchi AL-60 Trojan Turbine conversion with registration ZU-IHA. This particular AL-60 Trojan is unique and the only one of its kind in the world!
Parys Skydivers amazed the crowd with their skilful manoeuvring of their parachutes, coming in fast and perfectly landing perfectly in front of the spectators.
The Puma Energy Flying Lions display team led by Captain Scully Levin officially opened the show with their signature graceful display routine. The sound of the four ex-SAAF Harvard IIA (AT-6) Pratt & Whitney radial engines reverberating through the air was truly mesmerising. The Flying Lions have also become synonymous with the term, "Smoke on Go!" due to their perfectly timed use of display smoke during their routine.
Andre van Zyl was up next with an impressive flying display of the Magni M16 Gyrocopter and its capabilities in the hands of a skilled Gyro pilot. This particular gyrocopter (ZA-CSO) has previously been used in aiding the SAPS Wierdabrug with community policing efforts.
Following the gyrocopter display, the Raptors RV display team took to the sky. The RV Raptors are a group of private RV owners flying formation displays at airshows, all using Van's RV7/8 airplanes. The Van's Aircraft Company is an American kit aircraft manufacturer, founded by Richard VanGrunsven in 1973. Van's RV series of aircraft are all-aluminium, low-wing monoplanes of monocoque construction. The RV Raptors flew a very tight routine, with the stunning bright colours of the RVs against the deep blue sky affording stunning photo opportunities for aviation photographers.
Cue the Airwolf theme song - time for Dr Andre Coetzee with the Bell 222UT helicopter! If you are a Xennial and love aviation, you would fondly remember the television series "Airwolf", with the helicopter used in the series being a Bell Helicopter 222A with some cosmetic modifications. Andre - CEO of Henley Air - gave us all a blast from the past by beautifully displaying this magnificent aircraft (registration ZS-HDF) with the nostalgic theme of Airwolf playing. Quoting Andre himself: "I don't believe that there is something like a 'perfect job', but being a helicopter pilot must be the closest thing possible to that notion."
The Hired Gun Pitts Special flying display team then took to the air. Hired Gun Aviation was started by Ellis Levin in 2020 during the pandemic, offering a unique toolbox of expert aviation services. Together with Arnie Meneghelli, Scully Levin, Sally Levin and Sean Thackwray, they have a staggering cumulative 70,000 hours of flying experience! With their flying display, they visually showcased what this level of experience brings; breath-taking display formation flying!
Next up was the three ship Chipmunk formation. The de Havilland Canada DHC-1 Chipmunk is a tandem, two-seat, single-engined primary trainer aircraft designed and developed by Canadian aircraft manufacturer de Havilland Canada, shortly after WW2.
Sandriver Air Tractors then took to the sky for a very unique display, particular to the demographic area of Parys in the Free State, where commercial farming is prolific. Sandriver Crop Protection is a well-known family owned and operated crop spraying business, with its head office in Tzaneen and satellite offices around the country, including at Parys Airport. The Air Tractors are a range of specialised agricultural crop spraying aircraft designed by Air Tractor Company in the US. Sandriver operates a variety of these, with the AT-301 (P&W R-1340 Wasp radial engine, registration ZS-BYL), AT- 402A (P&W PT6A-20 turboprop engine, ZS-ELB) and the AT- 602 (P&W PT6A-60AG turboprop engine, ZA-NSW) performing the flying displays at the Parys Airshow. The highly skilled Sandriver pilots showcased typical crop-spraying flying manoeuvres and ended with a spectacular water dump right in front of the crowd.
Nigel Hopkins certainly needs no introduction to the airshow community! After good South African wine, he is one of our finest exports! Currently a training Boeing Captain in the US, a former World Advanced Aerobatics champion and 5 times SA Precision Flying Champion with more than 19,000 flying hours, he performed a gravity defying solo display with the Iveco Extra 330SC, showcasing what the aircraft is capable of. The EXTRA 330 SC is a single seat, low-wing aerobatic monoplane with conventional (taildragger) landing gear, offering incredible aerobatic performance in the unlimited class and Nigel certainly makes the most of what the aircraft has to give - a superb display by one of the best pilots in the aerobatics game!
The Goodyear Eagles Pitts Special Aerobatic Display team requires no introduction - they are one of the most well known and loved display teams in the South African airshow arena. The tragic loss of Glen Warden, who led the Goodyear Eagles team for many years, was a loss for the entire aviation community. It was with a lump in the throat that we watched the Eagles take to the sky and perform their perfectly timed display routine.
Captain Pierre Gouws very quickly got the attention of the large crowd when he started the L-39 Albatross. It is a fact that the fast jets are always crowd favourites and the L-39 is no exception. With the recent excitement of the new Top Gun 2 movie being released, all the aspiring young pilots wanted to see the jet take to the air. With the Top Gun anthem playing in the background and commentating by Brian and Keith Fryer, Pierre took the L-39 through graceful turns right in front of the crowd line, showing off the angles of the plane. Pierre is known for his light-hearted and humourous in-cockpit commentating, that while flying a jet aircraft during an aerobatic display routine!
Menno Parsons is probably one of the most loved and true gentlemen of the aviation industry and is adored by all airshow fans for his passion to aviation! He is the CEO of Master Power Technologies and is a regular sponsor to airshows and aviation events such as the Children's Flight. Menno is an avid pilot and loves to perform for the crowds at South African airshows, flying his magnificent P51 "Mustang Sally", Bell 407, Huey, L-39 and DC3 to name a few. Menno gave his typical on your edge flying display in his well-known and often seen Bell 407, for which he recently went to the Bell factory in the US for advanced flight training.
Gliders and airshows are not something you would often hear in the same sentence. However, if you have one of the best glider pilots in South Africa flying one of the best gliders in the world, you have one very special display! Oscar Goudriaan (Former Open Class World Gliding Champion and ten times SA champion with more than 5,000 hours on gliders), performed an astonishing flying display using the local designed and manufactured Jonker Sailplanes JS3 Rapture 18m powered glider. Jonker Sailplanes was founded by brothers Uys and Attie Jonker in 2004 and is based in Potchefstoom. The gliders are world renowned for their exceptional quality and performance. This particular JS3 which was flown by Oscar is fitted with a lightweight MDTJ-42 jet engine to sustain flight even if the thermals which gliders depend on are lost, which in a conventional glider would require landing out in a field.
The display team of Nigel Hopkins and Jason Beamish sported the new livery of their new main sponsor, Iveco. As always, Nigel and Jason performed a world class act, pushing themselves and their aircraft to the absolute limits! These two display pilots represent the best of the South African Unlimited aerobatics display flying. Their signature double knife edge pass is simply aviation art!
It was then time for the rumbling of the large radial engine of the 1941 Boeing Stearman of Ivan van der Schaar, another well known and loved aircraft at SA airshows which Ivan and his wife rebuilt over a period of 3 years. Ivan loves to fly the "Schaarman" to entertain the crowds and he did just that on the day! Future plans include modifications to allow wing walking (for which the Stearman is a popular choice); this will certainly make the future displays for Ivan and the Schaarman even more spectacular!
Next up was Juba Joubert with the Aérospatiale Gazelle multi role helicopter which is painted in a stunning blue colour. The Aérospatiale Gazelle is a French made five-seat helicopter, commonly used for light transport, scouting and light attack duties. Ex-SAAF helicopter pilot Juba is a living legend among both fixed wing and helicopter pilots. Juba has been involved in countless military operations where he has honed his skills to perform one of the most incredible helicopter flying displays you will ever see! Currently he is the chief pilot for Group 73 Tactical Advisors.
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Following Juba's display, the Parys Skydivers took to the air again with a jump to determine the lucky winner of the Breitling Jacket prize by having one of the skydivers landing on a bucket with the winner's name drawn from that particular bucket.
Barrie Eeles is well known on the airshow scene and performed a spectacular solo display in the very good looking Extra 330SC with livery from new sponsor "On the Move" by Four Bros and for which Tristan is the new brand ambassador. Barrie is a past chairman of the Aerobatics Club of SA and is one of the best Unlimited Class display pilots in SA. He has been a Sportsman and Advanced National Champion and has represented South Africa at the World Championships four times. Tristan is following closely in his footsteps and we hope to see him participate in airshows soon!
The final act was the Flying Lions, who performed in closing the missing man formation in honour of Stewart King, owner of Spark Air at Parys Airport who sadly had recently passed away. Stewart had been involved with Spark Air and the Parys Airport for more than 40 years. The missing man formation is an aerial salute performed as part of a flypast of aircraft at a funeral or memorial event, typically in memory of a fallen pilot.
After the departure of the visiting aircraft, one final formation flypast along the flight line by the departing Extra 300's brought us to the end of a spectacular event, hosted by one of the most respected and loved aviators in the South African Aviation industry, Captain and an uncle to us all, Scully Levin.
The Tiger Moth is still one of the most recognisable aircraft around and its stately display adds just that something extra to any an air show.
Not a single person would have left the day without that fuzzy euphoria feeling due to the sensory overload, which you can only get from an South African Airshow - the thundering sound of the Harvard radial engine and the warm, familiar commentating of Brian Emmenis. Add the smell of Jet A1 fumes drifting towards you after a high-speed pass of a turbine engine, the visual spectacle of aeroplanes defying gravity in their display manoeuvres and finally the sensation of the African sun on your face as you track the planes movement through the air; that's what South African airshows are all about!
wishes to thank the organisers of the event for hosting us and looks forward to the next ASSA 2022 airshow!
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