Aerospace Africa and Defense - Public Airshow 24 September 2022

By Jaco Pitout

The last AAD was held at Airforce Base Waterkloof in 2018, unfortunately the pandemic made AAD 2020 impossible. AAD 2022 was therefore a welcome return to the airshow calendar.

Upon arrival at Waterkloof I entered through gate 5 and was directed to general parking on the unused runway 06/24. Further parking was also made available to visitors on the vast grass area adjacent to the runway. The queue to enter the show was already more than 100 metres long.

I opted to take position on the crowd line in order to be better positioned for the action that was to follow.

Settled in, it was time for the airshow to start with a cavalcade of emergency vehicles was displayed for the viewing public ending in a crescendo of a water canon salute. I am sure that the entire crowd agree with the sentiments of the commentator, Brian Emmenis, that as mush as the presence of these emergency services were appreciated, it was not wished that these vehicles would be needed again during the day.

The show proceeded almost immediately with Grant Timms flying a graceful display of gentleman's aerobatics in the Aero Vochody L29 from Hangar 51.

When it comes to historic aircraft there are few that elicit more memories than the venerable AT6 Texan or Harvard as it is affectionately known in South Africa. One with a particularly interesting career in the SAAF is Harvard 7111, known as Nelson. Seen here being put through its' paces.

An ever-popular act at South African airshows is the Raptors Formation Aerobatic team. The fly an assortment of RV aircraft to the delight of the crowds. Since being established in 2013, this team have grown in stature, and this is displayed in the polished nature of their routine.

There is nothing that quite says aerobatics like an Extra aircraft. This time in the hands of Andrew Blackwood-Murray. The Nashua sponsored aircraft cut through the air as Andrew displayed what is possible when pilot and machine come together as one.

There was no shortage of rotor-wing action! The BK117 was flown right to the edge of its' envelope in what can only be described as a spirited performance!

Transport capabilities of the SAAF was displayed by a four ship C208 Caravan formation named the Pointer Formation. Expert piloting in difficult and windy conditions.

The SAAF Museum brought several helicopters to the show, including a Puma, two Allouette II's ant two Allouette III's. They performed a well-choreographed aerial ballet within inches of one another. Truly spectacular to see.

After months of uncertainty regarding the future of Gripen in South Africa, it was great to see that it made a return to our skies in the hands of the very popular Musa "Midnight" Mbhokota. The flying display had me thinking that Musa had been re-united with an old friend and that this display was their reunion. It was magical to see how he made Gripen dance across the sky.

The SAAF brought a five ship Siler Falcons team to AAD 2022. With a four-ship formation and a soloist performing later in the airshow. It was a treat to see these highly qualified instructors from Central Flying School at Airforce Base Langebaanweg. The Silver Falcons celebrate 55 years of existence this year!

Gunshots, sirens, smoke grenades. In an everyday context these sound like a kind of day that is not what one would be looking for. However, at AAD it means that the SAPS special Forces as well as the SAAF are about to entertain the crowds with their tactical maneuvers. A "highjacked" business jet was forced to land at Waterkloof and a tactical operation ensued with participation from several multi-disciplinary team.

The Zimbabwean Airforce also attended AAD 2022. They brought Karakorum-8 (also known as KA8) aircraft to be displayed at the show. I was struck with the sound that the aircraft made, almost reminiscent of the Goblin engine in the Vampire.

Possibly the lightest aircraft displayed at AAD this year was the Magni Gyro of Andre' van Zyl. The maneuverability of these machines never ceases to amaze. It was very evident that the crowd around me enjoyed this display, some gasping and other watching in awe.

Big aircraft formations always draw the attention of the crowd at any airshow. It was a very special treat to see a very dissimilar formation of a Lockheed L100 and a Boeing 737-800 from Safair together. It will also be the last time that the L100 will be displayed at a South African airshow, as this aircraft leaves the Safair fleet later this year.

The Goodyear Eagles always pleases the crowd! They are just as at home at their home airfield, being Rand Airport, or an international stage at AAD 2022. Fast paced action is their trademark and they certainly delivered at this event!

The Hired Gun Pitts formation aerobatic team is an institution in South African airshows. Harking back to the first ever civilian aerobatic team in South Africa in 1985. Having transitioned between various sponsors during the years, Hired Gun is their newest sponsor and also the brainchild of one of their team members, Ellis Levin. Hired Gun is a coffee brand for pilots, by pilots.

More fast paced action followed in the program with the duo of Extra's flown by Nigel Hopkins and Jason Beamish. Their close-in formation aerobatics intertwined with advanced aerobatics had the crowd on their feet!

The SAAF Mini War commands the attention of the crow, so much so that when it is announced, many many spectators rush to the fence along the kilometer long crowd-line for a better look. A spectacle indeed!

The newer brother of the L29 displayed earlier during the day, the L39, also made an appearance during the latter part of the day. Captain Pierre Gouws displayed this beautifully turned-out example right in front of the crowd with live commentary throughout giving the spectators a live feel for what he was experiencing in the cockpit.

The second international flying display to make an appearance at AAD was representatives of the US Airforce with a Lockheed C130J and a UH60 Pavehawk. The Hercules went by the callsign of King 11 (one one) and the helicopter by Jolly 11 (one one). It was great to see USA participation at AAD!

Menno Parsons and Mustang Sally are names synonymous with airshows in South Africa. The sound and the pristine condition of the aircraft makes it a truly magnificent sight to behold. This display was, as normal, simply beautiful.

The Hawk display from 85 Combat Flying School comprised of four aircraft including the South African flag aircraft. The four-ship conducted several formation fly-pasts with the soloist, Rehan Venter, breaking away for a high energy display.

In a big surprise Execujet brought a beautiful brand-new Bombardier Challenger business jet to Waterkloof just for a couple of fly-by's. I can only imagine what it must be like to pilot and to fly as passenger on such a beautiful aircraft.

There is a certain magic about dusk displays. The light, the cool breeze just makes for a different atmosphere after a long and very hot day in the Pretoria sun. These displays featured Andrew Blackwood Murray in the Extra, the SAAF C130 with a mass paradrop and pass dispensing flares.

The spectacular end of day Rooivalk display was followed by Gripen for a dusk show, which sadly did not see any flares dispensed.

The Flying Lions brought the day to a close with their beautiful sunset display.

What a wonderful way to spend a Saturday! AAD was everything we wished for and the biggest airshow in the country since the pandemic! All we can wish and hope for is that future AAD's will attract even more international participation and bigger crowds.

Events 2022
Aviation Economy

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