The SAAF Museum Airshow May 2024

Flight Through Time - Legends of the Skies

Jaco pitout

It is always with great excitement that I visit the SAAF Mobile Deployment Wing at Zwartkop for their annual airshow. It is a much-anticipated event, and it receives a lot of media coverage leading up to the show day on Saturday.

The first step in obtaining access to the airshow is to obtain media accreditation, which is handled by Military Intelligence at Zwartkops West (formerly known as the Airforce Gymnasium). The accreditation process is simple and takes no longer than 10 minutes should all your supplied information pass verification checks. With my verification in hand, I looked forward to Airshow Saturday.

Also, notable that on the Friday before the airshow there is a customary race between the Gautrain and helicopters from the SAAF Museum. This year, the honours went to the Alouette II from the museum, flown by Col. Dave Keijer.

I arrived at the show early on Saturday morning and found a spot on a pavilion close to show centre. Some of the many vendors were already open taking advantage of breakfast trade. A steaming hot cappuccino was taken on board as I met up with friends and fellow photographers. It was not long after that guests and some participants started arriving.

A group of paramotor pilots then flew past just before the opening of the show by Lt Gen Wiseman Mbambo. In speaking with my friends sitting next to me at the show, we marvelled at how you could take these flying machines anywhere and fly from anywhere from the boot of your car. Just incredible technology!

Kitplanes for Africa

The traditional cavalcade of emergency response vehicles then proceeded with their presentation. “Services we hope that we will not need today” as said by the legendary Brian Emmenis.

The opening of the airshow was conducted by Chaplain Ndlala as well as Lt Gen Mbambo.

The show continued after the official opening with a mixed / mass formation from the SAAF Museum. What a wonderful sight it is to see these precious machines preserved right here on South Africa soil!

Lt. Col Scott “Prowler” Logie, commander of 85 Combat Flying School, brought the “Gannet” themed Hawk Mk120 from AFB Makhado for a spirited solo display. The Hawk danced through the sky and at times, vapour could be seen from the wings as Lt. Col. Logie brought on the G.

Andre' van Zyl is a crown favourite wherever he displays his Magni Gyro. This display was no exception, the crown around me was left astounded by the abilities of this little machine.

The Helicopter Whisperer, Juba Joubert, showed his mettle in a beautifully restored Aloutte III. His routine showed the full capabilities of this French light utility helicopter. One of many types Juba can make dance through the sky.

Andrew Blackwood-Murray is no stranger to airshow performing. He earned is wings in the SAAF and went on to become a successful Airline Captain. His bright blue and red Nashua sponsored Extra 300 had the crowd on the edges of their seats right from his inverted take-off and climb out!

In another dissimilar formation, the SAAF Museum flew two Aloutte III helicopters in formation with a Cessna 185. It was said that the red spinner on the 185 is an oddity as it would never have been red during operational times. A wonderful formation indeed, speaking to the quality of pilots of the SAAF.

The Silver Falcons are the cockpit ambassadors for the South African Air Force. There was one aircraft sent from AFB Langebaanweg to display for the growing crowd. The balance of the team was missed, however the soloist of the team did a fantastic job of entertaining the crowd.

Lt. Col. Sloan from 15 Squadron, flew a beautiful display in his beloved Augusta 109. He later quipped that he really enjoys the A109 compared to other helicopter inventory in the SAAF.

The Classic Flying Collection in Springs brought no less than five aircraft to display at the airshow. Their two acts feature Rodney Chinn, Grant Timms and Ryan Briggs. The first of the two was a formation of two Tiger Moths featuring Rodney and Grant and the second featured the entire trio. All of their aircraft are kept in pristine condition by a dedicated crew.

The newest display team on the South African Airshow circuit is a formation of Ryan Navion's piloted by Mike George and Reyno Coetser. These beautiful aircraft, related to the P51 Mustang I might add, are flown from their base in Krugersdorp and kept in showroom condition. Their smoke systems certainly added to the appeal of their display.

Tristan Eeles is fast moving up in the world of Competition Aerobatics in South Africa. He represented the country in the USA at the 15th FAI World Advanced Aerobatics Championships. This young man has very bright future ahead of him in this extremely demanding discipline!

A crowd favourite is the Hired Gun Pitts Special team. Not only a fantastic coffee brand but also a group of dedicated pilots with one goal in mind, to thrill a crowd. That they did with aplomb at Zwartkops!

Travelling back to yesteryear and the romance of flying is made possible by Springbok Classic Air, resident at Rand Airport, Johannesburg. They regularly provide charters to groups with a variety of classic airliners. Capt. Flippie Vermeulen and his son Ben brought their beautiful Beech 18 along to Zwartkop to show the crowd its' elegant lines.

The mini-war sequence always proves to be a crowd favourite, explosions, stun grenades, smoke grenades and a little bit of what seems to be disorganized, but carefully planned chaos. Well done to all involved! It elicited an amazing array of responses from the crowd around me.

P51 Mustang. This combination of letters and words brings delight to many an airshow visitor. Especially when paired with Menno Parsons. He regularly display's his pride and joy to many an airshow visitor, a piece of aviation history indeed! Menno also flew his Huey during the show with its' characteristic blade slap sound echoing through the highveld air.

Maj. Corrie Oberholzer again gave a polished display in the BK117. It also comprised of a second BK117 making a beautiful two ship formation with intricate formation manoeuvres requiring absolute concentration from both crews.

The Flying Lions, sponsored by Puma Fuel, is a South African airshow institution. No airshow can be deemed complete without them. The team consisting of Scully Levin, Arnie Meneghelli, Ellis Levin, and Sean Thackwray flew two displays. Their high display and their emotive late afternoon flat show.

The SAPS Airwing also conducted a capability demonstration with Tilanie Neethling flying the H125 and Rob Siegrist flying the Pilatus Porter dispatched and recovered the Police Taskforce members.

Having only seen the Mwari from the Paramount group flown in anger, I was delighted to see it displayed with so much enthusiasm by Mark Berg, the test pilot of the Mwari project.

If you are looking for fast paced, exhilarating aerobatics, Nigel Hopkins and Jason Beamish delivered just that in their newly branded Master Power sponsored Extra Aircraft. There were gasps of disbelief at the manoeuvres conducted by these two experienced aviators. It was thrilling!

Grant Timms was a busy man at the airshow, flying three displays on the day, his final display being in the Aero Vodochody L29 with the Austrian Eagle livery. The beautiful gentleman's aerobatics against the pale blue sky was just beautiful!

The Goodyear Pitts Special team consisting of Nigel Hopkins, Jason Beamish, Johan van Solms and Trevor Warner kept the capacity crowd at their feet with their gasp inducing switchblade break and their double heart.

With the day drawing to a close and the shadows growing ever longer, the Raptors Aerobatic team, being Nigel Hopkins, Trevor Warner, Dion Raath and Johan von Solms displayed the popular RV aircraft in front of the crowd.

To close out an amazing day there was a twilight formation display by the Flying Lions and a solo Hawk Mk120 display as well as a Hawk formation flypast.

It was a fantastic airshow! The SAAF Museum and all the crews did a phenomenal job in presenting an airshow with this much variety. Well, done to the entire organising team and all of those involved in this airshow in any way shape or form. I am sure that the entire capacity crowd enjoyed every moment of this safe, well organised, show!

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