Whether you’re waiting to board a plane to a foreign country, are welcoming home or bidding farewell to a loved one or simply standing, nose pressed against the window watching the planes take off, there’s just something special about seeing aircraft soaring into the sky.
It is this fascination with flying vehicles that has made airshows such a big attraction. Last weekend, aerial aces showed off their flying skills with vivid aerobatic displays at the annual South African Air Force (SAAF) Museum Airshow and kept fans looking to the sky.
At the Swartkop Air Force Base in Centurion, excitement built as South Africa’s premier jet fighter taxied down the runway in preparation for take-off. After a thunderous roar, the advanced Gripen fighter (tail number 24) ascended into the air, followed by a series of choreographed high speed manoeuvres, with the sound of the jet engine enough to momentarily deafen onlookers. The pilot had the crowds’ undivided attention.
The display demonstrated the training of the South African Air Force personnel and culminated in a large pyrotechnics display in the middle of the airfield to simulate an attack by the plane.
The SAAF Airshow is a favorite among aviation enthusiasts and a former winner of the Best Airshow Award. This year’s offering enjoyed great weather and the variety of aircraft on show drew in large crowds from all over Gauteng.
Displays included aviators flying various aircraft, from World War II warbirds like the P-51 Mustang to the more modern Gripen, Vampire jets and an Oryx helicopter. A highlight of show was the Silver Falcons (now turbo-prop Pilatus planes rather than jets) in formation.
Precision flying and high G-force turns were common. These aerobatics teams weaved across the sky trailing white smoke, often flying within a few metres of their team members – one slip of the hand and it would all be over.
Mango Airlines also showed a strong presence at the event, with the aim of inspiring youngsters to pursue a career in aviation. A Mango Boeing 737 performed together with the Silver Falcons.
An exciting anti-rhino poaching demonstration was presented, using a helicopter and a series of armed vehicles from the South African National Defence Force. After identifying a group of mock poachers in the vicinity, the air support proceeded to drop red and green smoke bombs, before a number of armoured vehicles rushed to the scene to apprehend the suspects.
Propeller-driven planes were not going to be outdone by the jets, as a large contingent of Harvards took to the sky along with an Antanov AN2 nicknamed ‘Little Annie’. On the ground, static displays included Rooivalk helicopters, Olifants tanks and Hawk jets.