Gripen and Hawk to headline SAAF Museum air show

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The sharp end of the South African Air Force (SAAF) in the form of its Gripen and Hawk jet combat aircraft will take part in the SAAF Museum air show next week at the Air Force Mobile Deployment Wing, formerly Air Force Base (AFB) Swartkop.

The welcome return of the SAAF Museum air show, postponed in 2020, 2021 and 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will take place on Saturday 6 May, with tickets now on sale. The SAAF said it will be preceded by a plane versus train race from 6:00 on Wednesday (3 May), with a SAAF Museum aircraft racing the Gautrain.

The air show itself, with the theme ‘Taking off to new frontiers’, will run from 9:00 to 17:30 (gates open at 7:00) and include both SAAF, Museum and civil aircraft. SAAF participation is expected to include the Hawk, Gripen, BK 117, A109 and Rooivalk, with three Gripens scheduled to fly in to Centurion. The SAAF Museum will contribute Alouette II, III and Puma helicopters, Harvard trainers, Cessna 185, Kudu and Bosbok aircraft. Civilian pilots will fly the Chipmunk, Stearman, Extra 330, L-29, Extra 300, Alouette III, P-51 Mustang, Magni gyrocopter, and Tiger Moth, amongst others.

Several aerobatic display teams are scheduled to take part in the air show, including the Puma Energy Flying Lions (Harvards), Raptors (RVs) and Hired Gun Aviation (Pitts Specials). Some participation from the SAAF aerobatic display team, the Silver Falcons, is also expected.

The SAAF Museum Air Show is the first major air show of 2023. An air show calendar issued by Air Show South Africa (ASSA) lists it as the first of the year to be followed by the Lowveld Airshow in Mbombela/Nelspruit on 13 May with the Botswana International Air Show the final regional event of the month.

The Museum air show is a major and essential fundraiser for the three-museum alliance responsible for South Africa’s military aviation history. This includes keeping vintage aircraft – where possible – in airworthy or display condition at museum headquarters (AFB Swartkop/Mobile Deployment Wing) and its Eastern Cape (AFB Gqeberha) and Cape Town (AFB Ysterplaat) branches.

The museums are not considered operational units and receive only limited financial support from the SAAF defence budget allocation, making the air show and the funding it provides integral to their continued existence. All three museums are manned by a limited number of full-time SAAF personnel, supported by Air Force Reserves and active friends’ communities.

Tickets for 6 May are R50 for children under 16 and R100 for adults. They are available from Computicket here.

Gautrain is the transport partner of the SAAF Museum air show and will be providing a free Gautrain Midibus Service to ticketholders between the Gautrain Centurion Station and the venue on the day of the event.