Helicopter in-flight refuelling set to be a highlight of AAD air show

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The weekend AAD (Africa Aerospace and Defence) air show, while thin on the fast jet front, will see a helicopter refuel in flight as far as can be ascertained the first time in public in South Africa.

A US Air Force (USAF) Sikorsky HH60 Pave Hawk will take “gas” from a Hercules HC-130J above Air Force Base (AFB) Waterkloof on Saturday at around 15h15 according to a revised air show programme.

With the SAAF Gripen issues resolved for the time being, air show attendees will have the opportunity of seeing two of 2 Squadron’s Swedish fighters in the air. 85 Combat Flying School, based at AFB Makhado along with the sole fighter squadron of the SA Air Force (SAAF), will put four of its Hawk Mk 120 fighter trainers aloft over the Centurion base on Saturday and Sunday.

All the jet fighters are carded to be part of the “mini-war” alongside three helicopter types (Agusta A109, BK117 and Oryx) and transports from 28 (C-130BZ) and 44 (CASA 212) squadrons.

Other current SAAF platforms taking part in the air show are 41 Squadron’s C-208 Cessna Caravans and the AFB Langebaanweg-based Silver Falcons flying Pilatus PC-7 Mk 11 single-engined trainers.

The SAAF Museum will be well represented with all three its airworthy helicopter types – Alouette 11, 111 and Puma – doing what was some years ago unofficially known as the Museum’s General’s Flight. That was when three former one- and two-stars regularly flew the rotorcraft at flying training days and the Museum air show, expected to be make a welcome return to the national air show calendar next year.

On the privately owned side the Mustang Sally the P51D Mustang with its throaty roar is sure to be a hit as will the ever-popular Puma Lions in their North American Harvards. Other showstoppers on the programme are Extra 330Cs performing high manoeuvre level aerobatics and a vintage Boeing Stearman.

AAD organisers said flying is expected to start after aircraft arrivals at 08h00 with paragliders touching down ahead of an opening ceremony.  Flying continues, weather permitting, until 17h45 on Saturday and Sunday.