This Saturday is air show day at AFB Zwartkop when the SA Air Force (SAAF) Museum’s annual fundraiser takes to the skies. Nearly 100 aircraft will participate but there will also be plenty of entertainment on the ground.
The museum, headquartered at the Centurion air force base and with two satellite museums at AFB Port Elizabeth and AFB Ysterplaat, uses the annual air show to generate funds, without which the continued restoration, preservation and display of South Africa’s military aviation heritage would disappear.
This year the air show will be a showcase for 95 years of aviation excellence as part of the SAAF’s 95th anniversary and will also commemorate 80 years of service by the venerable C-47 and its offspring, the C-47TP, to the air force. Another anniversary to be marked on Saturday is the 25th year of the Harvard Club of South Africa. This North American trainer was once the backbone of the SAAF’s training effort and was also deployed operationally. The air show will also be celebrating 21 years of the air force in democracy.
Lieutenant Colonel Mike O’Connor, head of the SAAF Museum, said that every year the organisers try and make the air show bigger and better and this year is no exception, with around 100 aircraft scheduled to take part, excluding mass flypasts of powered paragliders, microlights and gyrocopters.
“We intend putting up the maximum number of SA Air Force aircraft in order to demonstrate our operational capabilities; here the Gripen, Hawk, Rooivalk and our Silver Falcons aerobatic team are always main attractions and regarded as show stoppers. We will ensure maximum Museum warbirds take to the skies to entertain the crowds.”
The line-up of participating aircraft is still being confirmed but will tentatively includes around 15 aircraft from the Museum (Vampire, Harvard, Alouette II and III, Puma, Bosbok, Albatross, Kudu etc.) and around 15 aircraft from the South African Air Force, including C-130 Hercules, A109, Oryx, BK117, Caravan, C212, Gripen and Hawk. If possible, a Rooivalk attack helicopter will also take part.
More than 40 other aircraft are scheduled to participate, including the P-51 Mustang, Pitts Specials, MX2 aerobatic aircraft, L-39, DC-3 (flown by Springbok Air), Antonov An-2 and Bell 47. The morning will start off with mostly heritage flights involving aircraft like the Tiger Moth, with much of the fast jets, such as the Impala and Gripen, in the afternoon.
Various display teams will entertain the crowds, such as the Silver Falcons, Harvard Club, Pitts special team and a new Vans RV team which will be a new addition to the air show circuit.
Although the show officially kicks off at 9:00, it will be preceded by mass flypasts and aerobatic displays of powered paragliders, gyrocopters and microlights, which will perform for approximately an hour. The official opening will revolve around the donation to the Museum of a Cessna that was used to train APLA pilots in Nigeria.
Part of the day’s lineup is a Tora! Tora! Tora! Simulated attack by Harvards. As the Harvards shut down, a one kilometre long wall of fire explosion will be detonated, under control of the SA Army Engineer Formation.
Other attractions will be a parachute drop with 40 paratroopers jumping from a C-130, a display of emergency vehicles, SA Medical Health Services display and SA Police Service display (including its Air Wing).
Saturday’s air show will see non-stop action with no lunch break – instead there will be 15 minute intervals between some of the displays.
Publicity surrounding the air show got underway this morning with a race between the Gautrain and one of the Museum’s Alouette II helicopters. The race began at the Gautrain’s Midrand station and ended in Centurion with the Alouette II racing to claim victory.
As the Paramount Group is again the main sponsor of the event for the third consecutive year (providing fuel and vehicles amongst other things), it is pulling out all the stops once again, and will bring a Gazelle helicopter, conduct an anti-rhino poaching demonstration and display its 10 metre high Parabot. The anti-poaching demonstration will involve a rapid response team with tracking dogs rapelling from a helicopter. A life size rhino model will be used to demonstrate a poaching operation, with the help of the Gazelle helicopter, tracker dogs, troops and Paramount armoured vehicles. In support of its anti-poaching efforts, Paramount will be facilitating rhino support pledges.
“South Africa’s Air Force, celebrating 95 years, has a very proud history and played a critical role in bringing peace and security to conflict areas, not just in Africa but across the world. This proud tradition lives on and the SAAF will continue to be a torchbearer of peace, security and humanitarian relief across the continent, saving lives and protecting our security forces, citizens and critical assets like our endangered wildlife, on a daily basis,” said Ivor Ichikowitz, Paramount Executive Chairman.
“Paramount Group is proud to sponsor the SAAF Museum Air Show as we recognise it as an important custodian of the country’s air force history and an important partner in helping us to promote aerospace and aviation as a very exciting industry with incredible career opportunities for young South Africans.”
Mango airline is a big sponsor of the air show and will fly one of its Boeing 737-800 airliners as part of the aerial displays. It is possible that the Silver Falcons will fly in formation with the Boeing.
Mango is also sponsoring the aviation awareness day on Friday the 8th, which will see it bring in 2 500 children to the base to learn about aviation careers and be entertained by things like validation flights, model building and a draw that will see some lucky children go up in one of the Air Force’s C-130 Hercules, which has been made available for the event. The Museum aims to also bring in 2 500 children from its side, who will be able to experience Mango and Impala aircraft simulators.
The SAAF Museum Air Show has been awarded two Best Air Show in South Africa awards as well as a second and third place over the past four years. Some 40 000 people attended in 2014 and this year around 45 000 people are expected.
Vodacom will be providing a mobile tower to ensure connectivity while Netcare 911 will be supplying ambulances and first aid stations.
Commentary will be provided by former SAAF pilot Eon de Vos.
Entrance is R50 per person with children under 12 going in free. Tickets can be purchased at www.ticketpro.co.za. Parking is available at the old SAAF Gymnasium across the road from Zwartkop and gates open at 6:30 am. Gautrain busses will also be servicing the base for the show.