Thousands of eager aviation fanatics were treated to an airshow extravaganza at Waterkloof Air Force base outside Pretoria over the weekend.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, aircraft enthusiasts were able to attend a major airshow for the first time in almost three years. The two-day event marked the end of the biennial Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) which combines a trade exhibition and an air show.
The highlight of the show was the mini-war which had the crowds pressing against the barriers to catch a glimpse of the action.
The scenario included the dropping of paratroopers, airstrikes and the insertion of special forces amid spectacular pyrotechnics. Spectators were able to see a range of South African Air Force (SAAF)aircraft – such as the C-130 transport, the Oryx helicopter, the Hawk trainer and the locally produced Rooivalk attack helicopter – in operation.
The always-popular SAAF aerobatic display team, the Silver Falcons, achieved another milestone in their long and illustrious history.
Veteran airshow commentator, Brian Emmenis, pointed out that for the first time in the team’s history, all the members of team 84 have surnames beginning with the letter ‘M’.
The team was formed in 1953 and was known as the ‘Bumbling Bees’.
The Falcons also provided a farewell salute to Safair’s iconic and long-serving Hercules L-100 transport aircraft. This aircraft has provided humanitarian support during various United Nations and International Committee of the Red Cross operations.
Emmenis said this could well be the last time it would fly in South Africa as it had been sold to a US company.
Another favourite that returned to the airshow programme was the Gripen fighter aircraft. This followed a recent announcement that South Africa has contracted Saab to provide three years of support to some of its fleet of Gripen combat aircraft. The 532-million-rand deal covers service, repairs, maintenance, and minor upgrades to the Gripen fleet.
The progamme also included an aerial ballet by the SAAF Museum’s helicopter flight, aerobatic performances by groups such as the Goodyear Eagles and the Flying Lions and a display by a K-8 light attack aircraft from the Zimbabwean Air Force.
SAAF Chief, Lieutenant General Wiseman Mbambo, summed up the weekend, saying South Africans had been waiting in anticipation since the last AAD airshow in 2018.
In the face of so much negativity, especially around jobs, the state of the economy and load shedding, he said there was a need to bring a ray of hope to the nation. Looking ahead, he also issued a challenge for the next show in 2024 to double the number of people attending.