Pretoria aviation show thrills young and old

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Thousands of aviation enthusiasts – young and old – have turned out to watch civilian and military aircraft put through their paces in the skies above Pretoria. The two-day airshow marks the conclusion of the biannual Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) exhibition at Waterkloof Air Force Base.

The mini-war was the highlight of the day and had the crowds on their feet eager not to miss any of the action.  The scenario showcased the abilities and equipment of the South African National Defence Force in dealing with a combat situation. It involved paratroopers, fighter aircraft and helicopters such as the locally built and designed Rooivalk attack helicopter; ground forces securing the area and spectacular pyrotechnics.

To mark the 20th anniversary of AAD, South Africa’s indigenous aircraft design and manufacturing capacities were highlighted with a flypast of home-grown products.  These included several Bat Hawk aircraft built in Nelspruit and used for anti-poaching, general surveillance and crop-spraying; the Raven 500 and the Wagtail gyrocopter.

Another local product that did several full displays and aroused considerable interest, were the prototypes of the distinctive Advanced High-Performance Reconnaissance Aircraft or AHRLAC.  As the engine is unusually placed behind the pilot this enables sophisticated surveillance equipment and cameras to be placed in the nose.

The always-popular Silver Falcons did not disappoint.  The official ambassadors of the South African Air Force are now in their 51st year of existence and still attract thousands of young – and not so young –  fans through their skill and expertise. Veteran air show commentator Brian Emmenis commended them for inspiring youngsters to learn to fly.

The show had a full programme of both military and civilian aircraft which included the SAAF’s Gripen and Hawk jets as well as several display teams.  To pay tribute to South Africa’s long aviation history, the SAAF Museum was also well-represented in their own mini-combat scenario with the Puma and Allouette helicopters as well as the Bosbok, Kudu and Cessna fixed wing aircraft. Little Annie – an Antonov 2 – the world’s largest single engine bi-plane performed graceful duets with a much smaller, but no less imposing Boeing Stearman.

By midday, the airshow organisers had recorded around 45 000 passing through the gates.

Hawk jet pilot, Lieutenant Tiisetso Legodi summed up a day of family fun and entertainment which not only showcased the history and current pictures of South Africa’s aviation sector, but also pointed to its future.  He said coming to air shows and seeing the pilots had inspired him and he hoped that events of the day would inspire more young people.


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