Africa Aerospace and Defence 2006Date: 20 September 2006
Africa Aerospace and Defence 2006 was a first in many respects: the first time the show was held in Cape Town and the first time many military and commercial aircraft had been displayed in South Africa.
Due to continued rehabilitation of AFB Waterkloof, it was decided to move AAD from Pretoria to AFB Ysterplaat, with 20 - 22 September being trade days and Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 September being the public flying days. This meant that the majority of South African exhibitors who are located in Gauteng had to make the trek to Cape Town, while many of the fast jets had to be based at Cape Town International Airport due to the short runway at AFB Ysterplaat.
Despite exhibitor numbers falling slightly compared to the previous shows, approximately 46 commercial aircraft were on display, compared to 29 two years ago, and a small naval presence was berthed at the nearby V&A Waterfront, including the SA Navy frigate SAS Isandlwana and the Indian destroyer IS Mumbai. AAD, for the first time, was a true land, air and sea show.
Pride of place must go the first Gripen to bear SAAF livery which arrived in the country two months ago. International military participants included the exotic Embraer EMB-145 AEW&C aircraft, while the Zimbabwe airforce made a welcome appearance with two K-8 trainers and a CASA-212 support aircraft. The ATE Mi-24 Super Hind Mk III flew for the first time at a South African airshow. Other SAAF aircraft which had not been seen in Cape Town before included the Hawk trainer and Agusta A-109 helicopter which has replaced the Alouette III.
Civilian aircraft that made their public debut at AAD included the Eurocopter EC-145, Citation CJ2+, Dassault Falcon 900EX, Bombardier Global 5000 and the Embraer Legacy and EMB-190. The later made a surprisingly short and impressive landing on arrival.
Due to the extensive flying during the trade days, the public was well aware of the airshow. They came in their thousands, approximately 60 000 on the Saturday and 30 000 on the Sunday. There were massive traffic jams and clogged the roads and many were turned away when the traffic police eventually closed all the surrounding roads. The secret was to get there early and leave late.
And what a show they had. "Wall-to-wall" flying, with few gaps in the action: a real full programme. What a welcome change from some of the previous pedestrian air shows. The air traffic control was well co-ordinated, as many of the fast jets were operating out of Cape Town International.
There was also the additional attraction of the interesting AAD 2006 displays in and around the eight expo hangers. The mock-up Gripen on display with a full range of weapons was interesting. I wonder how many people did not realize that it was the ultimate 1:1 scale kit and not the real thing. At R30, the entrance fee was real value for money.
The SAAF Museum was represented by the only flying piston engined SAAF Dakota 6859 and a display in the revetment, which included the Young Falcons Shackleton and Impala simulators and a working radio station. One of the stars of the display was Dakota 6832, being restored to the natural metal scheme she was in when she flew to the Comores to fetch the Coelacanth in 1952. Well done to Kevin Furness, Nigel Holloway and the 6832 team.
The weather co-operated (the Sunday being the better day with very little cloud cover) which was great as the aircraft stood out against the blue sky, rather than getting lost in the cloud backdrop. Also the "smoke" trailed by the aerobatic aircraft (diesel injected into the exhaust) loses its effectiveness against cloud. The show started on both days with the vehicle and helicopter cavalcade down the runway, a tribute to the unsung workers who man the rescue vehicles and are also there for public safety. This was followed by a para drop from a 44 Squadron CASA 212 (8011).
Few of the crowd were aware of the tragic death on Friday afternoon of Martin van Straten in one of the Sasol Tigers Aerobatic Team L-29 Delphins, which crashed into Table Bay after a formation photo shoot. The team did not participate further in the air show. The Silver Falcons flew the missing man formation just after the lunch break on Saturday, in tribute. The Lightning formation also flew a missing man fly past, after the solo display. Our condolences to his family.
So, what were the highlights? I can't list them all but my personal favourites were:
The Rolls Royce Griffon purr of Shackleton MR Mk 3 1722 as she flew majestically and serenely by, the only Mk 3 flying in the world. Flown by Peter Dagg and Thys du Toit and lovingly maintained by WO1 (retd) Henry "Pottie" Potgieter and his team. Sadly this is a sight that will not be seen for much longer, as there are plans to retire her in 2008, when 1722 has flown for fifty years. A tribute was made to the late General Ben Kriegler, who also flew the Shackleton, and who had recently passed away unexpectedly.
The incredible sight of four Lightnings in formation from Thunder City, an event unique in the world and not seen since the English Electric Lightnings were withdrawn from RAF service many years ago in the 1990s. Full kudos to Thunder City for such a stunning spectacle. The formation was lead by Mike Beachy-Head (owner and CEO of Thunder City) in Lightning F Mk 6, ZU-BEW, with Keith Hartley (former Eurofighter Typhoon test pilot) in F Mk 6 ZU-BEY, Dave Stock (test pilot and a British Airways first officer) in T Mk 5 ZU-BEX, and Ian Black (former RAF Lightning pilot who now flies for Virgin Atlantic) in T Mk 5, ZU-BBD.
The amazing South African Airways Airbus A340-600, (ZS-SNH on Saturday and ZS-SNG on Sunday) flown by Johnny Woods, Scully Levin, Dennis Spence and Stu Lithgow, which included a low letdown and approach, as if to land on runway 02. This must have been impressive for passing motorists on the N2 highway. For many, this was the highlight of the show.
The Cheetah mock air combat was a favourite with the kids of all ages: thunderous noise and aircraft all over the sky. The Cheetahs were from no 2 Squadron based at AFB Makhado (in the Limpopo Province). Two Cheetah Cs (352 and 365) were chasing a brightly painted "bandit" Cheetah D (861), which had a large red 2 painted under the aircraft. This was followed by a solo display in Cheetah C (347).
The Thunder City Buccaneer S Mk 2 ZU-AVI (flown by Mike Beachy-Head) and Hawker Hunter Mk 6, ZU-AUJ (flown by Ian Pringle) were impressive, as was the SAAF BAe Hawk Mk 120 LIFT (261), and SAAF Gripen (01), a two seater. The Gripen did not perform any extreme maneuvers nor a long display, due to the test instrumentation installed on board as it is still undergoing testing at the Test flight and Development Centre at AFB Overberg, Bredasdorp.
Mirage IIICZ "Black Widow" (800, now registered ZU-DMD), was painted in black with gold outlines and was the first of the type to be delivered to the SAAF in 1963. Mirage F1AZ (233) was painted in a dark blue colour scheme with Aerosud titles. Both were displayed several times and are part of the SAAF Museum collection.
The 80% scale Spitfire reminded me of the days when we had Evelyn, the SAAF Museum Spitfire and Mike Snoyman's, ZU-SPT.
The ATE owned Mil Mi 24 Super Hind Mk 3, ZU-BOI (flown by Trevor Ralston) flew and made a simulated rocket attack, the flames and explosions being popular with the crowd. It was good to see this unique helicopter fly, having being statically displayed at previous AADs.
SAAF helicopters were well represented. The unique Rooivalk (680) from 16 Squadron in Bloemfontein produced a polished display with pyrotechnics and extreme maneuvers. It was interesting to see the new the Agusta 109 (4013), also based at Bloemfontein, do its flying display. Alouette III (No 624, in the markings of 87 Helicopter Flying School in Bloemfontein) also displayed. It is encouraging that a number of Alouette IIIs have been taken on SAAF Museum strength, so we should still see them fly for many years. A BK-117 (380) from No 15 Squadron C Flight, based at Port Elizabeth amazed the crowd by sliding along the runway on its ski type undercarriage. There was also a mock attack with SAAF Oryxes and a quick reaction team.
South Africa's "cockpit ambassadors", the SAAF's Silver Falcons aerobatic team gave a polished performance in their Pilatus PC 7 Mk 2 Astras (2023(1), 2028(2) 2024(3) and 2027(4)). I am sure that such displays inspire many "would be" pilots to join the SAAF. The Mazda Zoom-Zoom Zlins (ZS-WWJ and ZS-MBW), the Castrol Flying Lions Harvard aerobatic team, led by Arnie Miragelli (ZU-AYS, ZU-BET, ZU-BEU and ZU-BMC) and Pierre Gouws in his black L-39 jet ZU-TEE all gave polished performances.
The SAAF did do a massed fly past in sections, which was a sight not seen for many years. It consisted of helicopters (Oryx, MBB-BK 117, Agusta 109 and Alouette III), followed by a Cessna 208 Caravan (3011) and a C47TP Turbodak (6825). The Silver Falcon Astra five aircraft V-formation was followed by three Cheetahs (one Cheetah D and two Cheetah Cs).
SAAF transports were represented by a 35 Squadron C-47TP "Turbodak" (6825) flying display, which was one of the maritime patrol versions as indicated by the lack of fuselage windows on the left side. There were also regular transport flights by 35 Squadron Turbdaks in between displays (6877 and 6839 in the new overall gray colour scheme and 6840). CASA CN 235 (2036) of 44 Squadron did a daily shuttle between AFB Ysterplaat and AFB Waterkloof.
The two trainer / light attack K-8s (2104E and 2106G) of the Air Force of Zimbabwe, based at Thornhill, Harare, were seen for the first time in Cape Town and gave good displays. They were the only foreign military participant in the flying display.
Greg found the commentary knowledgeable and thoughtful in places with deliberate silences to hear the aircraft engines. Well done to the Capital Sounds team headed up by Brian Emmenis, and ably assisted by Andrew Blake and Leon du Plessis. Horace Blok commentated during the Shackleton sequence.
Each air show has its unique share of challenges and Greg would like to mention a few. There were few civilian aircraft as most of the Bizjets left Ysterplaat on Saturday or early Sunday. Air shows are not just about fast jets and noise and it would be interesting to see a more wider exposure. The food queues were long and caused frustration, but this is inevitable. Toilet facilities were adequate but more water points were needed. Traffic congestion was a real challenge and worked adequately, under the circumstances. Greg has thing about large formations of aircraft and felt that perhaps some opportunity was lost here. How about four C-47TPs from 35 Squadron in formation? How about the Shackleton with a C-47TP on each wing? He would also have liked to have seen a SAAF C-130 and a SAAF Boeing 707, but appreciate their utilisation in various peacekeeping operations in Africa.
What a magnificent air show! We would like to express our sincere appreciation and thanks to Kanthan Pillay, the AAD 2006 media officer, and his team for the excellent media facilities, flow of information, press releases and photographic positions made available. This report would have been far more difficult (impossible) to produce without such support.
Also a huge thanks to Colonel Kobus Butler (OC of AFB Ysterplaat) and Colonel Peter Smith for the exceptional way that the air show was organized. AAD 2008 is being planned for AFB Ysterplaat again. We can't wait!
Report by Greg Pullin and Dean Wingrin