Africa Aerospace & Defense 2012
Air-shows excite me, they offer me the opportunity to see things that I’ll never get the opportunity to fly; amazing machines from the past, to the newest toys that governments can afford. Why would I not be excited by a show of man’s greatest achievement?
So being granted the opportunity to fly from Cape Town to Johannesburg to cover the African Aerospace & Defence expo for RRD was an opportunity that I could not miss.
Let me just tell you that my week up north was a solid adventure, but that’s not what this article is about, it’s about the air-show over the 22nd to the 23rd September.
Firstly, let me get my disappointment out of they way, yes, it’s Africa’s largest military air-show, and it’s classified as an international show, but there were only two international air-forces participating as far as I could see (on the aviation side)? Come on. I love the idea that the Americans were there with their KC-135, Hercules and C-17. It’s also great fun to compare the SAAF C-130 to the newer American model, first hand sight of aviation evolution.
The only other air-force to have aircraft there, happened to be the Zimbabwean air-force with their Chinese built K-8’s. Which, not to sound too rude, bore me.
I just expected a little more International Military, and for a military air-show; there were a lot of civilian aircraft participating, which, to be honest, was freaking awesome.
So day one, I arrived early, and discovered very quickly, that it was raining. On my way to AFB Waterkloof, I could see lightning and heavy rain covering the airfield. My camera isn’t weather sealed, and due to complicated lifts, I had to go there with my camera bag, laptop, and clothing in a bag; all of which weighed me down, and got coated in mud.
The day cleared up though, which made it beautiful. Two things made me squeal with excitement, namely the Impala Mk1, and then Mustang Sally; one of only two airworthy North American P-51 Mustangs in the whole of Africa.
Something fun which many of the young ones seemed to have loved, since it involved so much, including explosions that shook the ground; was the “Battle of Waterkloof” which started out with a mock 2 versus 1 dogfight between two SAAB Gripens against a poor Hawk. Then escalated into a full on scene from Vietnam with helicopters covering the sky, including four Oryx, two Bk-117’s, two Rooivalk, and even an old Alouette III. Rooikat armoured reccon, including the Olifant main battle tank also took to the field. It was pretty much everything the South African National Defence Force could throw out to display its strength, and I would not have been surprised to have seen a submarine break the surface of the grass.
Day two, was pretty much the same, but the crowed seemed to be more alive, I believe it’s mainly due to the weather not drenching them in the morning. Something I found to be really special was the two Vampires flying about when I arrived. Sadly I never got any shots of them. There is no better way to display a museum piece, than to display it doing what it was designed to do.
Special mention has to be made of the Silver Falcons, every time I’ve seen them, they keep impressing me more and more. And now they have the “Gooney Bird” support aircraft painted in their colours as well. The Turbo-Dak is still one of the best aircraft to have ever graced the skies, and to see it in formation with the Pilatus PC-7 MkII’s just gives you a warm feeling.
South African Airways made a show of both days, displaying the A340, which was escorted to the airfield by the Silver Falcons, giving photographers a happy shooting moment. The National Carrier wasn’t the only one displaying its toys, and the airline 1Time did a fly-by as well.
Earlier I mentioned the civilian displays, of special note has to be the MX2, sponsored by Cirrus Aircraft. It arrived with a SR22. The two flew in such close formation, pretty much becoming a single entity.
Overall, I think that both days were rather successful, of note, I enjoyed having an American commentator, who had experience flying F-14’s. His views on the aircraft over South African skies was rather refreshing.
Anyone who has any desire to fly, should really visit the next AAD, it’s unlikely that you’ll regret the experience.
- Saab JAS-39 Gripen
- Atlas Impala Mk-1
- P-51D Mustang
- Pilatus PC-7 Mk II “Silver Falcon 5”
- Silver Falcon 5 in a stall