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 Mafikeng International Airshow

By Sgt Beverley Steenkamp, DCSS

The Mafikeng International Airshow is an annual event hosted by the North West Government Province at the Mafikeng Airfield. The North West Government’s aim is to bring aviation to the people. The entrance fee is free of charge to all spectators and the event is looked forward to and immensely enjoyed by the locals.

Mafikeng Airfield boasts one of the longest runways in the southern hemisphere and the location offers ideal flying and aerobatic display conditions. Aviators participating in the show are spoilt with wide-open spaces and a view as far as the eye can see.

The break of day on 27 September 2008 promised clear, blue skies with a slight breeze. In anticipation of a successful day, all the participants were up and out of their hotel rooms in record time, ready to impress the crowds with their skills. The airfield was abuzz with activity as everyone prepared for the event.

The intrepid commentator, Brian Emmenis, started pulling the crowds in early with his unmistakable voice. Promises of excitement and surprise hung in the air, with the sound of aircraft engines purring in the background.

The group of Siyandiza members set up an attractive display, bringing a world of aviation information to the young people of the North West Province.

At 10 o’clock all the participating pilots gathered in the main terminal building for the safety briefing. It was an impressive group of famous and familiar faces, with the SAAF members proudly making up almost half the crowd. The briefing was lead by the Safety Director, Lt Col Francois Hanekom, who supplied invaluable information pertaining to the flying safety aspects of the day. His briefing was supplemented by inputs from the ATC and weather bureau representatives. The event’s chief organizer, Mr. Ricky Rennie, thanked all the participants and wished everyone a successful day.

True to tradition, the show was opened with a mass freefall jump conducted by the SAAF C130. At the forefront were the SAAF’s own Golden Eagles whose beautiful parachuting display sent hundreds of spectators rushing to the crowd line for a better view.

Throughout the day, aircraft of various types went roaring over the display line, thrilling the crowds with amazing displays of skill and showmanship. Even the landings and take-offs drew attention with the spectators applauding to show their appreciation.

The SAAF displays were especially popular. Helicopters that participated were the Augusta A109, Oryx and BK117. Fixed wing displays were provided by the C130, the Dakota, Casa 212 and, of course, the ever popular Silver Falcons. Comments passed by those in the know, were that the Silver Falcons Mafikeng display was the best one ever! The aircraft’s new colors combined with the aerobatic skill of the pilots stole the show.

The photo opportunity of the day presented itself when SAA’s Airbus A340 flew in to give a display accompanied by the Silver Falcons in formation and photographers frantically clicked away to capture this very rare sight.

Stunning aerobatics displays were put on by the Goodyear Wesbank Pitts, the North West Eagles Impalas, the Gabriel Pitts, Rippit Zlin, the Bush Pilot, the L29 and the L39. Formation displays included the local flying club, the Albatross formation and the Yak 52 formation. Scully Levine’s truck top landing and Zoltan Veres’s Extra versus motorbike Race had the crowds captivated. Danie Terblanche in a R22 performed an outstanding display of what a helicopter can do. Multiple world aerobatic champion, Zoltan Veres provided some heart stopping moments with his display in an Extra.

The highlight of the day was an Air Assault Demonstration or “Mini War”. This spectacular show was the result of the combined effort of the SA Army, the SA Air Force and civilian pilots and pyrotechnical personnel. As soon as the Mini War’s first explosion went off, all the very young spectators screamed and fled from the unexpected noise, but soon crept back, fascinated by the show. The aim of the Mini War’s display was to demonstrate the SANDF’s capability in a war situation and the crowd was suitably impressed by what they saw.

Towards the end of the day the Castrol Flying Lions took off in their Harvard's to do a hauntingly beautiful sunset display. They flew until dark and the combination of their unique engine sound, smoke and aircraft lights created a most unforgettable scene.

This most successful Airshow was crowned with a magical 25 minute fireworks display and as the mesmerizing lights exploded against the night sky, all the participants had just enough time to ponder on their passion for aircraft and flying!
 

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