SAAF Museum Air Show showcases old and new
From the moment the swarm of motorized gliders took flight in the clear blue skies above Swartkop Air Force Base outside Pretoria, one of Africa’s largest air shows was assured of success.
Crowds of spectators and aircraft enthusiasts had already begun arriving at the base from before seven in the morning, although the opening was scheduled for much later, to secure the best spot from which to view the dozens of aircraft types – from jets to the vintage Tiger Moth – being put through their paces.
In keeping with promises by the SAAF Museum to stage a bigger and better event, the traditional opening of the show began with an impressive cavalcade of fire trucks and emergency vehicles. The number and variety even caused veteran air show commentator Brian Emmenis to remark that this was among the largest number he, as a veteran of many air shows, had seen.
The convoy also included a Marauder mine protected vehicle manufactured by the Paramount Group. For many viewers across the world, this vehicle became the symbol of indestructibility when Top Gear’s Richard Hammond took the Marauder on an entertaining tour of Johannesburg and almost brought South Africa’s largest city to a complete standstill.
This year, the Paramount Group, Africa’s largest privately-owned defence and aerospace business, sponsored the air show. Ivor Ichikowitz, the Executive Chairman of the Paramount Group said they were very excited to be able to sponsor the event as the SAAF Museum was close to his heart. He noted that this year, when South Africa was celebrating 21 years of democracy, Paramount was also marking its 21th anniversary and this was a fitting occasion for the country to acknowledge its rich aerospace history.
Another project that Paramount takes very seriously is the war against rhino poaching and they have undertaken a number of initiatives. Ichikowitz said: “ We have recently funded and established a special canine unit dedicated to training anti-poaching dogs.”
So it was no surprise that the programme featured an anti-poaching demonstration, complete with a plaster cast of a rhino and more Paramount vehicles. No air show is complete without fireworks and loud noises – and this was no exception. The crowds were also treated to a very impressive pyrotechnic display. Warrant Officer Phillip Havenga of the SAAF stepped in to provide the pyrotechnics after the Engineer Formation withhdrew from the show. He and his fellow SAAF armourers put on a superb performance.
The flying programme covered a broad scope in terms of age and type of aircraft. These included the regular museum aircraft such as the unique Patchen Explorer, the Albatross, Harvards and Allouette II and III helicopters as well as interesting visitors such as the Russian Cold War era Antonov An-2, the world’s biggest bi-plane and incongruously named “Little Annie”, and the P-51 World War ll vintage Mustang fighter plane. Some of the main attractions included the Gripen, Impala, two Vampires and the ever-popular Silver Falcons. Among the surprise events, was the unscheduled take-off of a 35 Squadron C47-TP Dakota.
Flying schools from across the country were also on hand to answer questions and provide information to anyone who was curious or seriously interested in aviation. There was also plenty of entertainment for children – who were present in large numbers – as well as a beer garden for adults.