Stellenbosch Airshow 2024

By Pete van der Spek

22 & 23 March 2024

I only attended the Saturday edition of the airshow as there was a bit of controversy - but more of that later.

Arriving at 7:00am, many people had already arrived even though the weather looked rather dodgy. The cloud was right down and the beautiful mountains around Stellenbosch were hidden by the clouds. The cloud base did however, lift somewhat by the time flying started at 10:00.

A pilots briefing was held by the safety team and by 9:45, the first aircraft was starting up for the start. Of course, as in any airshow in South Africa, the first “act” is the skydivers. This time, two brave young men took on the challenge of diving out of the Antonov AN2 “Daisy” flown by Alewyn Burger and co-pilot Ulu Steyn. The AN2 climbed out - very slowly, as usual, and got to just below the cloud base and lined up for the run in. Out dived the skydivers and immediately pulled the ripcords - pop - no time to freefall this time.

The Marksmen came up next and naturally flew a fairly flat display due to the cloud base. It is a proper team, very tight, very polished. The team members are Mark Hensman, Eugene Du Preez and Jonnie Smith. Some of the Gauteng based media saw the team for the first time and were very impressed. The team flew again in the afternoon and the crowd loved them.

Something not generally seen at airshows is an aircraft sky message tow and the new method (for me anyway) was demonstrated by the team - the message is towed off the runway - a small set of wheels does the trick - and not picked up after the aircraft was airborne by hooking the message which is normally held up by a team on the ground.

One of the highlights was the Allouette III flown by Juba Joubert - one of the best helicopter displays I have ever seen - and I am comparing with UK airshows… Brilliantly flown - the Alo is thrown around the sky. Well done to Juba.

Local pilot Derek Lord did his stint in a Bosbok - ably displayed for sure. A very noisy aircraft but quite photogenic in the skies of Stellenbosch. A great pity about the low cloud base hiding the mountains over Stellenbosch which normally gives a superb backdrop - but not this year.

A Magni Gyro flown by Andre van Zyl proving that Gyro's can be displayed and not just a joy riding machine. Andre is clearly at one with his gyro - he does things with that machine that makes one wince. Glad I was not a pax on that one!

Patrick Davidson once again brought his Gamebird to display - one can see why the man has been SA champ for years. Another fine South African pilot who shows his mettle and impressed the crowd. The Gamebird is another level of aerobatic aircraft. It just looks right on the ground and the air.

Grant Timms brought the WarbirdsAfrica L29 and of course, had to fly it from Cape Town airport as the runway at Stellenbosch is a bit short for a jet. Very well displayed Grant - loved the topside passes.

Alewyn Burger was up in the air again in the Piper Cub doing his crazy flying bit where he does a fantastic display of flying - 'picking up someone's washing off a line' in the valley and flying past with his legs out the door - such is the forgiving capabilities of the Cub and his flying ability. The crowd loved it.

The flying Lions led by Ellis Levin, with
Arnie Meneghelli and Sean Thackwray. It is always lovely to see and hear those magnificent Harvards with their distinct sound. They flew a flat show and Ellis handled the leaders role very well - he normally flies number three and Scully is leader. I believe Scully was unavailable. Always a crowd favourite.

The Working on Fire team had a ten-minute slot and put up several different aircraft to demo what they do - and they do it very well indeed. Two Huey's, two water bombers (
AT-802) and of course the Cessna spotter which flew around at a very low altitude - normally flies at 2,000 plus feet to direct the water bombers and Huey's to drop their load onto the fire hotspots. Their display was high energy and short and sweet. The bombers dropped a long load and the Huey's a lot shorter which shows the amount of water they carry. Chatting to Ross (one of the water bomber pilots) after the display, he said they had to change the display a little due to the time constraint and weather.

The Leading Edge helicopters did a flypast in the afternoon - I was actually on my way out when they flew so did not see the whole display. The Blackhawk is an awesome looking machine and have seen it in action out in the Simonstown area during the big fires in December.

Another display I missed was the Coast Guard Albatross TP as I was in a meeting with the Working on Fire management. A strange looking aircraft and I believe they are trying to get the contract to do coastal patrols for the government - we really do need that service and I hope they get the contract.

Kitplanes for Africa

The other aircraft I missed was Andrew Blackwood Murray in his Nashua Extra 300. Andrew always gives 100% and I am sorry I missed the display.

The afternoon displays were a copy of the morning displays and many people started to leave at around 14:00.

Now for the beef.

This airshow was the first airshow worldwide that I have attended as media that I was asked to pay an entry fee. We were told we would be fed all day and get coffee and drinks all day, in fact we would be well looked after. Well, I had a hamburger which was not properly cooked and a bottle of water. That was it. On top of that, we are expected to give free pre - publicity to the upcoming airshow and a report afterwards. And to top it all supply photos to the club afterwards. One of the media guys summed it up very well. He said that the first photo will cost R260, the second one R260 and thereafter, he would be happy to negotiate a better price. The entry price to the airshow was R260 per day… Airshow organisers need to realize (and most do) that the media is very important to their airshow - present and future.

Brian Emmenis and his team were asked to supply the equipment for the airshow but the organisers were going to try something new - a different commentator and going out live with Radio Cape Town. Brian ended up doing the commentary on Friday afternoon's slot (the booked commentator sent a WhatsApp to say he couldn't make it) and then on Saturday, the proposed commentator still didn't arrive so Brian was asked to do the Saturday airshow as well. Keep in mind he had an operation to his shoulder recently and was in pain. However, being the professional that he is, he soldiered on and did the whole airshow on his own - no help as he would normally bring another person to help commentate. Well done Brian and the Capital Sound team.

Overall, a good airshow but for the weather.

RIAT 2019

Events 2024

Copyright © 2024 Pilot's Post PTY Ltd
The information, views and opinions by the authors contributing to Pilot’s Post are not necessarily those of the editor or other writers at Pilot’s Post.