Smoke on Go - Potchefstroom Airshow 2024

By Jaco Kotze

Potchefstroom is best known for Aardklop, NWU "Pukke" students, Die Akker, Bourbon Street and now also the latest addition to the Air Show SA (ASSA) calendar. Potchefstroom had not hosted an airshow since 2009; which really is a shame as the more than 5500 head counts to this year's show proved - Potch has been hungry for some top-quality ASSA Airshow action for a long time!

Pilots Post very generously was offered a lift to the show with Andrew Blackwood-Murray in his superb Nashua Extra 300LP. The morning air was calm and the visibility good, together with some beautiful morning colors in the clouds it made for near perfect flying conditions.

Andrew's partnership with Nashua has been going strong for more than 9 years, a true testament to the exceptional commitment from both parties to making this one of the oldest and most recognizable display acts on the SA airshow scene. I had to go back into my archives and found some photos I took at the 2016 AAD at Waterkloof, with Andrew's Zlin Z50L in the Nashua livery. Shortly after, Andrew moved over to flying the Extra 300LP in November 2016.

Arriving at the Potchefstroom Airfield (FAPS),there was feeling of excitement amongst the spectators as they all aimed to find their "perfect" spot for the day. The airshow started promptly at 10:00am with the Potch Girl's High Marjorette display. Despite the wind, these "trompoppies" gave a very good and well-coordinated display routine, ending their show with a fly past by Jason Beamish in his Extra 300.

The Johannesburg Skydivers then started their display, catching a lift up high with Juba Joubert in the Alouette 3 and expertly touching down in front of the crowd.

Following the skydivers, it was time for the Master Power Solo flown by Jason Beamish in his Extra 330LX. Unfortunately, due to sustaining an untimely injury, the much-loved Menno Parsons could not attend this year's Potch airshow with his P51 Mustang Sally, which would have flown in formation with Jason and the Extra. We wish Menno a speedy recovery and hope to see him flying again soon.

The next display was a very unique one and not one you would see often. It was the crop sprayers demo by Sandrivier Crop Protection and Castello Boerdery. First up was a helicopter spraying demonstration flown by JD Heyns. The helicopter flown was a special crop spraying converted Bell 206 Longranger. Although not as commonly used as the Robinson R44, the Bell 206 proves to be an exceptionally versatile crop spraying platform, especially when expertly flown by an experienced pilot such as JD.

After the helicopter display, Petri van Rhyn and Henri van Niekerk flew solo and formation displays with the AT301 Wasp 9-cylinder radial engined air tractor and the AT502XP air tractor respectively. Both demonstrated spraying and water dumping maneuvers.

The final act of the display was that the Castello Boerdery with Steve Viviers who flew the Air Tractor AT802, performing synchronized spraying with a John Deere crop sprayer ground tractor, driven by Rijan Barnard. Crop spraying is a very demanding occupation, requiring exceptional flying ability, for which all of the above pilots are vastly experienced, with tens of thousands of collective flying hours amongst them. Their display is a superb addition to any airshow!

Next up was the Flying Lions flat display flown by Scully Levin, Arnie Meneghelli & Sean Thackwray. The Flying Lions needs no introduction, all we can say is an airshow would not be an airshow without the thick white smoke and radial engines of the Flying Lions Harvards filling the air!

Andre van Zyl then followed with his Magni Gyro. Another one of the favorites at our local airshows, Andre does not hesitate to take his Magni Gyro all around the country to show the crowds some "light" aerobatic displaying! We are sure that even the designers at Magni are amazed by the capability of this nimble flying machine in the hands of Andre!

Next up with the much-loved Nashua Extra 300 was Andrew Blackwood-Murray. Following on the earlier discussion on Andrew, he again showcased why he is one of our best aerobatic display pilots, amazing the spectators with his precise flying display!

The well-known Goodyear Eagles team then flew a superb two ship display, flown by Jason Beamish & Gareth Gill.

Broadcasting for the day was done by Capital Sounds with commentating by none other than the familiar voice of air show commentating in SA, Brian Emmenis. The day did not go without some hickups, with Brian and his team having to run around and chase little gremlins every so often. However, it is the way that they always handle these little issues which distinguishes them from all the rest - they are simply the best in the business and they just proved it again during this show!

Next up was the iconic Beech 18 flown expertly by Captain Flippie Vermeulen, which he has described as being one of the most delightful planes he has even owned! We agree Captain Flippie, she is indeed delightful and we hope to see you both flying at our airshows for many years to come!

Oscar Goudrian then gave a graceful display flying his Jonker Sailplanes JS-3 Rapture sailplane. Not a frequent performer at airshows, Oscar who is based at the Potchefstroom airfield and who is part of the Potchefstroom Glider Club showed what is possible in the hands of a world champion glider pilot!

The LSA formation display then followed, flown by Jason Beamish & Richard Nicholson. Given the challenging windy flying conditions, the pair gave some exceptional formation flying in their display routine.

Joshua Twomey was up next with an exhilarating display, showcasing the unbelievable abilities of his Extreme Flight Extra 300 RC plane. Even Jason was dumbstruck by this performance!

Johan "Juba" Joubert also needs no introduction - recognized worldwide as being one of the best helicopter pilots, he showed us just why, flying a jaw dropping display with the Alouette 3.

After lunch the naughty Jason beamish performed his comical crazy flying act display where he plays the drunk pilot who "steals" an aircraft and performs a very comical "drunk" flying display. Jason nearly ended up in jail for real when the appointed security mistook him for a real wrongdoer and he was promptly apprehended when he was doing pre-flight checks on the Orion Cub which he would use in his crazy display!

The Navion formation display flown by Steve George & Reyno Coetzer is the latest addition to the SA airshow line up, having only recently obtained their air show display rating. Flown expertly by these two pilots, the Navion reminds of a "baby' Mustang - with good reason that is since it was originally manufactured by North American Aviation, the same manufacturers for the P51 Mustang. It was later manufactured by the Ryan Aeronautical Company. Of all the aircraft which displayed at the airshow on the day, the Navion arguably has the best-looking underside of them all!

Following the Navion display, Dr Andre Coetzee showcased the beautiful Henley Air Bell 222, with the Bell 222 being most well known for being "Airwolf" of the 1980's, with some exceptional display flying from him. We were also very humbled to have Prof Johan Coetzee attending the airshow as well as a special guest. Prof Coetzee was the founder of Henley Air and was instrumental in the founding of Air Show South Africa (ASSA).

Tristan Eales, the youngest unlimited display pilot in SA, then took to the air in his On the Move Extra 330. Son of well-known display pilot Barry Eales, Tristan is following in his dad's footsteps with his exceptional talent, flying a spirited and very tight display in his Extra 330SC. Tristan recently competed in the World Advanced Aerobatics Championships where he placed 24th overall; a remarkable achievement for his age!

Steven George then gave us a very graceful Navion solo display, showcasing this beautiful plane from all angles.

It was time to close the show and no better way than with a Flying Lions flat display. With thick smoke filling the air, the 2024 Potchefstroom Airshow came to an end.

Led by Rikus Erasmus (Airshow flight display director) and the ASSA team (Louise Hofmeyer - Airshow program manager, Keith Andrews - Ramp director and Mark Kelbrick - Flight safety director), the planning and execution of this year's show has been world class - as has been become the Platinum standard set by all ASSA Airshows. The display area for the show this year was laid out over the open area to the east of the airfield, with some dismay by the spectators for having the morning sun right in their faces. Unfortunately, it is very difficult for the air show organizers to tick all the boxes; the one box however which is always ticked first is that the airshow would be done safely, as is mandated by the Civil Aviation Authority of SA (CAA). This open area was selected based on careful risk analysis by ASSA and the CAA, which unfortunately placed the sun in a less than favorable position. Luckily as the day moved on, so did the sun, and the viewing became much more favorable!

The 2024 Potchefstroom Airshow was a very welcome return to the ASSA calendar and we hope to see it repeated again next year! Congratulations to ASSA & Smoke on Go for arranging this superb event! Also respect to all the display pilots for their exceptional flying during some very difficult windy conditions - you all just showcased again why you are the best of the best!

Finally, many thanks to Andrew Blackwood-Murray for the amazing opportunity to fly with him to the show and for giving me a quick glimpse to what professional advanced aerobatic display flying involves by having me experience a short +5G turn - it is almost incomprehensible how these top class display pilots are able to manage these massive G-forces (as low as negative 2 and as high as positive 8 G's during a typical display) and yet still produce the precise flying routines we leisurely watch from the ground.
So next time you look up to one of these displays whilst sitting in your comfortably fold up chair, just remember these display pilots work REALLY hard up there to give you these amazing flying displays! Ending comms with the following quote by Andrew: "It's far safer up there than it is down here!"

Events 2024
Air Shows

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