By Jaco Kotze

The Maputo Airshow, hosted by the Aero Clube de Moçambique, has been on my "must-see airshows' list since the first show was held back in 2019. So, when Menno Parsons offered at last minute to take myself and Flippie van Emmenis there together with the Master Power Technologies team, the answer was a resounding, "Yes!! I'm in!"

Departure was set for the Friday from Rand airport at 11:00am. Arriving at the Master Aviation hangers, we found our "lift" already waiting outside - none other than the familiar UH-1D Tiger Huey! Fully loaded with 13 pax and light luggage, after a thorough "old school" pre-flight inspection by our pilot, the helicopter legend Buzz Bezuidenhout, we were ready to depart! Despite being heavily loaded with pax and fuel, the powerful Lycoming T53-L-11 engine turning that massive 15m main rotor simply shuddered on power, and then lifted the massive bulk of the Huey to the air. With the iconic slapping of the Huey blades, we were on our way to Maputo!

The flight plan was to land at Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (KMI) to do passport control and export documentation for the aircraft. Menno followed a bit later with Mustang Sally and met up with us at KMI. Arriving at the airport after about 2.5 hours flying from Rand, we just caught the familiar faces of the Puma Flying Lions as they were taxing out on their way for departure. Having a quick lunch at the beautiful KMI Airport, we heard the unmistakable roar of the Mustang V12 Merlin engine as Menno did a quick runway inspection prior to landing! Our departure from KMI saw us fly over a section of the southern Kruger National Park; unfortunately, we did not see many animals, it was nonetheless a very scenic part of the route.

The flight from KMI to Maputo/Mavalane International Airport (previously known as Lourenço Marques Airport) took approximately 45 minutes and we were greeted on the apron at the Aero Club by a very excited familiar face; Keith Andrew was fervently "waving his hands like he just DID care" - a lot! It turns out that the downwash by the massive Huey blades kicking up debris weren't all that pleasant to all those around on the apron - so he wasn't all that welcoming after all and he was in fact trying to chase us away! The flight apron was a buzz with all the friendly faces from the local air show circuit and the anticipation to a wonderful weekend was palpable!

After we disembarked the Huey, Menno very generously took some less privileged children on the flight of a lifetime in the Tiger. Having attended our local Children's Flight last year, one thing stood out for me when I watched the exuberant faces of these children; it doesn't matter where you are in the world or what your background is, the magic of flight equalizes us all! Menno, your caring heart touches lives wherever you go!

Arriving at the hotel, we met the "Boss", organizer of the airshow and airshow director Gavin Neil. Gavin promptly assisted myself and Flippie with media accreditation and access arrangements for the airshow after we made contact a few days prior, informing him of our last-minute plans, for which we are massively thankful! After our check in we joined the pilots briefing to get ourselves familiarized to the program. With some friendly bantering amongst the pilots (*Ahem, Happy Biiiiirthday Keith Fryyyyer!), Keith Fryer, who would be the flight display safety director for the show, took us through the program for the day and discussed the most critical aspect of a successful air show - safety! The rest of the flight control team included Keith Andrew as ramp director assisted by Agostinho Neto, Bruno Homem as ground safety and the ATC team at the Maputo tower.

After the briefing, we all had a superb dinner and caught up with the rest of the Master Power team and the team from ExecuJet Africa and had a very pleasant evening at the spectacular Southern Sun Hotel in Maputo!

Kitplanes for Africa

The following morning, we were up and ready bright and early, heading out to the Maputo Bay after having one of the best breakfasts I have ever had! At the airshow location, we were taken to the dedicated media platform, right next to the main airshow control/commentating platform. There we met some avid local media and immediately resonated well with them, with our mutual love of aviation and airshows quickly making friends of strangers. One of our new friends, Jose Pepe, had a particularly interesting connection to the Aeroclub - his father, also Jose Pepe, was chairman of the club in the late 1950's to early 1960's. Jose generously shared with us some amazing historical photos of his father with a Tiger Moth at the Aeroclub from back in the day.

The setting for the airshow could not be more perfect, with the blue open ocean of the Mozambique channel to the left, the Maputo Bay channel in front and the magnificent Maputo-Katembe bridge (the longest suspension bridge on the African continent) to the right of the display box.

The show unofficially started with Grant Timms "waking up" the city with the L-29 Delfin "Austrian Eagle", which is part of The Classic Flying Collection. With the beautiful Maputo Bay and blue skies as backdrop, the Austrian Eagle looked so good!

At 10:00am local time the slapping sound of the Huey blades could be heard across the bay, with the Tiger Huey suddenly appearing right in front of the crowd! The first display of the Huey was expertly flown by Buzz Bezuidenhout, one of the most experienced and respected helicopter pilots in the world.

Next up were the LMA Cubs, Sling & RV10 displays followed by the Skydivers.

Jason Beamish gave a superb flying display with the beautiful Master Power Extra 330, again showing why he is one of the best in the world! Jason who is rated on more than 60 aircraft would probably be able to fly anything in the world which has wings, given enough time to figure out how to start it!

Following Andre, we were treated to another very rare display.................

It is not often that we get to see high performance business jets participate at our airshows, and when they do, often it is only with a fly past or two. At the Maputo Airshow, we were treated to a proper flying display in the Bombardier Challenger 601 flown by Shane Cade and Greg Binnie showing all the angles of this beautiful aircraft against the beautiful Maputo-Katembe bridge! We are extremely grateful to Luxaviation ExecuJet Africa for making this happen with special thanks to the owner of this magnificent aircraft!

The Puma Flying Lions were up next with their first display for the day with the team flying exceptionally tight formation, flown by Arnie, Ellis, Sean and Andrew. I have seen the Flying Lions perform more times than I can count, however their displays at this airshow were definitely some of the best displays they have ever given! Andrew Blackwood-Murray who has now permanently joined the Flying Lions team, has held his own perfectly!

What could be better than having an air show over one of the most beautiful bays you can imagine; well, you could add a P-51D Mustang with its characteristic whistling and V12 Merlin roaring and you most definitely have a crowd favorite! One thing which was very noticeable about the crowd at the Maputo Airshow - they genuinely expressively enjoyed themselves with the performances - cheering and clapping when the performers gave their displays, and especially when Mustang Sally whistled loudly during high-speed passes!

Next up was the Classic Chipmunks formation, who displayed perfectly against the blue sky and ocean, with their graceful flying complimenting these 70-year-old classic aircraft.

The Marksmen Aerobatic team gave a superb flying display with Mark Hensman leading the team. Their energetic display routine is refreshing and was flown tightly in awe of the spectators. Bringing a bit of South African flair to their display, their "koeksister" maneuver is spectacular! With music matching the choreography to the second and Brian giving on-point real time commentating, the Capital Sounds team perfectly complements this world class display!

Juba Joubert loves Gazelle's (or rather all the Gazelle's love Juba!) - should be his bumper sticker! Flown expertly in the hands of one of the worlds best helicopter display pilots, it was a pure joy watching Juba's display in the Aerospatiale SA-341F2 Gazelle owned by Bennie de Jager; we are very thankful that Bennie makes this magnificent machine available for Juba to display regularly at these shows!

Next to treat the crowd was another perennial act on the South Africa Airshow scene, the Goodyear Eagles. No show would be complete without them.

Then it was time for the RV-10 solo display.

This followed by the Ryan Navion formation flown by Reyno Coetzer and Mike George. These two warbirds performed a beautiful display, showcasing the Navions from all angles.

After lunch saw most of the acts performing second displays, including the Gyros, Chipmunks, Skydivers and the Goodyear Eagles. The displays were so good that even Keith Fryer couldn't help himself to take some videos!

Then we were treated to a visual extravaganza - a mass formation consisting of The Flying Lions, Marksmen, Navion's and finally the Goodyear Eagles; all with full "Smoke-on-Go", with the Mozambiquan National Anthem, Pátria Amada (Beloved Homeland) playing in the background! With some of the most precise formation flying we have ever seen and they all kept their mass formation perfectly - a true reflection of the skill of all these pilots!

Following the mass formation, the Flying Lions, Marksmen and Tiger Huey also gave their second displays.

Capital Sounds from South Africa was responsible for providing all the sound systems for the show with Brian Emmenis doing the expert commentating on the day, assisted by some local commentators. His detailed commentating, loaded with interesting facts and information always adds that 4th dimension to airshows!

Grant Timms gave another late afternoon display with the Austrian Eagle, with the golden sun gleaming on this beautiful aircraft. He was then followed by a solo Navion display flown by Reyno Coetzer.

Because Juba loves Gazelle's, he brought out yet another Gazelle to display; this one an Aerospatiale SA341F Gazelle painted in a very unique French Aviation Légère de l'Armée de Terre (Army Light Aviation) Camo livery. His flying display in this machine was every bit as exciting, with the orange and camo painted Gazelle glowing in the late afternoon sun!

Next up it was time for a much-requested display - the North American formation between the P-51D Mustang Sally and the Ryan Navions. The Navions were originally designed by North American Aviation, hence the reason it is often referred to as being the "baby Mustang". This was yet another completely new formation display, which really ticked all the boxes!

After the first fly past, it simply got better, with Jason Beamish joining in on the formation with his Master Power Extra 330, flying in trail position behind the Mustang. It is only when you see the P-51D flying in close proximity to other display aircraft that you get to appreciate its size and especially the truly massive 11ft 2inch (3.4m) diameter of its Hamilton made propellers - This is almost one third of the P-51D's 11m wingspan! Asking Menno afterwards why he looked so serious during the display, his answer was "(it) takes a bit of concentration!!"

Jason and Menno then carried on to give another jaw dropping display with the Extra 330 & Mustang Sally followed by the Flying Lions with their iconic sunset display. With thick smoke filling the air, against the orange background of the setting sun and the bridge, this was really something special!

With a final firework display came the end to this spectacular airshow. What was noticeably different to other SA airshows where people start leaving even before the final display, here the visitors carried on enjoying the festivities with a full-scale street party with live bands to rival that you would find in places like Rio de Janeiro! We were hosted after the show at the very comfortable hospitality stand which Master Power Technologies sponsored and ended the evening with some exceptionally good food at the Restaurante Sagres together with simply the best of company with the Master Power & Mustang Sally team!

The next morning before departing Maputo, Menno took the team to go see one of their world class datacenter facilities which they are building for African datacenter giant, Raxio. We often neglect to think about where all our digital data is stored and managed; this is where Master Power Technologies are leading the rest.

When we got to the Aeroclub, before we departed back to South Africa, Menno gave one final flip to all the staff of the Aeroclub in the Tiger Huey. Adults and children alike, flying in the Tiger puts an equally large smile on everyone's faces!

And so came to an end one of the most amazing weekends I have ever experienced and I couldn't help but ponder how this could have been any better…Well as it turns out, it actually could get exponentially better - Menno very generously offered me a ride in the one and only Mustang Sally from Maputo to KMI! Around the world, there are countless aviation lovers who could only dream of ever getting this opportunity, flying in a real P-51D Mustang! To best knowledge, Sally is currently the only flying P-51D on the continent.

I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to Menno Parsons for sponsoring us on this trip and to Lynch Jordaan for all the arrangements and also to the rest of the Master Power & Mustang Sally team for your hospitality and for making this a truly unforgettable experience - you are all proper people! And then finally to Menno; thank you for giving me the very rare opportunity to experience flight in one of the most iconic aircraft of all times, I am truly honored and humbled by this experience!

The Maputo Airshow is an Airshow worthy of the name - perfect location, perfect weather, perfect light conditions and perfect flying displays by the best southern Africa has to offer! I am already looking forward to next year's event, because this is the one show which you cannot afford to miss! Pilots Post wishes to congratulate Gavin and his team on hosting a superb airshow and hope to see this show continue to grow to one of the best in the world!

Test Flight & Development Airshow

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