Ladysmith Aviation Career Expo & Airshow 2019

By Brian Spurr

Out of the blue I was advised that there would be an aviation expo at Ladysmith organised by the SACAA. After some enquiries, it was discovered that the expo would also include an airshow on the Saturday. So seemingly from nowhere, KZN had a second airshow in 2019!

From what initially seemed as though it would be a very small affair, it turned out to be a great show aimed primarily at the learners who had attended the Friday career sessions, but it also drew in spectators from all around the area. Although it was a fairly short programme starting at 11am and completed just after 2 pm, it actually seemed like a much longer event. This was due to the non-stop action and the quality of the displays on the day.

A worry for many traveling to the show both by land and air was the weather. Several teams and some visitors were delayed on the ground at Rand Airport, for example, due to heavy rain in the morning. All of them made it through however, as the weather conditions cleared a bit later. The only exception was the "Flying Lions" Harvard team, who were upset that they could not make the show. This was due to a technical problem however and was not weather related.

Locals and visitors

Some of the photographers

Virginia visitors

The airshow took place in beautiful conditions until right at the end when a thunderstorm complete with flashes of lightning moved through the area. The programmed had been completed by this time with only the Silver Falcons and a couple of other second displays to go. Towards the end, the ATC team climbed down from their impressive tower as a safety precaution against the lightning.

Pilot's Post did not attend the career day on Friday but arriving on Saturday, it was clear that a great deal of effort had gone into making this event a big success. Huge marquees had been erected to seat hundreds of learners who were addressed by organisations and companies wishing to encourage the youngsters to take up careers in aviation. Exhibitors included the SACAA, South African Airforce, South African Airways, the Department of Transport, Armscor, the Transport Education Training Authority as well as commercial companies such as Starlite Aviation Group, Conquer Aviation and Focus Air Flight Training.

The SAAF had a big presence at the show and used a CASA aircraft to give many learners a chance to experience the thrill of flight. They also had a static display of an Agusta A-109 helicopter. In the main hangar, there were a number of stands and many interesting displays. Starlite Aviation also had two aircraft on display:- a Robinson R44 helicopter and a Sling.

SACAA went all out to provide an amazing experience for learners. A lot of preparation went into visiting disadvantaged schools and inspiring them to take advantage of this Expo. The whole of Ladysmith airport had been taken over for the occasion with hangars being made available for career displays, lectures and catering. On Saturday, the main marquee was host to hundreds of learners who were joined by many dignitaries including the Mayor of the Emnambithi Ladysmith Municipality, Councillor MV Madlala. The Mayor's entourage arrived to loud cheers and a great deal of enthusiasm from the assembled audience. Learners were given magnificent goodie bags, meals and drinks. The SACAA was tasked to run this event as part of a bigger strategy and also to fit in with celebrations of International Civil Aviation Day. The main event to celebrate the latter day will be held in Polokwane.

The mayor Councillor MV Madlala arriving

The team running the show were almost entirely from Air Show South Africa (ASSA). The Flight Director (ASSA chairman) was Rickus Erasmus, The Ramp Director (ASSA vice chairman) was Cliff Lotter, Programme Compiler (ASSA Secretary) was Louise Hoffmeyer, Assistant Flight Director (ASSA Treasurer) was Walter Doubell. Another ASSA board member, Brian Emmenis of Capital Sounds, was the English commentator with his man Elvis Manene doing the majority of the commentary in Zulu. Francois Hanekom, also an ASSA member was Safety Director on the day.

Elvis Manene interviewing Ms Poppy Khoza Director of Civil Aviation of the South African Civil Aviation Authority.

Brian with two members of the Silver Falcons

Capital Sounds had a huge crowd line to cover with a large VIP section and then an even bigger general public section. The sound quality was excellent and the learners and spectators were kept expertly informed.

All of the radio work was done by three Air Traffic Controllers namely Rouvierre Roux (FABL), Clerence Mngomezulu (FAKN) and Keabetswe Mogoai (FALA). Of course, all the usual fire and ambulance services were present with their impressive equipment. Thankfully they were not needed on the day but reassuring none the less.

In the same order as listed above

At precisely 11 am the show started with a bang. The SAAB Gripen came in from Waterkloof AFB, flown by Major Geoffrey 'Spartan' Cooper. He joined up with the Silver Falcons and led the five-ship formation, an unusual and exciting display. One unique feature of this was the fact that the Falcons had two Astras in their traditional blue colours and two in the operational red and white colours. This was due to the fact that the regular team machines were in for maintenance. It made a change and gave the public and photographers something different to see.

After the Gripen left the Falcons did their immaculate display flying in tight formation. The team was led by Major Omphile 'Biggy' Mutloane, who flew his penultimate airshow as leader. His successor will be Major Sivuyile 'S'il Vous Plait' Tangana, Sivu flew the number 4 position. The other two members of Team 83 were number 2, Major Bheki 'Swaziboy' Shabangu and position 3 Major Lucky Mallocks. In the 52-year history of the Silver Falcons this is the first 'fully transformed' team to fly together.

Omphile Mutloane

Next to display was Glen Warden in the Aero Vodochody L-29 Delfin jet trainer. Glen's wealth of experience in fast jets showed and his show elicited screams of amazement from the many young spectators.

After him was champion aerobatic pilot Nigel Hopkins flying his Extra 330C. Nigel's displays are always a highlight and this one was no exception.

Nigel was followed by Andre van Zyl in his Magni Gyro. This little machine is made to work hard doing things that many would not believe a Gyro capable of. Andre's demonstrated the machine's amazing nimbleness enabling him to keep it in front of the crowd at all times.

Then 'Little Annie' the well-known Antonov An-2 flown by Jon-Marc Hill took off with a team of sky divers for their display. Once again, the massive SA Flag was jumped, always a sight to behold.

Then it was the turn of the famous Goodyear Eagles in their Pitts Specials. This team boasts some of the best pilots in South Africa. The team was led on the day by Glen Warden at #1, Johan von Solms at #2, Jason Beamish at #3 and Nigel Hopkins at #4. They gave a wonderful display of precision formation aerobatics.

On arrival

Then another highlight. Major Cooper returned from Waterkloof in a second Gripen for a solo display. The thundering sound and loud noise had the crowd gasping in awe.

After this there was another fantastic display courtesy of Airlink. The new and beautiful Embraer ERJ-190AR gave an amazing performance flown by Jaco Henning. The display was not just a fly past or two but an extended demonstration of this aircraft. Some lovely passes showing the top side of the airliner and some nice photo opportunities against the surrounding hills
presented themselves. Well worth seeing.

Team Xtreme then put on their show. This time they had a three-ship formation led by Nigel Hopkins in the Van's RV-8. His Extra was flown by Mark Sampson and the other member was Jason Beamish in his Extra 300. This is a world class team and always worth watching.

On arrival

After this, the L-29 and the Magni Gyro did second displays but as the Silver Falcons took off for their second round, a thunder storm rolled in and brought the show to an end. It was exactly 2 pm the time that was scheduled as the end of the show. We did not feel short changed as this show was really enjoyable and had a lot of variety despite the reduced number of teams. It is hoped that Ladysmith can repeat this initiative next year. We certainly look forward to that. Well done to all those responsible for making this event happen.

Events 2019

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