Newcastle Airshow 2022 - KZN's One and Only!

By Brian Spurr


The 10th anniversary of the award-winning Newcastle Airshow was held on Saturday 4 June 2002 at Newcastle Airport in the Amajuba District. This year's show is the only one scheduled to be held in KwaZulu Natal and it was a wonderful event held in perfect winter weather. The sky was cloudless and the wind very light, when there was any at all.

The highlight of the show was the display by two Hawk fighters of the South African Air Force (see report below). The number of participants at this year's event were slightly down on previous shows due to the impact of the Covid pandemic and the high costs, particularly of fuel. In addition, there was a very sad withdrawal of the crack Marksmen Aerobatic Team after one of their members, Mark Sampson, was tragically killed in an accident while displaying in Harare during the week. This brought a solemn element to proceedings which was honoured by a traditional 'missing man' formation in his honour.

The Airshow won two awards in 2019 for the last Newcastle show before the country-wide shut down. The team was awarded the second-best Airshow in South Africa and they also won an award from South Africa Civil Aviation Authority for transformation in Aviation. The ten-year celebration had to wait for two years to be realised due to the impact of Covid on spectator events.

Since the show first started ten years ago, the theme has been 'I Can Dream', "The reason behind this is to inspire people to dream about becoming pilots one day or to have the opportunity to fly in an aircraft at some stage. Ninety-five percent of the local Amajuba community have never flown in an aircraft, while eighty percent had never seen a Boeing or an Airbus up close", said Johan Pieters, one of the organisers of the event.

The driving forces behind this year's event were the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs of KwaZulu Natal and KwaZulu Natal Tourism. The event organisation was handled by the Champ Group of Companies led by Johan Pieters, Christo van de Vyver and Romano Raghoo.

The main officials running the air show (with their teams) were Keith Fryer (Safety Officer), Rikus Erasmus (Flying Display Director), Brent Warren (Ramp Director) and Ricardo Alfonso (Air Traffic Control). The commentary and sound team from Capital Sounds was as usual headed by Brian Emmenis who kept the crowd informed with his wealth of air show experience.

A major bonus for visitors this year was that only adults paid an admission fee, Scholars and pensioners were admitted free. "We had a look at the economic situation of the district and the country and together with our sponsors decided to only charge for adults", said Pieters.

The event was extremely well attended by the public and the public areas were crowded by a sea of humanity who were enjoying everything that was on offer. The Newcastle airshow has become one of the largest one-day events in the Amajuba District and boosts the local district and Newcastle economy by R6 million. In addition to the flying display the Air Force sent two Agusta A-109 helicopters, one was on static display in the spectator area so that those attending could experience it up close. For the family wanting to shop there were numerous stalls, many food and drink outlets and a beer garden. A number of stalls were taken up by motor dealers that had their vehicles on display. Also included was a large amusement area with many rides for the children (and some adults) to experience. The whole area was teeming with happy and excited faces.

Another huge drawcard was a Bell 206B helicopter giving short flips at reasonable prices. The machine operated almost non-stop all day. It seemed to have a continuous line of people waiting for their turn to fly.

As feature of the show this year, Brochem and Checkers hosted an educational guidance programme on the day of the airshow. The educational guidance day was geared at Grade 11 math and science learners from the Amajuba district with around 1300 learners attending. The learners were addressed by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA), the South African Airforce (SAAF) and by private pilots too. A key speaker on the day was
Chief of the South African Air Force, Lt. Gen. Wiseman Mbambo. The talks gave the students the chance to learn more about aviation, including various career paths that are available.

Chief of the Air Force and his entourage

Lt. Gen. Mbambo addresses the crowd

Organiser Johan Pieters, SAAF Lt. Gen Wiseman Mbambo and organiser Romano Raghoo

SAAF members at the guidance event

Learners at the guidance event.
(Photos 1,2,3,4 supplied by organisers)

This year the show provided a jammed-packed day with plenty of activities for the entire family. The show opened at 11:00 with a parachute drop and jumpers displayed a huge SA flag.

This was followed by the highlight of the show, a spectacular two-ship Hawk display from the South African Airforce. The BAE Systems Hawk is a British single-engine, jet-powered advanced trainer aircraft.

The Hawks did two impressive displays on the day, one in the morning and one to close out the show. They were flown by Major Kgosimang Seeco (lead) and Major Mikhael Petersen (number 2). Major Seeco is 34 years old and is a pilot attack instructor and former Gripen pilot, he is from Bloemfontein. Major Petersen is 33 years old and an operational wingman from 85 Combat Flying School, he is from Cape Town. The pair, operating from Hoedspruit, did a tight display of formation flying that thrilled the crowds.

Next up were the Goodyear Eagles Pitts Specials flown by Johan von Solms and Trevor Warner. They gave their usual high standard of formation aerobatics.

After them it was the turn of Andre van Zyl flying his Magni Gyro. Andre showed what these aircraft are capable of with an outstanding display right in front of the crowd.

Then it was the turn of the Flying Lions in their Harvards. This highly experienced team was led by Scully Levin together with Arnie Menneghelli and Sean Thackwray and they performed a three-ship display of exciting formation aerobatics.

Next was a great display of helicopter flying by Andre Coetzee in the Henley Air Bell 222. This beautiful machine was put through its paces and gave a display not often seen at air shows in this country.

Next were the duo of Johan von Solms and Trevor Warner but this time flying in the RV-7 Formation. This was and energetic and entertaining display in these agile aircraft.

Then we had the Aero L-39 Albatros jet flown by Dave Mandel. This aircraft has beautiful lines and is always a treat to watch. After a fine display Dave had a problem on landing when his left tyre burst. He handled the situation perfectly and brought the jet to a halt without interrupting the show. Once a spare tyre was fitted, he was able to depart for home without further incident, on Sunday morning.

Tyre burst

Tyre burst

At this point the lunch break was taken to move the L-39 to a safe distance from the runway. When flying resumed Ivan Van Der Schaar did a display of solo aerobatics in his smart Boeing Stearman biplane. Ivan is an airline pilot who has been on the air show scene for some time and it is always pleasant to see him demonstrate this aircraft.

The show then was repeated for the afternoon session. The only difference being the appearance of the Sud Aviation (now Aťrospatiale) Alouette II. This French built light helicopter variant first flew in 1955 and was the first production helicopter to use a gas turbine engine. In Newcastle it was flown by the vastly experienced Johan 'Juba' Joubert who performed a wonderful routine to show off this wonderful machine. This display nearly did not take place due to a battery issue that meant it would not start. However, a loan battery was sourced allowing the display to happen.

Near the end of the show the Flying Lions flew the 'missing man' formation, the traditional aviators' salute to fallen airmen, in honour of Mark 'Sammy' Sampson (see first paragraph).

The show ended on a high note with the second Hawk display.

At the end of the show, around 16:00, there was an afterparty hosted by Needles Bar at the Pines Wedding and Conference Village.

It was a very successful event that attracted 3000 adults and 6000 children. The organisers deserve high praise for being able to pull off such a large undertaking in this province these difficult times. The traffic jam of vehicles departing the show clearly illustrated the large numbers in attendance. Hopefully this is the beginning of a return to normality and that this event will grow from strength to strength.

Assorted visiting aircraft

Agusta 109 that flew in the chief of the air force

Part of the media contingent

Events 2022

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