High flyers aiming to win as country’s best for third time

Lynne Gadd–Claxton

PORT Elizabeth residents were thrilled at the sight of South African Air Force (SAAF) Harvards, Oryx helicopters and the Golden Eagles parachute team which displayed terrifying and adrenalin- racing stunts at the annual air show.

Thousands of visitors attended the show at the Algoa Flying Club at the Port Elizabeth Airport last weekend.

And tonight, the Port Elizabeth Air Show will discover if it has been voted the best such event in the country – for the third time.

A huge drawcard last Saturday was the S-Bach from Germany, which has never been in Africa before, while drag racing with the latest Kawasaki and Sukhoi aircraft had visitors on edge.

Some of the features included the Harvards with five pilots, an MX formation with three pilots, the Silver Falcons with five pilots, BK 117 and Oryx helicopters, the Golden Eagles parachute team, and SAAF Hawk, L39 Jet, Sea Fury, Mustang and Stearman aircraft.

The unique air show combined military and civilian showmanship to put on a world-class event in aid of the MTR Smith Children’s Haven.

Haven director Dr Crystal Watson said the event literally saved the haven from having to close its doors.

“If the weather failed us on Saturday, if the show did not materialise, then MTR Smit would have had to close its doors,” Watson said.

“I believe this was our best air show ever. Pilots from across the globe did it for charity. They believed in us.”

The air show is the only one in South Africa that starts on a zero budget.

“If we win again [as best air show in the country] it’s because we deserved it against a zero budget and all odds,” Watson said.

The winning air show – Port Elizabeth’s, Lanseria’s or the SAAF’s – will be named at a special event at the Protea Hotel in Illovo, Joburg tonight.

As the show took place at the PE Airport, spectators were metres away from arriving and departing national flights.

Besides metallic birds in the sky, visitors could peruse the hangars to view aircraft and mini aircraft and even explore the equipment used for putting together such craft.

PE Radio Flyers have their own 200m airstrip on the outskirts of the city at St Albans.

Robert Oberholster flies his Piper Cub J3 on Sundays at the strip.

“On a litre tank I can fly my aircraft for 30 minutes to an hour. It is a great way to spend an afternoon,” Oberholster said.

His aircraft is pricey at R40000 but he said it could be acquired more cheaply.

“I built this half-scale aircraft but fans can get smaller craft at R3500, which means they can have hours of fun.”

Grade 11 pupils from Masi- phathisane Secondary Senior School in Motherwell were treated to a full-day workshop at the show by the SAAF. They had to build aircraft using paper materials and also learnt about the SAAF. Aviwe Sofoyiya, 15, said she felt honoured to attend the show and workshop.

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