Africa Aerospace & Defence 2014

Report by Jens Frischmuth, Photography by Jens Frischmuth and Janine Frischmuth

Africa Aerospace and Defence 2014 took place at Air Force Base Waterkloof between the 17th and 21st September 2014. As in the past, the trade days were held on the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and the public days were on the Saturday and Sunday, when the weekend was dedicated to the airshow.

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The trade expo attracted exhibitors from 30 countries. A record 29314 trade visitors from 86 nations attended the event. A remarkable array of military weapons systems, vehicles, aircraft and a host of related products were on display. Large international companies such as Airbus, Saab and Boeing all brought a large presence to AAD.

The United States Air Force brought various arircraft to AAD that were on static display throughout the week. A C-17 Globemaster III from the 105th Airlift Wing at Stewart Air National Guard Base, New York, a C-130J Super Hercules from the 86th Airlift Wing at Ramstein Air Base in Germany and a US Army RQ-7 Shadow remotely piloted aircraft from the New York Army National Guard’s 27th Iinfantry Brigade Combat Team were on display. They were joined by the US Army Parachute Team, the Golden Knights, who jumped various times during the event.

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The South African Paramount Group’s AHRLAC, a light observation and attack aircraft, made its public debut at AAD. The AHRLAC is the first military aircraft to be fully designed and developed in South Africa. The prototype first flew on the 13th of August and is currently undergoing initial flight testing. The first aircraft is known as XDM (experimental demonstrator) and is fitted with strain gauges and other test equipment. This affordable multirole aircraft can be configured for a number of roles, including surveillance and reconnaissance tasks and can be armed for close-support duties. The aircraft was flown to Waterkloof by test pilot Blokkies Joubert. It is was on static display throughout the week and the public could see it airborne on the Sunday, when it departed in the afternoon during the airshow and performed a fly-past.

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Another highlight was the building of a Sling Aircraft in four days at the event. Dubbed the Sling 4-4-40 Challenge, a team of 40 workers from The Airplane Factory built a Sling 4 from kit form to flight in an unprecedented 4 days. It normally takes a kit builder 1,000 hours to complete this task. The work took place around the clock and the build was led by company co-founder and Sling designer, Mike Blyth, co-founder James Pitman and factory Director Andrew Pitman. The assembly took place in the outdoor exhibition area and visitors could follow the daily progress of the build. The Sling 4 performed flawlessly on its maiden flight during the airshow on the Sunday.

Below is the full photo gallery of the trade day exhibits, showing the true magnitude of the event:


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The Saturday/ Sunday airshow was held in glorious weather and 74398 people attended. Although international participation was limited to the US Army’s Golden Knights Parachute team, a full line-up of displays meant good entertainment for all.

Proceedings started off with the parade of emergency vehicles and the opening address on the Saturday was delivered by the Chief of the SAAF, Lt Gen, Fabian "Zakes" Msimang.

Jeff Earle in the Tiger Moth flew the opening display and then one of the highlights, the MD 530F helicopter display by UK display pilot Dennis Kenyon, took place. 82 year old Dennis Kenyon is an ex RAF pilot and is well known on the international airshow scene. He has over 15000 flying hours and flew his 1500th display on the Friday at AAD. On the Sunday, Dennis displayed an Enstrom 480 helicopter as well.

Next up was a gyrocopter and Pilatus Mk7 II solo display and the first jet action in the form of a SAAF Hawk Mk120.

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Then the Air Force Museum took centre stage. Flypasts by 5 helicopters (a Puma, 2 Alouette IIs and 2 Alouette IIIs), a Kudu and an Albatross and 5 Harvards were followed by a De Havilland Vampire display. The Alouette IIs and IIs did a joint display and formed a wheel at one stage. This was followed by Alouette II, III and Puma displays and the museum displays were rounded off by a joint display of two Harvards flown by Glen Warden and Martin Louw. The museum aircraft are based at the nearby AFB Zwartkop.

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Various other aircraft types previously flown by the South African Air Force were flown during the event. These included the Atlas Impala ZU-IMP now in private hands and the Atlas Cheetah, which is operated by Denel Aviation since its retirement from active duty. The Cheetahs are used as test beds for South African weapons systems.

Also on display was the North American P-51 Mustang owned and flown by Menno Parsons. Although this particular aircraft never served in the SAAF, the type was used by the SAAF and played a prominent role in the Korea War, where it was used operationally by 2 Squadron in the early 1950s.

The North American Harvard, arguably the SAAF’s most famous trainer, falls into this category as well. The Harvard has been used by the Flying Lions for decades and is always a crowd favourite.

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Current SAAF aircraft displays featured prominently and a highlight was the 4-ship Hawk team display. This was the first time since the Silver Falcons last flew the Impalas in the 1990s that a SAAF jet formation team was on show. The tight displays were expertly flown by pilots from 85 Combat Flying School based at AFB Makhado.

The Gripen, South Africa’s fighter jet, featured prominently as well and the solo displays were flown by Lt Col Musa Mbhokota, commonly know by his callsign “Midnight”.

The Lynx helicopter did a solo display and two Bk117s showed off their capabilities in a dual display. The Oryx and Agusta109LUH and Rooivalk helicopters took part in the mini war but did not do separate performances.

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The mini war is always a crowd favourite and means lots of different aircraft in the skies and lots of ground based movements at the same time accompanied by loud explosions. Most of the SAAF aircraft types in the SAAF inventory were part of this exercise.

Noticeably absent on the Sunday, however, were the C-130 Hercules and the Bk117. Both had callouts to attend to, reminding everybody that the South African Air Force is still very much an active air force and, as was the case with the Bk117, provides rescue support whenever it is called upon to do so.

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Civilian participation included the Pitts Special teams of the Gabriel Wings and the Goodyear Eagles, as well as the Cirrus/ MX-2 display and Johnnie Smit in his Sbach. Chris Briers flew the T-28 Trojan and the Save the Rhino Demo featured the use of working dogs that were rappelled from helicopters to take down the “bad guys”. Working-On-Fire displayed its fire-fighting capabilities and an Eclipse EA500 Business Jet added more variety to the flying action.

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The Silver Falcons flew in formation with the Mango Boeing 737-800 and a Kulula branded 737 from Comair was brought to Waterkloof to fly in the airshow as well.

Team 76 of the Silver Falcons consisted of Major Beau Skarda (Falcon 1), Captain Mark Bennett (Falcon 2), Captain Loedolff Muller (Falcon 3), Major Werner Vermaak (Falcon 4) and Captain Mark Gentles (Falcon 5 and the soloist).

The Silver Falcons flew many times during the week and had the honour of bringing the airshow to a close on both public days.

Below is the full airshow gallery, reflecting on the excellent flying that took place to round off a very successful AAD 2014: