The second instalment of the Airlink Adrenaline Show took place on the 10th and 11th of June 2017 at Wonderboom National Airport. Show goers were treated to a variety of adrenaline filled acts that combined both aviation and motorsports action into an exciting two-day event. The show made South African civilian airshow history by becoming the first airshow in South Africa to have 44 different acts in one day, including a record-breaking six new airshow acts that have never been seen before at any airshow in South Africa
Roger Foster, CEO of title sponsor Airlink, delivered the opening address on the Saturday morning. The show coincided with Airlink’s Silver and Gold Jubilees. Airlink is celebrating 25 years in its current iteration with uninterrupted leadership, and its roots date back fifty years to Lowveld Air Services founded in 1967. Later during the day, Airlink flew a formation display that featured its brand new Embraer E190 jet and an Embraer ERJ-140LR. The E190 is the first of its type in the country and has not entered service yet. This tight formation was certainly one of the highlights of the event.
The Saturday programme started off with a paradrop display which included the giant 80kg South African flag being flown. Many of the skydivers jumped with wingsuits, as they did later during the day again. The flying action was started by Team Torre in their Pitts Specials and Jason Beamish, who performed a Truck-top landing in the Piper J3 Cup. Team Torre consisted of Scully Levin, Arnie Meneghelli, Ellis Levin and Sean Thackwray. As is customary, the same line-up would fly the Flying Lions Harvard display at the same event.
This year, the South African Air Force took part at the Airlink Adrenaline Show for the first time and the Gripen from 2 Squadron had an early display slot. Prevailing conditions were ideal for the formation of vortices during high g-force manoeuvres and made for some spectacular photographs. This was Major Geoffrey Cooper’s maiden airshow display. Major Cooper is a newly qualified flight leader at 2 Squadron. The Gripen was based at Air Force Base Waterkloof for the duration of the airshow.
Motorsports action kicked off with a race between Alan Eve in a Formula Renault and Menno Parsons in his Bell 407 helicopter. A makeshift racetrack was created for the event which utilised some of the taxiways and parts of both runways at Wonderboom Airport. The scream of racing engines in full cry certainly added a new dimension to the usual aerial displays at air shows. Single seater race cars, saloon cars and Shelby Mustangs did demonstration runs later during the day as well.
Johan ‘Juba’ Joubert flew an Alouette II with a motorbike strapped to one skid of the helicopter and the bike rider strapped to the other side of the chopper. After landing, the rider unstrapped his bike and raced along the crowd line next to the Alouette II. This rapid deployment tactic can be used in a variety of crime fighting and other operations.
The Paramount Group’s anti-poaching capability showcase saw canines and their handlers showing off their amazing skills by rappelling from helicopters and chasing and apprehending ‘poachers’ in an action-packed demonstration. One of the participants was the Guinness World Record team of Arrow, the first ever anti-poaching skydiving dog, and his handler Henry Holtshyzen. The Westland Gazelle helicopter was flown by Anton von Willich. Paramount also had their 10 metre high Parabot on display in the public area.
The Ahrlac twin tail formation was another South African airshow first. Blokkies Joubert flew the Ahrlac prototype and Glen Warden a Cessna 337 Skymaster. Ahrlac is a light reconnaissance and counter-insurgency aircraft developed in South Africa in a joint venture between the Paramount Group and Aerosud. All future Ahrlacs will be built at Wonderboom Airport in a newly completed state-of-the-art 15000m² factory which has yet to be unveiled officially. To demonstrate the surveillance capability of this aircraft, the Ahrlac circled the airport after its display on the Saturday and via a live downlink, picked out a single person from the huge crowd. The person that was shown on the big screen then received a cash prize.
The dynamic Team Extreme display consisted of high impact freestyle and formation aerobatics. At the Adrenaline Show, the team consisted of Nigel Hopkins in his Extra 330, Mark Hensman in his MX2 and Jason Beamish in the Extra 300.
Drifting is always popular as there is lots of smoke and engine noise. As an extra twist, the drifters were joined by Menno Parsons in his Bell 407, who hovered in unison over them as they snaked their way along the taxiway in front of the crowd.
Other car versus plane action involved Jason Beamish in his Extra 300 racing against an Alfa Romeo Giulia and Menno Parsons’ Bell 407 taking on a Shelby Mustang. And to top things off, there was a three-way race between Nigel Hopkins’ Extra 330, Menno Parsons’ Bell 407 and a V8 supercharged Roush Mustang muscle car. Before the race, Nigel Hopkins pointed his Extra 300 straight up and hung it on the propeller right next to Menno’s helicopter, showing that a plane can hover too.
Menno’s North American P-51 Mustang “Mustang Sally” made a welcome appearance at the Adrenaline Show. As the plane is due for a major engine overhaul, it will not be seen at many air shows this year.
Besides doing the solo display, Menno also did a joint display with the Mustang and his Bell Huey, the helicopter being flown by Alister Brown on this occasion. Alister also featured in the Huey car drop display, where an “illegally parked” car was removed by the helicopter and then dropped on the airfield “by accident”.
Other solo displays saw Neville Ferreira fly his Slick 540, Ivan van der Schaar pilot his Boeing Stearman, Mark and Jon-Marc Hill displayed the Antonov AN-2 “Little Annie” and Gary Whitecross graced the skies in his Pilatus B4 Glider.
The inverted para-drop from a Goodyear Eagles Pitts Special was performed by a female parachutist for the first time at a South African airshow. The jumper, Amy Shaw, fell out of the plane at the top of a loop and 3 Pitts Specials then circled her while she glided to the ground. Amy’s is also an airline captain for Airlink.
The Goodyear Eagles could not go straight into their aerobatic routine as the jump plane had to fly without its canopy for obvious reasons but they performed their full display later during the day. The team at the Adrenaline Show consisted of Glen Warden, Johan von Solms, Paul Coetzer and Nigel Hopkins.
More jet action came in the form of a Boeing 737-800 from Mango Airlines and a 5-ship formation display consisting of 2 L-39s (flown by Pierre Gouws and Nigel Hopkins), 2 L-29s (piloted by Glen Warden and Larry Beamish) and the Impala flown by Mike Weingartz. This was followed by an individual display by Glen Warden, then a short joint display by the 2 L-39s and the Impala, followed by a final formation flypast of the 2 L-29s.
This was the first time that a Gripen flew in formation with the Silver Falcons at an airshow. After the formation split up in a fan break, the Gripen did its second display of the day. Then, the Silver Falcons flew their full show. Team 81 of the Silver Falcons consists of Major Mark Gentles, Major Bheki Shabangu, Major Sivu Tangana, Major Wendy Badenhorst and Major Omphile Mutloane.
The ‘Over Under’ saw a bike jump over a plane. As Nigel Hopkins flew his Extra 330SC close to the ground in a knife edge pass, Nick de Wit did a backflip over the plane. Nigel had flown a few trial approaches already and Nick had done a few trial jumps beforehand and had checked the timing of his approach as well. When the moment of truth came, everything worked exactly as planned.
Also leading up to this, the freestyle motocross riders had built up the excitement levels with many freestyle motocross jumps.
Later during the day, stunt riders Yukon Stewart, Ulrich Klingenberg and Addie Lourens would entertain everyone with their wheelies, burn-outs and other bike stunts.
The Raptor formation was led by Pierre Gouws and included Nigel Hopkins, Larry Beamish and Jason Beamish, all flying Vans RV aircraft. Mark Hensman in his MX2 joined them for part of the display.
The taxiway in front of the crowd line was used as a makeshift drag strip as well. The rail dragster was driven by SA’s fastest woman, Vanessa Fourie. She had clocked 298km/h in this car at Tarlton International Raceway in the past. Her husband Quinton Fourie drove the Corvette funny car and Nico van Rensburg demonstrated the Tarlton J34 Westinghouse Jet dragster. The jet powered dragsters have reached speeds of over 400 km/h over a quarter mile at Tarlton. A similar jet car driven by the late Johan Jacobs holds the outright South African land speed record at a speed of 504.544kph for the flying kilometre set in 2005. Sadly, national racing activities at Tarlton are suspended until further notice due to the high costs involved and lack of sufficient attendance and sponsorships to cover costs. This was thus a rare opportunity to see these amazing machines in action.
The Saturday programme ended after dark. At one stage during dusk, the Gripen made a surprise appearance and dropped flares just as the jet car performed its run and immediately after that, the Flying Lions did a surprise formation break over the airfield after returning from a flypast at the Loftus Versfeld Rugby Stadium – nonstop action at its best. From that, the Flying Lions in their Puma Energy Harvards went straight into their sunset show in the fading light, accompanied by lots of smoke. Then another airshow first, the jet car meltdown, took place. A passenger car was placed behind the jet car and the flames from the jet engine literally melted the car. To end the show, a giant fireworks display took place.
The Sunday programme consisted of most of the acts from Saturday minus the night displays and ended at about 4 pm. The only thing not seen on the Saturday was the jet car smoke down. The jet car covered much of the airfield in smoke before undertaking a shortened run down the makeshift dragstrip.
Well done to Chris Briers, Christian Maiorana and the rest of the organising team for staging an excellent event that ran on time, was safe and kept everyone thoroughly entertained throughout the two days.
Below is the full photo gallery of the event: