Langebaanweg Airshow 2017

Report and Photography by Janine Frischmuth and Jens Frischmuth

The 2017 Langebaanweg Airshow was held at Air Force Base Langebaanweg on the 9th of December. The airshow formed part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Silver Falcons and was the first airshow to be held at the base in 22 years.

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AFB Langebaanweg is situated just over 100 kilometres north of Cape Town. Development of the then named, Air Force Station Congella – Langebaan Section, was started in 1942. Originally developed to counter the German/Japanese submarine threat during the Second World War; the station’s first and subsequent role was as a training unit. The base was officially proclaimed in the Government Gazette dated 5 April 1946. The base underwent several name changes from 1946 to 1992, when eventually the Central Flying School (CFS) moved from Dunnottar to Langebaanweg with 100 Harvard aircraft and on 1 January 1993 the unit’s name changed to Central Flying School. The Base motto is "Tenax Propisiti Vinco" – Through Tenacity Comes Success. Since 1980 only the pupil pilots selected for the fighter line were sent to FTS Langebaanweg for the second half of their wings course. Langebaanweg took over the badge and motto of CFS. In 1998, the CFS was developed into a General Support Base (GSB) for all West Coast units. The Flying School became CFS and the Base Aircraft Servicing Section became 8 Aircraft Servicing Unit (8 ASU), while the unit as itself once again became an Air Force Base.

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Several different units and aircraft have been based at Langebaanweg starting with the first aircraft, an Anson, which landed at the base in February 1946. The first Spitfires arrived at Langebaanweg during1948 and were used to train the pilots from 2 Squadron that went to Korea from 1950 to 1953. The first Vampires arrived in October 1952. From 1952 to 1967 advanced flying training was done on Harvards and Vampires. The first Impala arrived at Langebaanweg on 11 May 1966. The first Pilatus Astra aircraft, the new training aircraft of the SAAF and the aircraft still used by the Silver Falcons, arrived in October 1994.

On 4 March 1995, during the Air Force’s 75th birthday celebrations, the unit held an open day and 30 000 people attended. On 26th October 1995 the last Wings Parade was held with the Harvard as training aircraft. The departure of the Harvard took place on 17 November 1995 during which a formation of 55 Harvard aircraft flew over the unit.

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The 2017 airshow was held under clear skies but a strong wind of up to 40 knots was gusting all day. The tricky flying conditions tested the flying abilities of the pilots and some displays did not take place for safety reasons. The skydivers did not jump and the planned Working On Fire display was cancelled. Aircraft were not allowed to release flares either.

Spectators turned up in large numbers, however, to the extent that the food vendors ran out of food around lunch time.

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Proceedings started with a procession of emergency vehicles and the opening address was delivered by the Officer Commanding Air Force Base Langebaanweg, Brigadier General Mac Matanda. Harvards (represented by the Flying Lions), an Impala and Pilatus PC7s (the Silver Falcons) performed flypasts as part of the opening ceremony with the General taking the salute. This was done in recognition of the significant role these types of aircraft have played in the history of AFB Langbaanweg.

As they were airborne already, it made sense for the Flying Lions to open the airshow as well. The team consisted of leader Scully Levin, Arnie Meneghelli, Ellis Levin and Sean Thackwray.

The Impala display, flown by Mike Weingartz, took place next.

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The RV display consisted of 5 Vans RV aircraft. The team was made up of Pierre Gouws, Larry Beamish, Nigel Hopkins, Mark Hensman and Jason Beamish.

Team Extreme also impressed with their aerobatic routine. For this event, the team members were Nigel Hopkins (Extra 330SC), Jason Beamish and Mark Samson (Sbachs) and Mark Hensman (MX-2).

Individual aerobatic displays were flown by Andrew Blackwood-Murray in his Extra300 and Nigel Hopkins in the Extra330SC.

3 radio controlled aircraft were displayed by the AMSRCC RC club from Langebaan. This included a model of a Mirage IIICZ.

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A highlight of the day was the mass flypast of the Pilatus PC7 MkIIs from the Central Flying School. 19 aircraft took part in this impressive “50” formation.

Two solo PC7 displays were flown by Major Shaun Constable, who is an ex Silver Falcons team member.

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Helicopter action came in the form of a joint display by an Agusta 109LUH from 15 Squadron based at AFB Durban and an Oryx from 22 Squadron based at AFB Ysterplaat. Major Diaan Grobbelaar flew the A109 and Major Jannie Augustyn the Oryx.

The 16 Squadron Rooivalk display was flown by Major Paul Kempthorne. Major Suzanne Dempsey, the first female pilot to fly the Rooivalk helicopter, commentated during the display.

A Eurocopter EC145 showed off its rescue capabilities. It is operated by Aerios Global Aviation and is based in Cape Town.

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One of the best displays of the day was the C-47 TP display flown by Major Scott Ternent. Major Ternent is a former leader of the Silver Falcons. The C-47 is the military version of the legendary DC-3 Dakota. The C-47s of 35 Squadron are based at AFB Ysterplaat and are the longest serving aircraft in the SAAF. Their history goes back over 70 years and the oldest airframe hails from 1943. The fleet was upgraded to turboprop standard between 1989 and 1994 and the display aircraft is one of 8 still in active service.

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A Hercules C-130BZ belonging to 28 Squadron based at AFB Waterkloof kept the crowd entertained as well. The performance included a demonstration of the short take-off and landing capabilities of this, the largest aircraft in the service of the South African Air Force. Seven C-130s were purchased by the SAAF in 1963 and an additional 5 were acquired in the 1990s.

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The breaking of the sound barrier by Major Rehan Venter in a Gripen was another highlight of the Langebaanweg airshow. Major Venter climbed to 40000ft and accelerated to about Mach 1.4 in a dive. Although too high to be seen with the naked eye, the contrail of the plane was visible from the ground before the double sonic boom was clearly heard. On his return to the base, Major Venter performed a high speed flypast before landing.

Major Geoffrey Cooper was the Gripen display pilot for the event and the BAE Hawk was flown by Lt Col Craig Leeson.

The Aero L-39 jet ZU-TEE made a welcome return to the airshow circuit after an absence of a few years. It was flown by Glen Warden.

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Of course, the Silver Falcons took centre stage during the day. They flew in formation with the Mango Airlines 737-800 piloted by Captain Scully Levin and also did two team displays.

The team on this historic consisted of Major Mark Gentles, Major Bheki Shabangu, Major Sivu Tangana, Major Wendy Badenhorst and Major Omphile Mutloane. This was last time that Team 81 flew together in public, as the team leader Major Mark Gentles is due to leave the team.

The Silver Falcons were formed in 1967 and gave their first display in November 1967 at the opening of the Atlas Aircraft Corporation. To date, the team has flown almost 1000 displays. The team was based at Air Force Base Langewaanweg from its inception and spent most of its time there except for a period in the 1990s when they were part of 85 Combat Flying School and operated from AFB Hoedspruit.

The late programme consisted of repeats of earlier performances and fittingly, the airshow was brought to an end by the Silver Falcons, proudly displaying to the public at their home base.

Below is the full photo gallery of the Langebaanweg Airshow: