The Uitenhage Wings and Wheels Festival is a memorial to Doug Davidson who passed away in October 1992 after suffering a heart attack on takeoff while piloting his Pitts Special. Largely thanks to his son’s (Stu Davidson) personal ‘air force’ the event showcases some classic warbirds, and is a fitting tribute to Doug.
The show was co-hosted with various other events at the Uitenhage Airfield on 1 April. Flying to Uitenhage from his private airfield, Seaview, in Port Elizabeth, Stu Davidson brought his Hawker Seafury, North American P-51 Mustang, Harvard, Sukhoi Su-31 and an L-39. These were joined by a second L-39, an RV-7 and two Whisper Xs.
Other aircraft that flew in from surrounding towns included the ever-popular Sling, Savannah and Jora, the usual numbers of Cessnas and Pipers, the odd Mooney, plus two V-tail Bonnies, a Baron 55 and a few other Bonanzas.
Other than being windy, the Eastern Cape generally offers brilliant year-round flying weather and is home to a high concentration of flight schools. Many local students saw the airshow and fly-in as a good opportunity for some fun flying. Kouga Wings flying school from Paradise Beach, Algoa Flight Centre and Progress Flight Academy were all present.
For those driving in, the gates opened at 08.00 on Saturday morning, and the flying displays, which kicked off with the formation arrival of the Mustang ‘Queen of Hearts’ and an L-39, started just after 10.00.
The highlight of the day was the unexpected arrival of the Hawker Seafury to the show. The immensely powerful World War 2 fighter is powered by a 2,480 hp Pratt & Whitney radial. The Mustang gave a terrific display of high speed passes, the L-39s provided jet thrills, and the Harvard and Seafury brought the grumbling power of radials – enough to satisfy any aficionado’s appetite for engines.
Later Patrick Davidson did a thrilling display in the Sukhoi Su-31, proving why he is one the best aerobatic pilots in the world.
Being the Eastern Cape with excellent gliding weather, there were three aero-tows by a Lambada of a Twin-Astir and Salto. To add further variety, a RAF 2000 gyrocopter, a Robinson R22 helicopter and a quarter scale radio control Stearman, flown by Brian Martin, put on great displays.
A ‘wings and wheels’ festival has to race aircraft with cars. This year there were two such races: the vintage race between a Motorfalke motorglider and a Model A Ford, and a high-octane race between the Su-31 and a new high-powered Range Rover, which resulted in dramatic billows of dust as the two sped along the crowdline. Not surprisingly, both races were won easily by the planes.
Riaan Oliver from ACSA acted as a very patient ATC in the tower, with Philip Darne and Bernie Sharp doing commentary. The nature of the airshow is very relaxed and many jokes and unusual facts were broadcast, bringing smiles to the faces in the crowd.
One of the hangars became a beer garden and music, potjies and lamb on the spit were provided into the night.