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‘Rock the Runway’

June 21, 2018

The Kishugu Lowveld Airshow

This year, the Kishugu Lowveld Airshow was dubbed ‘Rock the Runway’. It was the most spectacular show Johan Heine and his Kishugu team have put on to date.


 When someone comes up with a phrase like ‘Rock the Runway’ it could be just a tagline to encourage people to empty their wallets, but this show lived up to the hype.

The early morning sight of several hot air balloons floating in the sunrise was majestic. The show officially started at around 10h00 with the local Harley Davidson club rumbling down the runway while SANDF paratroopers, one trailing a large South African flag, jumped from a Casa C-212.

Then came the Puma Flying Lions followed by the Goodyear Pitts Specials. These guys’ routines are world class with their precision formation aerobatics, low passes and solo displays. My wife, Liesel, asked why I couldn’t fly like they do.

Next up was a display by the much-loved Antonov AN2 ‘Little Annie’. Brian Emmenis from Capital Sounds joked that she uses more oil per flight than the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan uses in a year.

The display of the day, according to my wife, went to the Flying Cows. The precision of the low level, inverted manoeuvres, accompanied by daring cross-over displays, was a marvel of flying skills.

Following their set was the Bat Hawk, a very capable bush plane built by Lowveld resident Andrew Pappas. Bobby Rowe demonstrated its low speed and short field agility – qualities that have made these LSAs so popular for air surveillance.

My personal favourite was up next, South Africa’s newly acquired Black Hawk helicopter, owned and operated by Mark Jackson of Leading Edge. The size of this helicopter compared to its fire-fighting partner, the not so small UH-1 Huey, is remarkable. The display confirmed the capability and performance of the UH-60 Black Hawk; its lifting capacity of 4,000 kg means it can carry three times that of a Huey, and the sound of those twin turbines spooling up sends shivers down your spine.

Having said that, there are not many things that can get a crowd as pumped-up as the thumping sound of a Huey approaching – let alone a swarm of them. The Kishugu Hueys operated for Working On Fire executed textbook Bambi bucket drops, followed by the roar of the AT802 water bombers dumping 3,000 litres.

The Gripen display was short, but of high impact. It flew from AFB Makhado, and the 3,000-strong crowd was treated to a 1,000 km/h low-level fly by with the afterburners roaring. As a 45-year old that went to the army many years ago, I will always appreciate a ‘vlamgat’ in any guise, a passion apparently shared by all of the spectators!

As the flying closed with the Flying Lions sunset spectacle, so the party started with bands on the flatbed truck which functioned as a stage. The event ended with a dazzling fireworks display, as is expected at the Lowveld Airshow – an awesome close to a perfect day.

On a personal note, I have to thank Johan Heine and his team at Kishugu for the wonderful and very welcome kiddies play area this year – a first, which saw young ones playing in a safe environment the entire day with adequate supervision on all rides. This is indicative of how carefully this airshow was planned.

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