Trustco International Air Show Set The Standard

06 Aug 2015 12:50pm
By Francois Lottering

HOSEA KUTAKO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, 06 AUG (NAMPA) - The dream of Orwell and Wilbur Wright to conquer the skies with a manned aircraft evolved even faster than one can imagine.
The Wright brothers, who can rightfully be called the pioneers of the world's first controlled, powered and sustained heavier-than-air human flight on 17 December 1903, will be proud to see how their ideas have grown - to the point where mankind can travel faster than the speed of sound.
Attending the Trustco International Air Show (TIAS) at the Hosea Kutako International Airport east of Windhoek on 01 August, one can rightfully say all expectations were exceeded, as the variety of aircraft on show catered to the expectations of the almost 15 000 people who showed up to witness the spectacular display of manmade engineering.
The sun had barely risen over the airport when the first aircraft took off to showcase often death defying skills to the spectators who came out to see the best of the best.
It was the youthful and highly experienced pilot, Nigel Hopkins, in his MX-2 aerobatic red fiberglass aircraft, who kept all eyes glued on the sky with his single engine machine.
Hopkins boasts no less than 16 000 flying hours that equate to more than 660 days in the cockpit. But it is not the number of hours that make him an experienced pilot; he can also fly 123 different types of aircrafts.
The idea for the TIAS was born in January 2014, when a group in the aviation sector decided to address the shortage of local pilots in the market by encouraging interest in the profession through the show. An open day was arranged at Eros Airport in Windhoek in May last year to put aircrafts on display but that eventually turned into something else: an event to recruit and identify potential pilots because a show with static aircrafts was clearly not the solution to the lack of interest, president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), Reinhard Gärtner said.
“After going to an international air show, we discovered that an air show needs airplanes that fly because you want to hear the airplanes, you want to smell the airplanes and you want to speak to the pilots,” Gärtner said.
And that was exactly what this air show was about - spectators could hear the roar of the engines, see their favourite aircraft on the ground and smell burning fuel as the crafts swept past the audience.
Such a display was the first ever fly-by of an Airbus from South African Airways (SAA), flanked by four Harvards next to both wings.
This spectacular low and slow formation had many spectators running for their cameras.
With new regulations imposed on aircraft manufacturers to reduce engine noise, it was clear that back in the years noise pollution was not high on the agenda of aircraft manufacturers as the thundering roar of the four Harvards’ engines dominated that of the much larger passenger aircraft.
Formation flying excites people and when the Good Year Eagles, an aerobatics team from South Africa, with their Pitt Special single engine biplanes took to the sky, there was hardly a spectator who did not hold their breath at the daring skills on display; a clear indication that these pilots deserve to be called the world's best.
Another aircraft that was a crowd puller was the P-51 Mustang single engine single-seater aircraft. This aircraft was originally built in the United States of America as a single seat fighter-bomber aircraft. The Mustang, with its silver coloured body and red nose dubbed 'Mustang Sally,' was first flown in 1940 and only retired from active military service 44 years later, during 1984. When this aircraft with its characteristic low belly and whistling sound when dive bombing went on sale, collectors of vintage aircrafts did not sit and wait to get their own P-51's. Many of the aircrafts are now in private hands as collectors’ items, or are mostly used at air shows for entertainment.
Another old-time favourite on display was the Blackburn Buccaneer, which brought back many memories as the Buccaneer was one of the most advanced aircrafts of its time, and with wings that can fold to fit into a ship, it left many people wondering whether it was in fact safe.
The Buccaneer was originally built by Britain during the Cold War and was specially built during the 1950's as a “carrier-born attack aircraft”, meaning it had the capabilities of taking off and landing on aircraft carriers at sea. The distinguished shape of its wings and unique sound of the jet engines as the pilot took the Buccaneer through the various manoeuvres over Hosea Kutako International Airport will be remembered for years to come.
The maiden flight of the Buccaneer, which was capable of carrying a nuclear bomb, was in April 1958 but it was officially withdrawn from active service during 1994 by the Royal Air Force.
Other aircrafts that made an impact on the day were the Antanov AN-2, nicknamed Annuschka or 'Annie'. This single engine biplane flew in 1947 for the very first time and was originally built for the Russian agricultural sector.
Apart from the visitors from South Africa, the Namibian Police Force (NamPol) also did a “simulation arrest”, involving all three of their helicopters, complete with highly trained officers who defused a potentially dangerous crime scenario.
The Namibian Air Force also showcased their hardware with fighter and trainer jets.
Getting all these aircrafts together, along with thousands of visitors and spectators, was not an easy task, Gärtner said.
“The biggest reward was that there were no incidents, no accident factor,” he said.
Anything can happen at an air show and it is part of the organiser’s responsibility to ensure that should there be an accident incident, there will be adequate medical personnel and equipment on the site.
“There was the 'what happens if?' and ‘what happens about the unknown’ factor that we had to take care of,” Gärtner added.
This necessitated the fully equipped medical and emergency tents on site, with an emergency helipad in Windhoek.
With the Namibian sun almost behind the western horizon, the golden rays gave extra warmth to the final display of the Expedite Aviation helicopters from Tsumeb, a Bell Huey and the Bell 222 doing a low flyby for the final spectators’ thrill.
The sounds of the Huey's rotors driven by a single turboshaft engine will always be etched in the minds of chopper enthusiasts, but that was to the surprise of many, not the end.
Driving back to Windhoek, with the sun already behind the western horizon, spectators were greeted by the roaring sounds of the four low flying Harvard T-6's of the Flying Lions, another aerobatics team from South Africa - completely as if to assure the crowd that Namibian aviators and spectators will soon welcome them back to the Land of the Brave.