Public get up close to aircraft

2013-07-13 00:00

THE flurry of activity in the airspace over Durban today will have nothing to do with visiting heads of state.

There will, however, be loads of foreign dignitaries and local VIPs keen to outdo one another.

The line-up for this year’s Durban Air Show will welcome among its guests a North American T-2 Buckeye and two P51 Mustangs — the world’s most recognised World War 2 warbird the Queen of Hearts and Mustang Sally.

The holder of one lucky ticket will also get to win a R800 000 aircraft, a Piper Cherokee 235, and a private pilot’s licence course in the Reach for a Dream aircraft raffle. Miss South Africa, Marilyn Ramos, is scheduled to be on hand to give away the prize.

Visitors to the show will have many vantage points during the show. Footage from a drift-action camera in planes’ cockpits will be shown on a big-screen television.

People selected from the crowd will be able to hop on to one of the two cherry pickers, which are hydraulic cranes with a railed platform at the end for raising and lowering people, and offer spectators a bird’s-eye view of the event.

Aircraft will be on display, and there will be opportunity to speak with the pilots and operators. The organisers say the six-hour-long display will have no repeat acts.

Also making an appearance will be two business jets from Shelton Aviation (an Eclipse personal jet and a Kodiac). The jets will do a display, while a Piper Mirage will be on static display in the air park. A Beechcraft C90 with Blackhawk conversion will also feature.

The first official Durban Air Show was held in 1963, and is remembered well by veteran pilot and Durban Wings Club steward Tom Chalmers. Chalmers and his friend, Bob Brookes, decided to open the show by setting a world altitude record in a Cessna 180 Class C1.

“We took off and climbed to 25 680 feet [7 827 metres]. At that height, Bob’s hands and face turned blue. We were using medical oxygen, as we couldn’t get aviation oxygen in Durban at the time, and his line froze. We shared a mask as we spun back down to 14 000 feet [4 267 metres]. It was quite dramatic, but, as far as I know, the record still stands,” said Chalmers.

Justin Scott, Durban Air Show landside director, said that allowing spectators to get up close with the planes and pilots is part of their mandate to make aviation, through the KZN Winter Air Tour, accessible to everyone.

The air show starts at 10 am today. Tickets cost R100 (children are R50). Family packages cost R250 (four members) and R290 (five members), and are only available for online, pre-booked tickets. Buy tickets online at www.kznwinterairtour.co.za

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