Published: August 3rd 2012July 28th 2012
I did my standard morning routine again this morning, moving it forward by about half an hour, to make sure that I would get a front row seat on the busiest day of the week. Apparently something like 550 000 people attend on this Saturday every year.I put my chair down and headed to the Warbirds area, for the umpteenth time, still fascinated.
I noticed the pilot of the AT-6 in SAAF colours uncovering his canopy, so I headed over to have a chat with him. His name was Stan Markus, and he does not have a South African accent, much as I expected. He bought the aircraft in 2006 and left the colour scheme as he found it. In a recent overhaul of the engine, he got a South African 50C coin from our campsite and included it in the engine assembly. He said that he didnt want to lost the history of the aircraft.
Stan asked me to sign the inside of the luggage compartment. He then pointed to a name and said that that was a pilot who had soloed in this aircraft in the SAAF; Tony van Vliet. It really is a very small world. Stan then went on to explain how to identify SAAF Harvards from normal AT-6s. The fuel tanks are pressurised on the SAAF Harvards, and this is identifiable by the fuel cap on the port wing. It is a different shape to the standard one, and has a ring through it. Some of the aircraft also have text identifing it as a SAAF modified fuel system. Another feature is the handle bar antennae on the rear section of the fuselage.
Stan then took me to meet the owner of the RCAF Harvard. This aircraft was in pristine condition. The cockpit was the older configuration of the aircraft, and it didnt have a stick, but a stick with a large loop on the end.
I got Stan's email and told him I would try and find out what armament his AT-6 had carried, as there are machine gun holes and hardpoints on the wings.
The rest of the morning I spent trying to find other SAAF Harvards in disguise. I found another two. The one was hiding in plain sight in a checkered SAAF red and white colour scheme, whilst the other had been repainted to be a yellow Marines AT-6 based out of Iowa.
After my exploits, I went down to my seat on the flightline. The show this afternoon comprised of all the usual displays plus new displays by the F-18, and a beautiful formation of the A-10 Thunderbolt II and the P-38 Glacier Girl. After the show, I left my chair where it was and went back to camp to grab a bite to eat.
The fire was ready when I got to the camp, and I threw my steak on the fire. It was a filling meal, and was enough to hold me for the night airshow.
I walked quickly to the flightline for the last display of my week, the Night Airshow.This show started with the Canadian Skyhawks Parachute Team doing an amazing display of aerial maneuvers both solo and in groups.
Next were the two Christen Eagles doing a twilight show with Nav Lights and smoke. This was incredible, the low light would be enough to throw most people.
The Aeroshell team were next at dark twilight, showcasing their amazing flying skill. They ended their display in a cloud of smoke on the taxiiway, and then flashed their strobes in this; Simulated thunder and lightning.
Gene Soucey was next with his modified hectically noisey Grumman Showcat. Fireworks streaming off the wing of an aircraft do not look natural, but wow its really spectacular.
The evening ended with a race between two jet cars along the runway. The cars set off the humongous Wall of Fire. It was probably 400 m away, but the heat was searing, it was incredible.
After the show we had a good time at the boma, singing along and dancing again to old Gary Zimbabwe.
Now its time to end my final Airventure Blog, but there will be more from New York.