Too often on Monday mornings, when I scroll through a slightly depressing collection of friends’ Facebook status updates, I am reminded of how important it is to have a job that you love. Another rollercoaster weekend of display flying has come and gone and I find myself tackling the week ahead high on the euphoria of the weekend’s show. But it was a tough one...
This weekend (2-3 April) was the annual Navy Festival at Naval Base Simon’s Town on the Cape Peninsula, commemorating the South African Navy’s 89th birthday. Of all the Silver Falcons displays I have done, the Navy Festival shows have been most challenging by far. Although incredibly picturesque, Simon’s Town has a couple of unfriendly traits from a show box perspective: high ground on two sides of the display area (which guarantees turbulence when any of the prevailing winds blow), an ill-defined display line over water and a propensity to howling south-easters – which, apart from the orographic turbulence formed, also create a layer of clouds (similar to Table Mountain’s cloth) when it blusters over the 2500 ft mountain. As if that is not enough, it also has airspace challenges in that our display infringes on the Cape Town TMA and it is located along the ever-popular peninsula route, which guarantees civilian traffic on unmanned frequencies to be conflicting. (The fact that the air space is closed by NOTAM for the purposes of the displays of course does not prevent general aviation traffic from flying into it...)
So, challenges aside, how did it go? Under the circumstances I feel it went well, but it was a significantly different show to the one we flew the previous weekend at the Rapport Mykonos Festival. I think it was great exposure for especially Roy, Heybrech and Beau in the new positions, but Buti and I were equally challenged by all the gremlins. There were moments in Sunday’s show where, amidst heavy breathing, rapid head and eye movements and inverted TIBA radio calls, I was overcome by the beauty and the sheer exhilaration of what we do. And during those moments, all the bumps and clouds and challenges just made me feel more alive.
I think the weekend’s flying was best captured by Beau, in a manner only he can. After Saturday’s show, whilst we were signing off paperwork, he just shook his head and drew a big circle on a piece of paper and labelled it: “COMFORT ZONE”. Then he drew a little stick figure on the other side of the paper and labelled it: “ME!”
But hey, formation aerobatics never really gets easier – it just gets better!
Capt Gerhard Lourens
We have one day left to prepare for the first air show of the year, before we hit the blue road to Ermelo for the Ermelo Air Show this weekend. Team 71 would like to thank Capt Xolani Vundla, Capt Josias Mashaba and Lt Mark Gentles for bracing the traffic and sacrificing their free time to assist us with safety on the ground this weekend, whilst our GLO, Lt Jesse Ramaisa, is on task in Switzerland.