HARARE - The stupendously entertaining, elaborate, all-day, “Big African Air Show” woke up sleepy Harare, wowing impressionable aircraft enthusiasts at Charles Prince Airport, just outside Harare, yesterday.
By far, applying any measure, it must be the most astounding air show Zimbabwe has seen.
In any case, the last bona fide air show in Zimbabwe was held eons ago, in 1995 specifically, before many of the overjoyed youthful revellers observing, cheering and screaming were even conceived. At midday, the confirmed attendance was over 16 000 people, more than for any previous air show.
Aircraft enthusiasts (propeller heads, the equivalent of petrol heads) turned up in their thousands, resplendent in all manner of colour, transforming the usually quiet Charles Prince Airport (a one-time busiest airport in Africa!) into an appealing hive of noisy activity.
Air Zimbabwe’s large Boeing 737-200, crewed by in-command captain Joe Muparuri, co-captain Mekias Munyaradzi and First Officer Beaven Mutema monitoring critical speed and height-above-the-ground parameters got the ball rolling as the first act, wowing the crowd with an impossibly slow-looking fly past in that big aircraft on Runway 06-24.
The big twin-engine jet executed a sharp climb and smooth left turn eventually finding its way back over the same runway; only this time it was astonishingly fast, and very noisy so close to the ground. A zany speed confirmed by Muparuri to be over 800kph. Impressive!
Several interesting top aerobatic acts, including the highly agile Havards (built long ago in 1943) and T-28s, the well-choreographed T-28 Formation, the RV formation displays and stunning Goodyear Pitts Special were the early morning acts. Other daring solo acts included the Extra300L and Slick 540 with the Sbach solo act closing the morning acts. The afternoon started on a sombre note for the Air Force of Zimbabwe, with impressive helicopter (Super Puma, Mi172, ALO III, AB412) and trainer (SF260 and K-8), and military transport aircraft (CASA 212) aircraft displays, paying a heartbreaking tribute to two of their own. Indeed, would you spare a thought at this air show’s incalculable cost; the sad loss of two highly-experienced Air Force of Zimbabwe airmen and the total destruction of their trainer aircraft.
Squadron Leader Taurai Jombo ,36, and Air Lieutenant Evidence Begede ,28, instantly perished after a failed take off attempt on Friday.
Speculation is that it was a typical dreaded airman’s worst-case scenario, the EFATO (engine failure after take off). Usually happening just metres above the ground and when your aircraft is desperately trying to pick up vital speed and maybe heavy on fuel. The Air Force of Zimbabwe and the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe are investigating the crash.
It is not a complex bet to make that the Big African Air Show will be back in 2015, spurred-on by the unmitigated success of yesterday, quite likely bigger and better.