“Botswana, Botswana, BOTSWANA!” chanted an enthusiastic crowd when the super-sized Botswana flag unfolded in the light breeze, trailing from one of the parachutists who had jumped from a Bell 412 above Sir Seretse-Khama International Airport in Gaborone, Botswana.
This was the start to the second Gaborone International Airshow. Held on 6 August, it built on the foundations of the international airshow staged in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Botswana Independence in 2016.
A major drawcard for the large crowd were the displays of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF), as their equipment is rarely seen by the public. The BDF display did not disappoint, however, the C-130, which was apparently the aircraft people most wanted to see, according to a recent Facebook poll, wasn’t present. But the CF-5 fighters made up for its absence with a simulated bomb run along a 500 m long wall of fire. The intense heat from the explosion was felt half a kilometre away in the large viewing stands.
The popular Bell 412s showcased the flags of Botswana and the BDF to the crowd, and the recently acquired EC225LP Super Puma in VIP livery led two AS350 Squirrel helicopters in formation. Parachutists were dropped from the CASA 235. Some of the parachutists caused quite a stir amongst the crowd when they chose an alternative landing spot close to the crowd.
With the BDF show complete, it was time for the South African airshow acts. They thrilled the crowd with world class routines. Some spectators simply stood in disbelief as they watched aircraft perform “washing machine with extended spin-cycle” routines.
The three-ship act by Nigel Hopkins, Jason Beamish and Mark Hensman was extremely popular, with the simultaneous takeoff from opposite ends of the runway by Nigel and Mark perhaps the most exciting. Neville Ferreira performed a well-polished and extremely fast paced show in his Slick 540. Regular formation aerobatic favourites included the Puma Energy Flying Lions in their Harvards and the Pitts Specials from the Goodyear Eagles and Team Torre.
The motorsport acts were also back this year. The popular car drifters teamed up with Johannes ‘Juba’ Joubert in an Alouette II, and stunt bikers performed extreme freestyle motocross jumps from ramps.
The Alouette II was put through its paces by Juba with great skill – his experience in these types of machines is remarkable. A scene that could have come straight from the movies saw a fast bike being deployed from the Alouette II helicopter to rescue Miss Botswana after she was ‘kidnapped’. ‘Little Annie’, the much loved AN-2 on the Southern Africa aviation scene demonstrated its remarkable takeoff and landing performance.
The Gaborone International Airshow was much more than a spectacular airshow. Thanks to the Botswana Defence Force, the Wildlife Protection Services, and the South African airshow fraternity, it brought people together from the surrounding communities and showed them the wonders of flying.