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article imageClassic plane surprises at South African Air Force Flying Day Special

By Christopher Szabo     Feb 5, 2011 in World
Pretoria - A former Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) P-51D Mustang fighter surprised onlookers at the first South African Air Force (SAAF) Flying Day of 2011 at the Swartkop Museum by an unexpected visit from nearby Lanseria Airport, near Johannesburg.
The Mustang, likely the most successful Allied fighter of WWII, is a genuine classic, built in 1944 and well-known to the flying fraternity. It has a number of web pages of its own!
The Pretoria-based museum owns a number of former SAAF aircraft in flying condition which are used to keep up pilots’ currencies, as Digital Journal observed. The events afford reserve and regular pilots time in the air and are also open to the public.
The Vampire taxiing. What a noise!
The Vampire taxiing. What a noise!
A crowd-pleaser was the deafening De Havilland Vampire, flown by Colonel Rama Iyer, formerly of the Indian Air Force, who also flew Vampires there. This aircraft was the last high performance fighter to use wood composite construction. Parts of the plane, like De Havilland’s “Wooden Wonder”, the Mosquito, were built of balsa and spruce plywood sheeting covered in cloth. In an informal discussion before take-off, Colonel Iyer said the Vampire was very much a "seat-of-the-pants" plane, unlike modern-day warplanes.
Colonel Iyer in  his  De Havilland Vampire.
Colonel Iyer in "his" De Havilland Vampire.
The aircraft is also important as it was the first jet to be taken into regular service by the SAAF. (SAAF pilots flew Canadair Sabres in combat over Korea earlier, however.)
Old warhorses, like the Puma, Alouette Marks II and III helicopters, and the “Old Lady”, the radial-engined Douglas C-47 Dakota all took to the sky. An interesting feature of Saturday’s flying was that people were given rides in the helicopters and the “Dak” as part of the SAAFs community programmes.
An Alouette III helicopter  a former workhorse of the SAAF.
An Alouette III helicopter, a former workhorse of the SAAF.
The old lady of the skies  a 75-year-old design  the Douglas C-47 Dakota.
The old lady of the skies, a 75-year-old design, the Douglas C-47 Dakota.
A well-known member of the South African Air Force Association (SAAFA), Dr Stefaan Bouwer was fortunate to get a rare spin in one of the SAAF Harvard trainer planes.
Dr Bouwer in the Harvard trainer.
Dr Bouwer in the Harvard trainer.
The end of the flying held another, very pleasant surprise when Parsons took the former Chief of the Air Force and Korean War Veteran, General Denis Earp, for a spin in the Mustang, an aircraft he knew well.
 Mustang Sally  in its element.
"Mustang Sally" in its element.
Mustang Sally roars through the skies.
Mustang Sally roars through the skies.
When General Earp climbed out of the plane, the onlookers gave him a heart-warming round of applause.
General Denis Earp responds to the onlookers  applause.
General Denis Earp responds to the onlookers' applause.
General Earp with the owner of Mustang Sally  Colonel Willie Nel of the SAAF Museum and other stand ...
General Earp with the owner of Mustang Sally, Colonel Willie Nel of the SAAF Museum and other stand before the historic plane.
Stefaan Bouwer, used with permission.
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