Formerly 'Rambling with a cantankerous old mule"
I live right next to the Waterkloof Airforce base in Pretoria.
I know it well, apart from what I experience driving past it every day: Back in the 1980s, when military service was compulsory for all white men in this country, I was actually based there for a while. Our squadron, a mobile communications unit, was situated at the far end of the runway, ironically right next to the spot where the Air Servicing Unit would test the Blackburn Buccaneer engines. In the middle of speaking to other operators in South West Africa (Namibia), or elsewhere in Africa we would be drowned out by the roar of the twin Bristol Siddeley rocket engines, killing off all communication. I’m amazed my hearing didn’t suffer permanent damage …
By 1990 we had been redeployed to Snake Valley – a quiet little base far from any noisy ‘planes. But my love of aircraft has never left. Last year I was excited to attend the Waterkloof Airshow and Lifestyle Expo at AFB Waterkloof – a show that was to feature some of the aircraft I remembered from my time in the military: Allouette III and Puma helicopters, Mirages, Cheetahs, Impalas and even the little Bosbok. By 10am a friend and I were on the base, rubbing shoulders with close to 100 000 other fans.
It was a treat. And I had a ball photographing the aircraft as well as the crowds. Although exhausted, I struggled to drag myself home near the end of the day, terrified that I would miss the fly-by of the year.
And so, this year I was determined to attend the Africa Aerospace and Defence show that was to be held in September, and was touted to be even bigger and better than last year’s event. But the morning of the show turned out to be overcast, cold and drizzly and, seeing the cars flooding in to the base, I decided to avoid the throng of people and to stay home – me, a cuppa tea and freshly-made pancakes.
I was quite content with my memories from last year, and did catch glimpses of the aircraft carrying out their impressive manoeuvres from my couch … One of my friends apparently took 3500 photos at the show. I’m happy to say that I took only one: