An estimated 60 000-strong crowd attended the first SA Air Force Museum show at Zwartkops after Covid-19 lockdown at the weekend.
And when it was all said and done, officials and revellers alike agreed that bringing air excellence and the opportunity to get out and socialise was the best combination.
The extravaganza on Saturday themed Breaking New Frontiers saw more numbers than anything seen since the 2006 inception.
It saw families and individuals, professionals and even neighbours from the community, show their interest in aviation and turn out to watch in earnest as aircraft of various shapes and sizes showed both engineering strength, combat readiness and theatrics in the sky to much cheer and admiration from the audience.
To support the sentiments shared by an excited Chief of the Air Force, Lieutenant-General Wiseman Mbambo, it was all worth it.
Mbambo, as he watched the grounds of the museum swell with enthusiasts from one end to the other and listened to the loud cheers as the aircraft twirled and shot through the air, said: “The love for aviatio n and for flying is clearly big and can only grow from here.
“To see parents bringing their children to the show, and therefore planting the seed for the love – and appreciation, for aviation, is where the passion starts.”
He said that this was all the proof they needed to confirm that the future for the sector was bright.
From among the people who attended was no less amazement at both the strength of aircraft and the speed with which they flew across the skies.
Andre Spring, who lives in the neighbouring community of Valhalla and who initially had no interest in attending the show, said that he and his family had given in after being “bothered” by the roaring sounds in the sky as the pilots prepared for the day over the past week.
“But we did not expect what we have seen today. To watch light and heavy aircraft lift so fast and effortlessly from the ground, it is something I could not have kept my family from,” said the resident who had brought his young sons and elderly parents to the show.
Londeka Sodlaka came with her children and a few neighbours to what she said was initially a warm afternoon out, from the east of Joburg.
“We really had nothing much to do and we decided to make the trip to Pretoria, but wow, it is more than we bargained for.”
After walking through the hangars and learning about the aircraft in the morning, and watching the aircraft as they flew hither and thither, her children – both the boys and girls, said that they were considering careers in the air force.
Martha and Gerhald van der Zyl said that they had always loved air shows and aircraft, and, now, in their late 60s, tried to attend as many as they could.
“Yes, we went into careers so different, but in hindsight this is what we should have been doing,” said Martha, with the couple armed both with long lenses cameras and binoculars.
And, while some said peering through various devices was the thing to do, others agreed nothing beat following the aircraft with the naked eye.
Sandile Cele said: “Leave the high-calibre equipment to those who want their vision tunnelled. For some of us it is also to take the sky in, and to watch those around us react to the amazing fly passes.”
And with close to 100 vendors selling a variety of food, clothing and other items, Mbambo said: “The turnout is exceptional … it is beyond our expectation. It surpasses all attendance since the inception of the airshows.
He said that this was arguably the best air show in the history of the museum, and it encouraged them to continue with their idea to change the mindset, to do things differently.
“…to ensure that we are not pushed back by what is happening, we have changed the approach and done things differently, so as to get over and defeat all challenges,” he added.