Preparing for the big show

Story and photos by Tech. Sgt. Todd Wivell
U.S. Air Forces Africa Public Affairs

PRETORIA, South Africa — The thunder could be heard from miles away, growing louder as it approached. Within minutes, the silhouette of a U.S. Air Force HC-130 aircraft could easily be seen on the horizon.

As the aircraft approaches, the back door opened and out came an all-terrain vehicle and four Guardian Angels parachuting toward the active runway.

The four members safely hit the ground, unpacked the ATV and, with a sense of urgency, transported a simulated casualty to a taxiing HC-130 for evacuation.
As real-world and exciting as this sounds, it was just practice for the Guardian Angels and HC-130 crew as they prepared for the 2011 Air Show and Lifestyle Expo at Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria, South Africa.

“More than 90 U.S. Air Force active duty, Reserve and National Guard members are here to support the South African air force in conducting this year’s air show,” said Col. Mark Loeben, 404th Air Expeditionary Group commander. “As partners with the SAAF, we are assisting them in meeting their needs for a successful air show.”

Loeben said this year’s air show at Waterkloof was a trial run for the SAAF, as it is their hope to have a bigger and more robust show in years to come.

“This show will allow them to check procedures, compare what we do to what they do and to integrate our aircraft into their show,”  Loeben said. “My hope is next year to have a bigger contingent of U.S. Air Force personnel and equipment as part of the air show.”

This year’s show was expected to have three different U.S. Air Force aircraft. The HC-130 Hercules was used in the static display. Later in the day, it was also used to conduct a fly-by while dropping the Guardian Angels along with equipment and gear. A C-17 Globemaster III and KC-135 Stratotanker were also on static
display during the air show. An MC-12 Liberty, a corporate demonstrator aircraft, was also on static display.

“I think the most important thing about this air show is the fact that the South Africans came to us asking for us to participate,” said Lt. Col. Jim Travis, U.S. Air Force Air Show coordinator. “Our relationship with the SAAF is evolving and this is a very positive step forward. They wanted us to come and bring a lot of big metal to test the capabilities of their newly renovated airfield, hence the C-17, KC-135 and HC-130.”

Travis had been working the air show as a full-time job since June 20 and was anticipating the final product, as more than 50,000 South Africans were expected to attend, he said.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the results of our hard work when the people of Pretoria see our well-maintained aircraft and meet the great ground personnel and aviators who came to Waterkloof,” Travis said. “I think the icing on the
cake will be the parachute and equipment drops by the Guardian Angels from the New York Air National Guard.”

“The air show takes place as a result of a direct instruction from the chief of the SAAF,” said Brig. Gen. T.S. Madumane, commanding officer, Waterkloof Air Force Base. “The SAAF sees the resources contribution of the U.S. Air Force toward the Waterkloof Air Show as very impressive in sending through the message that by maximally utilizing and exploiting air assets, the world is really a global village.”

He also said the importance of an air show lies in achieving a certain degree of the population understanding that an Air Force is the custodian of ubiquitous assets that a state can utilize in furthering its national interests.

“I consider this air show participation a cornerstone of a growing relationship between the U.S. Air Force and the SAAF,” Loeben said. “We hope by participating in this year’s air show we are building on that cooperative relationship for future SAAF air shows and exercises to come.”

The 2011 Air Show and Lifestyle Expo was held Oct. 1 at Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria, South Africa.

For more information on the air show and lifestyle exhibits, visit their website at