South Africa is undoubtedly the air show capital of Africa, with nearly a dozen air shows that attract hundreds of thousands of visitors every year, but unfortunately the 2020 air show circuit has been severely disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Stellenbosch Air Show, planned for March, was one of the first to be cancelled and was followed by the axing or postponement of most other events scheduled for 2020. For example, the Wings and Wheels Air Show Festival at Uitenhage (4 April) was canned along with the widely anticipated Garden Route Air Show (25 April) in George. However, the Garden Route Air Show has been postponed to 26 September 2020 while the Stellenbosch Air Show and Wings and Wheels have been moved to March 2021.
The Battlefields fly-in at Dundee (8-9 May) has been postponed as has the South African Air Force Museum Air Show at Air Force Base Swartkop on 9 May. The latter, which typically attracts in excess of 35 000 people, is a particularly hard blow for the Museum, as it generates most of its funding from air show proceeds.
Other postponed events include The Coves fly in (16 May), Sport Aerobatic Club (SAC) Eastern Cape Regionals (23-24 May), SAPFA President’s Trophy Air Race (22-24 May), the Botswana International Air Show at Matsieng (30 May) and the Newcastle Air Show (6 June).
Good news for air show enthusiasts is that the new date for the Newcastle Air Show is now 3 October 2020.
Somewhat wisely, the organisers of the popular Lowveld Air Show in Nelspruit at the beginning of 2020 decided to postpone the show to 2021, citing the general economic downturn and high costs. By hosting it biennially, the organisers will have more time for an enhanced air show experience.
Some good news
It is not all bad news for aviation fanatics, as, according to Air Show South Africa (ASSA), the SAC National Championships in Bloemfontein will still take place, and include an air show on 8 August.
Other events given the green light for this year include the Bethlehem Air Show, scheduled for 22 August, the Rand Air Show, on Sunday 6 September, and the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) exhibition air show (19 and 20 September). As the South African Air Force celebrates its centenary and 25 years of a democratic Air Force, the AAD air show is expected to be bigger and better than ever.
One of the widely anticipated aviation exhibitions of 2020, the Aero South Africa exhibition at Wonderboom, was scheduled from 2-4 July but this has been postponed to 8-10 July 2021.
Across the border, the Air, Land and Sea Extravaganza was scheduled for 13 June in Maputo, Mozambique, and the eSwatini Air Show was scheduled for 8 August.
With the spread of the coronavirus difficult to predict, Air Show South Africa cautions that it will see some changes and new bookings coming as the lockdown regulations change.