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Gallery: Pete van der Spek

Pete van der Spek in his happy place – surrounded by aircraft.

Aviation has always been in my blood as my father was a navigator on B25 Mitchells during the latter part of WW2. My mother was always interested in aircraft as well, so it was a natural path for me.

I got started in aviation photography in 1978 when I worked at Waterkloof airbase for a private company that repaired Mirage III and Mirage F1CZ  radars. Naturally I took photos on open days and at airshows, which were spectacular back then. I can also remember taking photos at Rand and Lanseria airshows and hearing the inimitable Brian Emmenis doing the commentary.

I never wanted to get my PPL, and could never afford it. My first experience of flight was with my uncle, who took me and my sister up in a Tiger Moth, me maybe seven or eight years old, sitting on my sister’s lap!

I used to ride on my bicycle up to Waterkloof Air Base when I was young. I’d sit and watch Sabres flying around. Those were exciting days

Early in my career, I was lucky enough to do several air-to-air sorties with Stu Davidson in the Eastern Cape,  and a few from Stellenbosch airport along the Western Cape/Cape Town coastline, which was superb.

Peter Walker (L39) and Stu Davidson (Sea Fury) over Kenton on Sea in the Eastern Cape.

My photography became a career in 1999 when I went to Duxford, in the UK for the first time. I then embarked on a career as a photo journalist, which has spanned 20 years, writing for both local and UK magazines.

A B25 in RAF WW2 D-Day colours much like the plane my father would have flown in from July to November 1944. This aircraft was flown by John Romain of the Aircraft Restoration Company, which is based at Duxford.

I have since logged up 13 Flying Legends and Royal International Air Tattoos amongst other overseas airshows, as well as flown in the Blue Angels Fat Albert in Seattle. That was one of my career highlights for sure.

With the crew of Fat Albert after our display flight over Lake Washington in 2011.
One of my favourite Spitfire photos taken at Flying Legends in 2009.

My favourite aircraft? Well, that has to be a Spitfire. My favourite photo has to be the air-to-air sortie I did with Spitfire Mk1 N3200 that was salvaged from the beach near Dunkirk and rebuilt to flying status. The cherry on the top was flying in a Dragon Rapide (WW2 vintage) and taking photos of the iconic N3200 just a few metres away.

My best air-to-air flight was with N3200 over the Cambridgeshire countryside in the UK. This photo was taken from a Dragon Rapide and I had just seconds to get the shots from a tiny window in the door for a clear air shot. Martin Overall was the pilot

In 2007 I was contracted to do aerial photography of the Durban harbour widening project. When that was finished, I continued to do the Durban harbour improvement project for Transnet until 2019. I logged up about 150 hours flying with my expert pilot/friend Neil Southey in his Bell JetRanger 206 helicopter.

My equipment currently is a Canon 5D3 and a Canon 7D2 and my favourite lens is a 300mm F2,8, which I use on my 5D3 with a 1,4x convertor – a great combination.

One of the most emotional moments I ever encounter at RIAT – the Red Arrows with the specially painted Boeing 747-400. This turned out to be the last public display by this iconic aircraft.
Taken at AAD 2004, the late afternoon display by the SAAF Gripen at sunset with the tail of a C5 Galaxy in picture.
  The late Steve Heugh over the Strand area in 2004 on an air-to-air sortie with four other aircraft from Stellenbosch Flying Club.
One of the most amazing displays I have ever witnessed – the MIG29M-OVT vectored thrust.  
The late, great Glen Dell in his Slick 360 following his victory in the 2004 SA Aerobatics championship in East London.
One of my (many) favourite shots from Flying Legends  – a Buchon HA-1112 (Spanish ME109 with Merlin engine) and a replica FW190 in formation.
A very photogenic aircraft – the beautiful Airbus A400M streaming its own atmosphere behind it.
One of the more interesting air-to-air shots: Nigel Hopkins on the Friday before the Durban Sky GP in 2016. The photoship was a helicopter flown by my good friend Neil Southey – very professional pair of pilots.
A MIG 29 takes off at the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) in 2019.
The spectacular F22 Raptor pulling plenty of Gs at RIAT.
Two Mirage 2000N fighters at RIAT on the break.

Contact Pete van der Spek:

Call: 0824416405, email:, visit:




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