There is a great set of photographs making the rounds of single-engine aircraft flying in formation over water. When I first saw them, I wasn’t sure if they were real or photoshopped.
I found out on the PPRuNe Forums that the photographs are real and show the South African aerobatic team the Flying Lions, photographed in 2006 by Frans Dely.
Early morning anglers are treated to the spectacle of four T6 Harvard Aircraft from The Flying Lions Aerobatic Team waterskiing across the Klipdrift Dam near Johannesburg South Africa.
Lead by Scully Levin, with wingmen Arnie Meneghelli, Stewart Lithgow and Ellis Levin, this renowned airshow display team rehearse a sequence for the newly launched “Aviation Action” television program on Supersport. Arnie Meneghelli from Academy Brushware, owner of the aircraft, had this to say, “What we did today I believe is a world first. It illustrates that South African airshow pilots are amongst the best in the world”.
This unusual act, approved by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), and supported by Castrol Aviation, was meticulously planned and took place under the watchfull eye of divers and paramedics that were on site.
Unfortunately I couldn’t find official copies of the photographs to link to a larger size but you can see the images on the thread discussing the event.
You can see also the Flying Lions in action over Klipdrift Dam on YouTube:
I get tense just imagining flying that low and skimming the water like that, let alone in formation. I love reading about aerobatics and crop dusters but I don’t think I could do it.
Tudor Owen, who is well-known on PPRuNe as Flying Lawyer (although he is now a Circuit Judge in London), got a chance to try it. He sent me this photograph of himself with the Flying Lions team leader, Scully Levin (on the left) in Cape Town:
He also related this great story about flying with a crop-duster pilot in the States:
I learnt to fly a Harvard on a farm strip in Texas many years ago, and my check pilot was a cropduster. We flew along Padre Island one day – largely uninhabited, just off the coast, stretching for miles along the Gulf of Mexico – and I took up his suggestion of doing some low flying.
After a few miles along the deserted beach, through the headset came, “D’ya want me to show ya low flying?”
I thought I was. I discovered our ideas of ‘low’ were very different. Wow!
As we turned to head for home, “D’ya wanna try it? I’ll watch ya.”
He took me up in a crop-duster before I left. (Single-seat, but a roomy cockpit – and many miles from any FAA eyes. ) His precision and low level handling skills were absolutely phenomenal.
I’d always assumed cropdusters stayed above, or climbed over, any telephone lines/small power lines stretched across fields. Wrong!
“No way, wires can kill ya! Gotta stay under wire height in case ya don’t see ’em. Anyways, if the farmers round here see daylight under your wheels they complain to the boss and won’t pay.”
The first wing-over from virtually ground level when doing a 180 at the end of a field took me a little by surprise (to say the least), but it was one of the most exhilarating and exciting flights I’ve had yet.
I was lost in admiration for his skill, but it was just another day’s work for him.
Every man to his job, as they say.
Well, as for me, I think I’ll be staying above those wires and keeping my wheels out of the water. Still, I wouldn’t mind being a passenger on one of those flights – as long as I’m allowed to keep my eyes closed.