6 July 2023, Pretoria – On the 8th of July low-cost airline FlySafair will be bringing the love of flying to Loftus Versfeld Stadium with a two-plane flyover in support of the Springboks before they kick off their Rugby Championship campaign at the opening match against Australia. This is not the first time the airline has shown off their passion for aviation in this way. On the 22nd of August 2022 the airline surprised rugby fans by executing a low altitude flyover in a Boeing 737 sporting iconic “go bokke” livery. A similar display was performed in 2017 marking the start of the airline’s sponsorship of the Springboks. However, this time, FlySafair will be upping the ante adding a second Boeing 737 aircraft to the planned display of national pride and aviation.
“To quote our CEO Elmar Conradie, ‘you can only do great work if you love what you do, but you can only love what you do, if you do great work,’” says Steve van der Merwe, B737 Fleet Captain at FlySafair. “As passionate aviators, sharing the miracle of flight is always special. But there is something incredible about being able to share an experience like a low altitude flyover, especially at a moment of national unity like a Springbok match. Seeing an aircraft as large as the Boeing 737 flying outside of its normal arena is absolutely magical. Moments like this make loving what we do so much easier.”
The flyover is a fantastic way to showcase the skill and precision needed to be part of the aviation industry, as well as a demonstration of the power and beauty of the aircraft themselves. During this display, FlySafair plans to bring a bigger and better show than they have before, flying two Boeing 737 aircraft in a two ship, or “nose to tail” formation which will pass over the stadium at an altitude of 200ft. The two aircraft will be manned by 6 of the airline’s top pilots, with three in each. These crew members include a captain, first officer, and a safety pilot all of which are jet captains and pilot instructors with decades of experience between them.
“Our dedicated flyover team at FlySafair has been planning this manoeuvre for over two months now,” says Captain van der Merwe who will be sitting in the jump seat of the lead aircraft. “While we need to remain dynamic to account for changes in timing at the stadium, the whole team has put hours of work into working out every detail, right from determining feasibility and securing permission to developing our flight plan and selecting the pilots – all necessary steps needed to perform the flyover. In the end our plan is to take a short flight from OR Tambo to the Waterkloof golf estate where we will circle while we wait for the green light from the stadium. From there we have markers which have been placed down to the second which we need to hit as we make our way to the stadium.”
Beyond the teamwork which went into planning the flight, there are several policy and administrative considerations that go into achieving such a display. The first of these is receiving approval from the director of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to be excused from the Minimum Heights regulation. This states that an aircraft may not fly low-level over an open-air assembly of persons unless it is necessary for take-off or landing. The pilots themselves also require additional training and certification. This comes in the form of a display authorisation from the CAA. Finally, airspace and air traffic around the flyover location needs to be considered, often involving input from several different parties.
“Luckily for us Loftus falls into the Waterkloof Military airspace meaning general commercial traffic would need to first seek out permission before entering,” remarked Captain van der Merwe. “This makes planning slightly easier but also means that we can be told to move away by the military base at any moment if a movement from their side is needed.”
Even with the extensive experience held by each of the six pilots a significant amount of preparatory work still needs to be done before the day. Leading up to the event the six pilots have spent hours in the aircraft simulator practicing and brainstorming solutions to every possible outcome. This has made training and preparation for unusual manoeuvres like this a lot simpler.
“There is a huge amount of situational awareness, workload management, and communication which we need to adhere to remain safe. The aircraft simulator has been amazing in this sense, allowing us to pause mid-flight and discuss the best possible way to plan our approach and giving us the opportunity to look for other alternate flight paths without having to physically be in the air. Beyond this we have also executed numerous runs in light aircraft, practicing our pattern on multiple runs until we have a feel of what the real thing will look like,” says Captain van der Merwe.
Although much of the attention will be on the pilots, making sure a manoeuvre like this showcases the full beauty of the aircraft is a team effort. Leading the charge is the safety team who play a critical role in motivating the application for permission by showing that FlySafair, and its pilots, are capable of safely performing this display. The technical and scheduling teams also perform key roles, ensuring the aircraft is properly prepped and ready to go without disruption to the airline’s busy regular flight schedule.
“Our flight schedules are extremely busy at the moment. Every department has worked together tirelessly to make sure we are in the clear to share our love of flying and unite the nation with this display,” concluded Captain van der Merwe. “There is nothing quite like the earth-shaking rumble of jet engines close above your head to bring out the passion and excitement in people, and hopefully give the Boks that extra bit of encouragement.”
If you are lucky enough to be in attendance on Saturday, be sure to turn your eyes to the skies and enjoy this display of aviation passion
FlySafair is a domestic low-cost carrier operating in South Africa. Flights are available between OR Tambo, Lanseria, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, George, East London, Durban and Bloemfontein from just R599*. FlySafair is expanding regionally, with flights to Mauritius and Zanzibar from just R2 950*. FlySafair was awarded Aviation Company of the Year at the 2019 South African Civil Aviation Authority awards along with Aircraft Operator of the Year, Aviation Customer Services, Aviation Security, and Aviation Maintenance Organisation. The airline has also been named Best Airline Africa and Indian Ocean in the TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice™ awards for Airlines in 2018, 2019 and 2020. FlySafair began operations in October 2014 and is ranked South Africa’s most on-time airline, while proudly being the Trusted Domestic Carrier for the Springboks.