The disbelieving masses stare up into the sky and marvel at the jaw-dropping aerobatic manoeuvres.
The highly skilled pilots dive in unison, soar into a loop and then barrel-roll until their aircraft almost stalls.
Everyone bar the pilots gasps.
Who are those crazy guys?
TygerBurger interviewed one of the six South African pilots who have been selected to fly in the newly formed Red Bull Aerobatics Team of China.
It is curious that Scott Ternent (34) from Milnerton doesn’t sound insane when one speaks to him.
“You try and keep it safe and stick to your capabilities, but you often hit a bit of turbulence and end up really close to the other aeroplane. That’s when you rely on your skill to manage the situation quick enough and not fly into the other aeroplane,” he laughs.
Ternent was over the moon (probably doing a loop of some kind) when he heard he was selected as one of the six South African pilots to fly in the Red Bull Aerobatics Team of China.
“I’m still pinching myself, because I’m actually living the dream. It sounds very clichéd, but it’s exactly what it is. We all dream of doing what we love and now I’m part of a really cool team as well!”
The team, started by Chinese entrepreneur Zhao Wei, is flying four XtremeAir XA42 aerobatic aircraft, painted in the Red Bull China colours. They will be performing on the international air show circuit.
This high g-force experience will keep Ternent grounded, because his passion is his fulfilment.
“I’ve been flying for 14 years,” he says.
“I got all my training in the Air Force, but even before that, I’ve always wanted to fly. Living on the edge was never new to me. I grew up surfing and racing motor cross. Aerobatics was kind of the next step…”
That’s not a step Scott. It’s a leap.
Just speaking to him about the feeling one gets when the g-forces shoot through the roof is seriously disconcerting.
“G-forces are the result when you change direction rapidly and your body wants to continue in the direction you were going. The blood in your head wants to end up in your feet! If you are not working hard enough to keep it in your head then you will black out.”
These pilots tense up their lower bodies before they go into a tricky turn in order to prevent this from happening. They are also quite used to the strains of zipping through the air like enraged hornets.
A passenger would in all likelihood pass out at the most convenient moment, i.e. right at the beginning.
For someone who stares improbability in the face it is hardly surprising that Ternent becomes, in effect, addicted to the adrenaline.
“I can never understand why people do drugs, because there are so many other ways you can get a high! In December I’m doing an advanced freefall course, doing some skydiving, because that is just how I am. I’m always looking for something new.”
The most surprising revelation is when Ternent says his mother is very proud of him!
In the end, regardless of anyone’s preconceptions, these men deserve all the credit in the world.
Local film-maker, Hilton Mundy, will be filming a documentary following the South African pilots as they form their team and fly these high performance aerobatic aircraft. A dedicated website has been built for the film, which includes full pilot bios and a sneak preview video of the launch of the team (www.artofformation.com).
Hilton concludes: “This is a great opportunity to showcase some of South Africa’s top aerobatic pilots in a film that will focus on the skill, commitment and discipline that these pilots undergo each time they strap themselves into the aircraft.”