Article 10

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Article 9 was an appetiser. Here's more of the good stuff.

The photograph shows the three-ship inverted, line astern flypast.

This is the "switchblade".

 This photo shows the two-ship flypast just before the push-out.



Coen van Wyk

The English language does not yet have a word to describe what transpired at the air show in Newcastle on September 29, 2001 during an event that involved the Shurlok Pitts Special aerobatics team. I will deal with what happened on the particular occasion.

When it was time for the Shurlok Pitts Special aerobatics team to do their thing they got airborne, and while we were waiting for them to start delivering their special brand of magic, the team leader, Scully Levin, a Boeing 737 Captain at SAA informed the air show commentator, Brian Emminis that the team has a surprise for the spectators. As will appear from what follows, the word, "surprise", was not really appropriate under the circumstances.

Nevertheless, I truly sensed a profound air of expectation among the group of which I formed part. The group to which I am referring, was standing in the vicinity of the commentator, Brian Emminis, and consisted of accredited photographers, journalists, pilots, officials, air traffic controllers, and other people who are, in one or other way, professionally involved in aviation, and who have earned the right to be at a place to which the members of the general public did not have ready access. To give but one example, on duty as an official who was monitoring one of the mobile radios, was Col. M. Pretorius, the erstwhile leader of the SAAF Harvard aerobatics team. We (that group of people), therefore had a better perspective than the public at large of the level of expertise that is required for the usual Shurlok Pitts spectacle - and now the Shurlok team was going to embellish their, already unique display, with a surprise!

I reiterate that the word "surprise" obviously implied that Scully Levin and his team was going to add something to their usual profound repertoire, hence the excitement that appeared to be bubbling just below the surface.

I, for one, thought that the team would go through their usual routine and then spring their surprise on the spectators by way of a crescendo at the end of their display. However, what actually happened was that they sandwiched their usual stuff (and it is not usual, if viewed from an objective perspective) between more than one surprise.

This is what they did. They started off with a loop in Vic formation and then went into another loop. However, instead of completing the loop they stopped looping after they had completed a 5/8th loop. At that stage they were obvious inverted and they continued with their inverted dive, in Vic formation, and as they approached the hard stuff (also known as terra firma) they "pushed out" of the dive. Think about the following: "push out"; "negative G"; "in formation". The push out led to a three-ship inverted flypast and that in turn was followed by a "push out" before the formation rolled out for the next manoeuvre. At that stage the fairly knowledgeable (aviation wise) group of people, that I formed part off, was in awe. I was acutely aware of an adrenaline rush and those around me obviously experienced the same sensation. I think that nobody expected that the "surprise" would be sprung on us so early in the performance.

But there was more to come. The performance continued and it included the famous "Switchblade" manoeuvre, but in due course we were treated to more surprises when Scully Levin and his son, Ellis Levin, did a two-ship line astern, low level, inverted flypast, followed by a push-out, and when the team concluded their performance with a three-ship line astern, inverted, low level flypast.

The following photo shows the two-ship flypast just before the push-out.

Mike: Put 84GH2155 in here.

The photograph depicted herebelow is the three-ship inverted, line astern flypast.

Mike: Put 84Gh2160 in here.

Mike: Put 84GH2151 in here.

The "switchblade".

I was present when Frans Devy, who took the photographs for this article, told Scully Levin (in jest) that since terra firma does not figure in the pictures, people may think that the photo is one of normal flight, that has been inverted. Sculley's reply to that was that the answer lies in looking at the shadows in the photographs.

The shadows do indeed tell the story.

At the beginning of this article I stated that the English language does not yet have a word to describe the antics of the Shurlock Pitts Special Aerobatics team at the air show. I have therefore racked my brains (both left and right brain) for an appropriate word and came up with "SPECTASUPERRISE" as a proposal. The word is a contraction of the following words, "spectacular", "super", and "surprise", all which applies to the performance of the Shurlok team, and it is pronounced as, "spek - te - super - rise".

And that is exactly what the Shurlok Pitts Special Aerobatic team, consisting of Scully Levin, Ellis Levin, and Chris Twyford produced at the Newcastle air show on 29 September 2001, a


Important note:

We are doing another story next month, in which we will deal in detail with the background of the pilots of the Shurlok formation, and we will also deal with the other formation (and its sponsers) in which Scully Levin, Ellis Levin and Chris Twyford are joined by Johan Dries and Arnie Meneghelli  in the Harvard aerobatic team. So, be sure to watch this space!