Durban - Durban’s beachfront is soon to become the site of a Sky Prix, where people will be invited to watch aerobatic pilots compete in an extreme show of skill.

Featuring high-performances planes and 20m-high pylons, the Durban Sky Prix of Aerobatics and the Land, Air and Sea Festival will offer grandstand viewing and hospitality suites.

The idea of having the first sky aerobatics competition in Durban was born when Durban businessman Roger Deare, and Nigel Hopkins of Johannesburg, set out to give South African pilots international recognition for their talents and skill.

“We have some of the best pilots here and we need to start developing them and give them a platform where they can show their talents to the rest of the world and do so among the world’s best,” said Deare.

He said the competition would bring aviation closer to the people of Durban. “With the SA Air Force and Navy getting involved, we also hope this show creates a sense of national pride and hope.”

Pilots from Russia, France and Germany will take part in the aerobatic contest, a sequence of manoeuvres that will be timed, much like horse showjumping.

“Five international pilots and five local pilots will take part, but first, 10 local pilots will have to battle it out for a spot in the South African five position,” he said.

The competition and festival will take place on March 21 and 22 on the Durban beachfront.

“We will use aircraft like the Sukhoi 31, a powerful Russian aerobatic plane, an S Bach 342, and an MX 2, which will fly through pylons to be placed on the piers,” Deare said.

Thabo Mofokeng, eThekwini Municipality spokesman, said: “The event’s budget is anticipated to be R10 million, which will be shared between the province, city and the private sector.”

Organisers expect the number of visitors to the show to be between 20 000 and 30 000 a day.

Based on past experience in hosting major events, Mofokeng said the city’s role was to help with operational and logistical support, and to provide services needed to stage such an event.

“Events are used as leverage platforms in terms of encouraging visitors not only to attend the event, but to showcase what the city and province have to offer, and encouraging visitors to return.”

Highlights of the event will be broadcast on SuperSport and SABC, and will be syndicated to television channels globally.

Mofokeng said hosting major events had always been of great value from a tourism, economic and social perspective.

Deare said he hoped to make the event annual and national.

Daily News