Special Events: My Birthday (8th of February 2010)

On the 8th of February I reached another of the round numbers. Apparently this was quite a milestone and my wife went about organising a BIG SURPRISE for me.

I thought the cake was special

After weeks of being very secretive, Jenny finally gave me my surprise on my birthday. Boy was it a big one! No she did not buy me an Impala, she organised for me to take a flip in one!

(My wife was a bit nervous beforehand. She was worried that I might say I'm not willing to do this. Not a chance!)

The Real Present! (Impala Mk.I)

Lots of dials and knobs, but I was only allowed to touch the intercom and oxygen switches.

The Impala Mk I trainer has two seats, used for training. The top photo show the front cockpit and the bottom photo shows the back cockpit.

Lots of dials and knobs - Front cockpit (Impala Mk.I)
More of dials and knobs - Back cockpit (Impala Mk.I)

After struggling to pump up one of the tires with nitrogen, we are finally at the filing station. Caitlin was on hand to provide me with some guidance and courage.

Suited up with Caitlin (Impala Mk.I)

Time to strap in. What a lot of buckles and straps, so it took the novice some time to find his way, but I finally got the hang of it. Luckily the pilot's son was around to give a hand.

Getting strapped in (Impala Mk.I)
Helmet on (Impala Mk.I)

After a short safety briefing and after all the ejection seat safety pins had been removed (yes, they are real and not just for show), we are finally on our way.

Ready to roll (Impala Mk.I)
Ready to roll (Impala Mk.I)

After a very smooth takeoff, we turned around and did a low-level flyby over the runway. We carried on along the N1, at low level, until we reached Warmbaths, which happened very quickly at 600km/h.

We then headed off to the east where I was entertained with barrel rolls, loops, reverse-loops, and flying upside down. The best was when we headed strait up until the plane could not go anymore, and then dropped the one wing and headed straight down.

Coming back we did another low-level flyby (this photo).

Low level flyby (Impala Mk.I)

Coming in for the first time, for just a touch and go.

Touch and go (Impala Mk.I)

Taxing in after landing. Unfortunately it was all over much to quickly.

It was all just amazing, just a pity that I completely forgot to use the camera which I took with me.

Taxing in (Impala Mk.I)

From the big smile on my face you can gather that I thoroughly enjoyed it. Top Gun here I come!!

As you can see, it was a bit of a tight fit for me.

Top Gun apprentice (Impala Mk.I)
Tight fit (Impala Mk.I)

I think Jenny was extremely happy to see her husband back in one piece on terra-firma.

Happy reunion (Impala Mk.I)

My family with David, who gave me a truly memorable experience.

You can contact David Laas, the owner and pilot, on +27 (83) 655 1155.

Whole family and pilot (Impala Mk.I)


Aermacchi began design work on the MB-326 in 1954 and it first flew in December 1957. Conventional in appearance, the MB-326 had a single Bristol-Siddeley Viper turbojet engine in the 9 kN (2,000 lbf) thrust class, a low, straight wing, and the two seats in tandem.

South Africa's Atlas Aircraft locally assembled 150 MB-326M as the Impala Mk.I, starting in 1966. The Impala was decommissioned in South Africa in 2005.

Impala ZU-IMP 479, is the only flying example in South Africa, and is privately owned.

Aircraft Statistics:

  • Powerplant: 1 x 3,410 lb Rolls Royce Viper turbojet Mk540
  • Speed: 770 kph, 478mph mph
  • Range: 1 665km, 1,035miles
  • Seats: 2
  • Length: 10.65m, 34ft 11in
  • Span: 10.56m, 8ft 8in
  • Empty Weight: 2 239kg, 4,930lb
  • Max T/O Weight: 3 765kg, 8,300lb
  • Period of Service: 1966 - 2005

For more information, go to the South African Air Force (SAAF) website.