Thunder City

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Thunder City Holdings
Type Private
Industry Aerospace
Founded Cape Town, South Africa (1998-05-07[1])
Headquarters Cape Town, South Africa
Key people Owner/Founder Mike Beachy Head; CEO Emilio Titus[2]
Revenue Increase unspecified
Net income Increase unspecified

Thunder City is an aircraft operating and maintenance company based at the Cape Town International Airport in Cape Town, South Africa. It was well known for owning the largest civilian collection of former military jet aircraft in the world.[3] These aircraft were used to perform in airshows and could also be chartered by the general public for recreational flights, including going supersonic and climbing to altitudes around 50,000 feet. Following a fatal accident in 2009 in which an English Electric Lightning crashed at an airshow, the company ceased flying operations after the accident investigation found major shortcomings in its maintenance programme.[4]

The company's other activities include upgrading older models of the Aerospatiale Puma helicopter with modern avionics and renovating airframes and engines.[5]

Company structure[edit]

Thunder City Holdings (Pty) Ltd. is the parent company of several subsidiaries:

  • Thunder City Aircraft Company
  • Thunder City Aircraft Maintenance Company
  • Thunder City Education
  • Thunder City Aircraft Entertainment
  • Thunder City Flying Company
  • Thunder City Property Company


Some of the aircraft are the most recently airworthy examples of the type.

In October 2012, three Lightnings, 3 Buccaneers and four Hawker Hunters were put up for sale.[8]

AAD 2008 controversy[edit]

During a display flight at the 2008 African Aerospace and Defence show in Cape Town a pair of Thunder City Lightnings flew close to the city at supersonic speed. Only the higher one of the pair was planned to fly supersonic as it was considered to be high enough so as not to cause alarm, however the lower aircraft also broke the sound barrier.[9] The resulting sonic boom brought many complaints from the public.[10]

2009 Lightning crash[edit]

An English Electric Lightning T5, ZU-BEX, (RAF No. XS451) crashed while carrying out a display at the biennial South African Air Force Overberg Airshow held at AFB Overberg near Bredasdorp on 14 November 2009.

ZU-BEX in 2002

The aircraft suffered hydraulic failure after a fire started in the rear of the fuselage. The pilot was killed because his ejection seat failed.[11]

The accident investigation found major shortcomings in the maintenance programme of the aircraft,[11] consequently the South African Civil Aviation Authority suspended the company's operating certificate in March 2010.[12] On 9 September 2010, it was reported that the Thunder City fleet would no longer take paying passengers.

On 22 August 2011 3 Lightnings, 3 Buccaneers and 4 Hunters were listed as 'for sale by private treaty' with Go Industry. The closing date for bids is 27 April 2012.[13] The first time Thunder City participated in an airshow since the 2009 crash was on 21 April 2012 at the AFB Overberg airshow.[14]

A set of Lightning tyres were sold by Thunder City to the Bloodhound SSC Project in August 2012.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "THUNDER CITY HOLDINGS". CIPRO. Retrieved 2008-10-19. 
  2. ^ . Sunday Times  Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]
  3. ^ a b . Weekend Post  Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]
  4. ^ "Thunder City has ceased flying". August 2010. 
  5. ^ a b c d "Welcome to Thunder City". Retrieved 2012-06-18. [dead link]
  6. ^ 17:49. "Africa Aviation / Afrika Lugvaart". Retrieved 2011-10-03. 
  7. ^ "Thunder & Lightnings — Gloster Javelin — Survivor XA553". 2010-11-11. Retrieved 2011-10-03. 
  8. ^ "Thunder City Aircraft Company - Historical Military Jets". 22 Apr 2013. Retrieved 13 July 2013. 
  9. ^ "Africa Aerospace and Defence 2008". Retrieved 2011-10-03. 
  10. ^ Independent Newspapers Online (2008-09-21). "Air show booms rankle residents — South Africa | IOL News". Retrieved 2011-10-03. 
  11. ^ a b (pdf) Aircraft Accident Report (Report). Civil Aviation Authority (South Africa). 16 Aug 2012. Retrieved 12 July 2013.
  12. ^ "Thunder City se vlerke geknip". Die Burger. 2010-09-08. Retrieved 2012-10-05. 
  13. ^ "Thunder City Aircraft Company — Historical Military Jets — GoIndustry DoveBid". 2011-08-04. Retrieved 2011-10-03. 
  14. ^ kykNET Overberg Airshow 2012,, Retrieved 2013-10-08

Coordinates: 33°58′58″S 18°36′06″E / 33.982738°S 18.601786°E / -33.982738; 18.601786