The amount of work put into preparing the airfield for this fly-in would have been evident even for someone who hadn't been there before. Stefan Coetzee and his pretty wife Sannie were obviously the muscle behind all of the planning. I'm sure they could not have managed such a well-run event without a good team of workers helping them. I know that Gerhardt (one of Stefan's Tail-dragger flying school instructors) and his pretty young wife were flat out all of the time serving fly-in guests.
Friday, the first planned arrival day, was marred by extremely poor weather in both of the major points of departure (Gauteng & KZN). The weather service accurately predicted that the low cloud and mist would lift mid-morning from the Gauteng area and clear completely from half way to Nelspruit, The high South Westerly was blowing 17 to 20 knots when we left Tedderfield, but that turned into a very helpful tailwind all the way to the lowveld.
Soon after arriving at Komatipoort, Stefan's microbus and driver whipped us into town to our various guest lodges to register and unpack. We only had to ring and Mario would be there, in 10 minutes, to take us wherever we wanted to go.
By 17h30 about 15 planes had arrived; tents were starting to sprout between the aircraft on the area that Stefan has used as a golf driving range up to now and the bonfire near the lapa/bar was sending huge orange flames skyward. We were then supplied with half Kg packs of fresh LM prawns, pans, sauces (lemon butter, peri-peri, garlic) and barrel-braais filled with glowing coals from the bonfire. This was complimented with fresh Greek salad, steaming rice, buttered fresh Portuguese rolls and ice cold Fat Bastard Chardonnay. I will forever remember the flavour of those prawns and the sauce that we all continued to dip our rolls into until the last drop was mopped from the plate. For this reason alone will I burn the 200 litres of AVGAS and fly the 230nm again next year.
Of course for those who believe (foolishly) that we don't just “live to eat”, there was the camaraderie. The KZN crowd who mostly were camping next to their Foxbats were giving lessons on how to get hammered while we sat round the fire staring into the glowing embers, talking about …..what else? Aeroplanes and aviation stories.
On Saturday more aircraft arrived making the final number 27 out of the more 100 aircraft that had pre-registered to attend. In addition to the 27 visiting aircraft there were also the two Harvard's from the Harvard Club (which arrived on the Thursday) doing flips all day long and all of the local aircraft that reside at Komatipoort (“millions” of very impressive Bushbabies that are manufactured on the airfield by Kitplanes SA). The planes that they manufacture there being the Explorer and Safari have extremely impressive performance and the quality is superb. I can understand why they are so busy.
It was gratifying to find out that the Harvard Club whose funds had reached a low of just R300 after a fairly disastrous weekend at Alldays last weekend, managed to do in excess of 40 paid flips this weekend; hopefully putting them back in the black again. It's not just fun, fun, fun for Laurie Kay, Ivan van der Schaar, Werner Schmikl and the rest of the team. Sometimes its hot sticky work. I saw it this weekend - well done guys.
It was hard to believe when we were down there that everyone in Jo'burg was still freezing. Temperatures were about 27C during the day and just cool enough in the evening to have to use a blanket on your bed. The people who were at the fly-in which included a number of EAA members who drove down instead of chancing the weather, like Ron & Maureen van Lear and Peter & Val Skellern, have agreed that this is a fly-in we won't want to miss next year. Some of us have already booked our accommodation