The Jabiru is an Australian design and currently being built under license in South Africa by Shadowlite in George. It started with humble beginnings in 1998 when, after three weeks of construction, the first two-seater (ZU-JAB) rolled off production line. This aircraft soon created a stir by coming third in the PTAR. Over the years the Jabbis surprised many, several finishing in the PTAR top-ten.
The series consists of two and four seaters, powered by the original 80 and 120 hp Jabiru solid lifter engines, and lately the 85 and 120 hp hydraulic lifter engines. The aircraft are very competitive in the market, from a price as well as performance point of view. It is the most non-type certified sold in South Africa.
Four years ago, one of the owners, Sias Truter from Dynamic Insurance Brokers (Jab group scheme) in George, decided to host the first Jabiru Jaunt, at Gariep. The idea was to get owners together and really have some fun in the form of a competition, consisting of flour bomb throwing, spot landing and a navigation rally (pilot and spouse, excellent marriage counselling especially if you can find the field again!). This resulted in a very close knit family of Jabiru owners followed by two more Jaunts (2010 and 2011), both at Battlefields. In the mean time, in 2010, a group of owners toured Botswana with 18 Jabbis. Starting in Gaborone, then to Sua, Makgadigadi, Maun, Okavango Delta, Kasane and back via Gaborone, these aircraft proved their worth by completing the tour without any mechanical problems. From this followed other tours and the latest is a possible 30-ship tour to Vilancoulos in September 2012.
The Jabiru Spectacular of 2012 had the intention to break a little with the past and reflect on where this aircraft came from and where we are today. The “call to arms” was overwhelming. With a tremendous effort from Abel Pienaar, Mongena Lodge was prepared by upgrading the runway, building an ATC tower and clearing bushveld to accommodate a 100 Jabs. (The net result is Mongena becoming another Sunday fly-inn destination, right on the Pretoria doorstep). Besides friends flying in from all over Southern Africa for the weekend, some just flew in for the day for the official count (58). The gala dinner was truly inspiring, with ZU-JAB standing at the pool (no idea how it got there), to a tribute to a remarkable pilot who had a very serious accident in 2005, who now, through the determination to fly again, shows steady improvement in his healing process.
The event as with the past events was well planned and supported by ATNS' DJ de Nysschen and Dirk van Rhyn in the tower and both already part of the family.
A noticeable attitude amongst the Jabi crowd is how they became true friends, chatting on a very active forum on Avcom, but above all the realisation that flying is an incredible privilege that must be harnessed with responsibility. Most departed the Sunday in a noticeable crosswind but all arrived safely back at their respective bases. Great event, we can't wait for next year!
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