Hugo Visser - Alouette Obsessed
By Willie Bodenstein
The white Alouette flew over Hugo's house and there and then he decided that he wanted one and so started a love affair that has led to him finding himself eventually owning not just one but three of these legendary warbirds as well as an airfield.
Hugo grew up in Kempton Park where his father owned a hardware store and so quite naturally he helped out during weekends and school holidays and after having left school did a brief stint at university which he admits was not for him. He returned and again worked for his father until a family friend suggested that he apply for an apprenticeship as an aircraft mechanic with South African Airways. He did and passed with flying colours and upon completion was posted to the hangars, a much sought after posting where he did short range maintenance on the Boeing 727 and 737 as well as line-checks, base transfer check, minor and major inspection on airframes, engines and the interior of the Hawker Siddely 748, Boeing 747 and Airbus A320.
“Many a times whilst sitting in the cockpit of one of the aircraft I thought how wonderful it would be to fly but to be honest I thought I never could” Hugo said.
In those days military service was still compulsory and when his turn came to do the dreaded “call-up” he was fortunate enough to be posted to Atlas Aircraft where he worked on military aircraft. Returning to SAA he enrolled at college where he completed his T-4 diploma. “Somehow things had changed and I was not happy at SAA anymore and after a brief posting to the technical administrative section I resigned and applied for a position at Kempton College as lecturer and was accepted. In my first two semesters I had a 100% student pass rate” Hugo said.
By now married and with all the responsibilities that it brings Hugo bought a truck and part time entered the transport business and soon realised that he could earn three times as much as he did lecturing. With wife Maryna's support he took the plunge and started U-Go Transport and Plant Hire and has never looked back.
“One day I was sitting at my house close to Petit when a white Alouette, ZU-BMF flew overhead. I knew it was Gordon Hayward, a SAA Pilot that I had befriended. I phoned him and asked him to return to pick me up and so at fifty I had my first flight in a Helicopter and I was hooked. We did a circuit and I said to Gordon that I want an Alouete and was going to buy one. He probably thought I was joking. I mentioned this to Robert Ossner, a friend who flew a 182 based at Petit Airfield and he said that he had seen one advertised in African Pilot and I immediately phoned and made arrangements to go and view it.” Hugo said.
Hugo and Gordon flew down to George where the Alouette II, ZU-RAM Was based. Gordon did a test flight, a price was agreed, paper work was done and Hugo was in seventh heaven. Not long after that Hugo and Phillip Merrick of Henley air flew down again to collect ZU-RAM and Hugo still has the Mallet he was given to “assist” in the Allo's sometimes stubborn refusal to start. The long flight back was only his third flight in a helicopter and after stops at Beaufort West, Bloemfontein and Vereeniging for fuel they landed at Petit.
“I now had to find an Instructor and Johan Lok referred me to Joost Cloete and I have never regretted it. Joost was the absolute professional, not only did he soloed me but also Ruaan and Ryno, my sons. We have been friends ever since.” Hugo fondly recalls.
In between Hugo also bought a 182 and that in itself presented another problem, hangarage. His house and business was almost within walking distance to Petit Airfield and so that is where he started his search but instead of ending up renting a hangar he found himself buying the airfield.
Hugo loved his Allouette II but wanted something with more carrying capability, a touring Helicopter in which he could take the family for trips and weekend jaunts and the choice was not difficult, it was to be the III. Johan Lok had what he was looking for and so he bought ZU-HGO, ex SAAF tail number 110 as well nine ex SAAF fuselages and spares. As expected HGO needed work and she was left in the capable hands of Johan at Warbirds, Wonderboom. Another problem then presented itself; he could not wait and so down to the Cape it was again where he bought the red and white Alouette III, ZU-RFA, from Jimmy Campbell.
Hugo has also owned a 182 which he sold and had recently bought a Kappa 77 Super Sabre. Despite never having thought that he would ever become a pilot he is now rated on the Cessna 172 and 172D, 182, Alouette II and III and the Sabre.
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