By Willie Bodenstein

Freestater and Kroonstad resident, Hennie Roets's love affair with aircraft started in 1980 when he befriended Erick Dreyer, a crop sprayer pilot and flying instructor. The 31 year affair led to many aircraft of various types, both fixed and rotor wing and culminated in his latest project, the completion of ZU-FGE, his striking award winning Vans RV7A.

Hennie started his PPL and was send solo by in a Grumman Traveller AA5. There and then he decided to invest in his own aircraft and bought a half share in the Grumman for what was then the princely sum of R9000.00. Since then Hennie has accumulated approximately 1600 hours and currently have the Grumman A5, Cessna 172 and 337, Cherokee Warrior PA28, Koala FP2, Raven Type One, Citabria, Robinson R22, Mini 500, Helicycle, Alouette II and Enstrom in his licence.

The Grumman was sold and Hennie then bought a Cessna 172. The rather sedate 160 hp and 131 knots 172 Skyhawk was followed by a bird of a different kind, the push-pull 337 Skymaster of 210 hp and 166 knots which Hennie flew for a memorable 80 hours. Then he went right back to basics and bought a Koala FP 2 three axis Microlight tail dragger manufactured from wood and fabric and powered by the Rotax 5 series two cylinder two stroke engine. Designed by Fisher Flying Products in the USA most Koalas were build under license by Sport Aviation Products in Empangeni and later at Jack Taylor Airfield in Krugersdorp.

In 1997 the Helicopter bug bit Hennie and he bought a Mini 500 kit and started building it whilst doing his HPPL at Wonderboom in an Enstrom with Tinus van der Westhuizen and Keith Smit as instructors. “The Mini 500 was not really a great success and was underpowered and after having tried three different engines I sold it in 2000.” Hennie said.

Most will remember Hennie as the owner of the somewhat unusual Robinson R22. She was his next project and started life as a conventional R22 that he acquired when she was time expired. Hennie did a complete rebuild with some modifications that sets her apart and she is registered as a HR2 in the LS1 category. Once a year ZU-CJE is still Hennie's choice when they do their annual helicopter countrywide trip and Hennie now has flown more than 650 hours in her.

By then the building bug had truly bitten him and his next project was a Ravin, a copy of the Zodiac which he bought from Carl Babst. “I fitted a 1600cc Suzuki with reduction gearbox to the Ravin but the fixed wing was just not what I wanted and after a few months I sold her and in 2005 I did what I swore I would never again do, build a kit helicopter and bought a Helicycle kit.” Hennie said. The Helicycle Kit is shipped in four sections and it took Hennie almost two years to complete her and he flew her for about 50 hours before getting an offer he just could not refuse. “Off all the aircraft I have owned, she was the most fun to fly” Hennie said.

Next to follow was a Citabria which he kept for a year before selling her and then he bought the uncompleted RV from a friend, Mike Beukman who was building it for his son. A thousand hours later, working only Saturdays and public holidays, (the paint job alone took eight months) Hennie sported the RV smile when ZU-FGE finally took to the sky. “I love the inherent quality and design of the RV and the reliability of the Lycoming give me peace of mind when flying. I doubt if I will ever sell the RV7A however if some one wants to swap for a RV10 or Westland Gazelle……….” Hennie said smiling.

Hennie's love for helicopters are quite evident as he list his most memorable flights as his first trip to the Wildcoast in the R22 and a flight in Anton von Willich's Gazelle. Asked what projects he are busy with he smiled and said: “None, I keep my friends out of from finishing theirs.” With Hennie's record one can be sure that some project will take his fancy and sooner rather than later we might just see another Roets creation flying.

Aviation Personalities

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