By Willie Bodenstein

For as long as Hans can remember he has been captivated by Aircraft. He still vividly remembers his first flight, he was ten and they were visiting the Willem Prinsloo Agricultural Museum east of Pretoria and a Bell 47 was doing flips. Four years later Hans has his second flight, this time in a South African Air Force C208

Photo © Kiekievat

Having finished school Hans applied for an apprenticeship at Denel and the SAA (South African Airways) but was unfortunately not successful. His father was an auto electrician on heavy earth moving machinery and so he decided to follow in his footsteps and applied to Bell Earth Moving Equipment but then fate intervened. Whilst waiting for Bell to respond he accompanied his father to Wonderboom Airport and whilst their they happen to meet a friends son that worked for a AMO at the airfield and in February 1998 his dream acne true and he started his apprenticeship at TAM (Transvaal Aircraft Maintenance)

Today Hans is a licensed Maintenance Aviation Engineer certified to do work on both fixed as well as rotor craft. Hans was where he always dreamed he would be, on an airfield surrounded by aircraft and he grasped every opportunity to fly that came his way. Hans can't remember how many times he shared the right hand seat, watching and learning. In 1999 he had enough of being a passenger and a colleague and Hans started flying lessons at Loutzavia. Their mount was the Piper Colt, a lovely little aircraft that was not really designed for the hot and high conditions at Wonderboom, especially when two strapping young South Africans shared the cockpit and low level circuits was the order of the day.

Photo © Willie Bodenstein

Francois Welgemoed send him solo and today he logged has approximately 1200 hours on 40types that includes the Quicksilver, Aeropakt, Beechcraft, Bellnaca, Tecnam, Vans RV, Sling, Rapid 200, Savanah, various Piper and Cessna types as well as his beloved Kitfox. Hans who has a PPL and Grade 2 test pilots rating says he has no interest in getting an IF or night rating. "If I can't see where I'm going I stay home." Hans said smiling.

Hans's first aircraft was a Qicksilver that he kept and flew from the 400 meter runway on his smallholding north of Pretoria. "I enjoyed that but flying circuits around the plot for twelve months got a bit boring and I started looking for something that could take me cross country and I heard of a Kitfox 2 kit that was for sale." Hans said. Soon after having started his apprenticeship he saw a Kitfox 5 that was being build and he was impressed and so the Kitfox 2 became his first project. Eighteen months of hard work later she flew and his love affair with the type started. Not long after that he bought a Kitfox 7 kit and started building finishing it again in about eighteen months. Hans now has about 250 hours on the seven. "I love it, no matter how many times I fly it, its performance keeps on surprising me." He said and having flown with Hans in his baby on photo shoots I must agree, she is indeed a wonderful stable aircraft.

Photo © Willie Bodenstein

The first Kitfox kit was produced by Denney Aerocraft in November 1984 in their small factory in Boise, Idaho. Six kits were delivered in the first year. Under Denney's leadership the Kitfox evolved from the original Model 1 to continually improved versions, the Models 2, 3, 4 and ultimately Classic 4. Denney's Kitfox was designed as a lightweight, two place sport aircraft with excellent STOL (Short Take-off and Landing) performance and the ability to operate from short and unimproved airfields. In June 1992, SkyStar Aircraft Corporation purchased the rights to produce the Kitfox kit from Denney Aerocraft. By then Denney had sold more than 5,000 kits to builders in the USA, Canada and over 42 other countries.

SkyStar immediately began development of a completely new Kitfox, the Series 5. This larger aircraft was designed to fit the needs of a growing segment of the marketplace that wanted a "Weekend Cruiser." These pilots wanted a recreational airplane that combined the best attributes of the Kitfox with greater useful loads, certified engines, increased cabin space, and larger cargo capacity. The Series 5, which offered both a taildragger (the Outback/Safari) and a tri-gear (the Vixen/Voyager) configuration, answered these requests and became one of the most successful introductions in the history of the kit plane industry.

Photo © Willie Bodenstein

In January of 2000, an employee group acquired SkyStar Aircraft and an exciting new chapter began for the SkyStar team. SkyStar announced the new Kitfox Series 6, an airplane that incorporated all of the best features of all versions of the Series 5. The Series 5 evolved into the Series 6, and then the Series 7. In October of 2005, Skystar encountered financial difficulties and ceased operations. In April of 2006, the assets of Skystar were acquired by Kitfox Aircraft LLC, a newly formed organization operated by John and Debra McBean. The McBean's own and operate Sportplane LLC, a Kitfox specialty supply firm they founded after John's departure from Skystar in 2003.

Skystar introduced the Kitfox Series 7 that introduced a variety of both major and subtle changes in the Kitfox history of ongoing product development. Most noteworthy is a variety of engine system enhancements that have resulted in an airplane that can cruise at over 120 mph, fly 700 miles non-stop, and heft a useful load of 700 pounds. Through use of the remarkable Rotax 914, turbo-charged engine, the Kitfox Series 7 has a service ceiling of 25,000 feet, meaning it can operate from any public use airport in the United States, without concern over runway length, field elevation or air temperature. Flight control improvements have lowered the landing speed and reduced aileron induced yaw. The larger elevator and new manual trim system strengthen pitch authority and stability. The entire Rotax engine installation has been greatly simplified, resulting in a significant reduction in assembly time. This new installation also results in much improved windshield weatherproofing. Like the Kitfox Series 6, which has been replaced by the Series 7, convertible landing gear, folding wings, and many custom features are standard.

Photo © Willie Bodenstein

When Hans bought the Kitfox 7 kit he also had a look at the RV8 but because his work involves short bush strips and because on the length of his own runway he chose the Kitfox. He has now decided that he needs something with a little more legs and range and so a RV8 will soon be joining his stable.

Aviation Personalities

Copyright © 2024 Pilot's Post PTY Ltd
The information, views and opinions by the authors contributing to Pilotís Post are not necessarily those of the editor or other writers at Pilotís Post.