Bethlehem Aero Club Sling and Kitplanes for Africa Fly-in 2015
By Willie Bodenstein
Leaving the patch and flying somewhere new is usually enough reason for most to venture cross country to an advertised fly-in. The journey, fun and exciting as it might be, is however not what makes a fly-in memorable. Getting there and spending either the day or weekend is after all one of reasons why one ventured forth. Meeting old friends and making new ones is all part of the adventure. Being made to feel l welcome and received with open arms by members of the hosting club and treated to exceptional hospitality for the day or weekend is what is make one return the next time and what makes a fly-in memorable. This is what has set this weekend's Bethlehem fly-in apart from most others.
The predicted weather early in the week never looked like ideal flying conditions and it soon became clear that the number of visitors that the club had expected were not going to arrive. Rain and hail on Friday probably caused a large number of prospective visitors to make alternative plans and although sunny skies were forecast for the morning in Bethlehem cloud cover remained at about 7/10. None the less more than 20 visiting aircraft braved the approximately 1 hour flight from up north. Billed as a Sling, Kitplanes for Africa and Helicopter fly-in the majority of arrivals were Airplane Factory Slings whilst one Kitplanes for Africa Safari arrived. No helicopters made the journey although 3 Gyros flew in. Other visitors included a Samba, JK-05, Aerobat and Piper Super Cub.
Free steaming coffee, tea and rusks were available in the clubs newly revamped clubhouse whilst those that had opted to camp were transported to the site to settle in before returning to a feast of pancakes offered with a choice of seven delicious fillings.
By midmorning the skies had cleared sufficiently for some to go on out flights to the majestic Maluti Mountains via Clarence that was hosting a Craft Beer festival. Back at the field club members took some of the visitors for flights over the town and surrounding areas.
Bethlehem is also the base of Orsmond Aviation the biggest crop spraying operations in South Africa a number of crop sprayers returned and treated those relaxing to their customary extraordinary flying and landing techniques.
By then the weather started to turn nasty with cloud cover at 10/10 and light drizzle and with the threat of possible hail hangars were opened and shelter offered to most of the visiting aircraft. Fortunately the hail stayed away. Most opted to stay and overnight.
Two lambs sizzled on the spit and the crisp clean Freestate air was soon filled with the delicious aroma of the evenings fare and tummies were soon rumbling. It was time for supper, the tables were set and the evening's festivities started. The lamb was superb, the side dishes prepared by the club ladies delicious. After supper Doctor Frank who had found space in his Super Cub for his guitar and Doctor Mark took turns to vow those remaining with ballads from the sixties and seventies.
Flights to Zuikerkop lodge near Clocolan in the Maluti Mountains were arranged for Sunday morning but nasty weather for up north were forecast and so everybody scurried to get home. All agreed that it was a wonderful weekend and that the hospitality was out of this world and they would definitely spread to word and will be back.
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