Traditionally on the Friday afternoon of the Fly-in weekend the Swellendam airfield is a buzz of activity. Skirting the runway on our way to the clubhouse we were alarmed to see only a lonely Rans and with a tent next to it. Did we have our dates mixed up? A quick check revealed that we indeed had the right date, so where were all the aircraft? This lonely Rans was also the only fly-in overnighter, although yours truly, and a few drive-ins camped at the field for the weekend. Well, this was the slow start of the Swellengrebel Flying Club's yearly fly-in.
Attendance to aviation events are very much weather driven, but one must also look at other reasons for this year's slow start and reduced visitors numbers, as the weather was not particularly uncooperative. With an overload of public media information we are bombarded with events jostling for our attendance. It is thus important that organisers must take this into consideration when promoting their events. Another reason for this lower than normal attendance was that the event fell on tax year end and business owners was kept busy with stocktaking. Then the difficult economy and the high fuel prices certainly also played a part. I believe the lack of the traditional tent camp was also a contributing factor, meaning extra expenses for a B&B, or extra weight for a tent. Yet in spite of all these reasons Saturday saw a rush of day visitors with visiting aircraft numbers peaking at just over 30.
The event saw a wide variety of aircraft, from the L-39 of Alan Fergis, with some nice "blik airies", to a group of gyros and a few LSA aircraft. An especially interesting aircraft, and first for me, was the Glasair Sportsman 2+2, of which there were two examples. The event was also graces with the presence of two Piper Aerostars, although not at the same time, so unfortunately no "group photo". The first were piloted by Cape Town aerobatic pilot Jurie Steyn, and later in the day Dr Johan Strassheim from Oudtshoorn Flying Club popped in for a quick visit.
The crowd, both pilots, and the aviation enthusiast, were captivated by the L-39, specially with the take-off and landing from what most believe is a short runway for a jet. The start-up before departure also had a crowd of onlookers.
Apart from the flying and socialising activities there were also a booze cruise on the nearby Buffeljagsdam and Saturday evening the visitors were entertained by a band or two on the Prosperian Capital stage. The food was supplied by local Swellendam chef, Moffit Mathyssen, and the clubhouse had a good supply of liquid refreshments.
Although not the size of event I have came to associate with the Swellengrebel Flying Club, it was never the less a successful event and enjoyed by all attendants.