A devastating hail storm ripped through the Springs area wreaking havoc to the hangars on the southern side of Springs Airfield, the base of a large number of historic aircraft. No less than four hangar roofs collapsed under the weight of the hail that packed on them.
Walking around the airfield was like visiting a warzone; aircraft crushed by the bent steel beams of the hangars was reminiscent of an earthquake scene from a Hollywood movie. The culprit, the hail, still laying half a meter deep in places. The storm which approached from the South West moved through Ekhurleni leaving a trail of destruction in its wake, destroying more than 3,000 houses and leaving many people homeless. Motorists taking cover at a petrol station, sustained serious damage when the roof they were using to escape the hail collapsed.
Radar Image 1 and half hours before the storm hit
Gavin Brown was one of the aircraft owners that were the worst hit. His hangar housing two De Havilland Chipmunks, a Jabiru, a Cessna 185, a Zlin and his immaculate Stamp, collapsed in the middle causing damage to all the aircraft. The Stamp was very badly damaged; the starboard top wing of the historic aircraft was broken and pressed into an unnatural position almost touching the bottom wing. Gavin hired a 250 ton crane to lift the roof and free the aircraft inside, this process had to be carried out very carefully as the structure was severely compromised and could give way at any time. All the aircraft were extricated without causing any further damage thanks to the careful planning and rigging of Derek Hopkins and the expert crane handling by the operator.
Derek assisting with the recovery of aircraft from Gavin's hangar
In another hangar a Sling 2 and a Piper PA28 were crushed leaving the Sling severely damaged, a quick inspection revealed what seemed to be a broken main spar on the Cherokee and the Sling's back seemed to have been snapped.
Further casualties included a hangar that was home to three Weight Shift Trikes and a Zenith Zodiac. All the aircraft in this hangar were parked down the centre line of the hangar which was unfortunately exactly where the roof collapsed, crushing all four of the aircraft. The interior relaxation area of this hangar was also damaged with parts of the ceiling falling down; fortunately there was no one in hangar at the time.
Weight Shift Trike
A fourth hangar housing two Pacemakers and a Cessna 172 was also destroyed. All three aircraft were severely damaged, the hangar roof was so unstable that it was not safe to enter and do a closer inspection. An historic Auster was also trapped in an unstable hangar the only evidence of its fate was a piece of the propeller that had penetrated the IRB sheeting roof.
A carpet of hail of between 150mm and 200mm covered all the flat grass areas just after the storm and judging by that it was calculated that the weight of the hail that packed on the roofs would be close to 100kg for every square meter. To put that in perspective that's the equivalent of 2 cement bags per square meter of roof. None of the structures were designed to handle this type of weight.
Hail against a hangar the next morning
Miraculously no one was injured at the airfield during the storm. Our sympathy goes to all the affected aviators and hope to see you all flying very soon again.