Wings & Wheels - Uitenhage Airfield 2016
By Andrew de la Harpe
Doug Davidson Memorial Air Show
2016 marks the 4th Wings and Wheels festival to be held in Uitenhage. The organizers goal is to realize the full potential of the airfield as an asset to the Eastern Cape community, and to develop the festival into a major area attraction. 2016 was better than previous years, and well worth attending.
The airfield has four grass covered runways in a cross configuration with a left and right runway for each length of the cross. The runway designations are 26L/08R and 16L/34R for gliding and 26R/08L and 16R/34L for power planes. Runway length is between 800m and 1000m. The elevation of the airfield is 278 feet ASL and the windsock is located between runways 16L and 16R in line with the hangars.
The event begins on the Friday with all day entertainment from local performers, but the main attractions are on Saturday, including the air show. Wings and Wheels is a celebration of aircraft, cars, bikes, 4x4 off road vehicles, and boerboels who have their own show.
A gratifying variety of aircraft also arrived for the festival. Highlights for me included the Vulcanair P68R (ZS VRA), which John English flew in from Progress Flight Academy in Greenbushes. The “yellow canary”, as she is affectionately known, was acquired in 2015 along with an exact replication FNPT II simulator, built into the front of an actual PA68 fuselage. A second aircraft and simulator are scheduled for delivery in April 2016. This beautiful aircraft is an ideal platform for multi engine instruction, and its high wing configuration would likely save a pair of 200hp Lycomings in the event of a student doing a wheels up. This 6 seater twin can carry 180kg luggage and its best economical cruise speed at 60% FL90 is 155 ktas. This school's Premium Integrated Course is aimed at producing an employable ATPL, with many hours of multi engine aeroplane instrument instruction.
Another “yellow canary” which was very impressive, is the one third scale Piper Cub RC model which looks almost capable of carrying a small child.
Picture courtesy of www.vulcanair.com
Picture courtesy of www.helicoptercharter.co.za
Another fling wing visitor was the breathtaking Westland Gazelle HT. 2, ZU HBH. A total of 30 of these training helicopters were produced for the British Fleet Air Arm. Features included the Turbomeca Astazou IIIN2 engine, a stability augmentation system and a hoist. It was the first helicopter to have a fenestron tail rotor. The 644 hp single turbine engine makes this helicopter quick with a cruising speed of around 140 ktas. The display was really good, and demonstrated why this scout still does military service in some parts of the world. Registered to a company up north of us, It would be interesting to know more of her history in SA.
Algoa Flight Centre, also made their prescience felt in a positive way. A single file formation of her C172RG, C172, C152 & Sling 2, joined in and parked in full view of the public. I also spotted a Baron 58 although I can't say for sure if it was theirs. What I did see was instructors engaging with people and manning their own information centre where members of the public could learn more about flying, how to start and what it entails. Well done to AFC for that extra effort. This school offers PPL, CPL and instructor ratings as well as the ability to take a student all the way to ATPL. In 2015 I had the chance to fly their FNPT II simulator. It took only 1hr to give me a major confidence boost with regard to my current levels of skill and my own ability to complete my PPL. I am grateful to my instructor for that experience. A friend of mine has recently enrolled his 15 year old daughter Natasha, as an SPL Candidate at Algoa. His feedback is that the staff is very professional, informative, and flexible with regard to new students. I think that shows relevance in an increasingly challenging aviation environment.
My overall impression of the festival was that a lot of planning and organizing was being well executed on the day. I saw no glaring faults at all. The public was allowed within acceptable limits of the machines on display without standing into danger, yet close enough to appreciate what was going on. The Flight Director, Events Organizer, Ramp Controller and Safety Officer were visible and busy. The tower was manned efficiently and their friendly interaction aided the pilots and involved the public. What also impressed was the inclusion of all aviators. Trikes and Gyros were given as much prominence as the heavies. Safety was taken seriously, and Airmanship too.
The heat was starting to take its toll though, and the organizers pleaded vocally with the public to increase water intake, especially if alcohol was being consumed. Older people and children and were starting to succumb. I'm glad to report, that this was all that kept the ambulance staff busy on the day.
What would an Eastern Cape Air Show be without the incredible presence and support of the Davidson Family.
The Doug Davidson Memorial Air Show is held in commemoration of the patriarch of this phenomenal aviation family. Doug died at Uitenhage airfield in 1992, on takeoff in his Pitts, after suffering a heart attack. His son Stewart, took up aerobatics because of his father's involvement in the sport, and his passion for aviation has resulted in the accumulation of one of the world's finest collection of serviceable War Birds ever known. A Boeing Stearman, a Navy Harvard, a Hawker Sea Fury, a Russian Sukhoi attack aircraft, a Yak 52, and my personal Chatelaine, the P51 Mustang, “Queen of Hearts” ….. sigh. I am willing to bet that such a collection of working Radial engines would be hard to find anywhere in the world, except in their hangars at FASV (Seaview, PE). Their L39-C (ZU DEW), a turbofan jet trainer is icing on an aviation cake.
Stu & his son Patrick have become synonymous with aviation in the Eastern Cape, for as long as I can remember. Patrick Davidson started displaying at the age of 17, and has won 4 National Aerobatic Championships since. He is described as a natural born Aviator who has followed in his father's footsteps, and extended the stride. Father and son have become a well known duo, and their tireless collaboration has made these wonderful aircraft available to the public, so much so, that we may take it for granted.
I would like to send a special message of appreciation to the Davidson family, for your contribution to aviation in the Eastern Cape. Never forget that you are celebrated as Heroes. I hear there is another young one, who has already been bitten by the bug. Long may this last.
Engine temperatures were indeed a serious concern. Holding aircraft had to turn into the wind to try and stay cool. Patrick had no option but to cut the Yak’s second display short, due to overheating, and spectators too were taking strain. En route back to Sea View, Patrick had to execute a forced landing at Progress Airfield, giving us all an appreciation of the seriousness of the situation.
It matters not, that the only Mustang present this year was made by Ford, and not North American. What matters is that Wings and Wheels was a resounding success.
Weather is something that no one can predict or control, and the organizers and participants did a fine job under difficult circumstances. To Chairman and Flight Director, Colin Dettmann, and Event Organizer Lourens Kruger, well done. I look forward to Wings & Wheels 2017.
I look forward to Wings & Wheels 2017.
Such is my love for the Queen of Hearts that I couldn’t complete this article without including a picture of her that was taken at FAPE a few years ago. I look forward to seeing her fly again in the not too distant future.
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