The Experimental Aircraft Association of South Africa annually offer aviation clubs country wide the opportunity to apply for the hosting of its annual national convention. The reason for this is to expose the activities of the EAA to as many members of the aviation fraternity as possible.
A portion of Vryheid taken through the window of Brian Appleton's Luscombe Silvair
This year the successful club was the Vryheid Wings Club based in the historic town of Vryheid in Kwazulu Natal. Vryheid lies close to the site of one of the more infamous battles of the Battlefields Route, the battle of Blood River and the town was moreover intrinsically involved in the subsequent Anglo-Boer War of 1899, making it one of the more interesting towns on the Battlefields route - a route that traces the myriad battlefield sites and memorials dotted across the surrounding countryside.
Deon Prins and I left Johannesburg at 0700 for what we thought would be a pleasant drive of 4.5 hours. However, we had not planned for the long weekend migration of thousands of others to the beaches of Durban and other coastal cities and after an unplanned excursion through the rural heartland of Zululand (Ok, we got lost!) we eventually arrived eight hours later.
The field on Saturday midday
By then the field was a hive of activity. More than seventy aircraft where already parked on the immaculate grass apron whilst a few more arrived as we greeted old friends and made new ones. The guys and girls of the Vryheid Wings Club did exceptional work to get the facilities, which for a small town like Vryheid, is of a high standard, ready for the influx of visitors.
My attention was immediately drawn the Niel Bowdens tented city, a miniature version of "Camp Plakkersfontien" at Oshkosh in Wisconsin, USA, the permanent base of the EAA of the USA. Niel told me that have 180 confirmed bookings for the annual migration of South Africans to the world's largest fly in.
Friday night dinner on the field
The air was soon filled the aroma of the Friday evening braai. At R100.00 per plate that included pap and gravy, salads, sosaties and succulent lamb chops it was the best value for money meal that I have ever had at an air event.
Horace (left) and General Rod Penhall
After dinner Horace Blok interviewed General (Retired) Rod Penhall who regaled those present with tales from his career in the SAAF.
We left early, apparently fortunately so, as the party continued well into the early hours of the morning.
Eugene Couzyn's Gazelle was judged to be the best Best Warbird at the Convention
Graig Mee's Carbon Cub ZU-MCC took the 2018 Concours de Elegance Award
Some of Saturday's arrivals
Saturday morning was brilliant clear ideal for flying day and a steady stream of aircraft kept the ATC occupied. ATC recorded 140 movements and a conservative estimate puts the number of visiting aircraft at more than 120.
Nick Brits bought his Tri Pacer in 2015 when the bug bit him. He got his license when he was 58 years old.
A RC Model being put through its paces
The GoodYear Eagles during their formation display
The Aircraft Factory Display
Dirk Coetzee's Pitts Special ZU-WIZ took the award for the Best Tube and Rag Aircraft
Comet Aviation and Aviation Direct supports general aviation
Peter Howe, Stemme agent in SA
Dirk Coetsee's Tailwind was judged to be the best Plans Build Aircraft
Dr. Frank Bonfills-Persson with his Super Cub
Claus Keuchel 83 was the oldest EAA member at the convention. Claus and his partner 85 flew his 76 year Taylorcraft from Vereeniging to Vryheid. An amazing 244 combined years!
Saturday at the field
The convention was opened by Paul Lastucci, National President of the EAA of SA and from then on it ran like clockwork except for one matter that definitely needs to be looked at and that is the placement of aircraft entered for judging. Aircraft were scattered along the flight line, hundreds of metres apart which meant that nobody could view them as nobody knew just where each of the contesting aircraft was parked That, off course, made the judges task to say the least very difficult.
Andreas Hohne's Titanium Gyro took the award for the Best Rotorcraft
Dennis Spence's Decathlon was judged the Best Restoration
Wayne Gile's Bearhawk LSA won the award as the Best LSA
Pieter Bezuidenhout's Sling4 walk away with the Best All Metal Home Build Award
Dale de Klerk's CA-61 Mimi Ace was judged the Best All Wood Aircraft
The briefing for the Fun Rally, organised by Rob Jonkers started at 08h45 and the contestants, after having plotted their track, were soon airborne. (See Rob Jonkers's report in this issue).
Johan Lock on the AP Scheme
Brad Bennetts on Upset Recovery
Horace Blok on Survival Techniques
Neil de Lange on RAASA and its integration into the CAA
Whilst the Aircraft judging and rally was in progress a number of forums were taking place in one of the hangers. In the adjacent hanger the ladies where preparing for the evenings award dinner.
Lunch was taken on the tables under the shade of some lovely trees; a variety of scrumptious meals at very reasonable prices were available from vendors. The refreshment marquee was a popular place to meat friends for some causal and sometimes rather serious conversation.
Bethlehem Flying Club Members
The AGM started at and the following will serve as office bearers for the next year: President Paul Lastrucci, Vice President Sean Cronin, Secretary Keaton Perkins and Treasurer Mark Clulow. Our congratulation to all elected and it is especially good to see some youngster in the committee.
The awards dinner during which the achievements of EAA members and the winners of the various categories of aircraft entered for judging are announced was a lavish affair held on the field in one of the hangers and the ladies work was indeed a sight to behold.
Winners of the aircraft judging.
Front Row (left to right): Best Restoration Keeton Perkins-Decathlon, Best Professionally Build Pierre Dippenaar Van RV4, Paul Lastrucci National President EAA of SA.Back row: Best Restoration Dennis Spence-Decathlon, Best Warbird Eugene Couzyn-Gazelle, Best LSA Wayne Giles-Bearhawk LSA, Best Rotorcraft Andreas Hohne -Titanium, Best Wood Aircraft Dale de Klerk-CA-61 Mini Ace, Best Scratch Build Stewart Clegg-Jodel, Best Plans Build Dries Janse van Vuuren- Tailwind. Concours de Elegance Craig Mee-Carbon Cub. Absent Best Rag and Tube Dirk Coetzee-Pitts Special
Members acknowledge for outstanding performance.
Left to right. Paul Lastrucci National Presidents of the EAA of SA, Nigel Musgrave for his contribution to promotion of safety in general aviation, Rene Clulow for hosting the ladies program, Horace Blok for the longest distance travelled, Claus Keuchel for being the oldest flying member to attend and Morne Strauss for his outstanding contribution to the 2018 convention
Marie Reddy's contribution to the 2018 convention and all other EAA events were rewarded by a ticket to attend Oshkosh 2018.
Left to right Paul Lastrucci, Marie Reddy and Neil Bowden of Airadventure Tours.
The 2018 Convention at Vryheid has in the opinion of all been the best since the early Margate years. It did not come easy but the sheer dedication, blood, sweat and sometimes tears of all of those involved had made it possible. The spirit of the EAA was indeed alive at Vryheid!