The Ballito Microlight Club staged a very successful event on Saturday 26th May 2018. It was a combined celebration of the 21st anniversary of the Club, the 20th anniversary of the Ballito Microlight Flight School, the 21st anniversary of the death of Graham Anderson's son Derek, as well as the 50th birthday of Brad Mears. Brad was given the go ahead to use this occasion to give back and as such he arranged a fund raiser to collect pledges for worthy causes. More of that later.
The organising committee - L-R - John Hewitt, Dave Jackson, Rona Jackson, Brad Mears, Len Kholer, Jica Coelho. Missing was Etienne du Preez the man responsible for cutting the grass and keeping the airfield ship shape.
Twenty one years ago, Dave and Rona Jackson searched for a place to start a microlight flight school. With the help of a pilot friend, landowner Wayne Hulett was approached and he agreed that a portion of his land could be used for the project. A hangar was built and a short 200 metre strip (on a soccer field) and the airfield became a reality. Later the runway was lengthened to 520 metres and now there is also a shorter cross wind runway. Since then the club has run successfully and has so far trained more than four hundred and fifty student pilots. The school has four weight shift microlights with a fifth one on lease and now they also offer three axis training in the LSA category. The original hangar has now been joined by a sixteen more and there are now about 50 active members of the club who form a passionate group of aviators. The hangars currently house 43 aircraft and it is at its maximum capacity. There is no further room for expansion as both the land owners side and ATNS have declared maximum capacity. An interesting fact is that it is the only private airfield in South Africa operating in an international airport's airspace (King Shaka). A special corridor has been set up to enable them to get in and out safely.
On arrival at the airfield at first light on Saturday, Dave Jackson was already geared up to fly with his first student and several more bookings followed in quick succession. The first thing that struck home was the impeccable state of the grass runways and the buildings and hangars. Everything is in perfect condition showing that a lot of pride is taken in the facility. It surely takes a lot of hard work to maintain the airfield and cutting the grass alone is a three-day job. There had been a lot of rain in the week leading up to the event. This resulted in an area at the bottom of the sloping runway that was a little damp but this did not pose any kind of problem for the pilots.
Early morning activity at Ballito
Looking down runway 26
Dave Jackson takes up a student in the Sport Star
Over the threshold of 26 looking out for park runners
Coming out of the sun
The early morning weather was fantastic with clear skies and no wind at all. This was to change during the day where the wind direction meant that landings would be down the slope on runway 26. As the day went on there was quite a big build-up of cloud and this may have reduced the number of fly-in visitors. Apart from the aircraft based at the club several aircraft flew in from places like Light Flight and Virginia.
General shots of the airfield
During the day there were a number of microlights flying as well as Jabirus, Slings, a Glasair Sportsman, several gyros, a Piper Cub, Aeroprakt, RVs and the club Sport Star in action. Two Yaks (a 52 and a 55) joined the fun with a high-speed pass but they decided not to try the tricky down-hill landing.
A selection of the aircraft in action
Paulo-Jorge Da Silva Martins and Brendan Adams in the Yak 52
Martin Schulze in the Yak 55
Down the hill
Runway 26 about to take-off down the hill
In addition to the fly in many people chose to drive in for the luncheon. This was held in a hangar with seating for around 140 people. The venue was beautifully laid out and a band 'Take Note' provided the music.
Many of the attendees prior to the lunch in the hangar behind
At the start of the lunch the master of ceremonies, Yugen Naidoo, opened the proceedings and elaborated on the reasons for the event before introducing Dave Jackson. Dave welcomed everyone and before handing over to birthday boy Brad Mears. Brad spoke a lot about his desire to give back and introduced the organisations who were to benefit from the day. Each one was given a few minutes to state their case and explain the work they were doing.
Start of the lunch
First up to speak was Tracy Adkins from Gift of the Givers, she was followed by Sam Khoza of Lifeline. Then Ian Waghorn, a pilot and representative from Project Rhino/ZAP Wing spoke about the need for funds to eliminate the menace of poaching and John Olds from Highway Hospice followed him. Last speaker was Quentin Power of Specialised Rescue, he also had a display of their vehicle and equipment outside. Several stands where manned by the other organisations to publicise their work. St. Luke's Orphanage and St. John's Ambulance were also represented on the day. The last mentioned provided an ambulance on stand by for the event. It was reassuring but thankfully not required, as all flying was conducted safely and efficiently.
Yugen Naidoo - MC
Tracy Adkins - Gift of the Givers
Sam Khoza - Lifeline
Ian Waghorn - Project Rhino/ZAP Wing
John Olds - Highway Hospice
Quentin Power - Specialised Rescue
After this Graham Anderson spoke in tribute to his son Derek and held up a painting of him.
The day was a great success and in excess of R22,000 was raised for the deserving organisations. All in all, a wonderful event that the Ballito flying community can be proud about. Long may this group of aviation enthusiasts enjoy their special flying home.