The National Convention is the EAA of South Africa's flagship event of the year and this year, after the huge success of 2018, it was again held at Vryheid in Kwa Zulu-Natal. A week before the convention more than 80 aircraft had already registered and when we arrived 50 plus were already parked at the field with its perfectly mowed grass, grass which looked more like a putting green than an airfield.
The field just before sunset on Friday. This photo was taken from Alan Turner's balloon.
Inclement weather stopped a large number of visitors from making the journey with some turning back and others not leaving their home bases. Eventually slightly more than 110 eventually made it. As with last year, ATNS had provided an AFIS service for the weekend. Skeerpoort Verspreiders, who attended the event and had made sure that AVGAS and MOGAS was available at the airfield throughout the weekend were kept busy fuelling aircraft.
Shooting the breeze on Friday.
Jeremy Wood and Neil Fenton tying down Jeremy's Comanche.
Peter Lea who flew from Pyramid Airfield in Barberton with Bacon van der Hoof the traveling pig who has more hours on his license that most pilots.
The first order of business for most was to say hello to friends that were already there and then to have lunch that was a choice of pancakes and hake or calamari rings with chips. I had the hake, Cheryl the calamari and we both agreed it was delicious. Refreshments followed as we shot the breeze with friends and walked around and got some pictures of the early arrivals.
Alan's Balloon before launch.
Balloon pilot Alan Turner and wife Bernadine.
I was especially looking forward to the arrival of a Landrover driven by my friend Alan Turner Turner, who drove who from Tugela Ferry with his competition balloon on its trailer. Permission was granted for Alan to take me on a short flight and to take pictures as we gently drifted on the breeze over the field. Following us was Bernadine, Alans wife and helper Michel as well as Marchell Warden a learner at the local school and at 16 years already an accomplished balloonist. Alan landed us at an open field just on the edge of town, a perfectly executed greaser in the tall grass.
A formation arriving late Friday afternoon.
Sun set over the field.
Some of the early visitors.
EAA Chapter 322 celebrated its 50th anniversary during the convention and all members that were fully paid up and had registered at the event, were issued with a limited addition complimentary 322 50th celebration memorabilia cap.
Fanie Bezuidenhout's jacket with badges commemorating previous conventions.
ZU-LSA had a puncture on landing.
Sean Cronin led a discussion on recent improvements in engine technology on Friday evening.
On Friday evening, participants were supposed to have been treated to Hartog Blok's riveting account of Pelican 16, the SAAF Museum Shackleton that forced landed in the Sahara Desert. Unfortunately, Horace because of inclement weather at the coast was unable to make it to Vryheid. However, the first of the forums, a discussion led by Sean Cronin on recent improvements in engine technology was well attended.
Friday evening around the fire.
Braai packs were available at R120 per pack and after numerous glasses of adult refreshments around the bonfires amidst lots of laughter and many jokes, tall stories were told. Old friendships were rekindled and new friends were made.
We woke up on Saturday morning to the sounds of aircraft engines and slightly overcast and misty conditions which we then made our way to the field. Unfortunately, the weather only cleared by mid-morning but that did not dampen the spirits and the day's program continued without interruptions.
Best restoration: Archie Kemp's Cessna 195.
Best Rag and Tube: Cameron Mckenzie's Carbon Cub.
Best wood: Mike Davis's Ospey.
Best metal: Scott Williams's Zenith 701.
Best warbird: Kobus Venter's P166 Albatros.
Best composite: Brett Williams's Whipser X.
Runner up best composite: Herbert de Graaf's Long EZ.
Grand Champion: Craig Mee's Vans Rv10.
Concourse d'Elegance: Jonathan Low's Sonex One X.
Aircraft judging took place on Saturday between 11h00 and 14h30. All members who wanted to have their aircraft judged must have pre-registered. The rules were that all participants must be fully paid up members of EAA National. In the past the aircraft to be judged were placed haphazardly. This year a "Judge Me" placard was distributed digitally to all registered participants before the event and had to be clearly displayed on the aircraft so as to enable the marshal to accompany them to a designated area. Each entrant was allocated a time and had to be present at his or her aircraft with all relevant documentations during the judging process.
Niel's Oshkosh style campsite.
Niel (left) attending to visitors.
Camping under their wings.
Good news is that visitors could either camp at the Airfield under the wing of their aircraft or in the allocated campsite set up by Neil Bowden who organises the yearly camping tour to EAA AirVenture the Convention of the EAA in the USA held annually in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. A shuttle service was available for those who opted not to stay at the field.
Photos of some of the visiting aircraft.
Fast becoming a tradition at EAA events, a Fun Rally was held on Saturday morning. Read Rob's report in this issue. At the end of the rally it was compulsory for each participant to do a spot landing the result of which counted towards their overall score.
Fred Bebbington during his talk.
Santjie White on the role of search and rescue.
An important tradition at any EAA Convention is the selection of informative and educational forums held at the event. On Saturday the forums continued with Fred Bebbington, supported by Santjie White, providing some insight into aircraft accidents. This was followed by a regulatory update from Neil de Lange.
The commemorative flypast in remembrance of Klaus and his companion Maxine.
A commemorative flypast was held for long time EAA member and a stalwart of Chapter 322 Klaus and his companion Maxine Fietch who lost their live's last year when they crashed in Klaus's Keuchel Taylorcraft approximately 10 miles from the field after leaving the convention on their way home.
Precious metal clay jewellery making class.
A social area was set up for the ladies in which they could entertain themselves. One of the activities for the ladies that was arranged was a precious metal clay jewellery making class hosted by Vera Jonkers.
Dave Lister at his Grob that he flew Krugersdorp.
More photos of some of the visitors.
The Annual General Meeting of EAA National was held at 16h00 in one of the hangars at the field during which all paid up national members voted for the new 2019 committee.
Relaxing Saturday afternoon.
Saturday before and after the meal.
Awardees on Saturday.
This year saw a slight break from tradition in that the formal Awards Dinner that celebrates the accomplishments of members was replaced by slightly less formal spitbraai. The meal was delicious and the evening was enjoyed by all.
Next year's convention will be hosted by the Pietermaritzburg flying Club.
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