EAA Taildraggers at Bela Bela 19 Sept 2020

By Willie Bodenstein

This weekend's Taildraggers was one of three events hosted by the EAA of SA planned for 2020. The other two being the EAA's National Convention and Sun 'n Fun. However, the arrival of Covid 19 on our shores and all the subsequent regulations effectively put an end to recreational flying and aviation events until the Aero Club of SA got involved and managed through blood sweat and tears got permission for limited flying and aviation sporting events.

You know you are in the Bushveld when you arrive at 0700 and the braai fires are already going.

Bela Bela (Warmbaths) Flying Club facilities.

In the meantime, the future of Taildraggers,
one of the most popular events on the annual calendar and that has traditionally been held at Nylstroom, was in the balance because of the safety concerns caused by encroachment of illegal land occupiers adjacent to the field. The solution to the problem by the Local Town Council, the owners of the field, was simply to close the field down.

Organiser, marshal and originator of Taildraggers, Richard Nicholson.

Fortunately, they did not reckon with the fortitude of Richard Nicholson, the originator and organizer of the event. Richard and the Nylstroom Club Members simply moved the club and its assets to Bela Bela Airfield down the road and Taildraggers was saved.

The field lay-out.

Some of the aircraft at the field.

Held within the rules of Lockdown Level Two aviators showed their support arriving en-masse at the field that sported a newly surfaced tar runway as well as a new grass runway thanks to the Warmbaths Flying Club.

The van der Schaars were amongs those that camped at the field.

The hunger for flying was apparent and by midday on Saturday, just over 100 aircraft had visited, some having arrived on Friday, the crews choosing either to camp at the field or stay in B and Bs'.

Two of the arrivals were the RV's of Horace Blok and friend who was on a cross-country flight all the way from Mosselbay and that by then had included Barberton amongs other stops.

The winner of the Airmanship competition, judged by Nigel Musgrave and Colonel Tony Smith was Rudi Greyling, who flew in from The Coves.

Sean Cronin donated a set of the personalised chocks that his company Gluteck manufactures to the winner.

Safety officer Nigel Musgrave was also responsible for getting all the documents required in place for the event to be legal.

It's not only Taildraggers that visited but nose wheel variants as well, including this SA Ravin 500.

As per usual the 'Potties Patrollie" guys were there in full force.

As well as a flock of Bat Hawks.

That tome of knowledge Wikipedia, define aircraft with a tailwheel as; "conventional landing gear, or tailwheel-type landing gear, is an aircraft undercarriage consisting of two main wheels forward of the centre of gravity and a small wheel or skid to support the tail." The term Taildraggers probably stemming from the tailskid days when the tail was literally dragged along the ground, assisting in not only keeping it out of harm's way but also assisting in slowing the craft down.

Taildraggers, the event, is about, well, about aircraft that have a little wheel at the back, and of those, there were plenty at Bela Bela. Quite a few made their first public appearance while others were old faithful visitors to most events.

Fittingly four legendary taildraggers, the Puma Energy sponsored Flying Lions Harvards, flew in and did an awesome display of close formation aerobatics.

A big thank you to the sponsors Pilot's Insure and Gluteck as well all whose hard work made the event the possible.

I, unfortunately because of work commitments (some of us have to keep the economy going!), could not stay over and left soon after the display. I have no doubt that Taildraggers will flourish at Bela Bela and will remain as one event not to be missed.

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