EAA Chapter 1502 Open Day - Baynesfield Estate Airfield

By Brian Spurr

The Bosbok gets airborne.
On the 16th December 2020 EAA Chapter 1502 hosted their annual open day fly-in at the year old Baynesfield Estate Airfield. Unfortunately, the weather played havoc with the number of pilots able to make it in. A band of low cloud and rain between the coast and Baynesfield prevented coastal participation, although one aircraft made it in safely from Margate. The only others who flew in were from local fields such as Richmond and Emoyeni (Cato Ridge).

We planned to fly in on Wednesday, but after checking the weather, drove up instead. Baynesfield Airfield is about 75 kilometres from central Durban and it is very accessible. The only problem right now is a couple of stretches of road repairs that can cause a delay. This is only a temporary situation.

Baynesfield Estate was established by Joseph Baynes who bought land in the Umlaas Valley over many years. He was one of the Byrne Settlers. He developed the property and farmed dairy cattle, beef cattle, pigs and horses. The farm was originally named Nel's Rust, but it was changed to Baynesfield at the time of his death. He started the bacon industry in the Colony of Natal. He also started a dairy and butter industry and later established Model Dairy shops in various centres. He provided electricity for his factory by a 16 km canal he dug to facilitate electricity generation by two turbines.

When Joseph died in 1925, he left his entire 23000-acre estate in trust with a number of clauses that are maintained by an administration board. This board is the one the EAA negotiated for use of the land on which the airfield now occupies. The chapter moved to the airfield in November 2019.

The airfield is now well established and the grass runway (09/27) is 845 metres long and has a good surface. On the day, despite the fact it had been cut only a few days prior to the fly in, the grass was perhaps slightly longer than desirable. This was due to the fact that there has been a lot of rain recently and also the mowers were not set quite low enough. The land in the valley is extremely fertile too! I was told that the person contracted to do the grass cutting had quit and it was left to the members to do the mowing. With two tractors it is a two-day job! Despite this the field looked really good and no problems were experienced by those who flew in.

The coordinates of the field are -29.794546, 30.359957 and the elevation is 2700 feet. The radio frequency is 124.2 (special rules apply).

The local weather at the airfield was fine, with no low-level cloud, so it is a shame many who were planning to fly in could not make it. Some of the expected aircraft that were affected were the Antonov AN2 from Virginia and the Chipmunks from Scottburgh.

A number of members chose to drive in and they were joined by MG car club members, who had been invited to share the day. Braai fires were provided and the day went well despite the limited amount of flying. Apparently, there is some thought of changing the date of this annual event in future to avoid the changeable weather at this time of year. This being the last year at this time, it was a perfect day for it.

Alan Lorimer gave the annual chairman's speech and presented a few presents of appreciation to the committee members. He also presented the annual floating trophy, the Harry Antel Award (for true altruism) to Russell Smith and Robbie Els, both of who had worked tirelessly to improve facilities on the airfield. These included electrical connections in the club house and hangar as well as commissioning a proper toilet! During his presentation, Alan said that 2020 had been a difficult year for the chapter. Covid-19 had meant that flying was seriously reduced and people had been reluctant to take on projects and new developments. Currently the field is being operated and maintained by just the four committee members and this was a huge workload and financial commitment.

Russell Smith

Alan Lorimer, Robbie Els,

The committee is Alan Lorimer, chairman, Russell Smith, vice-chairman, Mike Korck, secretary and Robbie Els, treasurer. Alan said they wished to encourage other EAA members to locate to Baynesfield. There was ample space for more hangars and the strip itself was excellent. With the closure and possible closure of some of the airfields in the area, it would be a good time to look at this option.

The aircraft based at Baynesfield are as follows: ZU-AYF - Quad City Challenger II - Russell Smith; ZU-IAZ - Sling 2 - Mike Korck; ZU-FRD - Savannah S - Robbie Els and ZS-VLN - Piper PA-17 - Alan Lorimer.

The airfield is well positioned in the beautiful valley. Fields of great looking maize grow right up to the boundary fence. Just over the road is the Baynesfield Country Club that has good facilities that look out over a cricket field. Apart from the flying, the farm is worth a visit. There are a number of historic buildings on the property (just down the road from the airport). These include the original homestead and the newer estate house. Baynes House is now a museum that can be visited by prior arrangement. It is situated in large, beautiful and well-maintained gardens. There is a dairy museum, a sewing museum and a kitchen museum There is also an old (working) cheese factory and it also houses the Natal Vintage Tractor and Machinery Club. The club has open days where visitors can admire the tractors and other farming equipment collected over the years. They also have a double decker bus, an old replica filling station, blacksmith shop etc. Further down the road past the airfield is a picturesque dam (Big Dam) that offers camping and fishing. There is a lodge that can be booked for accommodation. It is an interesting and historic place. The estate also hosts country fairs four times a year.

One interesting aviation related item I found at the tractor museum, sitting out in the elements, is a jet aircraft engine. After doing some on-line research it turns out that it is from a Convair 880 bought in 1987 by the Ciskei homeland government for the president. It was a former celebrity aircraft that apparently saw many parties and other shenanigans over the years. Rock bands such as Jefferson Starship used the aircraft. It sat at Bisho airport for a number of years but the money never materialised in order to get it airworthy again. The aircraft is now on static display at a restaurant at Kei Mouth.

Back to the fly in. The most interesting aircraft to attend was the Aermacchi AM-3C 'Bosbok' owned by Craig Ralphs. The immaculate aircraft, resplendent in SAAF colours, is based at Richmond a mere 15 kilometres away. The aircraft was a big hit and Craig was happy to show her off to young and old alike. Some of the young children sat in the aircraft and were given a lesson of how the flight controls and instruments works.

Noah, Levy and Richť Brown

EAA members also crowded around to view the aircraft and power plant and asked Craig numerous technical questions.

This is a very interesting machine with quite a history. There were apparently only 43 production machines built and there were also three prototypes. Three of them were built in Italy for the Rwanda Airforce and Craig's airframe was the first one of these. It carries the serial R1 (Rwanda 1). After delivery to Rwanda, the three machines flew less than 300 hours each. They were eventually sent back to Italy and from there sent to Denel in crates. South Africa had ordered 40 aircraft for the SAAF (serial numbers 920 to 959). The Rwanda machines stood around for years before being assembled and refurbished. Craig bought one of these and flew it to Richmond on 24 Sep 2009.

The first test flight of the type was on 12 May 1967 and it is thought that Craig's aircraft was built in 1972. The aircraft is powered by a Lycoming GSO-480 built by Piaggio. There are not many examples of this type left out there, with perhaps a dozen on the SA register (not all flying), a few in the US and a couple in Australia. There could be others.

The day was a great success and enjoyed by all in attendance. It is a shame the weather did not allow for a better aerial attendance. Once the Covid situation returns to normal, we're sure that this EAA chapter will go from strength to strength.

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