Alan Evan Hanes - A life-long pilot

By Willie Bodenstein


It was always a given that one day Alan Evan Hanes, the holder of a Private Pilot's Licence (South Africa and USA) including a Night and Safety Pilot Rating since 1989, would fly. His father was a World War II SAAF mechanic with 24 Squadron in the Western Desert and later with 34 Squadron in Gibraltar. His uncle Garth also served in the SAAF. Garth's eldest son Peter is ex SAAF, was a captain with SAA and is an accomplished helicopter pilot who helped save lives of Oceanos passengers. Alan's brother Ian, the best pilot he has ever known, is a captain for Comair.

"I cannot ever recall not wanting to be a pilot. It was all I ever wanted to do. When my school friends had Paulina Poriskova or Farah Fawcett on their bedroom walls, I had a Concorde cockpit and the Rothmans Pitts Specials. My school satchel had the logos of the Christen Eagle and Sequoia Falco." Alan told me.

From matric onwards and at university, he spent every holiday helping others finish their homebuilt projects. Some, especially Bryan Hook, Bob Hay and Brian Zeederberg, kindly gave him some flying time in return for washing their planes or helping with maintenance.

On 17 December, 1989 Alan went solo in a Piper Tomahawk belonging to Wits Flying Club at Lanseria. His PPL test was by the late Val Humphreys in 1990. "I sold my backpack and everything I could to afford another hour." Alan said, "when my mates went drinking, I went thirsty and saved for another hour." Alan has now accumulated about 800 hours in about 40 types, mostly taildraggers, so far incident free. He trained for an IFR rating but never took the test as he realised, he would seldom use it. He also has a safety pilot and night rating.

Alan and Ian's Piper Super Cub. Photo by Alan.

Alan has only owned one flying aircraft, a Piper Super Cub that his brother Ian, a co-owner and he, with some loving input from their Dad Ivor, built from three wrecks over a twenty-year period. It flew in May 2012 and they now have approximately 250 hours on it, having travelled the whole country. Alan also has a Sequoia F8L Falco under construction, one of four in the country.

The Sequoia Falco. Photo by Alan.

"The best aircraft I have ever flown is definitely a Sequoia Falco. Side by side seating, good useful load, range and aerobatic capability in an IFR machine. Think of RV speeds with Chipmunk handling, Ferrari beauty and excellent all-round capability." Alan said.

"Ian and I have about a hundred hours each on a Piper Cub and an equal amount of time in a Tiger Moth. When thinking of acquiring an aircraft of our own, we analysed our flying and wanted a plane to fit the mission - low cost, 90% around the patch taking mates for a flip and 10% cross country with a reasonable load. We opened up a Janes 'All the Worlds Aircraft' and after much deliberation, decided we wanted a Super Cub. Not having the money, we decided to build one from wrecks. So, we phoned around and bought three complete wrecks (two of which were fatal) and the other which caught fire following loss of half of a propellor blade (the engine was held only by the battery cable)."

"We spent every single day doing something towards completing the project as time and funds allowed. Most of it was complete by 1998. The late Noel Otten gave me a truly excellent wakeup call by asking - how many summers do I have left? The answer frightened me, so we got some help from a superb mechanic who was helping Noel finish some projects. Ian flew it on his birthday in May 2012 and we have been flying it flat out since then."

Alan's involvement in building and restoring aircraft started with a school friends' father's Taylorcraft, then another acquaintances KR2 and later he got involved in two Rutan Longezes and at the opposite end of the scale, three Tiger Moths. Up to now he has been involved in the construction of around 15 homebuilt aircraft, including the Hamilton Airship where he was on the design staff.

His involvement in aviation is much wider than just building and flying aircraft. He has been the Treasurer for Johannesburg Light Plane Club since 2006. He was appointed as an International Aerobatic Judge for the World Aerobatic Championships in Cape Town in 1995 and again in Malalane in 2017. In 2016 was appointed as the South African spokesperson for the Crete-to-Cape Vintage Air Rally.

From July 2015 to October 2015, he volunteered his amateur skills as a pilot to fly a three-month tour of operations for elephant and lion anti-poaching activity in the Niassa Reserve, Northern Mozambique. Catching elephant poachers in a Husky was very demanding and most rewarding and a one of the highlights of his flying career.

When the opportunity presented itself to apply for the vacancy of General Manager of the Aero Club of South Africa, Alan jumped and was appointed, starting in June 2017.

As the only executive director, Alan was responsible for managing the daily operations, budget, staff and attending to the club members' needs. His role included overall accountability for promoting recreational sporting aviation in South Africa through attending events, liaising with authorities and regulators, influencing draft regulations and building relationships with all interested stakeholders. A substantial part of which was assessing the complex legalities of recreational aviation regulations and their influence on existing operations whilst maintaining compliance. He served on the Civil Aviation Regulations Committee, the National Airspace Planning Committee and many other regulatory bodies.

Alan spent most weekends visiting Aero Club section events and meeting members all over South Africa.

During February 2019, the board, of which Alan was a member, elected to implement a drastic cost saving model, which resulted in him accepting a retrenchment package. At the end of March, Alan left to return to a career in anti-fraud consulting.

There are many flights that Alan remembers. One especially, a night flight from Durban to Grand Central with his late ex-wife, son, mum, dad and brother in a turbo Centurion, holds a special place. Flying up the Northern Mozambique coast at 500ft on an approved flight plan between Beira and Nampula offered some spectacular scenery and dugongs was another. His first perfect slow roll in a Bucker Jungmann and late summers afternoon flips in a Tiger Moth are still fresh in his memory.

Alan and a happy young aviation enthusiast after a demo flight.

Scary memories? Fortunately, not that many. "The only time I have been truly frightened in a cockpit as pilot in command was on short finals at Baragwanath in a Tiger Moth with the late Bob Hay. We hit rotor turbulence that rolled us onto a left-hand knife edge about a 100ft above the ground. It was unexpected on a generally calm day and decidedly vicious. Using full aileron and rudder seemed to have absolutely no effect and we remained at a true 90 degrees with Bob double checking if I had full aileron input. Happily, the effect finally dissipated when we were less than a wingspan from the ground and I managed to ease it out to a wide-eyed landing." Alan recalled.

Alan's other pride and joy, his 1957 Lotus Super Seven. Photo supplied.

Alan can be found most weekends at his hangar at Baragwanath where the Super Cub is based and where he commutes in his 1957 Lotus Seven Series 1 replica that he designed and built over a period of three years.

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