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Sun 'n Fun, because of Covid that has so disrupted our lives, was scheduled much later in the year then was usual when the Highveld's rainy season starts and inclement weather is the order of the day. However, for once nature played along and it was well into the thirties when I arrived on Friday. Turbulence and headwinds were reported by most who had arrived by air but there was no rain as was predicted.
Saturday morning and Captain Karl Jensen who was not too happy as he had to drive in when ZU-VAL had developed an electrical problem wrote on WhatsApp; "Greetings from Brits. It is simply a most beautiful morning here. The weather is perfect for flying 8/8 clear skies and not a murmur of wind.
I hope the skies will darken soon with mass of airplanes on 124.2 for AFIS. The Brits Flying Club have been just so accommodating of our members- an exceptionally friendly welcome awaits you for EAA Sun n Fun.
Our dedicated Safety man, Nigel Musgrave, is already on site. The airfield is pristine and all facilities have been meticulously prepared. Don't forget that the BFC special price for fresh Avgas here is R20.85/litre and there is an ocean of it available."
The Sun 'n Fun setting up team from left to right Neil Bowden, Phil Scallan and Abid-Nego Matsinhe.
Karl during the day had possession of the mike and entertained those that seeked the shade inside the clubhouse or on the patio or under the huge marquee to socialise with friends or to enjoy a scrumptious breakfast or a cold beverage.
Daniel Ralefeta and Hans Schwebel sharing gliding stories.
Founded in the USA in 1953 by Paul Poberezny and headquartered in Oshkosh, Wisconsin the Experimental Aircraft Association, a subsidiary of the International Aerobatic Club has grown in to a worldwide association and today employs nearly 900 people. Johannesburg based Chapter 322 and whose number indicates the 322 second chapter to be affiliated, is currently still the only South African affiliated chapter. Internationally, today the EAA has almost 1,000 Chapters in more than 100 countries.
Beside almost weekly fly-a-ways organised by 322 is it's monthly gatherings, Covid rules permitting, held at the Dickie Fritz Moth Hall in Edenvale and its very popular movie or aviation personality interview evenings at the Chapters auditorium at Rand Airport. Annually, the Chapter organises the ever-popular Taildragger Fly-In to Bela Bela and Sun n Fun at Brits.
The ATNS events team at Brits. From left to right Eugene Hlungwani FAKN, Megan Evans FAPE & Benji Phukubje.
As per almost all other aviation's events this year, aviators flocked to Sun 'n Fun with more than eighty aircraft visiting. Some camped while others opted for more luxury accommodation and stayed in town or on game lodges that abound in the Brits area. Most though opted to fly in and during the day and there was a steady stream of arrivals and departures that kept the ATNS team in the snazzy refurbished tower, now with aircon fitted, busy.
Erez Halvini, an Israeli El Al and Airforce pilot who travelled 6995 km and was awarded a special prize by Neil with Karel Jensen on the right.
On Friday when it wasn't that hectic, I spoke to some of those who had arrived early, getting some info on them and why, if they are EAA members, they have joined.
Neil Bowden started flying in 1978 and joined the SA EAA in 1981 and was Chapter president in the 80's and 90's and was again elected as president in 2018. Neil is also a member of the USA EAA and the organiser of the extremely successful and now the legendary yearly tours to Oshkosh, USA, the home of the EAA's annual Fly-In and convention. Asked why he joined the EAA, Neil related that when he got his PPL, he met Brian Zeederburg who was then flying a Pitts Special from the streets in Wynberg. Brian told him about the SAA EAA's Convention held annually from 1981 in Margate. He thought it was a cool thing to do and hired a 172, flew down, camped and had so much fun with like-minded people that he was hooked, joined and became involved. Neil built a Pietenpol and a Sling kit, ZU-OSH, the Spirit of Oshkosh, the second one that the Sling factory sold.
Although Chapter 322 is a Johannesburg based Chapter, a large number of its members are from all over the country and one of those members is Pyramid Airfield, Barberton, Mpumalanga based Peter Lea. It took Peter, a proud owner of a Vans RV10, 1 hour 15 min with a 20-knot headwind to get to Brits from Pyramid, a journey he regularly makes to join his many mates at flying events and air shows on the Highveld and other venues country wide. Peter joined 322 because of the camaraderie and the number of events that the chapter regularly organise.
Trevor Davies's journey started his flight at Knysa and after a three and a half hours flight in his Vans RV7, he landed at Pyramid where he and Hartog Block, who accompanied him in is Vans Rv xxx where they spent a couple of day with Peter. Their total flight time to Brits was almost five hours. Trevor is currently not an EAA member, his membership had lapsed when he had his aircraft refurbished. Trevor is adamant that he will again become a member now that he has got his wings back.
Hartog 'Horace' Block left Mossel Bay at approximately 08.45 on Wednesday in the company of Trevor Davies who had joined him from Knysna. The weather close to Baberton was hazy with a lot of smoke haze. Horace said he slowed down in case he hit something"; at least he knew he would do it slowly and stylishly. He, Peter Lea and Trevor left Barberton on Friday morning. Peter and Trevor flying directly to Brits while he stopped at Wonderboom to have a new battery fitted to the RV6 ZU-EAA built by Chalkie Stobbard. A Gauteng resident and Chapter 322 member for a long time, Horace, when he moved south, missed the camaraderie and brotherhood and the events and socials so prevalent up in the highveld, very few of which he missed so he remained a 322 member.
Nineteen-year-old Abed-Nego Matsinhe got his PPL a month and a half ago and he decided that there is no better way to 'formalise' his PPL than to fly the Sun 'n Fun and to camp under the wing of the Flitecare Sling. Not yet AA member, this youngster is a clearly a dedicated aviator will be joining the EAA soon.
Hennie Roets, (left) has for the last twenty years been a member of Chapter 870 Kroonstad. One of the reasons why he joined the EAA is because of the support that members got when starting and during new builds and projects. Hennie flew to Brits in his newest project, an EV4, (ZU-ROP,) a helicopter he built from parts of a R44 Ravin 1 with Ravin 2 blades and hydraulics.
Jeremy 'Moose' Woods who flew his absolute stunning Bearhawk Patrol built by the late Wayne Giles from Silver Creek Gorge Estate joined Chapter 322 in 1996. Silver Creek to Brits is a short 15-minute hop, but Jeremy went via Wonderboom. One of the reasons Jeremy joined is the sense of great camaraderie between EAA members, whenever you have something to do to your aircraft, somebody will have a solution to your problem. Whether it is the sourcing of parts or just advice, there is a huge amount of knowledge that members are willing to share. Another one of the big things about the EAA is the large numbers of events regularly organised by the EAA. Instead of just flying around the patch and its great fun to see your friends.
Jeremy mentioned that there are quite a few EAA members that are not pilots. Some are AP's or AMO's others are involved in some aircraft related trades and some are just pure aviation fanatics, all are welcome in this wonderful organisation.
Phil Scallan an aircraft historian, aviation enthusiast and president of the Friends of the SAAF Museum, joined the EAA of the USA in 1995 during his first visit to AirVenture, the convention of the EAA held annually in Oshkosh. In those days it was only EAA members that were allowed airside to view the aircraft on static display. His second visit was in 2008 with Neil's tour. Phil's favourite section at AirVenture is Warbirds, especially the Warbirds in reviews that takes place once a day. To Phil, the EAA is all about the camaraderie, meeting all the pilots, listening to their stories and although not a pilot, being accepted as a member of the aviation fraternity.
If you are not yet a EAA member please go to www.eaa.org.za/membership/membership-form
to join the brotherhood of almost 300,000 aviators.
Saturday is the day when the all-volunteer group of marshals and the ATNS team have their hands full handling all the arrivals and departures. Fortunately, Brits' 900 metre long 02/20 runway has a grass taxi way that does help a lot. I managed to meet up with some of the arrivals. It was hot and most were eager to get out of the sun and under shade as fast as possible.
Richard Nicholson and Jason Breamish.
And Gareth Gill, all flew in from the Coves Estate, a short hop from Brits.
Dr. Mike Brown flew up from Cape Town and was given a lift to Brits by Eugene Couzyn in his immaculate Allouette II.
Jeff Earle got a lift from Coen Swart. Both hangar at Vereeniging.
It is unlikely that we will see any air shows in the foreseeable future or at least until Covid 19 restriction are completely lifted. In the meantime, CAA rules for organised Fly-In events allow for one display per AOC. There are only two AOCs in the country, the Flying Lions and the Goodyear Eagles. Both have a number of aircraft on their licence but only one display per team is allowed. Both teams, as well as the individual display pilots operating under the relevant AOC's, are reliant on sponsorship.
The sponsors obviously want their message to be seen by as many people as possible. Up to now, the Flying Lions sponsored by Puma Energy has had a presence at smaller legal events and on Saturday, they again thrilled the legal appreciative crowd.
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EAA SUN N FUN ADVENTURE RALLY
by Rob Jonkers (photos by Martin Meyer & Rob Jonkers)
EAA Brits Sun n Fun 2021 Adventure Rally