Jeff Richmond - Celebrating 50 Years of Flying - Ladysmith

By Brian Spurr


The two old ladies in frame!

Pilot's Post were invited to Ladysmith by Jeff Richmond on the 20th November 2021, to celebrate his 50 years of flying in the KZN town. Aviators, partners and friends were all welcome. The day's programme included morning arrivals, a light lunch and an afternoon rally. This was followed by sundowners and a party with music provided by the Vryheid based band "Black Whiskey." Food was provided and landing and parking fees were waived. The event was hosted by the Ladysmith Flying Club and supported by Rainbow Flying School, owned by Larry van der Merwe (Snr).

The main hangar and clubhouse

Taxiing out, Jeff Richmond takes Neil Hayes-Hill for a flip

ZU-ARP Bush Baby

Initially over 30 aircraft were expected to fly in, but the volatile weather at this time of year put paid to that. During the week, KZN experienced rain, storms and heavy winds and on Saturday it was forecast that there would be a 50% chance of rain. We travelled up to the event by car from Durban fully expecting that there may be no flying at all. We were pleasantly surprised to find that, although the skies were overcast, the cloud base was at 2000 feet above ground level. This meant that flying could take place. The predicted rain did not happen.

Jeff Richmond

Neil Hayes-Hill and Jeff Richmond in the Tiger Moth

Prop starting the Tiger Moth

Jeff "Colonel" Richmond started flying in Ladysmith 50 years ago at the age of 17. The nickname came from a character in the Sad Sack comic books he and his brother read as children! He has lived most of his life in Ladysmith and is a property developer/businessman. Jeff began his training in a Piper Cherokee 140. His first instructor was the late Dave "Doc" Gardner who was a well-known bomber pilot in WW2. After obtaining his licence he, went on to fly a Cherokee Six but then began hang gliding for a number of years, as fixed wing flying was expensive for him at that stage in his life.

ZU-DHE, Tiger Moth in flight, Jeff Richmond flying

ZU-DHE, Tiger Moth in flight, Jeff Richmond flying

Tiger Moth cockpit

After this, he bought a Piper Tri-Pacer and flew a number of types that included the J3 Cub, Super Cub, Cheetah (and other LSA types), Piper Twin Comanche and now the De Havilland DH-82A Tiger Moth. Jeff had looked for a Tiger Moth for some time and eventually found one in Richmond (his namesake town!) owned by Derrick Holmes of 43 Flying School (former SAAF pilot). He managed to buy the veteran aircraft and it now lives proudly at Ladysmith. It is still in immaculate condition. Jeff owns the Comanche ZS-SWE, the Tiger ZS-DHE and he has a half share in a J3 Cub (ZS-ZOE).

ZU-LZE - Samba UFM-10

ZS-DHE flypast

Tiger Moth on finals.

Fun flying took place all morning with several formation sorties that provided opportunities for air-to-air photography. The author has to thank Larry van der Merwe (Jnr) and Cornell Blok for fun photographic flights. Jeff Richmond's Tiger Moth worked very hard all morning, joining in the formations as well as giving a number of flips to his friends.

ZU-FKN - Cheetah LSA in flight

ZS-ZOE (camera ship), ZS-DHE Tiger Moth and ZU-FKN - Cheetah LSA in formation

Ladysmith Airfield hangars

After having delicious hamburgers for lunch, it was time for the precision Air Rally. The route was 83 kilometres long and went via places that included Ladysmith Motel, Tugela Falls, Colenso, Winterton, Spioenkop and St Joseph's Mission. The weather had reduced the field to 9 aircraft from the maximum amount planned of 15.

Supporters and friends

ZU-DHE, Tiger Moth kicking up dust on the grass

More supporters

The results of the rally and spot landing competition were as follows: -

Navigation Rally -
1st place - ZU-FBM Savannah; pilot Darryl Twiddy, navigator Brian Hesom
2nd place - ZU-FKN Cheetah; pilot Bertus Wheeler; navigator Thomas Fromwald
3rd place - ZU-LZE Samba UFM-10; pilot Markus de Beer; navigator Naren "Mack" Sukhnandan

Spot Landing Competition -
1st place - ZU-ARP Bushbaby; Larry van der Merwe (Snr)
2nd Prize - ZS-DHE Tiger Moth; Jeff Richmond
Third prize was not awarded as the others either overshot or undershot the designated landing zone. Worst landing award went to the Twin Comanche!

Pilots, Navigators and a few supporters

The full entry list was as follows: -

ZS-SWE Twin Comanche - Patrick and Richard O'Brien

ZS-NDO Cessna C177 - Tom Honiball and Craig Cox

ZU-LZE Samba UFM-10 - Markus de Beer and Naren 'Mack' Sukhnandan

ZU-FYA Sling 2 - Joss Joubert and Jacques Pretorius

ZU-FKN Cheetah LSA - Bertus Wheeler and Thomas Fromwald

ZS-DHE Tiger Moth - Jeff Richmond and Derek Moore

ZS-ZOE Piper J3 Cub - Larry van der Merwe (jnr) and Alicia Lafond

ZU-FBM Savannah - Darryl Twiddy and Brian Hesom

ZU-ARP Bushbaby - Larry van der Merwe (snr) and Yolandi van der Merwe

ZU-ARP Bushbaby - Larry van der Merwe (Snr) and Yolandi van der Merwe

ZS-ZOE J3 Cub kicks up dust on take-off roll

Man of the day Jeff Richmond and his admirers!

Ladysmith Flying Club has a long history. It was formed in 1968 and the instructor at the time was the aforementioned Dave Gardner. The present Ladysmith Motel was the arrival and departure lounge and it also had an observation deck.

Cornell Blok likes his Cherokee!....... Cornell Block in his Piper Cherokee 235 (ZS-EAT) with Gary Shephard (photographer)

ZS-NDO, Cessna C177 Cardinal in flight

Tony Filmer bought Tugela Air around 1965 and flew Zulu gold miners to Mokhotlong in Lesotho. Prior to Tony owning Tugela Air, they operated Dragon Rapide aircraft and Tony operated Cessnas.

ZU-FYA, Sling 2

ZU-FBM, Savannah with ZS-ZOE J3 Cub behind

At the time, Ladysmith was considered an international airport because of the cross-border flights and it had its own customs office. In the 1970s and 1980s Ladysmith boasted a parachute club. Over the years, a number of air shows have been held at Ladysmith and it has been used for regional aerobatic competitions and training.

Cornell Blok seated and Jeff Richmond have a coffee and discuss the rally

ZU-LZE - Samba UFM-10 taxies out

The club has around thirty members presently and about ten aircraft are permanently based there. The club has a main asphalt runway (11/29) that is 1200m long and 15m wide. Additionally, they use two grass strips with the LSA aircraft.

ZS-NDO, Cessna C177 Cardinal

ZS-ZOE - Piper J3 Cub - Larry van der Merwe (Jnr)

The club has great facilities and the motel right next door is convenient. There is a great deal of small-town hospitality on the field and it was a pleasure to visit them on Saturday. Long may this club spirit club last. To Jeff Richmond, congratulations on your amazing aviation milestone and thank you for holding this event. It was a special day.

Larry van der Merwe (Jnr) and his fiancť Alicia Lafond.

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