EAA Stalwart Archie Kemp celebrates his 80th Birthday

By Willie Bodenstein

On Saturday 14 May, Archie Kemp and close to 100 friends and family celebrated his 80th birthday at Petit airfield on the East Rand.

There are not that many people that can claim that they had their own private display by the masters of formation aerobatics, the Puma Energy Flying Lions on their birthday. Archie Kemp can. It was a lovely highveld autumn day when the Harvards appeared for their signature flat show.

Marie Reddy, Archie and Ronell Myburg

A group photo of some of the guests in a group photo with BWF in the background

Archie's pride and joy a Cessna 195 ZS-Cessna registered ZS-BFW. The 195 had her first flight first flight in 1945 and was introduced into service in 1947

Archie, back in 1970, started Signco, a signage and brand marketing company in Edenvale on the East Rand which would fulfil all the industrial areas and many corporate companies' brand requirements countrywide. Through the years, the company grew as he developed relationships with his clients that lasted for many happy years. The Puma branding on the Flying Lions as well as on many of the other airshow teams, was applied by Signco.

Archie completed his apprenticeship back in 1959 and qualified in 1962. Now 52 years later, Archie is still grateful and appreciates the loyal support of his many clients and friends.

One of general aviation's icons, Archie got his PPL in 1975, having completed his flight training with Rand Flight Centre and Comair, both of which are based at Rand Airport. Having qualified on a Cessna 150 and 152, he then moved on to the more modern and more powerful 172 and 182. His next step was to get his taildragger rating while he also rebuilt and flew a Taylorcraft and Stinson Voyager.

Archie's involvement in the EAA started late in 1979 when he was invited by the late Mike Spence and Ian Harvie to an EAA meeting in Halfway House. Ian by then was already planning his move to Australia and Bob Ewing took over the position as chairman and with several of the committee members, planned the way forward for the Chapter and the EAA in South Africa. Archie served as Chapter 322's Chairman from 1983 to 1985. The chapter was then based at Grand Central Airport.

The EAA's Convention, then annually held at Margate, had on occasion more than 400 visiting aircraft and it was the highlight of the organisation's yearly events.

It was during a visit to AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin in the USA with friends Mike Spence, Bob and Dawn Ewing, Coen Swart and Claus Keuchel that Archie saw and seriously considered buying one of Cessna's legendary aircraft, the 195. Sadly, Clause was to lose his life in the Taylorcraft when returning from the EAA's Convention held at Vryheid.

Archie later found a 300hp, 1948 model and was surprised to discover that it and three others were used by Rand based Commercial Aviation Services as mail planes. He bought her in 1990, restored her and later in 1993, with Col Tony Smith, flew her to Margate. Over many years, Archie flew and shared flights in her with many at EAA events. These are some of the many memories that Archie really treasures.

It was during one of the Margate conventions with 'The General' Brian Stableford flying the 195 with Archie in the right seat that I did an air to shoot and later flew with Archie and Derek Hopkins to Bethlehem for an impromptu breakfast. To me, this was both dreams come true.

Donovan, third from left, who had organised the celebration was extremely busy during the day

Donovan, during the heydays of the Chapter 322 at Grand Central Archie's son, Donovan, at seventeen got his licence and he regularly joined his dad for Sunday fly aways or for a braai and beer at the clubhouse.

Then, as what happens to most, building a career became a priority for Donavan and for the next seventeen years, he more or less stopped flying. Today, Archie credits Donovan, a very active pilot and Chapter 322 member, for keeping BWF in top condition. I remember meeting them in Oshkosh where they were shopping for spares after the tailwheel of BWF was damaged few years ago; it got stuck in a hole during one of very popular Taildragger events during taxiing to the apron, then held at Nylstroom.

Speaking to Archie he said; "I am so grateful for all the years I had being involved in aviation through Signco working at Rand, Lanseria and other airports and for the camaraderie and friendship of all the wonderful people who have shared my passion. I am truly blessed at eighty, still able to share my passion for flying with my son and my many friends."

On behalf of Pilot's Post and myself thank you for having invited me. It was an honour to celebrate your birthday with you.
I know you had a wonderful day, Archie. May there be many more.

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