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The first Taildraggers at Bela Bela, after the closure because of illegal land invasions at Nylstroom Airfield, was held at the hight of the Covid 19 pandemic in 2020. With all the restriction then in place we never thought that it would happen but Richard Nicholson, who has organised an estimated twenty-five fly inns and other aviation events made sure that it did happen and so did number twelve of the popular brand 2021.
From left to right Paul du Plooy and Peter Lea who flew in from Barberton on Friday with Derek Hopkins who was the first arrival on Friday.
Thanks to Richard Taildraggers number thirteen 2022 was back at Warmbaths and on Friday morning, 1 July 2022 at approximately 07.20 aviation legend and perineal fly in visitor Derek 'Pops' Hopkins 'officially' opened this year's Taildraggers when he landed in his Vans RV8. The temperature on the ground was a freezing 5° while at 5,000 feet it was a more comfortable 12°. More arrived as the day progressed. Nigel Musgrave, Director Safety counted 18 arrivals by day's end.
Organiser Richard Nicholson with visitors Ian Wylde and Nico Brandt.
Friday evening was chilly, especially for Warmbaths. However, the atmosphere in the clubhouse was convivial as old friends met and news friends were made. Many stories were told around the bonfires and dinner that consisted of braaipacks and Warmbath's special 'moer' soup. That and the firewater that was on tap kept the tummies full and the spirits up. A team aviation quiz sponsored by PilotInsure which proved so popular during the PTAR at Tempe, Bloemfontein kept those in the clubhouse entertained and on their toes.
I left home on Saturday morning at 06.15 and arrived at Warmbaths, 150km away, at 07.45 and was met by the smell of breakfast and coffee. After a quick cup of coffee, I was on my way to the tower, manned by Safety Director Nigel Musgrave and Marilise of the ATNS Special Events Team. Still early there were not that many aircraft there as yet. However, Nigel reported that by approximately 15.30 when it became clear that few would still make the journey, 108 arrivals had been counted. A rather respectable number considering the price of fuel.
The marshals at work during the day and the well organised parking areas.
This Vans RV3 is one of only a handful registered in SA.
Some of the many things that impressed me was the absolutely stunning condition that the field was in. The taxiways were clearly marked, the marshals extremely efficient and they obviously worked to a plan showing arrivals to their spots. There were one or two comments regarding the tar runway but then taildraggers don't really need a paved runway as most showed on Saturday by landing on the grass runway next to the tar strip not because they had too but because they can.
That said, Taildraggers is and never has been an event exclusively for tailwheel or conventional aircraft. All are welcome as was proved during the weekend by the large variety and types including a helicopter and a lone gyro.
But then let's face it Taildraggers is what it was all about and they were well represented in makes ranging from the early half of the last century to the most modern brands. The first nosewheel aircraft was only introduced in the later stages of WWII and predictions then were that will spell the end of the taildragger. Who would have thought that now, almost seventy-five years later, they are still produced in large numbers, almost solely for the general aviation market?
The success of any fly in can not just be judged by the number of visitors but more so by the comments made by visitors during or after the event. Here are some posted on social media or received by us:
Taildraggers is most definitely one of the fly-ins that can't be missed! Whilst an evening arrival back from a work trip on Friday and solo check first thing on Sunday stopped me from attending all facets of this event, adulting sure didn't stop me from thoroughly enjoying the Saturday at Warmbaths even with my initial aircraft of choice for the flight having been sold the day before! I joined my great friend Andre Burger in his beloved RV-10 ZU-MTB where as always, we left before sunrise and took a "shortcut" that took us through Loskop Dam and FAGL before arriving for the customary dawn patrol to entice everyone. David Toma.
It was a great day at Taildraggers using the Grob motor glider. ATC was very good both for joining and landing with the marshals directing you to your parking spot. Ground facilities were all very organized and in place. A big thank you to Richard and his team. It was great to chat with the other EAA members. I hope to be there next year again as this was my first time. Dave Lister.
Great event, great to spend time with family and friends! Lots of fun was had. Old memories revived and new ones made! Thanks all. Jason Beamish.
Flying into the 13th Taildraggers Event held at Warmbaths on the 2nd July 22 was a breeze. We were met with great ATC, competent ground control and a fabulous breakfast team. The airfield was spotless and Richard Nicholson and his many colleagues presented a perfect event, once again. Nico Brandt
In my life there are certain events that represent milestones during each year. Certainly, taildraggers fly in is one of them. (Actually, Tailwheel fly in would be more correct as I did not see one aircraft dragging it's tail). What I did feel is the passion we have for aviation, the enthusiasm in keeping vintage aircraft flying and the huge comradery we have between us aviators. So, this year in mid-winter, once again, we meet our friends, in the warm winter sunshine. Bella Bella airfield was in pristine condition, Nigel kept us safe and once again to Richard and his entourage a huge vote of appreciation for yet another wonderful milestone completed. Brian Appleton.
Roy Watson, Tony Smit, Brian Appleton and Courtney Watson at Brian's Chippy.
Thanks to the EAA and the team at Warmbaths for a great morning at Taildraggers. Great to see so many aircraft. Robert Clark.
Manny thanks to the team at Warmbaths. We had a wonderful morning. Rudi Erasmus and family.
We attended the Warmbaths taildragger fly in for the first time this year and what a great experience it was. ATC and ground control was friendly and efficient. We enjoyed a delicious buffet breakfast and it was good fun watching arrivals and departures of various aircraft types. I'm definitely planning on attending next year, hopefully with an aircraft without a nose wheel. Michael Skinner.
Once again Richard Nicholson and his tireless team put together a superb event!! Well done and many thanks there was NOTHING unlucky about number 13. Peter Lea.
Fantastic organisation from the Taildraggers team. There could have been more support but it is a sign of the times. Derek Hopkins.
Great turnout! Not as many as last year considering the economic situation and fuel prices. A lekker event. Nigel Musgrave.
I flew to Taildraggers with friends in my Cessna 170 on the Saturday morning - a lovely flight in beautiful weather. The day was not long enough to chat to all my friends. With a total of 108 visiting airplanes, I was somewhat disappointed at the turnout compared to previous years, this being the 13th Taildraggers Fly-in convened by Richard Nicholson. I guess the ridiculous price of avgas and the state of the economy had a bearing on the number of participants. Richard and the friendly members Warmbaths Flying Club members had gone to great lengths to ensure a successful fly-in and certainly deserved a larger turnout. To those aviators who could not make the event, sorry for you. The camaraderie and fun were as expected, of the highest order. The large wood fire in the evening circled by so many fun-loving aviators was simply terrific, and I understand continued until the wee hours with background music by Dr Frank Persson strumming a guitar and warbling away unobtrusively helping to enhance the jolly atmosphere. The Safety Officer was EAA's Nigel Musgrave who ensured that there was not a single incident with aircraft taking off and landing at regular intervals until the sun was touching the western horizon. Once again, thank you Nigel and all who took part. Karl Jensen.
Tail Draggers is and should remain an icon aviation gathering. Most enjoyable. Urge the return of some focus at the Saturday braai, like a short address or talk or presentation or prize giving. This will increase the attendance of the real social heart of this gathering. Jeff Earle.
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This is only my fourth Taildraggers since the beginning all those years ago at Nylstroom that I did not stay over and I always really do miss the camaraderie and 'kuier' after the day's activities. Unfortunately, with Sunday being our publication day work comes first.
For me one of the highlights is the chance to meet with many friends that one does not normally see at other events. From day one Taildraggers has had a special magic about it mainly because of the camping. May it continue to be so. Next year hopefully we will be there from Friday night through to Sunday morning.
Many thanks to Richard, the EAA, the sponsors and all the good people at Warmbaths.
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