My Journey with Aviation

By Dave Lister

16.09.2022



My dad joined the RAF during WW 2 and was sent to South Africa for training at 41 Air School. Unfortunately, it did not work out due to his eyesight and he returned to England where he went to work for Handley Page, as a draughtsman doing drawings for the Lancaster bomber. After the war my parents and I immigrated to South Africa, my dad having fond memories of the country.


Photo by Willie Bodenstein

As I grew up, I played around with kites and control line model aircraft. My first flight at the age of 15 was when I joined dad, who was employed by the Shell Oil Company and Jerry, a contractor who worked for him and also owned an aircraft. Dad's area covered the whole of the Transvaal and it was on one of these return flights, that dad let me sit up front. Soon after take-off and attainting level flight Jerry asked if I would like to fly. I immediately said "sure". He said to watch my heading and height, which I did without even looking out the side window, I was concentrating so hard. After landing at Baragwaneth (now Nasrec) we were having refreshments when Jerry turned to me and said "you only lost 100 feet in a distance of 120 nautical miles". That was the 'spark' which led me, in later years, to start flying.


Photo by Willie Bodenstein

It was to be another 14 years before that happened due to further education, securing a job, going overseas and on return getting a position with a company car, that I had the finances to get my Pilots License.


Photo by Willie Bodenstein

I trained at Lanseria starting on the 20th March 1977, with Tom Green, an Irish speaking instructor. Tom got irritated with me at times but one day while doing circuit's he suddenly took over and taxied to the terminal building and I thought 'what now'! He did not switch off but called the tower and told them "the student is going solo". I was not ready for this and protested but Tom got out of the cockpit and before he slammed the door, gave me the best piece of advice I have ever had - "watch your height and speed". I did my solo and on checking my logbook, only had 7.6 hours. It was sometime later after I got my license that Tom said "You knew how to fly" and that is what annoyed him. On the 2nd August 1977, I did my flight test with B.C. Monthe, 40.3 hours in the logbook and soon after did my night rating.


Photo by Roy Watson

After a while I got involved in a syndicate with 4 other pilots and we purchased ZS - FUJ a Cessna 172. I did over 200 hrs in this aircraft flying to different work sites around the country. I did a C 210 conversion which made flying into the strips a bit safer. Little did I know I was becoming a bush pilot due to the locations and the tight landing conditions at these private airstrips. We had a few close calls but I also knew the POH very well.


Photo by Roy Watson

To date I have over 2500 hours on 20+ types - Mainly on the Grob G 109, Long Ez, Cessna, Bonanza and Piper aircraft including a twin rating.

In 1983 while at the Margate Convention I saw the Grob G 109 Motor Glider flown by Woody Woods and found out it was for sale. I went about forming a syndicate with Max Chase, an American and Boaz Gosher - he had been in our previous syndicate. We took ownership on 1st July 1983. Max and I did a lot of flying together around the country. I then realised this was the aircraft I wanted for myself and through time bought out the other partners.


Photo by Roy Watson

In 1990 I moved from FAGC to FAKR to put up my own hangar to house the Grob following the redevelopment of Grand Central airfield.

It was in 1993 I heard that Dave Lyall was selling his Long Ez. I had seen his project while he was building it and was fascinated by its different features. We settled on a figure and I asked Jeff Birch to fly it up from Durban. Jeff did my conversion at FAGC and when he was satisfied, I took her to FAKR.


Photo by Russel Dixon-Paver

Why the interest and enjoyment of the 2 aircraft above. Quite simple, it was the different characteristics of each.

The Grob is a more relaxed type of aircraft and is my go-to machine if I have not flown for a while. I suppose this is natural considering the nearly 1300 hrs flying her. It is a long winged, under powered tail dragger which can also fly along happily with the engine shut down, in the right thermal conditions. The dive brakes give great control during the decent and landing. She does become a handful if the cross-winds are above 11 Knots but you learn to manage as best as you can.


Photo by Russel Dixon-Paver

The Long Ez is a get up and go type of aircraft and things happen at a quicker pace, be it cross-country or in the circuit but this adds to the pleasure of flying the two different aircraft. She is very sensitive and twitchy and a hands-on all the time machine but without doubt after each flight I think to myself, that was exciting. With 400 hrs and plenty of landings you still need to be ready for the go-around at short notice due to FAKR's marginal runway.

I have made many flights with all the different aircraft I have flown but there was one memorable one that stands out. Hermann, my co-pilot and I were on a 9 day cross-country flight in the Grob to the Cape and one of the stops was two nights at Plettenburg Bay. We decided to have a low level look at our surrounds which took us up to the Tsitsikamma Forests, inland to the base of the Outeniqua Mountains then westwards towards George and over the pine forests and the different lakes in the area. We got a call from a helicopter saying he could see us down 'there' and he was no higher than 300 ft. At Wilderness we flew over the beach and headed up the coast towards Knysna and onto Plettenburg Bay. The flight took 2.5 hours on a perfect windless day with sightings of female whales with their calves and also dolphins in the same area.


Photo by Russel Dixon-Paver

If we talk about a not so pleasant flight, there have been a few but one stands out from the rest. It was my mother's 60th Birthday and she was having the ladies around for tea at the retirement village where my folks stayed in Pinetown. It was a cloudless day and I suggested to my dad we fly the Grob up to the Ladysmith Airshow. It was on the way back when I noticed some cloud on the horizon near the coast. I was not concerned as we were only going as far as Oribi Airport at Pietermaritzburg. We went under the fairly high cloud at Howick but then found ourselves getting lower and lower to keep out of it. I then realised that due to the dropping temperature the cloud was forming around us so I decided to land the Grob as soon as possible. The only place I could see for the landing, due to the forests in that area, was the Durban/Johannesburg Highway. Everything was set up for the landing, traffic gap, over a slow moving truckÖ but then I saw the power lines and ducked under them only to hit the road behind the truck. At that moment I thought how bad it is going to be at this speed hitting the truck. Next thing we found ourselves back in the air as the spring undercarriage shot us up over the truck and we landed on the road ahead of it - aircraft damaged but dad and I unharmed!!! The help we received from so many people was unbelievable. The Howick Gliding Club offered a recovery trailer, I was able to get to a phone (no cell phones 1987) to contact Peter How to ask how we take the wings off but they were already removed by the time I returned from Howick by the guys from the club. The NPA police - real people who helped with the traffic as the Highway was blocked for a while. We finally arrived home at 9.30 pm - a bit late to take my mother for her birthday dinner but very happy we were safe!!!

I have been a member at Krugersdorp Flying Club for 32 years so the 08/26 runways are very familiar to me; you get to know when to do the overshoot - especially in the Long Ez (not too often).

The first time I went to Oshkosh was in 1983 - 3 weeks after acquiring the Grob. Four of us, Rod Meyer, Hein Venter and Bill Holden hired a mobile camper for Oshkosh. We then toured around the USA for the next 3 weeks. I have been to Oshkosh 7 times, the last in 2019. There is so much to see and do in the week but by far the best memory of the event is the night airshow. The twilight start by the different aircraft and their coloured lights to the Jet truck racing aircraft down the runway and finally the fireworks display, a fantastic finale, only the Americans can put on such a show. I will return again - hopefully quite a few times!!


Photo by Russel Dixon-Paver

I have enjoyed my flying through the last 45 years and meeting fellow pilots from all walks of life. I hope to continue for a while longer together with my other passion - sailing yachts both inland and offshore. One needs wind the other not; at times you get it right!!







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