Nico Brandt's Seventy Birthday Celebrations

By Willie Bodenstein


On Saturday morning I drove to Tedderfield Airfield and to celebrate with almost 70 friend's the birthday as well as the 20th wedding anniversary of one of aviation's real gentleman, Nico Brandt.

Like most pilots, Nico's association with aviation started at a very young age when his father took them to Rand or Baragwaneth airports as well as to every military air show that he could. The live firing displays by the Sabres at AFB Waterkloof fuelled a passion for Warbirds that has remained with Nico to this day. He fondly remembers from the hundreds of visits to the Saxonwold war museum how his model collection grew through the last 50 years.

In those days one was still conscripted into the forces and so had very little to say where you ended up and much to his dismay, he was not chosen for the Air Force but ended up in the Armoured Corps instead and sadly, for the next twenty-three years, because of other commitments, he did not pursue his passion for flying.

Some of the visiting aircraft at Nico birthday and wedding anniversary celebrations

However, one day in November 1995 whilst driving out of a construction site in Babsfontein a Trike passed low overhead, the pilot waved and on the spur of the moment he decided to follow and soon arrived at Microland. Here he met Steve Roe who gave him his first impromptu lesson in a Windless Trike. Nico was hooked and after ten hours and fifty minutes he soloed in ZU-ARM and got his MPL soon after. Seven years later on his 50th birthday his wife treated him to a flight in ZS-ARM, a Tiger Moth and the relationship with the similar registration was to repeat itself some years later.

In February 1996 he purchased a Windlass Streak, ZU-AGW and flew 390 wonderful hours in her before developing an itch for fixed wings. Six years later in 2002 Capt. Sandy Kirpatrick took him up in Avid Flyer ZU-WSC and 4H50 minutes later sent Nico solo. Two months later he bought the Avid Flyer, ZU-BJE, from Sandy.

His passion for Warbirds and youthful attempts at building stayed with him and so did the dream to build his obsession, a Spitfire. The Loehle Corporation in America had what he was looking for, a kit built Spitfire which they called the 'Spitfire Elite'. This was a development from their 5151 Mustang and P40 Warhawk. In December 2004 he purchased the wood and fabric kit and about 25% arrived on the 9th June 2005. It took three months to build the fuselage but other than the tail feathers arriving in 2007, nothing has been forthcoming since then. Nico does not believe that their prototype has flown and they did not respond to any communications at all and the many promises that have been made for further parts have been reneged upon leaving him with an expensive aborted project gathering dust in his hangar.

Having purchased a Rotax 912S for the Spitfire project in 2005 and being required taking delivery of it in January 2008, he started looking for a project to build around the Rotax. which was now also gathering dust in a corner of his hangar. The 912 that was to power the WW II fighter replica now powers the more sedate Bushbaby Explorer. Nico bought kit number 130 in April 2008 and started work in that October. The build took about 750 hours over 14 months, much of it being built by Peter Magnus at his home in Edenvale, the rest in Nico's hangar at his farm in Alewynspoort where he painted and they assembled her. Already having two white aircraft with either blue or red trim, he decided to go for a warbird scheme and painted the Bushbaby a drab olive green. There were many revisits to the instrument panel which he tried to keep as similar to the Maule's as possible, the switches and fuses are in the same sequence as is the Gps, transponder and radio which are centrally placed under the compass.

On the 9 September 2009 Mike Cathro took Nico's newest acquisition a Maule M6 ZU-LLV up for her maiden flight and Nico did his first conversion flight with him on the 22nd September once his test flight snags had been sorted out and finished his conversion with Mark Gregson a few flying hours later.

Photo Karl Jensen

The Avid, Bushbaby and Maule all were sold and went to good homes. Nico in the meantime acquired ZU-IJD, a Kitplanes for Africa Safari in which he is a regular at fly ins.

Many happy returns and many safe landings and pleasant flights. Nico. Here's hoping that we will celebrate your 80th in similar style!

Aviation Personalities

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