3 to 5 march 2023
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Aero Club held a very successful Airweek this year, beyond expectations, the weather at least was kind to us Aviators. It was decided to move the date to earlier in the year from our previous dates of late April, to take advantage of the last of our summer temperatures and good weather flying conditions - as per previous Airweeks that were held in Parys were at this time of year.
Participation from Exhibitors, Sponsors, Aviators, Enthusiasts, our Sections, the Club and the CAA did not disappoint, we essentially had all Sections participate in one way or another. We have been holding our Airweek at Middelburg from 2018, only missed 2020, and we have found the airfield and setting ideal to hold a large fly-in, as over the years given our experiences, improvements and additions were made to facilities - to the extent it has become an institution, and to a point where we can probably name this event as our own mini-Oshkosh.
As Middelburg is reasonably close and accessible to most of our up country Aviators, it would be great to start attracting visitors from further afield, this year we did have visitors from the Free-state (Bloemfontein & Gariep) as well as from Cape Town, and some from Kwa-Zulu Natal. From the north a large contingent from the Soutpansberg Club (Louis Trichardt) as well as Microlighters from Potgietersrus. We were graced with three International visitors, two from Wisconsin based EAA Chapter 93 Susan & Sara who hold the portfolio of Young Eagles coordinators and a Kenyan Student pilot Farrick who had heard of the event and travelled for 5 days by bus to get to Middelburg.
Setting up started from early Friday morning, with Exhibitors arriving as well as the tent city, this year with 23 rental tents to accommodate 45 visitors + other campers giving around 100 + camped out for the weekend. For Friday evening a braai was arranged and with that a discussion on what the Bateleurs were doing for the environment given by Steve McCurrach. This talk was well attended and very surprising the depth and scope of what the Bateleurs are involved with and the support provided by a wide spectrum of pilots and aircraft. Friday night saw some welcome rain which settled the dust on the secondary runway.
Saturday started out with some low cloud, which lifted by early on, which slowed down some of the planned visitors but most started arriving from 9h30 onwards. Balloons, paragliders and many microlights were out on dawn patrol taking advantage of the still air. The SAC had arranged for aerobatic demonstrations, with a number of participants taking part in various classes, the final display was Barry Eeles in his Extra 330SC ZS-XBE doing an Unlimited sequence. Jason Beamish competed in the Goodyear Pitts and was the overall winner scored by a team of judges, he had achieved a score of 80%.
The Flying Lions had in the meantime arrived with a full house of 4 Harvards, and provided one of their characteristic formation displays before returning to Rand. Arnie Meneghelli as the team's coordinator brought with him Uhambo, our Aero Club flying lion mascot, on a rekindled presence to grace our skies on an inauguration flight. Uhambo (Adventurous) was for years behind a glass case, but we are reviving his presence within our Recreational Aviation community, and he is on a new adventure to explore and promote Recreational Aviation in Southern Africa.
With such a wide range of activities and experiences available, recreational aviation in South Africa is the perfect way to take to the skies and see the world from a different perspective. It offers a unique and exciting way to experience the beauty of our country, and you are invited to let him share your piece of the sky, and so doing promoting your flight experiences, which we will share on our social media platforms. So far during Airweek, Uhambo has had a balloon flight, a glider flight and a leisurely flight back to Kittyhawk in a C182.
This year there was a large contingent of Model Flyers from SAMAA, who brought their big iron of jets and aerobatic aircraft, and proceeded to carry out various displays along the main runway. There were two gliders in attendance, only one flew ZS-GTG belonging to Mark Howse, being winch launched and proceeded to thermal overhead the field.
During the day the exhibitors were very busy with visitors to their stands, the EAA had arranged for their monthly EAA Chapter 322 meeting to take place, which was well attended and also included a show and tell given by the International guests Susan & Sara. Preceding the EAA meeting, there was a talk given by Hennie Brink on cell phone based functions of Gaggle & Safesky which is a tracking system that patches into the ADS-B network, and promoting that everybody downloads the app and activate before flight so that one can sense what aircraft are around you.
For Saturday evening a lamb spit braai was arranged, and prior to dinner, speeches and various fun awards were presented, facilitated by the inimitable Karl Jensen, as well as thank you to all those involved in making the weekend a success, in particular Jock Nel the Chairman of the MAC and Richardt & Irene Lovett whose facilities they graciously provided for the event. BAFSA's Richard Bovell prepared the Aero Club Hot Air Balloon for a night glow between the hangars, the first that was able to be done over the years as the wind was calm, it was a fitting show for the evening. After dinner, David le Roux had arranged for an Aviation quiz which had many table groups take part, which was a lot of fun figuring out the answers of general aviation knowledge.
Sunday was essentially a pack up and go home day, although there was much activity early in the morning again of balloon flights and paragliders. With the weather lifting, most of the of the campers had packed up and headed for home from around 9 am onwards. So came to an end of another great Aero Club Airweek.
And so came to an end of another year's Airweek, and we trust it will build from strength to strength in the future.
If you are not a member and wish to join the Aero Club and any of its Sections feel free to do so at www.aeroclub.co.za
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