In 2022 the EAA held its convention as part of the Aeroclub's Airweek at Middelburg. This year It was originally planned for it to be hosted by Vryheid in KZN but this unfortunately fell by the wayside. By then Middelburg had already hosted the Aeroclubs 2023 Airweek, SAAMA's National Championships as well as the iconic Presidents Trophy air race held only two weeks ago.
In a quandary Middelburg was approached and they came to the rescue. I had a friend who used to say, "I would go to war with him or her," when talking about someone he could trust and really rely on." I would definitely go to war with the wonderful people of Middelburg! They and all the loyal hardworking and dedicated EAA members pulled out all the stops to make the 2023 a really memorable convention.
This year, unlike in the past I opted to only arrive on Saturday morning. The weather driving from Jhb was perfect. Arriving at the field it approximately 0830 it was a hustle and bustle. The ATNS tower manned by Benji Phukubje and Gugu Madikwe had opened at 0700. They recorded 42 movements on Friday and 236 on Saturday.
Safety Director Mike Visagie with the MAC team of experienced marshals consigning off Chairman of the MAC Jock Nel, Greg Mac Murray, Almero Calitz, Kobus Peens and Wayne van Rooyen had their hands full with the arrivals.
Those aircraft that were entered into the judging were allocated a separate section where Pierre van der Walt and his team of assistant judges scrutinized each entrant.
The winners of the different categories were announced by EAA National President Paul Lastrucci later that evening during the awards dinner, a rather lavish affair attended by 120. For me and I think for a lot of others, the good news was that no formal dress was required to attend the awards ceremony. Come as you are comfortable, as long as you are dressed. That did not distract from the stunning layout of the venue and the quality of the meal.
John Illsley Best Antique Aeronca C1…………… Peter How Best Metal Thatcher CX 4
Wolter de Graaf Best Composite Rutab Long Eeze…..Fanie Bezuidenhout Runner up Best Wood and Fabric Jodel D12
Dale de Klerk Best Wood and Fabric Cvjetkovic CAG1.........Oliver Dry Runner Up Best Rag and Tube Bushbaby
Kevin Hopper Best Rag and Tube Orion Cub………….Duncan Ritchie Best Warbird de Havilland Chipmunk
Johan Lok Runner Up Best Warbird Atlas Bosbok………..Christo Erasmus Runner Up Best Classic Aircraft
Brian Appleton Best Classic Auster 12 Arrow……………Pete How Concourse D' Elegance Thatcher CX 4
Gerald Maddams Special Posthumous Award for Dedication and Passion to the EAA and Aviation
A new item on the program was the STOL Invitational. Five entries were recieved. All were flying in South African designed and build aircraft. The briefing for this first of a kind event was chaired by Dale de Klerk. The winner was Thomas Marrow in a proudly South African KFA Explorer who achieved the best overall average. Regard Coetzee in another KFA Explorer took the prize for the shortest landing.
A shorth 20km long ANR organised by Tarryn Myburgh drew seven entries. The winners were Chris and Richard Baker followed by Lauric Hilhorst and Nathan Olver with Deon Coetzee and Linden Knoetze in third.
The 10th of June being designated as International Young Eagles Day is a covered in a separate report.
The CAA's Neil de Lange (Left) presented a regulatory uodate while Captain Karl Jensen did a review on his Oshkosh vistit last year as well as a very interesting talk on the Bateleurs. Karl had also kept the visitors entretained with stories and info on some of the visiting aircraft at the Convention and more.
The other workshops held in the briefing room of Richardt's and Irene Lovetts hanger were; Aviation Direct Easy Cockpit workshop by Andrea Antell and the Orion Cub by Kevin Hopper.
This year the campsite was moved to the back of the main hangar as opposed to the airside area. This area was used for those aircraft that was on static display. A central communal tent was positioned close to the campsite for, members to relax among aircraft and socialise, chat and eat.
For ones all those wonderful ladies who came along were not forgotten and for those of them that did not necessarily want to be talking aircraft all day, a social lounge area was set aside in Jock's hangar where they could relax.
Daylight was running out and the KFA guys decided to treat us to a dusk flypast before we all retired to cosy inside of the Richardt's and Irene Lovetts hangar for the awards dinner.
An estimated 65 to 70 aircraft visited while 120 registered for the awards dinner. The numbers may have been down and one can probably ascribe that the state of the economy. However, the following posting on WhatsApp I think, sums it up nicely.
So that was my first proper EAA event and I just want to say a massive thank you to everybody involved in organising it and making it run so smoothly. I expected chaos and was confronted with an operation run with the precision of a carrier flight deck. There were so many little things that I would never have thought of that the ladies in particular just nailed and which made the weekend what it was.
I also want to say a really big thanks to all the "senior" members who made the effort to reach out and socialise with me as a new, younger member. It seems my ornithoscelidaphobia was entirely unfounded. -Dan Ralefeta
For those of you who chose not make the effort or could not make the 2023 Convention at Middelburg, all I can say is you missed a wonderful Convention. The effort of the Convention Organising committee deserves every accolade for the success of a memorable event. It could never have taken place so successfully with the amazing input of Marie Reddy - what a star and a caring person who cannot be ruffled or faulted - not that we would wish to do so. Marie's attention to detail and dedication to make the event so memorable would be difficult to surpass. Big thanks Marie and all who helped and participated! - Karl Jensen