By John Illsley


Worcester airfield nestles in flat valley floor of a section of the Cape fold mountains on the outskirts of the town. The beautiful setting is perhaps second only to Stellenbosch in terms of the mountainous backdrop. It is home to two clubs, the Worcester Flying Club and the Cape Gliding Club. These combined interests mean that the airfield houses a substantial collection of powered and sailplane types, making it one of the biggest concentrations of aircraft in the Western Cape and the facility has dozens of hangars and glider storage sheds. Two runways are in use: a tarred one of over a kilometer and a shorter gravel cross runway. Avgas is available on site and there is a neat clubhouse with a grassed area facing the apron. The size of the airfield makes it the ideal venue for a large fly in event.

The organizers of the fly in held on Saturday 9th March went to much effort in setting up live entertainment, catering, a wine farm sponsor, and a variety of prizes for attendees. The weather was perfect for the event: clear skies and not a breath of air, conditions which held for the entire morning. All in all, it was an event that deserved to be well supported by pilots from the Cape peninsula and elsewhere. Around fifteen aircraft flew across the mountains from the vicinity of Cape Town and although the WFC organizers had hoped for many more, they philosophically accepted that it was a starting point for future events. It is to be hoped that this does become a regular event on the Cape aviation calendar and that it gains support.

The organizers of the Worcester Flying Club event await the arrival of the first visitors to their fly in event. A big airfield, long runway, fuel available and plenty to eat and drink. All that is needed are visitors.

A Magni autogiro, resident of the host airfield, tested the morning air with a few circuits of the valley.

Jabiru ZU-CIT won the spot landing competition. In the absence of even a light breeze, conditions were perfect for pilots to display their landing skills.

It was a good day for the Jabiru pilots with all three of the visiting Jabirus winning top places in the spot landing competition. Obviously these Australian designed and locally assembled light aircraft are being flown with aplomb by their owners.

An Atlas Bosbok was the only warbird type to attend the event. It carries one of the authentic colour schemes used when it was flying with 42 Squadron of the SAAF. Several remain in private hands today for those who can afford the substantial running costs. Like the larger Kudu, it has the nickname of the “Convertor” because it's six-cylinder engine effectively converts Avgas into noise! When this Bosbok overshot and flew a wide downwind leg, the sound was very audible from the opposite side of the valley.

A Cubby II was one of several locally manufactured light aircraft that were represented at the fly in. This type is built not too far from Worcester on the outskirts of Barrydale.

This Bede 4 C was very in evidence during the morning flying circuits at the airfield. It is an American homebuilt design of all-metal construction.

This Savannah made the slowest approach of any attendee. With flaperons fully extended it looked certain to win the spot landing competition, but that was not too be. This is another locally produced type, emanating from a company just outside of East London.

The Pipistrel Virus with its distinctive T-tail design aims for the numbers on short finals.

Representing another South African success story in aircraft manufacturing was this Sling 4, ZU-IJS. The company, based at Tedderfield outside Johannesburg, has sold significant quantities of its products in Africa and overseas and is now pursuing a high wing design.

This KFA Safari shows not only why it is an excellent STOL aircraft but also why those outsize wheels allow it be landed on the roughest of strips. This was one of the only fixed wing visitor to turn off at the first taxiway exit and was then quite at home on the gravel.

The complete dearth of aircraft that would be regarded as truly vintage or classic types was born out by the fact that this Piper PA24 Commanche was awarded the prize for the “best vintage aircraft”. This was merited on the basis of its relative age, but is a shame that there were no other classics in evidence. With wheels retracted, it remains a very clean design decades after it was built.

There were no glider launches going on during the morning, presumably to accommodate the fly in. This Tandem Falke motor glider was the closest to a glider that flew during the event.

This Sikorksy 300 was the only helicopter to attend the fly in. It is one of the less common swing wing types in this country despite variants having been in production by several companies for over fifty years, most recently by Schweizer.

No fly in these days would be complete without a few Vans RVs in attendance. This RV7, registered as ZU-WAB, was the first to arrive at the event. Most of these aircraft owe their construction to Robin Coss in Cape Town, with others having been built by homebuilders from kits.

This smart Bearhawk won the prize for the best homebuilt at the event. It is based at Worcester.

On final approach, with the mountains as a dramatic backdrop, a smart Piper Arrow III was one of the few production aircraft that attended.

An RV7, registered as ZU-ADB, is one of those assembled by Robin Coss in Cape Town and was one of the Van's types attending.

An RV14 ZU-IKE joining the circuit overhead the field, sporting avian shaped markings under the wings.

A Rans S21 was another homebuilt participant. This American design was first unveiled in 2016 and can be built from a kit.

Kitplanes for Africa

A Rainbow Cheetah made the journey to Worcester for the event, product of a local microlight manufacturer.

Representing the gyrocopter community was this Magni which ventured across the mountains. It might have had an unfair advantage in the landing competition, but the fixed wings still did better.

The visiting aircraft represented a pleasing cross section of sport aircraft, but the organizers had hoped for a far bigger turnout.

The airfield is home to several homebuilt designs that are unique in South Africa and the event could have seen some of these pulled out on to the flightline for visitors to view. I was hoping that Tipsy Nipper might be among them. Sadly, most hangars remained locked and only a few resident aircraft were to be seen.

The neat hanger “hangout” know as Bertie's Landing houses a Kifox and a Magni autogiro. No doubt a “home from home” for its owners, it has a great view of the runway.

This RV9 complete with Snoopy decal, was one of the few Worcester-based planes to venture out.

The Cessna 150 and 152 was once the mainstay of flying schools and clubs across the country. Attrition and the advent of more economical types has now made these fine little planes something of a rarity. This one is a Worcester resident.

Worcester airfield is also home to the Cape Gliding Club, one of the oldest and largest in South Africa. Some members have small chalets on the airfield to allow them to spend extended periods on the airfield while they pursue their gentle form of flying over a weekend or longer. Many of the hangars at Worcester are crammed with gliders ranging from older tubular steel and wood designs to more modern composite sailplanes.

This wonderful old corrugated iron building, one of the oldest on the airfield, is home to an assortment of gliders belonging to Cape Gliding Club members.

Live musical entertainment was provided by the orchestra of Hoërskool Belville which played a variety of very pleasant medleys during the morning. Afterwards they were rewarded with the opportunity to view the visiting aircraft up close.

The miniature side of aviation was represented by the Winelands RC club with some of their models.

The visiting Pipistrel Viris taxis out for departure. These Slovenian composite aircraft are now also available with an electric motor driven from two batteries. One flying school in the Eastern Cape has already started using these for training purposes.

Visiting aircraft start to depart Worcester, in this case an RV7. The windless conditions are very evident here: The sock is dead, long live the sock”!

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