The historic town of Vryheid in Norther Kwazulu Natal was rocked awake by well over 130 visiting descended on their beautiful airfield for the Annual Experimental Aircraft Association of South Africa (EAA) Convention.
The EAA host their conventions at different airfields every year in a bid to carry the message of aviation to as many communities around the country as possible.
Friday, being a public holiday, afforded many aviators the chance to get an early start and by Friday evening the normally very quiet airfield had almost one hundred aircraft parked on its wonderful lawned parking areas. Many of them with tents already pitched under the wings.
Many of the EAA members opted to take advantage of the flight on the DC3 organised by Neil Bowden, Menno Parsons offered his Beautiful Dakota “Delaney” for this purpose. Captain Derek Hopkins along with his co-pilot Ivan van der Schaar and engineer Lex Townsend left Rand Airport with the Dak’s twenty one seats filled with EAA’ers at 10:00 and landed just over an hour later.
As always at these events many long-time friends meet up with one another and swop aviation stories as well as catch-up on happenings they may have missed since the last get together, while partaking in a bit of liquid refreshment.
Soon the fires were lit and the warm evening air was filled with the inviting smell of meat being braaied. The people of Vryheid offered a Braai “Buffet” with sosaties, lamb chops and boerewors accompanied by a very large selection of delicious salads followed by scrumptious deserts ,all this for R100-00 per person.
After dinner Horace Block interviewed General Rod Penell (Retired), Rod kept everyone entertained with his very interesting and humorous stories of his many years in the South African Airforce where he flew almost everything they had to offer from fast jets to helicopters.
Saturday brought with it the most amazing weather any aviator could ask for, Gregory Clegg and Keaton Perkins were the first to get airborne and flew around in tight formation in a Jodel D11 and Piper Colt while most of us were searching for a cup of coffee.
Gregory Clegg and Keaton Perkins
The enthusiasm amongst the younger pilots is very heart-warming and votes well for the future of the EAA in South Africa. Other early flyers included Chapter 322's "Supergirl" Marie Reddy in her Icarus ZU-EEE and long-time member Neil Terblanche in his Vans RV4.
Soon after the early birds landed the “day-visitors” started arriving from all over South Africa swelling the number of aircraft even more, unfortunately I don’t not have the final figure of visiting aircraft but I do believe it was well over 130.
The Ait Traffic Controllers were kept busy the whole day with the EAA family members coming and going the whole day, they reported over 140 movements which rivals many commercial airports around the world. The ground marshals were also kept very busy making sure all the aircraft were parked in an orderly fashion.
Rob Jonkers once again organised an Adventure Rally which is fast becoming a signature EAA event in conjunction with SAPFA. The format that EAA’ers enjoy, as a more relaxed fun kind of event mostly involving observation out of the window recognition of ground features and learning about the area being flown over. The Vryheid area is rich in history especially in the war times at the turn of the 20th century. The Vryheid club were new to this type of event and a few members took part, as well as members from other local clubs and of course a number of EAA members.
The theme for this event were following railroads and rivers, and finding a few battlefield sites. The route was mostly towards the north and west, in the mountainous areas of the region, but is also the most scenic area as well, which was one of the objectives for everybody to at least enjoy the local scenery.
While the Adventure Rally was taking place the Aircraft that were entered in the various competitions were judged, this proved to be quiet a daunting task for the judges as the aircraft were parked all along the now very long flight line.
Titanium Gyro TAG
Best All Metal Home Build
Best All Wood Aircraft
Dale de Klerk
CA-61 Mimi Ace
Best Professionally Build
Best Plans Build
Dries Janse van Vuuren
Best Scratch Build
Concours de Elegance
Best Rag and Tube
A selection of talks were held throughout the day on various aviation related subjects Johan Lock shed some light on the new AP Scheme, followed by Brad Bennetts on Upset Recovery. Later on Horace Blok gave a very informative talk on Survival Techniques in the final talk Neil de Lange informed all on RAASA and its integration back into the CAA .
The large crowd was entertained by a display of precision by Cornel Jansen van Rensburg in the Air Tractor AT802 water bombing and later by the Goodyear Eagles and Roston Dugmore with his RC aerobatics plane all the displays had people running to the flight line to get a better look.
Many Aviation related business took the opportunity to display their various products and services to the captive aviation audience that only the EAA convention can deliver.
The EAA hold their AGM at the convention every year where the Committee for the following year is chosen as well as discussing issues that may have arisen throughout the previous year. Paul Lastrucci was elected President with Sean Cronin as Vice President, Keaton Perkins was elected Secretary and Mark Clulow as Treasurer. Flightline Weekly would like to congratulate all the elected members and wish you a very successful year ahead.
After a very full day the members made their way to a beautifully prepared hangar for the Gala Dinner where the results of the Adventure Rally were made public as well as the awards for the Aircraft Judging awarded . Members were also acknowledged for outstanding performance.
A big thank you must go to all the members that went above and beyond to make this one of the most memorable conventions ever, Vryheid flying club can hold their heads high as the convention seemed to rekindle a spirt that I last experienced manty years ago in Margate when GA was in its heyday.
The weekend unfortunately ended on a very sad note, Claus Keuchel and his wonderful lady Maxim were involved in a fatal crash on their way home on Sunday, Our sincere condolences to the families, friends and the EAA family for the loss of these special people.