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Nylstroom Vliegklub Taildragers Fly-in – Nine Years and Going Strong

Nylstroom Vliegklub this year hosted the ninth Taildraggers fly-in at the Modimolle Municipal Airfield just outside the small Limpopo town formerly known as Nylstroom. Richard and Mariette Nicholson with their children Tayla-kae’, Richie and Phillip assisted by the wonderful team at Nylstroom Vliegklub manage to pull off a great event year after year.

Nylstroom Airfield

Everyone was watching the weather as the Cape was being battered by yet another cold front and the weather was bound to hit the Northern parts of the country sometime over the weekend.

On Friday morning the weather looked wonderful and the taildraggers faithful started arriving from early in the morning, the procession was led by well-known aviation character Derek “Pops” Hopkins joined by Gary Whitecross in a RV 7 aptly registered ZU-POP. Aircraft continued to arrive throughout the day and some a wee bit later than what was comfortable.


The bonfire was lit and the soup and vetkoek laid out at the clubhouse and a night of aviation comradery, light banter and good times continued into the wee hours of the morning. Many an old friendship was renewed and new ones forged around the wonderfully warm bonfire.

Saturday morning saw an early start for some of the younger members of the community, Greg Clegg, David Toma and Richard Nicholson Jnr got airborne at sunrise. Greg and David are becoming known as the dawn patrol by all the fly-in faithful’s around the country as they are invariably the first aircraft in the air every morning.

Richard Nicholson Jnr

Greg Clegg and David Toma

The day got off to a relatively slow start but as soon as the mist cleared in Gauteng there was a continuous stream of aircraft making their way to Nylstroom. Unfortunately the weather didn’t clear up well enough for some and as a result many pilots decided to stay on the ground at their respective home bases rather than risk flying in the adverse conditions, another hindrance for some was the predicted bad weather on Sunday which would make the home journey a bit risky.

Working on Fire have now placed a team at Nylstroom during the fire season months and may also be moving all their airborne assets to the airfield, they are currently based at nearby Bela-bela but the runway there is in a terrible condition and in serious need of a resurface.

Working on Fire

Comet Aviation and Castrol set up stalls to keep the aviators informed on their innovations, Comet Aviation always support Taildraggers and this year sponsored many of the prizes that were awarded at the braai on Saturday night. Comet brought out Andreas Bangerl a Rotax aircraft engine executive all the way from Austria to join the fly-in it was his second visit to South Africa and by far the most memorable.

Comet Aviation


Skeerpoort Verprieders were once again on-point to take care of all the fuel needs of all the pilots and at a very good price too, Skeerpoort Verprieders are becoming a regular sight at all major aviation events throughout Southern Africa.

Skeerpoort Verprieders

Nigel Musgrave was once again the Safety Officer for the incident free event he was assisted by the two Air Traffic Controllers, Roanda Steyn and Sean England came all the way from King Shaka International Airport in KZN to keep things running smoothly. Richard jnr and Phillip Nicholson were joined by Richards’s fellow members of the Pretoria Boys High School’s Aeronautical Society, Andrew Isherwood and Keaton Howe to take up marshalling duty.

Nigel Musgrave, Roanda Steyn and Sean England

The only incident reported the entire day was a damaged tailwheel on Archie Kemps Cessna 195, Archie unfortunately found a pothole in the grass as he was turning his stunning C195 fortunately the damage isn’t too serious and the plane will be repaired as soon as possible.

Archie Kemps Cessna 195

After a fun filled day of flying and interaction with like-minded people the emphasis moved from the Flightline to the clubhouse and the warmth of the massive bonfire. Braai packs were on sale accompanied by all the trimmings and of course the bar was open for purely “medicinal” reasons the cold had to be chased away somehow.

Comet Aviation team

Richard and Mariette Nicholson awarded prizes to many of the participants for a range of achievements throughout the weekend. Best Airmanship award went to Pieter de Klerk (ZU-PDK) Peter is based in Petit and joined in his Bathawk he was awarded a handheld radio, sponsored by Comet Aviation.

Pieter de Klerk

The prize for the First in and touchdown went to Derek Hopkins and Gary Whitecross who made their way early on Friday in ZU-POP a recently completed RV7.

Derek Hopkins and Gary Whitecross

The First Lady Pilot to arrive Nicolene de Beer in a Bushbaby Safari ZU-IJH, Nicolene is from Petit and is an instructor at Kitplanes for Africa the manufacturer of the Bushbaby range of aircraft.

Nicolene de Beer and her somewhat young co-pilot

Superb Marshalling award was awarded to Richard jnr. and Phillip Nicholson along with Andrew Isherwood and Keaton Howe for their tireless effort of the apron throughout the weekend , this was no small task as over 170 movements were reported on Saturday alone.

Richard jnr. and Phillip Nicholson, Andrew Isherwood and Keaton Howe

The most active pilot award was shared by Ivan van der Schaar and Derek Hopkins as they both spent the entire day taking people for flips, Ivan was flying in his stunning Boeing Stearman (Schaarman) ZU-IES and Derek in the RV7 ZU-POP.

Ivan van der Schaar and Derek Hopkins

Ivan was also adjudged the pilot that went through the most effort to be there, he had to do countless trips between the East and West Rand as his aircraft was in for its annual MPI in Krugersdorp. For his trouble he received a weekend getaway at Ekuthuleni Holiday Resort, sponsored by Willie van der Walt.

Ivan van der Schaar

The 1968 Jodel D11 ZS-UEK of Gerg Clegg was awarded the prize for the Oldest Homebuilt, Greg had even more reason to celebrate as he had also completed his last CPL subject the day before.

Gerg Clegg

The prize for the Oldest Taildragger went to Ivan van der Schaar’s 1941 Boeing Stearman , Ivan and his wife Sonica rebuilt this machine over a period of three years and Ivan now has become a regular on the SA and African airshow circuit.

1941 Boeing Stearman

Outstanding Safety Officer award was presented to Nigel Musgrave who has served at all nine annual Nylstroom Taildraggers Fly-in’s without any incidents. Nigel mentioned that he was impressed by the overall good airmanship by all the pilots.

Nigel Musgrave

The “Happy Flying” award went to Kobus Visser in ZU-FSE and Dawie Botha in ZU-IHE both Busbaby Safaris, Kobus and Dawie performed a well-executed formation fly-by and break.

Kobus Visser and Dawie Botha

Roanda Steyn and Sean England were thanked for their service in the tower they did a sterling job making sure the one hundred and twenty odd aircraft were safely controlled, there was quiet a performance range between the fifty-six different aircraft types present. Roanda and Sean also nominated Karl Jensen as the most pleasant Radio Voice at the event.

Sean England and Roanda Steyn

Richard also thanked The EAA for a substantia Financial contribution towards the event, Nylstroom Flying Club members for their tireless efforts to make this the success it was, Waterberg Toyota for providing the shuttle service for pilots and pax to and from the many guest houses in and around Nylstroom, Comet Aviation for sponsoring some great prizes and last but not least the “Next Generation Members” Tayla-Kaé, Richard jnr and Phillip Nicholson who spent many long hours alongside their parents preparing for the Taildraggers Fly-in.

The Nicholsons

After the tragedy that befell the aviation community on the return from the EAA Vryheid convention it was decided to start a WhatsApp reporting group, all participating pilots were encouraged to join the group and make use of the live tracking option on their smart phones. The whole process was carefully monitored by Santjie White “the guardian angel of aviators in South Africa”. Santjie kept everyone up to date with the weather movements and this information proved of great assistance to the two pilots from the Lowveld, Peter Lea and Etienne Oosthuizen as they were diverted via Mariepskop to the North to miss low cloud on the escarpment. Thank you Santjie you are a true angel.

Peter Lea's route to and from Nylstroom

Until next year be safe and thank you for a great weekend of aviation fun. Richard and Mariette thank you and we can’t wait for the Big NO 10.

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