Vryheid In Northern KwaZulu Natal played host to what is arguably the biggest event on the general aviation calendar every year. The Experimental aircraft association (EAA) south African convention. Vryheid was chosen for a second year as the local flying club went the extra mile last year, this year they took it to new level. arriving very early and the stream of aviators continued throughout the day. When we arrived at 11:00 there were already over forty aircraft on the perfectly manicured lawns.
The weekend started on Friday morning with the first arrivals early in the morning and by lunch time approximately fifty aircraft were already on the ground. The weather on Friday could only be described as “Perfect Flying Weather” blue skies and visibility as far as the eye could see. The afternoon got more and more festive as the EAA members arrived from all over South Africa and a few from our neighbouring states, the furthest of which was Peter Shepperd who flew his Sportsman all the way from Harare in Zimbabwe.
The Alan Turner took to the air in his hot air balloon just before sunset drifting slowly over the airfield in the absolute clam warm conditions. As soon as the balloon had cleared the airspace the “afternoon patrol” of some of the young pilots in the EAA, Keaton Perkins, Greg Clegg and Richard Nicholson Jr flew in tight formation as the light faded. If the future of the EAA is in the hands of young pilots of this calibre it is very secure.
Neil Bowden once again brought an Oshkosh feel to the weekend by supplying tents for members who wanted to camp but didn’t feel like lugging their own tents and beds. Neil set up camp on the lawn at the North-eastern side of the field.
The evening was a very social affair as we have become accustomed to at EAA events over the years, with lots of banter around the campfires and of course the liquid refreshments. Unfortunately, Hartog Blok could not make it for his eagerly awaited talk on the ill-fated flight of Pelican 16, the weather in Mossel Bay did not allow him to fly to Vryheid.
Saturday morning started of very misty and two visitors were forced to hold for up to an hour before they could land safely. The weather had cleared up completely by 10:30 and the flying commenced, anyone that has spent time at any EAA fly-in in the last few years will know that some of the young pilots get airborne at dawn, they decided to bypass the flight due to the low cloud.
Throughout the day various forums were held for anyone that took an interest, topics ranged from engine problems and prevention of engine failures to Aviation Safety.
After all the morning arrivals had landed safely it was time for the aircraft judging, the judges were kept busy most of the day due to the large number of aircraft that entered. It could have not been an easy task to judge all these magnificent aircraft.
Archie Kemp's Cessna 195 Best restoration
Cameron McKenzie’s Carbon Cub Best Rag and Tube
Mike Davis's Osprey Best wood
Kous Venter's P166 Albatross Best Warbird
as well as the most Meritorious Restoration
Brett Williams's Whisper X Best composite
Craig Mee's Vans Rv10 Grand Champion
Throughout the day participants of the adventure rally were departing and arriving (please see the report on the Adventure Rally)
In commemoration of Klaus Keuchel and his companion Maxime Fietch, who sadly lost their lives in a crash on the return from the 2018 Convention, three aircraft performed a missing man formation, a fitting send off for one of the EAA’s longest standing members.
The afternoon was taken up by the EAA Annual general meeting, where a new leadership team was chosen. Sean Cronin was voted in as the new EAA National Chairman, his enthusiasm since become a member has been infectious and we wish him all the best for the year to come.
The AGM was followed by the gala dinner and awards ceremony, where all the Adventure Rally scores were disclosed and the winners of all the aircraft judging were awarded their prizes.
Sunday morning was once again fogged in but the pilots patiently waited it out before embarking on their flights to their home bases.
Please Browse our Gallery of this Event