The sleepy town on Nylstroom (Modimolle) was shaken awake last weekend when the general aviation community of South Africa once again descended on the town for the tenth and unfortunately the last Taildraggers fly-in that will be held at the Nylstroom Airfield. As from next year the event will be moving to Warmbaths (Bela-Bala) just to the south. The Nicholson family have successfully hosted the legendary taildraggers fly-in since its inception ten years ago, but due to the risk of an aircraft colliding with a pedestrian crossing the runway form the township skirting the field, Richard has decided to move his operation to Warmbaths Airfield 25 km away.
Taildraggers has become a “Don’t Miss” event over the last few years with pilots flying in from all over South Africa to enjoy a weekend of flying and lots of socializing in a very relaxed atmosphere. The pilots are so eager to get there that some of them leave as soon as the sun rises on the Friday morning, this year the first pilot in was Derek Hopkins in an RV7. Derek would have much preferred to have come in his brand new RV8 , but unfortunately due to the ongoing issues at the CAA he didn’t receive his ATF in time to take “Mo”.
Throughout Friday there was a steady stream of aircraft arriving, even a few nose wheel aircraft, only joking everyone is welcome at taildraggers. The last pilot to arrive was David Toma and his brother George who touched down just before sundown in a beautiful Piper Pacer. As always, the mood was very festive around the fire in the courtyard behind the clubhouse.
Saturday got off to a flying start with Richard Jnr taking over where his father left off as the early bird he was later joined by aerobatics pilots Jason Beamish and Kayle Wooll, Jason was in in new Extra 330Lx and Kayle in an Extra 300L they treated everyone that braved the early morning cold to a stunning formation flypast.
As the morning warmed up more and more aircraft arrived reaching a peak of what I estimate to be no less than 150, keeping the team of ATC’s very busy. After the pilots and pax registered they were treated to a “full house” breakfast for only R50 and as an added bonus the wors was braaied by none other than the ex-Springbok lock Bakkies Botha.
The comradery experienced at Taildraggers is a welcome change from all the negativity people have to deal with on a daily basis in the “real world”, it almost seems as if all everyone that attends leaves all their worries in the hangar before take-off and just has a good time. Though out the day aircraft went out and came back taking new and old friends for flips.
At about midday the flipping stopped for a while as Scully Levine and Arnie Meneghelli, joined the fun with a quick visit and display in a two of the Puma Energy Flying Lions. Its always a treat to see these guys fly these magnificent aircraft.
The safety team consisting of Nigel Musgrave (safety officer) Roanda Steyn, Sean England and Marelise Scheepers (ATC’s) Richard jnr Nicholson, Phillip Nicholson, Andrew Isherwood and Keaton Howe (Marshals) did an amazing job of keeping the almost 300 movement’s flowing smoothly and incident free . Their biggest headache was keeping the residents from the township off the runway, a guard was posted with a dog to assist with this.
The guys from Skeerpoort Versprieders were on hand with a stock of Puma Energy Avgas to keep all the thirsty aircraft sustained, Stihl Limpopo took care of all the Mogas needs, they both spent the day driving up and down the line of parked aircraft stopping and filling up anyone who needed fuel.
As the shadows started to get longer many of the visitors made their way back to their respective home bases, but for the guys and girls who stayed a very special sequence of formation flypast were flown in very diverse aircraft. One formation led by Richard Jnr in a Bushbaby Safari flanked by Ivan van der Schaar in his Stearman and Greg Clegg in a Jodel D11, Derek Hopkins sloted in the box in the RV7, they were joined by Kayle and Jason in the duo of Extras, that is definitely not seen every day.
By the time everyone had landed and put their aircraft to bed the fires were lit and it was time to relax with a beverage or three. The barmen decided to create a drink to celebrate the greatest fly-in in South Africa and they aptly named it “The Taildragger”, I have no idea what was in it but I can say it was delicious.
As is the custom at Taildraggers prizes are awarded to pilots in different categories, the first prize to be awarded was for the first pilot to touch down this honour went to Derek Hopkins. The first Lady pilot in was Marie Reddy in her Ikarus C-42 but she was unfortunately no longer there as she just flew in for the day, her prize and certificate will be forwarded to her.
Hans de Beer in his RV8 was adjudge the most active pilot for the weekend, Hans spent more time in the air than on terra firma. ZU-KEA, Hans’ RV8 is a very familiar sight at most of the fly-ins around the inland regions.
The most effort made to join Taildraggers was put in by DR Mike Brown who came all the way from Cape Town to Johannesburg on a commercial flight and then hitched a lift with Eugene Couzyn in his Alouette II. He narrowly beat Kayle Wooll who planned his vacation to be able to attend the fly-in. Kayle is a Co-pilot at Cathay Pacific and stays in Hong Kong, he flew in with an Extra 300 from The Coves.
Sean Cronin who very recently started flying a taildragger was the lowest taildragger hour pilot, Sean did thirteen landings on his way from Silver Creek to FANY flying with Wayne Giles in his Bearhawk LSA.
The “Happy Flying” prize was awarded to Ryan Beckley; Ryan left no doubt to anyone that he was haveing a great time flying his Stunning Piper Cub. Felix Gosher, although he didn’t fly-in was awarded the “ Flying Camper” probably because he spent the night on camping on top of a vehicle
Fanie Bezuidenhout flew in with the oldest homebuilt aircraft, his Condor was originally built in 1971, Fanie renovated it a few years ago. The oldest taildragger present was the Tigermoth belonging to the Watsons from Krugersdorp.
Greg Clegg one of the younger pilots who just recently passed his CPL was judged to have displayed the best airmanship over the weekend, Greg flew to FANY in Karl Jensen’s Cessna 170 but spent most of his time flying around in his Jodel D11 and also flew ZU-POP to the Coves and Back during the weekend.
Awards for Superb Marshalling Best ATC and Outstanding Safety Officer were awarded to the entire safety team for their selfless efforts in keeping the event safe, flowing and above all incident free.
The Early bird prize for the first pilot to get airborne on the Saturday morning was awarded to Richard Nicholson Jnr. The Captain Kangaroo prize went to Donavan Kemp for his five landings of one approach in his beautiful Cessna
Airshow pilot extraordinaire Jason Beamish won a lucky draw for a flip in the Bushbaby Safari with Richard Jnr, Jason had taken Richard for a flip of a lifetime in his Extra 330LX earlier in the day so it was fitting that he repaid his kindness.
Jannie du Plessis and Sydney Wells were awarded certificates for their live entertainment and MC work
The National Chriman awarded the Nichols with a host of accolades for in recognition of their contribution towards the development of Aviation in South Africa
Thanks went to EAA for the Financial contribution & Support they offered, ATC’s , Media and the Nylstroom Vliegklub Members. Warmbad Vliegklub manned the very busy food stalls, which were way busier than expected. Waterberg Toyota were kind enough to make a vehicle available to ferry the visitors to and from the various guest houses where they stayed overnight. Comet Aviation donated many of the prizes that were given out and PSG made a sizable financial contribution towards the hosting of Taildraggers. Helen Benadé for all her work in organising accommodation for the pilots at local B&B’s as well as rustling up a sponsor for the salads. Last but by no means last the Puma Energy for their support and entertaining the crowd with their display in the Harvard’s.
We would like to thank the Nicholson family for all the hard work they put in before not only these taildraggers but all the previous ones as well. Looking forward to seeing you guys again in Warbaths next year.