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Aero Club of South Africa Air Week – Middelburg

By Garth Calitz Photos by Andre Venter and Reese Somerville

The Aero Club of South Africa hosted their annual Air week at the Middelburg Airfield from Friday 22 April to Sunday 24 April, sadly, this rendition was a shadow of past Air Weeks. Many factors played a part in the poor attendance, the largest negative contributor was probably the inclement weather that was forecast for the weekend. Another is the ridiculously high price of fuel, many pilots are limiting their flying and not venturing too far from their home bases, the price of Avgas has almost doubled since last year this time.

In 2021 most of the Aero Clubs' thirteen sections were represented with some sections, like the Sports Aerobatic Club (SAC) hosting an aerobatic competition display with all of the Classes being represented by one aircraft of each class. The South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) seemed to have prevented this in 2022 as they deemed that that would constitute an Airshow. No straight and Level formation fly-bys were permitted either no matter what altitude was requested the only exception to this was permission for holders of AOCs to perform displays. This permitted the Puma Energy Flying Lions and the Goodyear Eagles to display.

The Balloon and Airship Federations of SA (BAFSA) launched three hot air balloons very early on Saturday morning in ideal flying conditions. They managed to fly a complete circuit around the airfield, proving that these massive flying machines are very manoeuvrable given correct conditions.

The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) this year combined their annual convention with the Air Week. Most of the visiting aircraft were EAA members the EAA make a concerted effort to encourage their members to join the fly-ins held all over South Africa. All EAA members were invited to enter their aircraft for judging in various categories, the judging team was made up of the experienced team of aircraft engineers from Sport Plane Builders and led by Pierre van der Walt. The winners of each category were announced at the dinner on Saturday evening, held in Richard Lovett’s magnificent hangar.

  • Most Enthusiastic Team Award – The Bateleurs who had a prime spot at the event

  • Bob the Builder Award (Best Homebuilt) – Richard & Irene Lovett – RV14 - ZU-ITF

  • Fairy Award (Best Light-Sport Aircraft) - Lance Holland – Cheetah - ZU-DKI

  • The old and Beautiful Award (Best Vintage Aircraft) – Patrick Watson – Cessna 140 – ZU-ECP

  • The Powdered Pampered Bum Award (Best Warbird) – Steve George – Navion – ZS-WUK

  • Piping Hot Award (Hottest Air Balloon) – Mario Febbrario – ZS-HOK

South African Power Flight Association (SAPFA) hosted a Navex Rally on Saturday which took the form of an Air Navigation Race (ANR). The ANR format is one of the newest forms of competition flying, that gauges the accuracy of flying through an imaginary corridor where navigation time penalties are applied for excursions outside of the corridor. In addition, teams have to correctly spot four photographs along the route. The winner of this short ANR was Leon Bouttell & Steve van der Merwe in their Sportstar ZU-FWS, the course having proved to be quite tricky, not many having seen the photographs.

For those who braved the weather and made the trip to Middelburg the weekend was great fun and an opportunity to catch up with friends, the social side of general aviation has really taken a knock from the pandemic and other factors. The Aero Club are planning the 2023 Air Week at Middelburg once again and hopefully more of the sections will attend and promote their unique section of the aviation family.

Events like this are only possible due to the dedicated sponsors that are willing to get off the sidelines and make them happen. Sport Plane Builders and Vektor Aviation deserve a special mention for their generosity. Middelburg Flying Club has over the last few years proven that no task is too big to ensure the success of the Aero Club Air Week. Last but not least Nigel Musgrave for once again handling the highly stressful appointment as Safety Officer with his own particular brand of authoritative calmness.

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