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Aviation Dream Comes True for Two Ex-SAAF Photographers

By Wayne Calitz

Way back in 1987 at AFB Rundu, two Photographers sat around talking about a dream they would each like to fulfil. The two were Thys Scheepers and me, Wayne “Sprocky” Calitz. We would sit and chat over a few cold beers in the evenings, about our dream to one day own and fly our own planes. At that stage, we were youngsters and not very financially stable, but the dream was there.

Wayne 4th from left and Thys 2nd from right

We shared a lot while up at Rundu during the Bush War, including being witness to the unfortunate Mirage F1-CZ incident that left Captain Arthur Piercy paralysed. Back in the Republic, we experienced another accident, this one was the fatal crash of Silver Falcon pilot Captain Charles Rudnick. Thys was at Lanseria that day and I flew in the next day, on an Alouette, to take photographs of the scene for the board of enquiry. Neither of these accidents could halt our dream, nor could other aircraft mishaps. One more thing that both of us had in common, but has never been leaked to the public, was that we both lost our breakfast during Impala flights as photographers. Not even that could fade the dream.

We both went on to qualify as Aerial Photographers in the SAAF. In later years we both resigned from the SAAF and followed other careers. We both had our PPL’s and the dream of owning our own aircraft still lived on. We lost contact for a few years and during that time we both qualified as Nature Guides, spending time in the bush treating international visitors to Africa and its wildlife. By now, we had both stopped flying and our licences lapsed. We bumped into each other on the odd occasion while on a trip with our guests and each time we would talk about our common dream, which now seemed close to impossible.

In October of last year, during a slightly relaxed Covid-19 lockdown regulation, I was at the Hoedspruit Farmers Market running a little stall selling canvas wildlife prints of my photography. In the distance I saw a familiar face, it was Thys. I showed him to come over to me and we started chatting. He asked if I was still flying, which I, unfortunately, wasn’t. He said that he had also stopped but was getting into it again. He told me that he had acquired a 50% share in a Bantam and that his partner wanted out. He asked me if I didn’t want to join him as a partner. Damn, the idea sounded great, but finances were an issue. He planted the seed and we left it there.

In April this year, I was in Hoedspruit, I called Thys and asked if he was close by as I would like to take a look at the aircraft. Within 15 minutes we at the hangar and I was drooling at the sight of this little flying machine. Once again we parted ways, but this time I was already making plans. A week or two later I phoned Thys and asked if I could go for a flight. It was arranged that Bruce McDonald would take me up on the Saturday morning. The rest is, as they say, history. The deal was agreed on and I bought the 50% share from his previous partner.

We now both put a lot of time into getting our licences reinstated and as our common grounds dictated in the past and now, we both did our final flight tests on the same day and we received our licences on the same day. We would also like to convey our sincere thanks and appreciation to Bruce McDonald and Pierre Wilkinson, our two instructors from Airborne African Adventures, that helped us get our licences reinstated.

Our 34-year-old dream has now materialised and we are proud co-owners of our own little aircraft, Bantam ZU-FFW, affectionately known as “Foxy”. With us being based on the boundary of the Greater Kruger National Park and flying from Hoedspruit Civil, both having a love for wildlife, aviation and photography, and our expertise and experience acquired in Photo/Nav during our time flying in the SAAF, we are hoping to put all of this to good use with “Foxy”, doing anti-poaching patrol flights to help save our endangered species.


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