By Garth Calitz and Rob Jonkers
Brits Airfield has become the home of the EAA Fun ‘n Sun Fly-in, except for five years ago when it migrated over the koppies to Rustenburg, sadly the turnout for that event was terrible due to inclement weather that plagued the weekend. The weather gods smiled down on the event this year offering up more than our fair share of Sun and of course lots of Fun as old friends met up and new friendships were born.
EAA Fun ‘n Sun has historically been held from Friday to Sunday but for reasons unknown, fewer and fewer people are flying in and staying over for the night, only a few brave campers decided to erect their tents and make a weekend out of it, those who did seemed to have had a great get together on Friday night. Camping at EAA events has become much simpler in the last few years with Neil Bowden offering “fully furnished” tents.
Local motorcars and motorcycle suppliers were amongst the many businesses that set up stands to showcase their products. One exhibitor that received a lot of attention was the 4 TRACK MOVER which specialises in manufacturing self-driven tugs ideal for aircraft of all sizes.
The Saturday morning however was very busy with over 50 aircraft making their way to Brits for a great breakfast amongst friends. The wind at certain airfields did however keep some of the potential visitors on the ground, some decided to rather make the trip by road.
The Star of the day was definitely the newly built Orion Cub, Kevin Hopper and his team barely had time to sit with all the visitors they received. Kevin has spent the last two years building this amazing aircraft and preparing it for production. Jason Beamish was given the opportunity to take the Orion Cub for a flight and the smile on his face when he returned spoke volumes, Jason tried to stall the aircraft but realised this was basically impossible he sat in the air with the airspeed indicator showing a round zero but still the refused to fall out of the sky. The EAA stalwart Karl Jensen had to almost be forcibly removed from the aircraft as he felt so comfortable in it.
The friendly Brits Flying Club members have been busy since my last visit to the airfield. The runway has been resurfaced and painted, the clubhouse has undergone a metamorphosis and a wonderful addition to the flight line has been erected.
Somehow the members got hold of a condemned RV-9 and have erected it on a pole next to the windsock, not only does it look amazing it also is completely functional. The RV has been mounted on a swivel head and works as a wind vein articulately showing the wind direction. The propeller is mounted on a bearing so it windmills and with the edition of a small dyno can be calibrated to indicate the wind speed as well. Just for good measure, the nav lights have been connected to a power source so even at night the aircraft can indicate the wind direction. The clubhouse has been transformed by removing all the old steel-frame windows and replacing them with much larger aluminium-framed windows and doors. On the floor heading to the bar a runway has been painted, runway 28, in case someone wanted to know. This really livens up the clubhouse and was the topic of many a chat over the weekend.
Sun ‘n Fun just wouldn’t be right without the Rally and this year’s flying event is the 7th in the series of rally events held yearly in support of the EAA, although previous events have followed the Adventure rally format, in recent years some level of accuracy of maintaining track has also been part of the route. This year, it was decided to have a route that was a more formal ANR type (Air Navigation Race). This type of rally is the newest type of rally to be found as part of the FAI events series.
In an ANR, there are only two objectives, the first being on time at the start and finish gates, each second early or late attracts 3 penalty points. The second objective is to remain inside the corridor which in this case is 1 nm wide any excursion outside the corridor also attracts 3 penalty points per second being outside the corridor. For the Brits ANR, it was decided not to measure the start & finish gate timing due to the busy airspace for the day.
The route is normally fairly short at 25 nm, and for the route planned it was to start southeast of the field, route over Brits town and find a way through the scenic Crocodile river valley to end northwest of the field. There were 8 entrant teams, and briefing commenced at 9 am, where the teams after briefing got on with plotting their routes and could fly at their own pace. As they returned, logger downloads commenced and scoring could be done.
Best for the day was the team of Bert v Jaarsveld & Lance Holland flying a Bushcat ZU-FEW, in fact, an excellent platform to fly this type of rally being slow enough for observation and being able to keep the turns fairly tight. In second place Bryan Nicolau and Roger Ford in their Bathawk ZU-IGI – another good observation aircraft. In third place Roger Bozolli and Dean Nicolau in the Piper Arrow ZS-KFM.
Prize giving was held at the evening braai together with the EAA awards, unfortunately, the floating trophy was not available, and will be handed over at an appropriate date. This trophy is the Sling (previously The Airplane Factory) Sun and Fun rally trophy awarded annually.
Brits Flying Club will be hosting the World Rally Flying Championships next month and they decided to use Sun ‘n Fun as a practice run for the visitors that will be descending on them from all over the world, I believe they are ready judging from how the weekend was organised and executed. The Safety team had an uneventful day with only one minor incident, a Bat Hawk had a flat nose wheel on landing. The ATCs however had a slightly busier day with many movements recorded for the day.
I could, unfortunately, stay for the evening's festivities and left with many of the other visitors as the shadows grew longer. Next year I will be back and definitely will be staying for the full weekend like in the “old days”.