After much anticipation and uncertainty, the time finally arrived to make the trek up north the Warmbaths for the 12th annual Taildraggers fly-in. For the first 10 years, the popular fly-in was held at Nylstroom Airfield, sadly it is no longer safe to host it there as the airfield has fallen victim to the ever-expanding informal settlement.
Friday seemed a bit quieter than usual although there were a handful of arrivals, this may be due to the bad weather early in the day, fortunately, the weather cleared and stayed away for the rest of the weekend. The visitors that decided to stay the night were more than willing to spend a few good hours at the clubhouse catching up with friends, old and new, over a few cold ones. The fires were lit early and as soon as they were ready the air was filled with the purely South African smell of meat being braaied.
Saturday morning started off very early with Jason Beamish and Richard Nicholson Jnr, starting up their aircraft for the customer sunrise dawn patrol. Anyone that was camping at the field that wasn’t awake yet was quickly awakened when the aircraft started buzzing above the field. One of which was the EAA stalwart Capt. Karl Jensen, who was camping under the wing of his stunning C170 for the first time in 25 years.
While the dawn patrol was enjoying the sunrise from the air the first of the days arrivals started to make their appearance. The majority of the early arrivals were from the Kitplanes For Africa stable, in fact during the day almost thirty KFA aircraft arrived, ranging from the Bush-baby to the Safari and larger Explorer.
Sling Aircraft was in a way coerced into bringing their new built Sling High Wing Taildragger. The prototype was in pieces on the preceding Monday but when they got wind that their aircraft was being used on the official logo for this years event the very capable team at Sling Aircraft burnt a bit of midnight oil and put it back together in time to fly it in on Saturday morning.
Breakfast was available at a rather steep R120 per person this added to a registration fee of R100 per person made a day trip to the fly-in a slight bit more expensive than was anticipated by most of the visitors fortunately the flying club had provided the means to pay with bank cards.
The Bushveld summer was taking no prisoners with temperatures reaching into the high 30’s which kept most of the visitors under the shade tents and trees at the clubhouse. One could not help but feel sorry for Richard Nicholson Snr who spent most of the day zipping around the airfield marshalling the 130 odd aircraft to their parking spots, and of course trying desperately to separate the “real” aircraft from their tricycle gear sisters.
Just before 11:00, a familiar rumble was heard in the distance, the Puma Energy Flying Lions were inbound, Scully and the team managed to bring some relief to the airshow starved people with an immaculate four-ship display. The sound of these four Harvards will always elevate the enthusiasm levels up a few notches.
Nigel Musgrave, the safety officer and Piet Fourie from the CAA kept an eye on everything from the tower accompanied by the two ladies from ATNS. It must be noted that they did a sterling job of handling the hundreds of movements throughout the day with not one incident.
As the shadows started to lengthen many of the visiting aircraft started to leave, sadly the taildraggers tradition of sleeping over on Saturday night seems to have died with the Nylstroom airfield. At 3:30 the sky came alive with the sound of Extras, Nigel Hopkins and Jason Beamish delivered yet another superb display of high impact formation aerobatics. Nigel flying in his Ecko Unltd sponsored Extra 330SC and Jason in his Absolute Aviation Extra 330LX have been flying together for many years and this showed in the precision of their display. Sadly by the time they got airborne most of the aircraft had already left leaving only a handful that decided to stay the night.
Hopefully, the Taildragger “Gees” will be rekindled at next years event, it is however understandable that things are a bit subdued this year as we all know, the world isn’t the same place it was before the pandemic came along and upended everything.
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