Entering into 2020 one would be hard-pressed to find anyone that was not very positive about the coming year, 2020 had an almost perfect ring to it. Unfortunately, as we all know, the year had other plans for the whole world and the promising year has become one we would rather forget.
One of the first blows to hit the South African aviation lovers was surprisingly not from Covid-19 but our very own South African Air Force. The powers that be decided to deny the proud men and woman of the SAAF their centenary celebration, they in-fact ordered that no mention of 100 years may be made and celebrated the 25th year of democracy instead. A very sad day for the members of what is widely known as the 2nd oldest independent Air Force in the world. Ironically all previous milestones were celebrated.
SAPFA got the year off to a flying start, spurred on by the Aero Club Centenary year and the anticipation of hosting the world rally championship later in the year. They hosted training camps and fun rallies to recruit new teams to the sport. The ever-popular Speed Rally season was still going ahead full steam as well and the first of the planned events took place a Witbank, the country was then dumped into lock-down and all flying stopped. When it became painfully clear that the pandemic wasn’t going anywhere soon a decision was made to bump the world champs to 2021. When SA pilots were finally allowed back into the air the SAPFA managed to host two Speed Rallies one in Secunda and the finale in Springs.
On the aerobatics front, the SAC has managed to squeeze in a few competitions in 2020. The season started off in Vereeniging with the Gauteng Regional Championships and then like all other aviation it came to an abrupt halt. The first event after the relaxation of lock-down rules was a very successful training camp held at Kitty Hawk followed by the Nationals held on very short notice in Bloemfontein and finally the “Ace of Base” competition at Baragwanath.
The SACAA had a really bad year starting with the tragic loss of their Calibration aircraft taking three of the crew's lives, their woes continued with their newly installed digital system being held to ransom after it was infected by ransomware. The lock-down also proved a thorn in the side for the regulator as they were required to interpret the rules and apply them to the aviation community this led to the threat of legal action by members of the GA fraternity.
100 years of trans-African flight was commemorated at the University of Pretoria at the spot where Lieutenant-Colonel Pierre van Ryneveld and Captain Quentin Brand landed during their record-setting 1920 flight from London to Cape Town. Little did we know at the time that that would be the last aviation gathering for many months.
Airlines were hit hard by the Corona Virus, the hard lock-down seemed to be the last straw that broke the camels back for the struggling SAA and all flights except for a few repatriation flights ground to a halt. In this time of uncertainty, the BRP’s at SAA came up with a pipe dream that they call SAA V2.0, a totally restructured SAA with all crew being selected along racial criteria. This, unfortunately, left the SAA staff in an awful position and to date, they have not received any remuneration since April.
ComAir having successfully completed their business rescue and resumed flights earlier this month after months of being grounded, we wish them all the best and hope they will emerge from this as strong as ever.
Airlink broke all ties with the ailing SAA, this included the re-branding of their aircraft. Sadly for the airline, a court decision went against them in the case to recover money that was collected on their behalf by SAA this cost the airline dearly.
FlySafair seemed to emerge from the Covid crisis without too much damage and were the first regional airline to take to the skies once the go-ahead was given.
LIFT Airlines managed to get off the ground only to have their existence denied by the CAA, fortunately, this was later reversed and LIFT are flying and assisting in the shortfall left by the other airlines that are no longer in service.
2020 didn’t manage to stop Elon Musk from returning the USA to the space race, SpaceX managed to successfully launch two astronauts into space to rendezvous with the international space station. A second mission carrying four crew was successfully launched later in the year as well.
The fun-loving aviators in South Africa were spoiled for choice of fly-ins to attend after the skies were opened, one of the most anticipated fly-ins for the year was the Warmbaths Taildraggers which was a continuation of the very popular Nylstroom Taildraggers that was forced to move as a result of the airfield no longer being safe for use as the local squatters had overrun it.
Looking forward to 2021 we sincerely hope the pandemic can be brought under control and our lives can return to some sort of normality. Airshows that were totally decimated in 2020 will hopefully make their return in the new year.
We at Flightline Weekly would like to wish all our readers, advertisers and contributors a safe and joyous Christmas and a very happy and prosperous 2021.