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Lydenburg Annual Fly-in Festival

By Garth Calitz

Arriving at Lydenburg on Friday afternoon one intermediately got the sense that this was to be no ordinary run off the mill fly-in. A distinct airshow feeling was in the air, something we have unfortunately not experienced anywhere since the pandemic to control of our lives many months ago. The organisers were hard at work preparing the venue for the following days festival, setting up crowd barriers and marking out stalls.

One of the first visitors to arrive was Ivan van der Schaar in his lovingly restored early 40’s, Boeing Stearman. Ivan flew down to the picturesque small town from his home base at Brakpan Airfield. Club Chairman, Coenraad de Beer and a few key members of his organising team were treated to sunset flights in the grand old lady.

Ivan van der Schaar taking Coenraad de Beer for a flight in the Boeing Stearman

After a wonderful Braai and final informal briefing the team made off for bed only to be awakened in the middle of the night to a massive rain shower, fortunately, the storm passed and in its wake left perfect flying conditions for the upcoming event.

Early morning activity

The airfield was a hive of activity from way before sunrise as the local businesses streamed in to set up their stalls. It seemed like the whole of Lydenburg and surrounding areas business community decided to support the flying club, everything from motorcars to homemade crafts was on sale. It is amazing to see the community get behind an initiative like this. At 8:00 the gates were opened to the public and as was expected the turnout was great. Lydenburg Flying Club members had got airborne at about 6:00 and flew over the quaint town reminding the public about the festival and this seemed to work as the queues were already building when the gates opened.

A steady stream of arrivals continued throughout the morning with visitors making their way from all over the Lowveld and some as far as Gauteng. One notable aircraft was the crop sprayer BatHawk flown by Koos language, This is the only BatHawk in South Africa used for crop spraying and one of three on the continent.

Crop sprayer BatHawk flown by Koos language

At about 10:00 a distinctive rumble was heard in the sky above Lydenburg and soon after there Harvards could be seen approaching the field, a three-ship formation from the Puma Energy Flying Lions was invited to entertain the public.

Shortly after the arrival of the Harvards the spectators realised they were in for yet another treat with the arrival of yet another top drawer display team. Legends Denis Spence and Glen Warden arrived in two of the Goodyear Eagles Pitts Specials.

The most active aircraft of the day was undoubtedly the Robbie 44 from Hover Dynamics in Nelspruit, which spent the day taking Lydenburg locals for introductory flights around the stunning scenery in the area.

Events like these would sadly never see the light of day without the generous input of their sponsors, the Lydenburg community, fortunately, had no problems finding just such with many companies offering to support the festival. CAT Civils, Hi Q Lydenburg, Lydenburg Toyota, Lunsklip Fisheries, THWI construction, Phoenix security and Coastal Hire all graciously contributed to the ultimate success of the event.

Well over 50 aircraft arrived throughout the day and unfortunately, no estimate can be made on how many spectators came through the gates but it was a wonderful turnout. The visitors were treated to a day of flying, live music, delicious food and a lot of fun. The beer tent also proved very popular with temperatures reaching well into the 30°s.

As the shadows started to lengthen the visitors had to leave and make their way back to their home bases, it was very encouraging to see a fly-in still very active a 4:00 pm, this was definitely not just a breakfast fly-in. A very big thank you must go to Coenraad and his team for putting together one of the best fly-ins I have had the pleasure of attending in the last few years. Looking forward to next years event, I trust there were lessons learned this year that will make for an even better festival next year.



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