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Stellenbosch Flying Club Turns Fifty

By Rob Russell

In celebration of their 50th birthday, the club had an open day and invited fellow aviators to come and join in the celebrations. There is no doubt that the club is situated in one of the most pristine areas of the country, easily accessible and with stunning views of the surrounding mountains and farmlands.

Unfortunately, the weather Gods did not provide any spring weather and whilst a cut-off upper low was busy developing in the area, a somewhat miserable windy and overcast morning, gave way to a partly cloudy and sunny day in the early afternoon, albeit rather windy and cool.

The day started with an ANR rally, around the area. The rally was over a 25nm course beginning northeast of the airfield and finishing to the northwest. 14 teams managed to successfully complete the rally, which ended with a spot landing competition. Whilst the organisers were hoping for more teams, the weather put a damper on some of the planned entrants.

With live tracking available, in the clubhouse, much amusement was provided to fellow entrants and spectators, who keenly watched the teams go about their flying. Apart from one or two who lacked experience in this type of rallying, it was a competitively fought rally.

The winners of the spot landing competition were: Martin Venn and Christiaan du Plessis

After the prize-winning, Alewyn Burger gave a short talk on ANR rallies and what they entail, how to plan for them and how to fly them.

Stellenbosch Flying Club can be traced back to 1973 when a group of local residents and general aviation enthusiasts got together to promote private/recreational flying in the Stellenbosch / Somerset West area. These intrepid gentlemen Brian Arton, Alan Stuart and Artur Albertyn, started flying from Fisantekraal, an ex-military airfield, 17nm North of Stellenbosch, it being the only airfield in the vicinity, apart from the then DF Malan airport. At that time, Del Colussi, who was also the CFI of the club for many years, leased Fisantekraal airfield from the government. Del’s company was registered as Fisantekraal Lugdienste, offering hangarage, fuel and charter flights. He later also operated a small flying school called Boland Vliegskool.

Alan Stuart started operating a flying school from Fisantekraal on 1 April 1974 and named it Stellenbosch Flying Club. The first trainer aircraft was a very, very old Cessna C150, registration ZS-DZT, which belonged to a club member, a Dutchman named Jan Lagendyk. Alan’s Cessna C172, ZS-CPL, was also used.

In the same year, 1974, Alan Stuart and Artur Albertyn succeeded in obtaining a lease for land from Stellenbosch Municipality. This property, more commonly known to the locals as “Louw se Bos”, was a pine tree plantation situated next to the R 44 between Stellenbosch and Somerset West. By mid-winter, they started clearing the trees and levelling the area, with the help of a neighbouring member Jannie Visser, who was greatly responsible for laying out the grass runway 18/36. Starting off was not an easy task, as there were no facilities like electricity, water or toilets at this stage. The first structure to be erected was a prefab building. This “office” was transported from Fisantekraal on a truck with the help of famous racing driver, Peter Gough, who was also a member of SFC. Alan Stuart assumed the role of CFI, while Artur Albertyn became the first chairman of Stellenbosch Vliegklub.

Meanwhile, the University of Stellenbosch initiated an Aviation division on campus under the guise of their Sports Faculty - Die Universiteit van Stellenbosch Vliegklub, who had as its first Chairman, Martin Louw. The lecture room and base of the flying club was located in the Civil Engineering building at the University, and flying was done at D.F. Malan Airport with an aircraft owned by the University of Cape Town, appropriately registered as ZS-UCT.

This arrangement was obviously a logistical nightmare, and in 1976 the University decided to move the flying club to Fisantekraal. The instructors of US were Fay Bool and Martin Winter, and the very first student to be trained here was Kosie Olivier.

In 1978, the Universiteit Stellenbosch Vliegklub moved to the airfield of the Stellenbosch Flying Club, but they remained a separate entity. Although the two clubs used the same airfield, clubhouse and facilities, they operated independently, with two different logos. During this period, the chairman of Stellenbosch Flying Club was Kobus Brandt (1978/79), and the chairman of Universiteit Stellenbosch Vliegklub was Prof. Rudi Du Preez (1978 – 1980).

The committees of the two clubs realised that it would be in the interests of all, to amalgamate and have one organisation running the airfield and as a result, the Stellenbosch Vliegveld Maatskappy was formed, with three delegates from each club elected as Trustees. This company was tasked with the smooth operation, maintenance, fuel, hangarage and general management of the airfield. The first Committee Members of this newly founded company were Chris Von Delft – SFC (Chairman), Bob Ridler – SFC, Frans Immelman– USV, and Johan Swart – USV. One of the first tasks was the upgrading of the grass runway to the present tar runway and use was made of Stellenbosch engineering students to design and lay out the runway and taxiways.

By 1984 it was obvious to all parties concerned that it would be beneficial to everyone should the two clubs become one. The new club was formed as Universiteit / Stellenbosch Flying Club, and it was agreed that the US logo would be maintained, as it already had the U.S. displayed on it. The first chairman of the amalgamated club was Romain Holemans.

Since then, the club has grown and flourished and now has over 600 members and 160 aircraft based on the airfield, Stellenbosch has now grown into one of the bigger Flying Clubs in South Africa.

Of course, the restaurant was working overtime producing some really great food. With full-time club manager, Anton Theart, it has seen its popularity grow and the restaurant is fast becoming a favourite, not only with the local aviation fraternity, but locals as well. Fully licensed and with a wine list stocking some exceptional local wines, it is a winner. Their pizzas rival any from the towns around there! With views towards the Helderberg mountains, there can be no better restaurant views in the area.

Several of the local wine producers were invited to market their products and wine tastings were available for those who were there

The Stellenbosch Airfield is also home to the Stellenbosch Flight Training Centre. A well-established facility that offers training from PPL to ATPL, and everything in between!



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