By Rob Russell Photos by Rayno Snyman
Since its founding in the mid-1970s, Stellenbosch Flying club has always had a reputation for well-organised events. This last weekend, saw that reputation being maintained, even bettered, from previous events. The draconian restrictions that the country is presently going through, did not put a damper on the occasion. Whilst, not an airshow, it certainly proved to be a great day and a fine day was had by all.
It was, in no part, due to the outstanding organisation of the club manager, Anton Theart and his committee, that they delivered another great event. Despite it being the start of a long weekend and many Capetonians heading out of town, those that visited the airfield were not disappointed.
Friday the 24th marked Heritage day, and the club used the opportunity to organise a fly-in at the airfield. The early morning weather was not a good sign – overcast, low stratus and poor visibility and it did not look good for those planning to fly in. However, in the true traditions of Cape weather, the gentle northerly breeze took care of the cloud and by mid-morning, it turned into a stunning day.
You could not have asked for a more perfect day for a fly-in.
And it was only a short while later, that the visiting aircraft started to arrive. Pilots from around the Western Cape took to the air and popped into Stellenbosch. As has become a tradition at such events at Stellies, Rickus Erasmus, the safety officer, together with the assistance of Brent Warren and their team of helpers, ensured that the visiting aircraft arrived in a safe and orderly manner and were parked in a way that the spectators were able to see them all.
Present regulations do not allow for air shows and despite the presence of the men from the ministry, aka the CAA, who were primarily there to conduct a few ramp inspections, and keep an eye out for any naughty pilots, there were no incidents and as is usual, visitors were welcomed onto the airfield.
If there was a prize for the furthest visitor, I think Hartog Blok, aka Horrace to his aviation friends, would have won it, Being a retired navigator, he got lost flying in the circuit at Mossel Bay and ended up at Stellenbosch!! He was seen spending his time on the ground catching up on old friends and acquaintances. Life must be good in the Groot Brak area, as he doesn’t look a day over 21! It was also good to see a contingent from Morningstar Airfield popping in. There is apparently no truth in the rumour, they had come to take notes for a fly in there!
Local aviators started to arrive in time for breakfast and the club did not disappoint. The club is fast gaining a reputation for its excellent catering service and the kitchen was kept busy looking after the visitors. Food orders were literally flying out of the kitchen! And at the prices on the menu, who could not resist ordering a breakfast!
The club invited the Crankhandle Club, which has a clubhouse in Wynberg, to spend the day at the airfield as well. What a great idea that proved to be. One of the Flying Club members, John Smith, is also a member of this club and thanks to his persuasive powers the club turned out in force. There must have been about 40 members and their vehicles there, ranging from 1950 MGs and Sunbeams and early VW Kombis. These members take great pride in the vehicles and what a great opportunity it was for them to show off their cars. The spectators thoroughly enjoyed seeing the vintage cars and the Crankhandle Club members were pleasantly surprised at the reception they got. Apart from fielding many questions about their cars, they happily posed for pictures with spectators and also enjoyed the fantastic hospitality and food and seeing the local aviation community at play!
The breakfast crowd slowly departed and they were quickly replaced by spectators arriving for lunch. The kitchen staff yet again did not disappoint! The pizzas were flying out of the kitchen, never mind the burgers and steaks, and at those prices, who could not resist one! Throw in a really great, and very reasonably priced wine list, and you have a winner. The club had organised some gentle background live music, which added to the atmosphere of the occasion and a fine time was had by all. They even catered for the traditionalists and for those that wanted to braai, fires and meat were available.
There is no doubt about it, but Stellenbosch has to be one of the best airfields with a view. To see so many people outside, sitting under the trees and umbrellas, catching up with old friends and enjoying the very reasonably priced food was great. With the Helderberg mountains in the background, can it get any better?
Despite the no airshow rules, visiting aircraft kept coming and going all day and the local members took good use of the lovely weather to go flying, so the spectators were kept busy watching the various aircraft. From Tiger Moths to an ex SAAF Bosbok and Albatross, as well as a Grand Caravan C208, many homebuilt aircraft, and a few high-performance aerobatic aircraft, the circuit was busy all day.
The atmosphere was really very relaxed and perfect for fellow aviators and friends to emerge from behind their masks and to enjoy each others company and catch up on the “old days”. Having a safe secure fenced off area, also allowed for the many children to run around and play the odd game of football and rugby, stopping only occasionally to watch an aircraft arrive or depart.
General aviation is definitely on the up, in the Western Cape. Airfields and clubs are all getting busy and there is a lot of training going on around the Province. The turnout and support seen at this fly-in is testament to this and confirms that aviation is in a good state at the moment, down in the Cape! And people are desperate to come together to support each other and enjoy the company of other aviators, both young and old, active and retired! And it was fantastic to see the support and friendship on this day.
For those that could not make the day, it's definitely a place to visit, if you are looking for a great place to go and eat. The club is open seven days a week and the varied menu is an absolute winner. It certainly is becoming the place to eat around Stellenbosch. And it won’t dent the average families budget! With the arrival of summer, live entertainment is organised on some nights of the week and special nights, like the Friday night steak night, are definitely something to put on the calendar.
Stellenbosch Flying Club certainly delivered another great event. They never fail to impress and I don’t think any person left the airfield disappointed.