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Warmbaths Taildraggers – The Spirit Returns

By Garth Calitz Photos by Andre Venter


Taildraggers has for many years been a “must attend” fly-in on the South African aviation calendar but it has battled to draw the numbers and spirit since it forced the move from Nylstroom to Warmbaths, I’m glad to report that after the past weekend, it can safely be said that the Taildragger spirit has returned.

To be fair the move did take place during 2020 and the pandemic had a lot to do with the lower-than-usual turnout, many people seemed to change their stance on events like this after Covid, opting rather to just fly in for the day rather than spend the weekend. Fortunately, it seems that people are now returning to old ways and camping under the wing or supporting one of the local guest houses has once again become the norm.

On Friday afternoon aircraft started arriving from all over Gauteng and surrounding provinces and by sunset there were almost forty aircraft on the well-manicured apron at Warmbaths Airfield many of them with tents erected. The occupants were readying themselves for a rather cold night ahead, the atmosphere at the bar was anything but cold with the braai fires lit and the liquid refreshments in abundant supply. Old friends meet up and new friendships are forged all with the love of aviation as a common thread.

Saturday morning arrived and might I add it was a cold one, temperatures during the night definitely dropped well south of the 0° mark judging by the ice that covered all the aircraft that had spent the night outside. Richard Nicholson ad his team had obviously anticipated this and invited a local barista to meet all the coffee needs.

The first aircraft to arrive was a gaggle of trikes, these guys don’t seem to feel the cold. They were followed by the majority of the speed Rally participants. The Sped Rally organisers have decided to link each addition of the Speed Rally to an existing event in an attempt to maximise the visibility of this very popular type of competition flying and it seems to be paying dividends as this rally attracted twenty-three entrants.

David le Roux and Iaan Myburgh held a briefing for all the contestants before they made their way to their aircraft to wait for their allotted take-off time, some 20 minutes before take-off the contestants receive their papers and then only do they get their first glimpse of what route they will be flying. The Air traffic controllers, Vicky Karropolous and Marelise Scheepers, expertly handled the take-off of the rally contestants making sure that any arriving aircraft were slotted in between their timed slots. Once all the teams were outbound on the course the airfield got a bit quieter and the ATCs could take a bit of a breather before they returned if everyone did a good job navigating all twenty-three aircraft should arrive at the same time.

Once all of the Rally teams were safely on the ground normal operations resumed, sadly, this meant saying goodbye to many of the day visitors that were departing for their home bases. Some very interesting aircraft were seen throughout the weekend some of them being the Jordan Lake Aero Air Bike and the Helio H295 Courier which very seldom leaves its hangar at Springs.

The Orion Cub was as always a point of interest throughout the weekend, Dale de Klerk was kept very busy taking prospective clients for flights and it definitely work as at least one was ordered this weekend. Kevin Hopper, the designer and builder of this magnificent aircraft and his team, will be kept very busy for the next few months as they have now sold seven Orion Cubs.

As always the team from Kit Planes for Africa arrived en masse and took their customary centre-stage parking this year they were joined by a large group of Rainbow Skyreach Bushcats even if some of them had nose wheels.

When the rally participants returned they all handed in the loggers and Iaan Myburgh had to get busy scoring all their tracks before the prize-giving later in the day.

The EAA, as always, supported the Fly-in well, in fact, most of the visiting aircraft belonged to EAA members. It was great to see so many members getting out there to support the efforts of the Bela-Bela Falcons flying club.

After a bit of a delay, it was finally time for the results of the Speed Rally to be made public, all the contestants assembled under the marque at the clubhouse for the awards ceremony. Richard Nicholson was awarded the customary host trophy on behalf of the Bela-Bela Falcons flying club.

This being the taildraggers fly-in a new category was added to the list of spoils on offer, the father and son Team Kobus and Jaco van Zyl received the trophy for being the first Taildragger home.

Legendsky took the best performing flight school honours with Piet Meyer and Adrienne Visser, Dave Naude the owner of Legendsky joined them on stage to receive the trophy.

Phil Wakely and Martin Meyer, both veterans of many Speed Rallies took the top spot for the best performance to handicap

The Father and son team of Hendrik and Jandre Loots took top honours for the most accurate route flown.

The combined overall scores saw Hendrik and Jandre walking away with the top spot once again.

A great day was once again concluded with a sunset taildragger flight, the sunset and sunrise formation flights have over the years become the trademark of Taildraggers Fly-in.

Thanks again to Richard and his amazing team for all the hard work in putting together an amazing event, see you all next year.

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