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Wonderboom Airport Aviation Safety Symposium

By Garth Calitz


Over the years I have been to many aviation safety gatherings at various airports and normally the presenters find they are preaching to the converted, the same people always seem to attend. Sadly, the attendants are normally from the group of vigilant pilots who are not really the ones who need to be present. The Wonderboom Safety Symposium bucked this trend, it was great to so so many flight schools involved from their senior management to low-hour students, including instructors who are notorious for dodging this type of event. The great turnout may be due to the free pizza or the fact that some of the schools were involved as sponsors of the event but either way 179 delegates is a great number for one airport.

The evening kicked off with a welcome note from David le Roux, who with the help of his wife Laura put in the lion's share of work to make the symposium a reality. David gave everyone a short breakdown of how the idea for the symposium came to be and how it evolved from a mere ideal to the reality we enjoyed.

The first speaker for the evening was Karen Mathews, Karen is an air traffic controller based at Wonderboom and boasts an impressive 25-year career in aviation. She brings a wealth of knowledge and is highly qualified in tower, approach and special event control. Karen also serves as an on-the-job training instructor with a professional training diploma through IATA, in addition, she is also a designated examiner on behalf of the SACAA. Karen’s talk on runway safety and radio procedures took on a bit of a headmistress tone but I guess once a teacher always a teacher, the talk was however very informative and led to many questions being asked by students and instructors, which is always a good sign.

Rob Jonkers was next on the bill, Rob is the current Aero Club of South Africa chairman and has been flying for over 40 years. Rob has on many occasions represented South Africa in the World Rally Flying Championships a discipline that demands slow flying. Rob explained some exercises that pilots of all experience levels can do to make themselves more comfortable with aircraft response close to stall speed, sadly, many fatal accidents happen on the turn from base to final approach this is preventable with a bit of low-speed training.

We have all heard the saying (Proper Pre Planning Prevents [Piss] Poor Performance) or the 7P’s South Africa’s own Aviation Guardian Angel, Saintjie White was on hand to share her vast knowledge on this subject. Saintjie has been in the aviation industry for over forty years of which thirty years were spent in Search and Rescue. As experience in S&R goes Sanjtie is one of the most, if not the most, experienced individuals in the world. Her years of hands-on experience have taught her many a lesson and she is more than willing to share them with aviators of all experience levels. I would love to share her insights here but that would turn an article into a book, if you have the opportunity to attend one of her talks please do it may just save your life.

Rehan van Tonder was called to the stage and David read out his highly impressive CV, Rehan holds no less than three Master's degrees from various universities around the world as well as a host of degrees. He has amassed over 25000 flying hours in his remarkable career flying everything from fighter jets to wide-body airliners. Rehan firmly believes that flying aerobatics will make one a much better, well-rounded and disciplined pilot. In his talk, entitled, Smoke On – GO!! explained how learning to fly aerobatics will positively impact any pilot's level of skill, confidence and discipline.

After Rehan's very informative talk, all the speakers were invited to the stage to answer questions and once again Karen was inundated with very mature ATC-related questions from many of the aviators present.

Between the talks, David had drawn lucky numbers and awarded prizes kindly made available by all the magnificent sponsors. Events like this will not be possible without the support of companies and individuals who place a high premium on aviation safety and are willing to put their money where their mouth is.

This event was made possible with the assistance of Wonderboom Airport Interest Group, Legend Sky Aviation Training, Vektor Aviation, Infinite Aviation, Pilot Insure, Next Up Digital, Blue Chip Flight School, Safety First Aviator, Bona Bona Game Lodge and of course Villa San Giovanni. Please make an effort to support these generous organisations.


I sincerely hope that this model will be extended to host similar symposiums at other general aviation hubs in the future, like Santjie says if one life is saved due to these evenings it's definitely “Job Done”.




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