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Zandspruit Bush and Aero Estate Fly-in

by Garth Calitz


If you have ever dreamed of flying in the heart of the Lowveld bushveld with like-minded aviation fanatics Zandspruit Aero and Bush Estate was definitely the place to be on the weekend of 7 to 9 May.

Nestled in the pristine bushveld is a very well maintained 1 000m paved runway, it is not open to the general aviator without prior arrangements but once all the indemnities are filled in and permission granted one can land there and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere and hospitality of the residents. The closest alternative airfield is Hoedspruit Civil, situated 2 km northeast of Zandspruit and adjacent to Hoedspruit town.

Zandspruit is located on a 650ha untouched wilderness area is filled with a myriad of vegetation, plains game, birds and other smaller animals. Plains include Giraffe, Kudu, Wildebeest, Zebra, Nyala, Waterbuck, Impala, Duiker, Warthog and other smaller animals. The variety of birds range from the tiny Waxbills to the powerful Eagles and Vultures that soar the great African sky. Night animals include Owls, Bushbabies, Aardvark, Genets and Civets, to name a few.

Recently a new attraction was added with a distinct aviation flavour, Aerotel, a 12-bed Aviator Boutique Hotel situated at the main gate to Zandspruit opened its doors. Offering their guests the thrill of spending a night onboard a Boeing 737-200, overlooking the African bushveld and the northern Drakensberg mountains.

Many of the visitors arrived on Friday and the residents were quick to offer the overnight visitors hangarage for the night. Some late afternoon flying was on the cards as the sunset over the beautiful African bush.

On Saturday morning Zandspruit was a hive of activity from very early in the morning, earlier than most of us realised as the sun sticks its head out almost an hour earlier than in Gauteng. Gary and Mandy Whitecross from MOGAS, SA only independent ARO, spent the last few weeks hard at work securing all the necessary permissions from the CAA, They went as far as securing a temporary aerobatics box for the weekend.

A spot landing competition was organised for all the arriving aircraft, the competition was quite intense with many pilots coming very close to the “bingo” line but eventually, only one aircraft managed to land on the spot.

The bulk of the activities were hosted at the astounding hangar on the threshold of runway 17. The hangar was kindly made available by retired Airshow Legend and aerobatic judge Johnnie Smith and his wonderful wife Tertia, Johnnie and Tertia are in the process of permanently moving to Zandspruit.

Everyone that registered on arrival was entered into a raffle to win a weekend at the Zandspruit Bush Camp, Jannie Ras was the lucky winner and was over the moon with being gifted a reason to return to Zandspruit. The winner of the spot landing was announced, he was local Hoedspruit conservation pilot Bruce McDonald in his trusty Savannah.

Everyone present was treated to a brilliant drumming display by scholars from the local Southern Cross School, these children obviously spend a lot of time practising their routine.

A food truck from Yum Factory provided delicious food throughout the day and for those that were not flying out an assortment of local craft beers and ciders were on tap supplied by The Brewery. Both of these providers are proudly local Hoedspruit companies.

Throughout the day visitors were treated to many three-ship aerobatic flights by the Raptors RV Aerobatic team and for those that stuck around to the afternoon a very special treat was in store. John Sayers brought along his T28 Trojan and Glenn Wheeldon took it up for a few late afternoon flights one of which he joined the Raptors in a beautiful formation flight. Gary Whitecross took a few lucky visitors for a flight in his Lambada motor-glider giving them a totally different perspective of this gem in the bushveld.

A very safe and successful fly-in was with a wonderful braai once again held at the Smith hangar. Zandspruit is planning on making this an annual event and I’m sure the event next year will be much larger than the 35 visiting aircraft this year. See you next year.

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