Photos by Andre Venter, Lee-Ann Greeff and Derek Hopkins
As the year draws to a close, we can always count on the EAA Chapter 322 to inject some excitement into the general aviation world with the annual Sun ‘n Fun Fly-in, this year Brits Airfield once again hosted the event and as always made it a very enjoyable and memorable weekend.
The weather on Friday seemed to keep many people on the ground at their home bases and the forecasts for the weekend didn’t seem any better, fortunately the predicted bad weather seemed to take a turn to the East before it reached the Northern part of the country. By Friday evening there were only a handful of aircraft had arrived and fears started running high that the newly elected chairman of Chapter 322, Neil Bowden, may have a very quiet inaugural Sun ’n Fun.
Those who did make it on Friday had a lot of fun in the 37˚ heat with many of the Brits locals taking to the humid air in a variety of aircraft, Derek Hopkins, one of the few people in South Africa rated on a Wilga, took Arjan Schaap’s newly renovated PZL-104 Wilga 35 for a few circuits. Arjan bought the Wilga earlier this year which was in pieces and packed in a container. He then went to work and a few months later it was ready for its maiden flight.
Later on, Friday things got very festive around the braai fires, with some old friends meeting up and new friendships being made over a few ice cold beverages supplied by the Brits Flying Club at their beautiful clubhouse.
Saturday morning arrived after a very windy night and with it came some amazing flying weather. The airfield was abuzz from very early with the locals taking advantage of the conditions as did many of the visitors who started arriving just after 8:00 . The air traffic controllers, that kindly gave up their time to assist, were kept extremely busy throughout the day and by lunch time they had already logged well over 100 movements. Nigel Musgrave, the safety officer for the weekend, was also a busy man making sure that all the aircraft moved seamlessly around the parking areas and taxiways.
Colin Blanchard from Wings ‘n Things Lanseria set up his mobile shop below the tower and was on hand to give advice and assistance to anyone in need of aviation accessories, he was joined by Werner Kruger from DJA Aviation how was ready to assist with any insurance related queries that may arise.
The Sun ‘n Fun weekend has become a meeting place for all the fortunate people that had joined Neil Bowden on his Air Adventure Tours in the past, Brits becomes a mini “Kamp Plakkerfontein” for the weekend and it really inspires us poor souls that haven’t made the annual Oshkosh pilgrimage to get our backsides in gear and get to the biggest aviation spectacle in the world.
As the day went on the flying continued despite the heat which peaked at 39˚on Saturday, fortunately the good people from Bruits Flying Club anticipated this and had made provision for shaded seating in the clubhouse garden, the mist sprayers installed along the boundary fence afforded more than just a bit of relief form the blistering conditions.
Scully Levin and Arnie Meneghelli made a short visit in two of the Puma Energy Flying Lions, they delivered a polished two ship display for that large crowd. Scully was then asked to give a talk on the importance of safety briefing’s which was attentively listened to by everyone at the clubhouse.
The peaceful afternoon quiet was shattered by what can only be described as one of the most beautiful sounds in aviation, a Rolls Royce Griffon. Ian Reed secured this particular motor from the transport museum and over two years he restored it to running condition, the propellers have been cut down so it can be accommodated on a trailer. The Griffon was used on the SAAF’s Avro Shackleton MR Mk.3’s, this motor was on one of the Shackleton’s that were chopped up and sold for scrap.
An estimated 80-90 aircraft flew into Brits over the weekend, this is a slightly lower turnout than last year but still very good considering the weather forecasters were predicting serious hailstorms, which fortunately never materialised. As always, the RV and Sling community supported the event very well making up the majority of the fixed wing visitors. Rotor wings also came out in their numbers with no less than nine “fling wings” coming and going during the day, the most of which were Alouette II’s with four visiting.
As the day went on and conditions got a bit bumpy the local glider pilots were keen to take advantage of the lift on offer and a few launches took place, one of the gliders flown by Gift Kgadima took off in a Schleicher K7 and returned over two hours later, proving that the conditions were perfect for thermaling.
One of the highlights of the day for many of the visitors was the privilege of going for a sunset flight in the Kobus Venter’s Ex-SAAF Piaggio Albatross, these aircraft were operated by 27 Squadron from 1962 to 1990 when they were phased out and the majority were sold to private collectors. Its great to see one of them so well maintained and proudly flying in authentic SAAF livery.
The afternoons activities were closed off with yet another engine run of the mighty Griffon, exhaust flames of this V12 second world war machine were really impressive in twilight conditions. After the days excitement it was time to relax with a cold one or three around the braai fires and once again catch up with old friends. Dr Frank Persson kept everyone entertained late with his brilliant selection of live music.
Arjan Schaap, Roel Jansen and your team from Brits flying Club THANK YOU for yet another wonderful weekend you guys just seem to get better every year and hopefully the EAA will be back next year to enjoy the hospitality of one of the friendliest airfields in the country.
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