After a few years of absence from the Fly-in calendar, the Oudtshoorn Flying Club decided that it was time to appear on the radar again, and appear they did, a blip the size of a 747. I normally do not single out people but a large part of the success of this year's fly-in was due to the tireless work of member, Morne Jonker. I heard Morne even made personal rounds to some clubs to invite their members to the event.
A fly-in is not only about getting to the destination and back. You want to land on a decent runway and have fuel available. (I hear their fuel prices are of the lowest in the province) Then there is the question of how accessible and enjoyable the clubhouse facilities are and if their members are passionate all the better. And then some folks expected a bit of shut eye too. For all these the Oudtshoorn Flying Club ticked the boxes with a thick felt tip pen. They have a great wide tar runway, wide enough for the unexpected ground loop without going farming. They have ATC services supplied by AIFA and excellent fuel facilities as well. The clubhouse offers ample fuel for the inner soul, and they went the extra mile in supplying 5 star tented accommodations on the grounds, for us visitors. There was also transport available for those who were more of a B&B type.
A number of visitors arrived on Friday already, leaving the apron with 10 parked aircraft for the night. For those in need of some solid food, nice braaipacks, rooster koek, and other non-slimming delicacies were available, with the fires being stoked by the club members.
The plan was that Saturday morning we would make a short hop over the Swartberg Mountains to Prince Albert for breakfast. We were greeted by clear skies but a nasty cross wind making the gravel alternative runway at FAOH handy. The mountain crossing was unexpectedly smooth however and it was nice to see this natural barrier from the air. The Swartberg Pass is visible in the photo below with the road down to Die Hel, or more correctly Gamkas Kloof, just left of the wing strut.
Prince Albert sports a well maintained gravel runway, but a nearly 90 degree stiff crosswind made landing for some aircraft a challenge. All eventually planted their wheels on the ground and a total of 16 aircraft found themselves parked wherever there was a smooth spot, their occupants being ferried to the breakfast venue by the local taxi operator. Some of the aircraft did not visit Oudtshoorn but only flew in for the excellent breakfast which was served in style by the Dennehof Karoo Guest House staff. All sorts of aircraft landed at Prince Albert, from trikes to TCAs, but I'm sure the ultimate for the town's people was the L39 of Dave Mandel. I cannot imagine ex military jets visit these corners of our country very often.
The dirt runway made for some interesting pictures, but in no time the sound of silence once again draped its cloak over the small Karoo hamlet.
Our return trip via Klaarstroom, Meiringspoort and De Rust showed again that even the drier parts of our country possess their own unique beauty. Saturday night's program started with lamb on a spit, and I must admit in overdoing it somewhat as the juicy fatty parts were not trimmed away and a few inexplicably found their way to my plate, a number of times. For those who have lived a bit outside the mainstream of aviation Mike Blyth of The Aircraft Factory famescreened the video of him and James Pitman's Sling trip around the world.
Sunday morning weather was beautiful and windless, so departures were from as early as 7h00 already.
As with all things that is great success, the follow-up faces a tough decision, to maintain the standard or surpass it. Even to maintain the success of this weekend event will take some doing, and to better it even more so. But the Oudtshoorn Flying Club has an excellent team so I'm sure the next event might just be that little bit better.