Photos and text by Brian Spurr
The EAA East Coast Chapter recently made a move from their home at Grass Roots in the Cato Ridge area to the Baynesfield Estate in the Richmond area of KwaZulu Natal. They had to be out of Grass Roots by 31 October 2019. After the 2018 AGM, Gerald Maddams started negotiations with the management of Baynesfield Estate in order to arrange a home that would have a more secure future and would also reduce the escalating rental costs. Baynesfield Estate was left in Trust to the Nation of South Africa and under present law cannot be sold. As long as the EAA conducts themselves properly and offers educational assistance, guidance and governance in the realm of amateur built aircraft, their tenure on the airstrip should not be threatened.
The history of EAA Chapter 1502 began when it was formed by the amalgamation of two former Chapters, 645 Durban and 357 Pietermaritzburg. President Harry Antel (Chapter 357) was killed in a flying accident in 2006. This was at a time they were going through a lull in activity due to members leaving. It was then decided to combine the two Chapters to make one viable Chapter. Thus Chapter 1502 was born. In a tragic coincidence, Dave Grosvenor (former president of 645) was to lose his life in an aircraft accident in 2013. Apart from Chapter 322 in Johannesburg, it is believed that 1502 is the second largest EAA in terms of membership.
Negotiations with the Baynesfield Estate were favourable and a lease was signed in March of this year (2019). Short of having the ability to purchase their own land, this solution offers the most secure base for the EAA going forward.
A move such as this is no small undertaking and many people gave generously of their time and assets to make it happen. Robbie Els and Russell Smith spent almost every weekend at the airfield levelling and mowing the runway, connecting up electricity and water and organising cables and piping.
Staff from the Baynesfield Estate were more than helpful, providing their time and equipment. The EAA were lent a TLB, forklift (for raising rafters) and trench diggers for laying pipes and cables. The Vintage Tractor club lent a huge trailer for moving the steel for the hangar to the site. In addition, the contracts manager agreed that the fence line near the gate could be moved three metres back.
The airfield gates were donated by John Te Relie and they were collected by Robbie Els, Russell Smith and Gerald Maddams. The gates were installed by Robbie and Neil Upfold.
A 12-metre container was donated by NileDutch, through the efforts of Steve O'Hara. Steve arranged for the container to be delivered to the airfield, but as they did not have the equipment to offload it was offloaded at Stuart McKenzie's yard in the interim. A week or so later Stuart donated a truck and crew to reposition the container at the airfield.
A massive development was the donation by M-Projects of an 11 x 6 metre clubhouse to the EAA. This came about due to the efforts and recommendations of Andre Smit. The club house was delivered and erected by M-Projects and the EAA only had to pay for the transport. Andre and Colleen Smit then donated the blinds for the windows of the clubhouse.
Alan and Rose Lorimer donated a kitchen for the clubhouse. Alan also arranged the signage for the fences and local roads. Robbie Els donated the secure and attractive fence along the roadside. Dave Taylor created the EAA hangar sign. Another container (6-metre) with a window and door has been donated by Alan Lentle.
The hangar was designed and built by Neil Upfold who worked tirelessly over a four-month period. He invested a considerable amount of time and effort into the project. Members did pitch in from time to time assisting with steel foundations as well as lifting uprights and rafters. We visited the airfield on the 11th of September to see what progress had been made on the hangar. Gerald Maddams gave him credit by stating that the hangar exists, in reality, only because of Neil Upfold. He continued that the EAA Chapter 1502 owes a huge debt of gratitude to Neil.
Baynesfield airfield is located about 80 kms from Durban by car and obviously a lot closer and faster by air! The grass runway at Baynesfield is 800 metres long.
It is hoped that more members will locate their aircraft at the airfield and build additional hangars. On the first Sunday of every month, the club holds a breakfast and encourages pilots to fly in and join them. This was a regular event at Grass Roots and this tradition will continue at Baynesfield.
The Chapter held its first AGM at the field on 23rd November and on the 16th of December they held their annual fly-in and braai.
A number of aircraft flew in and most stayed for the lunch time braai. This was a very successful start for the new facility and one which will surely attract many more visitors and hopefully new resident aircraft. Chapter 1502 currently has 85 members on the books. The first fly-in was held in near perfect weather and included a contingent from Virginia. The largest aircraft on the day was the Yak 18T flown in by Mark Reid. The smallest was a microlight and there were a variety of other makes including an interesting new Zlin Shock Cub flown in by Craig Lang.
Mark Reid and his Yak 18T
After all his efforts involved in the move to Baynesfield, Gerald Maddams made a surprise announcement on the 16th advising that he would be relocating to the UK in March 2020. He has secured a job building aircraft over there. His position as President has been taken over by Alan Lorimer in the last couple of weeks. Gerald will be a great loss to the EAA and to aviation in this country. He does say that he will be back to visit from time to time. His Auster AOP 1 project will be going with him. Russell Smith remains Vice-Chairman and Robbie Els the treasurer. Gerald will function as the secretary until his departure next year.
At the braai Alan Lorimer thanked all those who had contributed to the opening of the new EAA home. Gerald Maddams presented Neil Upfold with The Harry Antel Award (for true altruism) for his efforts building the hangar.
Gerald Maddams (L) and Alan Lorimer (R)
Neil Upfold (L) and Gerald Maddams (R)
The aircraft based at Baynesfield currently are the Auster and Gerald's Bantam ZS-DIG. Alan Lorimer has his Piper Vagabond ZS-VLN, Robbie Els has his Savannah and Russell Smith his Challenger II. The EAA has acquired a fair quantity of tools and equipment and also have two tractors for mowing the strip. In addition, members have a range of interesting projects under way at various places around the province.
In 2020, the AeroClub of South Africa turns 100 years old! The main event for EAA members will be on the long weekend of 1st to 3rd of May. The 2020 EAA convention will be held at Middelburg and members are urged to try and have projects completed to join in the celebrations.
It is our opinion that the historic Baynesfield Estate is a perfect fit for this Chapter of the EAA. It is wonderful to see how much has been accomplished in a relatively short space of time. We believe that it will grow and encourage more aviators to build, preserve and grow the sport flying community. We wish them the best of luck for the future and may they all fly safe. We will check on their progress in the months ahead.
General Arrival and Departure pictures
Part of the line-up
Off duty ATCs Sean England and Roanda Steyn
Part of the line-up
A pretty Sling LSA
Posing in front of Malcolm's Glasair Sportsman are Gary Joubert, Gerald Maddams and Malcolm Mercer
The Shock Cub departs
Steve McCurrach and Mark Warren with the Evektor Harmony
Russell Smith's Challenger II
Malcolm Mercer's Sportsman departs
Part of the line-up
Gabriel Chella's Van's RV-7A
Mark Warren and Steve McCurrach depart in the Harmony
Gabriel Chella about to depart in his RV-7A
Andre Smit departs in his Van's RV-9
Gabriel Chella followed by Mark Reid on their way home
Mark Reid bids farewell in his Yak 18T