The Aero Club's Annual Airweek 2023, continuing the tradition

By Willie Bodenstein

05 March 2023

When I arrived at the field at 08.30 after a pleasant hour and half a drive from Bedfordview in rather misty conditions, typical for the route and time of day, I thought that something was wrong, might I have my dates wrong? There was one aircraft, beside Richardt Lovetts's extensive collection, at the field. No exhibitors' tents, very few people and no sign of any real activity.

Two hundred attendees had registered, seventy saying that they would fly in. Twenty exhibitors had booked spaces. There was no sign of any of them.

Richardt Lovett was there, having vacated his hangar for the expected invasion which made me feel better. While chatting to him he told me that he and Irene had so much fun building their superb Vans RV14 that he is seriously considering building a RV8, but not just and any RV 8. Enough said.

Rob Jonkers arriving

Martin Meyer unpacking and getting their tent ready. They are definitely in need of a bigger aircraft!

Then Rob Jonkers, Aero Club Chairman and cousin, Martin Meyer arrived putting their money where their mouths are and off-loading their camping equipment to join the twenty other that had reserved pre-erected tents. That's when I knew that the event was in good hands. More arrivals later brought their own tents.

Nigel Musgrave Safety Director

Benji Phukubje and Kulani Hlungwani from the ATNS Special Events team

I took a couple of pics and went to join Safety Director Nigel Musgrave, Benji Phukubje and Kulani Hlungwani from the ATNS Special Events team who expertly handled the arrivals and departures in the tower overlooking the main tarred runway. They clocked 89 movements on Friday and 245 on Saturday.

When I later went back to the main apron area I for a moment thought I was in a different country at a different airfield. Almost all the exhibitor's tents were up and manned. The grass apron had row upon neat rows of parked aircraft, almost all of which had Oshkosh style tents under their wings.

Airweek 2023 was up and running, carrying on the tradition of it being the premier event on the Aero Club's calendar. Proof of its success is the presence of Farrick who having heard of the event last Sunday left Nairobi, Kenya in a bus travelling 4,432 kilometres, crossing four international borders arriving at Middelburg with his luggage five day later on Thursday.

Twenty-nine-year-old Farrick, told me that he fell in love with aviation when he was five years' old. In Kenya, he says getting so close to aircraft in his young days was just not possible. Having completed his schooling, he chose a career in aeronautical engineering and started an aviation club for kids between the ages of five and sixteen. Farrick will be leaving on Monday, this time flying back to Kenya. Dedication like that needs to be rewarded and he was introduced and acknowledged as the person who travelled the furthest to Airweek.

Farrick and Mark Howse

Another interesting personality that I met was Mark Howse, a member of Magalies Gliding Club and a member of the Soaring Society of South Africa. Mark brought his 1965 Alsema Sagitta 013 glider to Middelburg where I watched it being assembled for a winch launch later. Conditions must have been perfect because he only returned 3 hours and twenty-nine minutes later. He again launched an Saturday.

Assembling the Sagrita

On tow for her winch launch

Mark originally started flying at five with his father in the Sagita in Zambia. He later learned to fly at Magalies and got his license thirty-five years ago. He is still based at Magalies where today he is an instructor.

For interest's sake Peter Howe of PJ Aviation travelled all the way from Gariep Dam to man his stall and to introduce the range of Karnardia instruments and TQ VHF Com and Transponders of which he is the local agent.

Not an arrival but based at Middelburg this Grumann AgCat flown here flown by Jean Marc Hill was the photographers favourite.

SAHPA members showed their skill late on Friday afternoon.

A steady stream of arrivals kept Benji and Khulani busy. Besides Mark's display in the Alsema Sagitta, three Power Parachute Gliders took to the sky and to the north of the field showed their skills before a low-level flypast.

By 17.00 when the tower closed for day one the field was buzzing and judging by what I have seen the success of Air Week 2023 was ensured.

These photo were taken rather late on Saturday afternoon after a large number of visitors have left

Saturday, day two and low clouds greeted the early morning arrivals. However, the weather held and it turned into a brilliant day. A full program greeted the more than 115 Aero Club members who flew in, either visiting for the day or staying for the night.

MISASA members from Potgietersrus in Limpopo were some of Saturday's first arrivals

Another SAGPA member arriving

ASSA members, the Puma Energy Flying Lions flying their display

SAPFA members Tarryn and seated husband Iaan Myburgh with rally participants

Richardt Lovett with SAC member Ivan van der Schaar who flew a display in his Pitts Special

One of the Goodyear Pitts Special on take-off

The SAC's Barrie Eeles taking off for his display

Members of the SAC in jovial mood

Jeandre van der Schaar was one the SAMAA members who showed his skills

The extensive SAMAA exhibit

Members of RAA who visited local schools

This year almost all of the Aero Club's sections were at Airweek. ASSA, SAPFA, the EAA, MISASA, the SAC, SAMAA, BAFSA, RAA, SSSA, SAGPA, and SAHPA all had representatives and took part in the day's displays. Only PASA, the parachute association whose documentation was unfortunately not approved in time were not represented.

Part of the packed apron

Aviation event regulars, DJA aviation, Century Avionics and Hawkers, Sam, Jan and friend.

The Aeroclub's Sandra Strydam and Arnie Menegheli with the Club's Mascot. More about this initiative later.

The EAA held its monthly meeting in the morning and hosted Susan Schwaab from the EAA, Chapter 93, Madison in the USA. Susan, who during her 30 year career with United Airlines flew United Airlines a DC10 SO, B737 FO, DC10 FO, B737 CPT, B777 FO and retired as a B777 CPT. She has owned several aircraft over the years an Aeronca Champ, Great Lakes biplane, Republic SeaBee seaplane and a C140. She now fly a Citabria 7GCAA and is a partner in a C172 which she use for flying with the kids when helping to run a weeklong aviation summer camp, a monthly youth aviation club and Young Eagles flying programs.

Capt. Karl Jensen MC

Aero Club Chairman, Rob Jonkers

The prize giving was held in Richard and Irene's Hangar at 18.00 followed by the customary night glow by BAFSA at the entrance to the hangar using the Centenary Balloon.

Sunday Morning's BAFSA Baloon launch. Photo by Rob Jonkers

It seems as if Airweek has found a permanent home at Middelburg. The club will also be hosting the Presidents Trophy Air Race in May.

Many thanks to all involved who have worked so tirelessly to again make Airweek a success and a not to be missed event.

Prize Winners List

Some comments from social media:

"Oh man, what an enjoyable event at Middelburg Aeroclub Airweek - action packed Saturday and fun awards dinner in the evening. The kuiering and camaraderie were of a high order. Sorry if you couldn't make it - it is an event that you really don't want to miss. Of course, it is far more pleasant to stay over at least one night. There is something about the recreational aviation community where there is just the greatest majority of decent friendly people. To Richard and Irene Lovett who so generously allow us free use of their magnificent hangar complex, and to Rob Jonkers and his team for organising this wonderful annual event and all the Aero Club Sections who participated, a huge thanks and congratulations - looking forward to the next one." Karl Jensen

"Agree with Karl, it was a great weekend with EAA 322 winning the fun quiz last night. My only gripe is the event is too short and should be at least a 3 day event! Looking forward to next year, we'll done Rob and team. Neil Osh

ZU-DAB…home and safe. Thanks for yet another great event." Arjan

"Sorry to have missed what obviously promised to be a great event and by all accounts indeed was." Mike

"What an amazing fly in…. our own Oshkosh." Frank Bonfills Person

"To Rob and the Aero Club team, thanks for a very pleasant weekend, made even more enjoyable with fellow EAAers around." Marie Reddy.

"Good to get some sunshine, great to see aeroplanes and chat to old friends." Paul Sabateur.

"What a nice day at Middelburg. Thank you to everyone who worked to make it happen." Don Kemp

"It gets better each year." Alan Evan Haynes

Aero Club Airweek 2023 Events Video Report

The following is a short video of some of Richardt's toys as well as some visitors that was not part of the event.

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Events 2023
Aero Club of South Africa

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