The Aero Club's Centenary plus one year celebrations Middelburg

By Willie Bodenstein

23-25 04 2021

The field on Saturday. Thank you, Daniel Ralefeta.

By the end of 2019, almost everything was in place to celebrate the Aero Club of SA's centenary in 2020. That is until a virus caused a pandemic and the whole world went into lockdown, public events were banned while social distancing and wearing masks became the order of the day.

Eventually, after a number of months, the severity of the lockdown regulations was slowly relaxed until a second wave hit us. By that time, 2021 was on our doorstep and it seemed that the long-awaited celebrations would never happen. However, restriction were again eased and permission was eventually granted for the celebrations to take place.

Alan Steward

Rudi Greyling

Frank van Heerden

Derek Hopkins

"Mr. Oshkosh" Neil Bowden and legendary Oshkosh entertainer Dix Voster were some of Friday's early arrivals.

Middelburg in Mpumalanga successfully hosted Airweek in 2018 and 2019 was again chosen as the chosen venue. The airfield was a hustle and bustle of activity when I arrived on Thursday afternoon 22 April.

Richardt Lovett had again kindly donated the use of his magnificent hangar and facilities for use resulting in his toys having to spend the next few nights outside.

The event registration tent was manned by the Aeroclub's Sandra and Charne…………………

……………….and to reflect the Club's 101 years, it was turned into a mini museum, with memorabilia and banners reflecting the headlines of each 10 years of the Club's existence. Relaxing are Dix Voster from Margate and Paul and Peter from Barberton.

The tent camping area with Richardt's hangar in the background.
Camping at the field was allowed. One could either bring your own tent or rent one, giving the event a bit of an “AirVenture Oshkosh” feel. Appropriately, the EAA of SA decided to combine their convention with Air Week.

More Friday arrivals.

A full and action-packed program was in place for Saturday. More aircraft arrived, one from East London, another from Margate and lots from Gauteng and Mpumalanga. One hundred and fifty had registered to attend but more than that eventually arrived. Some came for the day, some for the weekend. More came by road.

The Convention "HQ" and EAA Marquee was abuzz all day.

More visiting aircraft on Saturday.

BAAFSA the Balloon Federation, was one of the sub sections that really supported the celebrations in style. These intrepid aeronauts depend on their knowledge and the power of the winds to silently float majestically above the mere mortals on earth. However, one has to be an early bird or remain at the field until late to catch them in action.

The BAAFSA Balloons in action. Photos supplied by Rob Jonkers.

More early birds are the powered paragliders that also fly in the early mornings when the air is calm with very little turbulence. We unfortunately missed them on both days, but, did capture these images as they were packing their gear up for the next day's flights.

Photo by kind permission Bernardine Turner.

"Rise Above Aviators" may not currently be the largest of the Aeroclub's sub sections but, they certainly are one of the most enthusiastic and fastest growing sections which bodes well for the future of an industry we all are passionate about.

Despite tight trading conditions imposed on the industry by the Covid 19 Pandemic, there are still certain companies whose presence at air events are almost always a certainty. Three of these who happen to be Pilot's Post advertisers, among one or two others, were at Airweek.

A number of formation aerobatics displays, compliments of the SAC (Sports Aerobatic Club) thrilled those that made the effort to attend the celebrations.

The prime of SA's aerobatic pilots showed their skills.

Photo supplied by Derek Hopkins; names added by Felix Gosher.

Keeping the event safe and incident free were Safety Director, Nigel Musgrave with Marilese and Marcus from the ATNS Events Team.

As the sun set, the much-looked forward to awards dinner party with live entertainment by comedian / singer the legendary, the one and only - Dix Vorster was set to start.

Dix Voster

Rob Jonkers

However, before the festivities could start, the business of rewarding those who have contributed to make the event a success and to announce the winners of the aircraft judging had to be concluded. Dawid le Roux of PilotInsure did the introductions before Rob Jonkers, Aero Club Chairman took to the stage to give a brief background on the event.

Martinus Potgieter then too to the stage to hand over the trophys to the winners in the various categories.

SOFT SPOT CERTIFICATE- Middelburg Aero Club event Organiser - Jock Nel
SOFT SPOT CERTIFICATE - Safety Officer - Nigel Musgrave
SOFT SPOT CERTIFICATE - CAA Special Air Event Manager - Piet Fourie
SOFT SPOT CERTIFICATE - Centenary Banners & Museum - Quintin Hawthorne

Most enthusiastic team - Rise Above Aviators - Goitse Diale. (Not present)
Piping Hot Award - Hottest Air Balloon - Richard Bovell - ZS-HOI
The old and Beautiful Awards - Best Vintage Aircraft - Classic Flying Collection Team - ZS-EUU
The Fairy Award - Best Light Sport Aircraft - Rhyne Maclean - ZU-FPX
Bob the Builder Award - Best Homebuilt Aircraft - Daan Conradie - ZU-DJC (Not present)
Smoothest Operator Paraglider Award - Riaan Struwig
Aerial Antics Award - Best Aerobatics Award - Jason Beamish - ZS-EXT

The final awards of the night, before the Mach draw, was the announcement of the winners of the various categories of aircraft entered for judging. It was up to David Toma, President of the EAA of SA, to hand over the prizes.

One of the highlights of the weekend was probably the EAA's MACH Programme winner draw. Everyone who signed up for EAA membership in 2020 and 2021 was included in the draw. The more activities one participated in, the more names you have in the "hat". Prizes include a trip to the world's biggest aviation event, Oshkosh, worth R35 000 an AV 100AKG Headset worth over R15 000, a Gill 12 V battery charger worth R2 000 and customised Chuck Norris chocks and syphon pipes. The winner of the first prize was Captain Karl Jensen, who had flown in earlier for the day and was informed by phone of his well-deserved good fortune.

Extremely well supported and organised, the Centenary Celebrations hosted this past weekend at Middelburg Airfield drew a starved for flying aviation community. The combination of the Air Week with the EAA's Convention worked extremely well. Reminiscent of the old EAA Margate days with more than a touch of Oshkosh AirVenture to it, it is probably one of the best events that we have attended in a long time.

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