Aquilla Rotax 582 Solo Microlight adventure around SA

By Andries Kruger

The planning for this trip started in January 2021, but due to unforeseen circumstances, it was postponed. Monica, my wife, co planner and soulmate, unexpectedly passed away in September 2021. I lost interest and had no direction.

God is a healer and blessed me with a perfect remedy to clear my mind. The take-off date was finalised and on 18 February 2022, a perfect morning provided "wheels up" at 06h00.

Homebase departure point at Leppan field, Hoekwill, Wilderness. The route to be followed, briefly: Leppan field at Hoekwill near Widerness was the departure homebase. The coastline was followed past Plett, Jefferies Bay, Port Elizabeth, East London and onwards towards the wild coast up to Umkomaas, close to Durban.

This was followed by a swing inland towards the Battlefields at Dundee, crossing the Drakensberg at Majuba and then on to Secunda.

I then routed to the Northern Cape and Westcoast, following the coastline to Cape Town and George.

Beautiful scenery near Buffelsbaai on first leg to Jefferies Bay

Severe winds near Jefferies Bay required a precautionary landing, three nautical miles from my destination at Paradise beach. Friendly Cape Saint Francis residents saw me executing a farm road landing in gusting conditions. Salt of the earth people they proved to be, setting me up in their home for the night. A big thank you to Anthony and family!

Anthony and family, salt of the earth people

Next stop was Andrew Strydom's hangar home at Wings Park, East London. He provided, lunch and fuel, before routing for Umkomaas in KZN. Andrew introduced me to ZU-ECC, a Pegasus Quik 912. I would be back for this machine!

Andrew Strydom's hangar home at Wings Park, East London. Stuff that dreams are made of.

Wild coast beach landing

After taking off from Wings Park at 13h00, I routed for Port St Johns on the wild coast. Initially I made good progress, but some scattered showers were building up over the ocean, which first prompted a deserted beach landing, (awesome experience) where I sat out a passing light rain shower, about 50 NM from my Port St Johns destination.

Port St Johns Mountain top airstrip

The light rain lasted about 30 min and I then took off for a bucket list item, to land on Port St Johns Mountain top airstrip. A daunting image, with the approach to a vertical cliff face just a few meters from the runway threshold. Adding some scattered low cloud provided an interesting final approach…. However, safety first… always.

I landed safely, only to be greeted by a downpour of pelting rain an hour later. I pitched my tent and spent a cold, wet, lonesome night on the mountain. Nevertheless, soul food, fit for an adventure such as this.

Battlefields Lodge, Dundee, KwaZulu Natal

Early morning start from Battlefields strip, Dundee, routing for Secunda

Spectacular scenery greeted me the next day, routing along the Transkei Wild coast for Umkomaas. Noel Mcdonogh at Umkomaas hosted me for the evening in his flight school hangar. He provided me with some useful info regarding my crossing the Drakensberg, routing for Secunda via Battlefields, Dundee.

The Drakensberg was crossed safely at Majuba. This part of the journey was the most daunting in my mind during the planning stage, but proved to be an achievable challenge.

Reaching Secunda would be a big milestone for me, as I have always thought of flying solo to my previous hometown, where I raised my kids and spent most of my married life with my wife Monica.

My two sons welcomed me "home" in Secunda

Secunda early morning departure for Microland, Babsfontein where my flying dream took off….

My two sons welcomed me "home" in Secunda, an emotional moment…. I used to travel by motorcycle, through winter and summer, from Secunda to Microland, 140 km away, for each and every training hour with Fanie Deysel and Mervyn Reynolds at Microland. It was worth every minute. These two instructors laid the foundation for a safe trip, 10 years later…...

Next stop would be Klerksdorp and then the Northern Cape. A warm welcome at Klerksdorp PC Pelser airfield and the assistance of Peet Naude in his microlight hangar was superb!

A wet and cloudy Lindberg Lodge

Take-off from an early morning windy Klerksdorp routed me towards the planned Kuruman destination for the day. Windy conditions persisted and I diverted to Lindberg Lodge, (Schweizer Reinecke area) with its private strip. Highly recommended stay over or Fly-In destination.

From Kuruman, the plan was to follow the Orange River, past Upington, Augrabies and then on to the west coast to track the coastal route, past Cape Town and onwards, following the coast to complete the circle at Wilderness/ George.

However, I had to divert across the Great Karoo, as unflyable weather moved in towards Upington from the west coast. Poor weather, low cloud and windy conditions were predicted for the next 4 days. The west coast will be done at a later stage in the year.

Hats off to the Aquilla, a robust, reliable machine

I routed for Prieska, then for a Carnavon stayover. Hats off to the Aquilla, a robust, reliable machine that proved its worth in the severe turbulence encountered on this route. The rough, unmaintained airfields proved no problem for this machine.

The desolation and beauty of the Great Karoo must be experienced. Soul food.

From Carnavon, I routed for Prince Albert to cross the Swartberg and Outeniqua mountains, but once again had to divert, as the bad weather from the west coast caught up with me. The mountain crossings were impossible and I had to divert to Frazerburg, 150 km from Prince Albert, in the foothills of the Drakensberg.

I landed safely at Frazerburg (airfield in a poor state). So close to home and with weather predictions for the next 3 days unflyable, I made a decision to trailer home for the next few kilometres. If stay over conditions were appropriate at Frazerburg, I would have sat it out, but the airfield is totally desolate, far from town and it was not an option to leave my Aquilla unprotected.

End of the adventure. Frazerburg Desolation, awaiting trailer to take me home

This fantastic, solo, two-week journey thus came to an end in the desolation of Frazerburg. The sense of achievement was tremendous!

A few key points to consider for any microlighter planning a similar adventure:
The Aquilla, or any other trike, is a capable machine. Many aviators encountered on this trip were convinced it would be impossible to cover such distance with my aircraft. The Aquila and I proved them wrong.
Ensure your trike is in perfect condition, with meticulous complete inspections before departing.
During my detailed wing inspection, it was noted that the spreader bar mount plates were worn. Replacement was necessary and for peace of mind, all wing cables were replaced.
Respect the weather. Divert or sit it out. Never focus on reaching planned stopovers at all cost.
Gert rid of your watch and enjoy every minute!

Feel free to contact me for any planning assistance.

Events 2022

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