Grumman-American in South Africa - Yesterday and Today

The Grumman-American line of light aircraft were imported into SA between around 1972 up to 1977 as far as I can establish.

The company who marketed the aircraft was VIP Aircraft Distributors, based at Wonderboom Airport near Pretoria. I came across this company quite by accident at a time when I was looking to purchase an aircraft for my own private use - I had looked at various Cessnas, Pipers etc and even at a North American Navion that was for sale, but could not work up any great enthusiasm for any of these machines, as in my price range such aircraft were all old, high time and not very attractive to this first-time buyer!

In 1976 having just obtained my PPL, I attended an auction at FAWB, billed as the 'biggest aircraft auction ever in SA' and found lots of aircraft on offer - but again nothing that caught my eye. Before leaving the airport I wandered around the hangars and came across a smallish hangar with 3 brightly coloured little two-seaters standing outside. Unlike other manufacturers Grumman painted their aircraft in primary colours - red, blue, yellow - good marketing move! These looked interesting and I inspected them closely, liking what I saw. I spoke to the chap at the hangar and he explained to me what these aircraft were, and expanded on the fantastic performance(!), extraordinary value for money, reliability and so on, as salesmen are prone to do!

Much later I saw an ad for a used Grumman AA1B for a mere R 4500 (how things have changed with the years and inflation!) and called the number immediately to find it had already been sold.

Later again I met with Tom Zeederburg, selling a Cessna 175 at the old Baragwanath Airfield, south-west of Johannesburg. This aircraft was priced okay at about R 7000 and was clean and tidy enough, but research informed me that the geared motor in these aircraft was troublesome and expensive to fix if it went wrong - crossed that off the list.

Some time later Tom, who was a part-time dealer in fact, called me to say he was about to collect a Grumman 2-seater from Durban and bring it up to BaraG and it was for sale - was I interested? Sure thing, and very soon I became, in June 1977, the proud owner of this aircraft, originally ZS-IPF and later re-registered to ZS-VYI (see pic). The aircraft was a Grumman AA1A with a Lycoming 0-235 C2C motor of 108 hp @ 2600 rpm and had only 590 hours total time. All in all, for R 7250.00 it seemed like quite a good purchase.

VIP Aircraft imported in total something like 13 AA1A and B models and perhaps 20 of the AA5 4-seaters. They never sold in any numbers mainly because people here in SA did not know the brand as they knew Cessna, Piper etc, even though they were priced well for the market. No AA1Cs were ever imported.

Today around 9 of the AA1 2-seaters survive in SA and maybe 13 of the AA5 4-seaters.


Grumman AA1 ZU-BRX rebuilt and flown by Trevor Trautmann

Falco F8 built and flown by Brian Nelson

More to come on this page...!

Grumman Gallery

Images from the past featuring local Grumman aircraft.

Learn more
Pietenpol Gallery

The Pietepol Aircamper phtographed at various venues.

Learn more
Spitfire Gallery

The famous Supermarine Spitfire restored/rebuit in South Africa.

Learn more
Rand KR2 Gallery

Once a very popular aircraft in South Africa.

Learn more