How I went flying - on my own terms! Thanks for visiting.

This website contains some reminiscences of my own flying over 30+ years as a licenced PPL - hopefully some of the interesting bits! As you may know flying is not all drama and excitement, but there are times....

Also some reflections, mostly just my personal opinions, on aircraft flown and some exciting aircraft, old and new, civilian and military, which I have not flown but would love to!

"There are old pilots and there are bold pilots - but there are no old, bold pilots!"

Usual Disclaimer Goes Here: Whatever I may write here should not and must not be taken as advice or recommendation, and indeed may even be a pack of lies (for the purposes of this disclaimer) - so anyone acting on anything said here does so at his own risk etc,etc,etc,yadda,yadda and so on!

Read on - have fun!

The Beginning of Learning

It is a common aphorism that a PPL is your licence to begin learning about flying. You have more-or-less mastered the "trained monkey-moves" with the controls and all the very basics of navigation etc. but there is still little experience of real flying. This is true

EAA South Africa

My learning could not begin until I met and flew with Jeff Birch, flight instructor wihout peer. He opened my mind about my abilities, my aircraft's abilities and set me on the path to learning about flying single-engine, light aircraft for my own pleasure, enjoyment, sport and travel. I am not naturally an anxious or unconfident person, yet he did this by identifying immediately my anxiety about flight and banishing that - completely! In only one hour of unmatched instruction.

Having been fortunate enough to reach such a point at around 100 hours logged total time I was also aware of the other side of such a "coin" of confidence - that is over-confidence! In this regard what was extremely valuable was joining the Experimental Aircraft Association of SA in 1981. They had a clubhouse at Grand Central and this was the meeting point over a beer or two for many pilots, some with long and wide experience in military, civilian and commercial flying.

Without exception these were all aviators happy to pass on their words of wisdom and experience for the very low fee of the cost of a beer! This is known as "hangar-talk" in aviation circles and today I understand, with the demise of many flying clubs, it is a lost pastime. This is a huge loss, as many a sprog learned much listening to the tales - some tall no doubt but invariably all with a kernel of salutary truths! As is often said, "learn from the mistakes of others for you will not live long enough to learn from those you make yourself!"


At this time I could now plan trips to far away places for weekends or longer sojourns. The EAA often planned and organised such trips where all members, even non-members would be welcome to join in and there were fly-aways with as many as 50 aircraft and 100 or more members with families.

Flying to the destination was always fun, as you were in a loose gaggle in the sky and able to talk over a discrete radio frequency. It was about this time that thoughts of formation flying entered my mind and set me on another interesting path of flying! More of that later.

Whilst there were many fun trips to various places with airfields, such as Sun City, the big deal each year was the EAA Annual Convention and Fly-In. I first heard of this in 1980 by chance when someone mentioned to me a bunch of aircraft heading off for the weekend to a field near Harrismith. But why I wondered? More enquiries revealed that is was for somthing called "the EAA Convention" and I and my wife, having planned a weekend trip to Durban, decided to stop off at Harrismith to have a look.

I knew little or nothing about the EAA or it's convention at the time. It was, I discovered later, a Natal-based organisation and a small part - a "Chapter" of a much larger entity in America, and appeared to be little known in the then Transvaal (Gauteng today).

We found that the event was not held at the Harrismith Airport but in a farmer's field nearby! I circled the field where I could see a few dozen light aircraft parked and a strip marked out in the grass. This looked smooth enough so we landed and parked the aircraft. It all seemed a bit impromptu to me and a bit disorganised and we stayed only a short while then proceeded to Durban for the weekend.

The next year 1981 we began to see mention in the aviation magazines of the upcoming EAA Convention to be held at Margate. This rang a bell or two and sounded like fun, and we planned an excursion, but not knowing what we were going to find. Well, after a pleasant flight down past the spectactular Drakensberg Mountain range in excellent weather conditions, we landed at a well laid out small airport, the Margate Airport (FAMG) where we saw the runway lined with aircraft, and the parking apron well populated with aircraft, people and activity! This was more like it compared to the previous year and obviously some organisational skill and effort had been injected into this event!

Knowing little about the EAA initially, I however paid my money and signed up as a member at Margate. We rented a nice apartment not far from the airport and enjoyed a pleasant stay for the long weekend. The thing that impressed me most was the fact that the event was NOT primarily an airshow although there was on Saturday afternoon a display for the public to raise funds for EAA. This meant that pilots could fly as they wished during the rest of the weekend, just for their own enjoyment and to explore the coastline or other areas, or to give rides to family and friends.

Following that 1981 attendance at the Convention, we made it a regular pilgrimage down to the coast at Margate each Republic Day long weekend, getting to know fellow members, building flying experience including flying in less than perfect weather and sometimes learning the most important lesson of all for the VFR pilot - when not to fly at all!

...Next - The EAA, air-rallying and formation-flying >>>

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