Author Archives: Flippie Van Emmenis

FlySafair,one of few that survived COVID

FlySafair seems to have been one of the few that survived our initial COVID impact…

By Niel Swart
As South Africa is slowly getting use to the new normal and these “unprecedented times”, we still often still hear “you are on mute” but through it all, some companies are doing well. Safair being one of them. We thought it is good to check in with Kirby Gordon after our initial Q&A session a while ago.

ZS-FGC on her first visit to Cape Town International

FlySafair seems to have been one of the few that survived our initial COVID impact, well done on that. How did you manage to do this under so many restrictions?

“Thanks. We’ve just continued to do what we always do – keep our costs as low as possible and try to offer the best service we could under the circumstances.”

FlySafair has not only survived, you have actually taken most of the market share. This is very good for business but is this good in the long run? What effect does the lack of competition have on an airline such as FlySafair?

“No it’s not great in the long-run as any healthy market needs competition. We look forward to the return of our competition to the market. More choice is good for consumer demand.”

A new airline is set to take flight end November 2020. Their fleet will have much larger aircraft and it is to be expected that they will start with domestic operations first. They are also saying they will be the cheapest in the market. Does this have an impact on your future plans as at first passengers may be drawn by the cheaper prices?

“Ours is a highly commoditised market and the supply and demand dynamics of the market are always going to be a factor to contend with. We’ve competed against airlines bigger than us, and some who enjoy state subsidies. We’re just going to do the best we can.”

Apart from taken most of the market share, you are also expanding. We noted there is a big employment drive for flight deck and cabin crew. Is this to cope with the demand that there is now but also keeping the future in mind?

“We are recruiting crew at the moment, not sure we would call it a big recruitment drive relative to previous efforts, but we do have some new aircraft arriving and need to crew them. Some of the recruitment under way is also to fill one or two positions of folks who have moved on to other things.”

With many domestic airlines having difficulties and staff being made redundant, is there an opportunity for those that want to, to move over to FlySafair?

“We are recruiting at the moment so there are a few positions available yes.”

Credit: Billy Botha FlySafair Technician – The latest addition to the fleet ZS-FGD still carrying her other registration N268WT

Not only are new employees on the cards, so are new additions to the fleet. We already have seen ZS-FGC being in operation and ZS-FGD is about to arrive this week. Are more aircraft expected? If so, how many?

“Yes, ZS-FGD arrived last Thursday (1 October 2020) and is awaiting licensing by the SACAA.”

Speaking of ZS-FGC, she has a special livery. Can you maybe tell us a bit more about it and the award you have won (congratulations!)?

“Thanks – yes, we painted her up to celebrate our award of Aircraft Operator of the Year at the Annual SACAA Excellence Awards evening. It was a great honour to be awarded this top spot and we obviously wanted people to know about it.”

On ZS-FGC and ZS-FGD we noted they have the Scimitar Winglets. Scimitar Winglets seem to be gaining popularity in South Africa. They are very costly but have up a fuel saving of up to 2.2%. Is this to bring down price tickets or perhaps to extend the range, maybe looking at international flights?

“Yes they do both have the winglets. We’re going to be monitoring the saving on them – these savings are always great on paper but the key is to identify what kind of difference they really make when you start to apply them to your specific network on your specific operating conditions. Theoretically the saving should be good on slightly longer hauls, but at this stage we’re going to fly a while and measure the differences to see whether it’s worth deeper investment.”

SAA (Mango branded) have been leasing B738’s from Safair. Have they been returned to Safair and are they now part of the fleet?

“There are a few B738s in our fleet that were once in the Mango fleet – I stand to be corrected but I think the first three 800s we brought in were all ex-Mango.”

How big is the fleet now and how many aircraft are leased vs owned?

“The FlySafair fleet is up to 17 now. We own the 8 400s.”

We noted the FlySafair fleet is only Boeing and the B737. Why the B737 and not the A320NEO?

“Key to the classic low cost operating model is to operate one type. We even stretch that rule a bit between the 400s and the 800s as it is, but the idea is to create efficiencies in terms of training, aircraft “swopability” and of course spares and maintenance. Safair had long been operating and maintaining Boeings before FlySafair was even a consideration, so the choice there was a pretty obvious one for us.”

Credit: Billy Botha FlySafair Technician – The latest addition to the fleet ZS-FGD

Will FlySafair always stick to Boeing or will other manufactures such as Airbus be incorporated later?

“No, the idea for the moment is to stay true that Low cost model in FlySafair and focus on one type.”

On the topic of the total fleet: previously we mentioned the Herc operations. How is that side of the business?

“Great. The Herc contracts operate very essential services on their contracts, so work fortunately continued through lockdown, which was a real help.”

We had a look at the age of the Hercs (to compare those to the ones owned by SAAF and we all looooooooooove a Herc) and noted the Hercs are aging. How many years will these iconic aircraft still be in service with Safair? If less than 5 years, what are the options being considered to replace the Hercs with?

“Your observation is accurate and very sad. Those aircraft have a remarkable legacy and it’s tragic to see them being slowly retired. We’re looking at a number of alternatives and engaging our clients in options that they might be interested in, but we’ve not committed to anything yet.”

Credit: FlySafair

Is the employment drive for flight and cabin crew to staff these new additions to the fleet?

“Yes and to a smaller degree to replace one or two staffers who have moved onto other careers.”

Are any aircraft due to leave the fleet, like the B734’s? If so, which ones and where are they heading to?

“Not in the immediate future.”

While on the topic of aircraft, as the fleet grows, so does the technical needs. As you are servicing aircraft yourself, do you foresee that even in this area more people will be needed?

“Possibly. We’ve certainly needed some more space and we’ve moved from occupying one hangar to three.”

Could it be that Cape Town also gets a technical facility or possibly even Safair hangars where full A, B or C checks and other heavy maintenance?

“Not at this stage.”

As FlySafair grows, how will you ensure that passengers and employees do not become just numbers and more business focussed compared to the more fun and personal airline we all love? Or differently put, how will you keep the small personal touch while being a large airline?

“That’s a big focus that we have and something that we work very hard on. It’s a particular challenge in the aviation space just by the sheer structure of airlines, specifically having your crew and your outstations geographically separated from the rest of your organisations. We make a big effort to ensure that everyone keeps close through a number of initiatives.”

We all hope we are over the worst when it comes to COVID-19 but what if a second wave is to hit us? What preparations are being made by FlySafair to withstand another possible lockdown?

“Yes, hopefully the worst is over, but we do need to be realistic about a possible resurgence. We’ll have to access the specific situational factors but we’re most likely to pursue a similar strategy to what we used the first time – seems to have worked for us so far.”

COVID19 has taught all industries various lessons. Which were the biggest lessons that Safair have had? Did any of these lesson have long lasting impact on how you will operate in future? As an example the check-in process at the check-in desks.

“One thing that our customers are really loving is the controlled disembarkation procedures where we work row-by-row, so we’ll definitely stick to that. The other thing that’s been key is refining our self-service offerings – so for example our existing Whatsapp boarding passes were a real asset but we’ve now had more opportunity to highlight those facilities and get more people to try them out.”

Will we maybe see a masked FlySafair special livery at some stage?

“Hahah, maybe, although it’s been done now – we like to be the first to do new things.”

Speaking of FlySafair maybe doing a masked livery, what community initiatives are Safair doing in these times of need?

“To be very honest, our focus has very much been internal now. We have a few external projects that we run, which have continued – things like our cadet program and work creation initiatives, but we’ve turned a lot of our focus on to looking after our own people who’s had to make sacrifices during this tough time. As they say, charity begins at home.”

On brand awareness: could we maybe see FlySafair/Safair participation at air shows next year? Past air shows have been dominated by Mango.

“It’s always something to consider but to be honest, the cost of involvement versus the marketing return is doesn’t add up. If we participated we’d do it more on the basis of engaging with staff, but they are expensive exercises.”

Could FlySafair in future sponsor an acrobatic flying team?

“Not likely – at the moment we are pretty dedicated to our springbok sponsorship and aren’t in the market for any new properties.”

Will the Birthday Sale return in 2021?

“Hopefully, but we’ll have to wait and see.”

Since our Q&A session with Elmar, he has been elected Airlines Association of Southern Africa’s (AASA) as their new deputy chairperson with Wrenelle Stander, CEO of Comair, as the new chairperson at its 50th annual general meeting. Congratulations to both, who will serve for the next 12 months, and we wish them all the best!

Book your FlySafair flight here

Aviation Insurance

By DJA – Graham Speller

DJA Aviation (Pty) Ltd

Aviation insurance has become a very different commodity to the one we have been used to over the past 15 years or more.

When effecting insurance, you are buying a promise – that’s all. A promise of some future conduct, based on a pre-agreed set of terms and conditions.

You hope (because you cannot guarantee it) that the insurer(s) you have contracted with will fulfil their obligations under the contract. They, in turn, assume that you will do likewise.

And provide both parties follow the rules, keep to their promises and respect each other’s rights under the contract, all is well.

The disastrous losses sustained by Property & Casualty (P&C) losses in 2017 and, to a lesser extent, in 2018, led to a global shift in the manner in which short-term insurance coverage is assessed, priced and offered. Multiple natural disasters – hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, etc. – resulted in massive insured losses, easily exceeding 200% of the global premium income.

Coupled with a collapse of international insurance rates, the direct underwriting losses (the extent by which claims exceeded premium income) placed many/most Insurers and Lloyd’s Syndicates in a life-threatening position, from which they needed to extricate themselves in a very short period of time.

In essence, the 2017-18 P&C losses severely depleted the reserve account of many Insurers and their respective Reinsurers. Without reflating the market, future catastrophic losses may have led to widespread failures, leading to financial ruin for many policyholders.

The aviation market, meanwhile, had been losing money for several years – at least since 2015.

Following a spike in airline insurance rates in 2002, as a consequence of the 9/11 losses, the airline industry entered a golden age of safety, with a continually-falling loss rate and big profits for those Insurers who had not exited the aviation market in the aftermath of the attacks.

Of course, there is nothing quite like seeing your competitors raking it in to encourage you to enter the game, whether for the first time or as a returning player!

This sudden expansion of capacity (more Insurers offering coverage), coupled with benign loss experience, started the “soft market” cycle which, with only momentary pauses, saw airline insurance rates dropping steadily over the next 15 years.

At the same time, many airline Insurers who saw their income being eroded due to the falling rates, turned elsewhere for income – General Aviation became an obvious choice, leading to accelerated softening of GA insurance rates as a result.

If we were to go back 20 years or so, to the late 90s, we would see that aviation rates were probably running at about the same as they are today, in 2020.

In the interim, however, they hit an all-time low.

As part of the efforts to reflate the market in 2018, Insurers were forced to carry out a complete review of all parts of their portfolios (i.e. all classes of insurance), including niche areas like Aviation which, at best, accounts for around 2% of the world’s total short term insurance premium income.

What those Insurers found was that Aviation (and other niche classes) had been “sheltered” by the P&C account for years. Bear in mind that, by comparison, the P&C market accounts for about 60% of the total global premium income.

The consequences were as dramatic as they were rapid.

Many Insurers completely withdrew from underwriting Aviation. Understandably, perhaps, these tended to be those that had been the ones offering the cheapest rates.

Others, who decided to stay in the game, needed to take action on three fronts: increasing rates, restricting coverage and reducing exposure (the shares they write), in order to get their portfolios back into a profitable position.

For an Insurer, a “profitable position” probably means a return of no more than 5% across the portfolio.

In other words, provided they paid out no more than $95 for every $100 of nett income, they are profitable.

Nett income would be calculated, very simply, as gross premium, less expenses, plus investment income.

Given that global interest rates have dropped to virtually 0% in most developed countries, there is no investment income to be made and Insurers are faced with a very simple equation.

Expenses include the overall cost of running the place plus the cost of acquiring business and runs at around 40% of gross premium for most Insurers.

So if an Insurer pays more than $55 in claims, for every $100 of gross premium, they are running at a loss.

Against this background, Insurers have to take great care in how they price their exposure, in order to give themselves a reasonable chance of turning a profit. Losing money is no longer an option and will result in job losses and the potential withdrawal of the Insurer from Aviation, with all that infers.

What Insurers are doing is to take a completely fresh look at the exposure and repricing the risk from the perspective of their own position alone. They call it “modeling the exposure”, which is usually carried out by actuaries.

In “hard” markets like the current one – where rates are being driven up by Insurers, the cost of insurance becomes a key factor for most policyholders.

A true broker will spend his/her working life trying to secure the best possible terms for their client. To some, this means the cheapest rates, but that is a dangerous fallacy.

The terms of insurance are a combination of a number of things. At DJA we refer to The Right Approach. This encapsulates our entire business philosophy, and enables us to fulfil our responsibilities to our clients and provide our clients with the financial peace of mind they need in order to operate.

There are four principle aspects which we say MUST be kept in balance with each other – like the blades of an aircraft propeller.


Naturally, the coverage must be appropriate for the risk and the policyholder’s requirements – no point in cutting out required coverage and hoping things will be OK


The service provided by the Insurer and the Broker, on a day-to-day basis, and especially when claims arise, is important – the insurance will be worthless if you cannot get anything done, or get advice when you need it


This is a big one. Why bother to insure if the Insurer you choose is not going to be able to provide the service or, far more importantly, is not going to respond to claims – either because they don’t want to or because they cannot?


The premium must be competitive, having regard to all the other factors. Again, there is no point in cutting down on required coverage, giving up service or selecting a sub-standard Insurer all for the sake of a cheaper premium. That is the height of idiocy and DJA does not see that as a means of fulfilling its duties towards its clients.

A fifth aspect, that is particularly relevant in a hard market, is Relationships. That is, the relationship between the Insured and his Insurers. When things are tough, as they are right now, and claims arise which could go either way (as many can), it can be the strength of the relationship with the Insurer that makes the difference. So we try to promote the maintenance and growth of Insurer-Client relationships wherever we can.

It makes sense to follow an Insurer’s financial strength rating, as applied by ratings agencies who specialize in analyzing insurance companies. Standard & Poor’s and AM Best are the principal ratings agencies for the insurance industry and apply financial strength ratings (FSRs) to hundreds of Insurers all over the world, using a consistent rating methodology that enables and Insurer in one country to be reasonably compared with one in a different part of the world.

Both S&P and AM Best use an alphabet scale, ranging from A as the highest.

The insurer may need to be around to defend you, and settle claims, for many years following a loss – particularly in relation to Passenger Liability claims. The last thing an Insured needs is to find that, at the crucial moment, the Insurer has disappeared. There is no such thing as joint liability under an insurance policy – each Insurer is only responsible for its own share.

Anyone considering whether to accept an insurer it is being offered to underwrite the insurance of substantial assets and potentially-huge legal liability exposures should wish to get a high level of comfort based on the financial strength rating of the Insurer(s) concerned.

Particularly an Insurer located in a foreign country that does not have a subsidiary in the policyholder’s country of domicile and no assets which can be applied to cover its liabilities.

Based on the above scale, an Insurer rated below A- by S&P, or B+ by AM Best – or not rated at all by either – should be carefully considered and further investigations carried out in conjunction with a knowledgeable insurance broker.

The more care and attention that is applied to the selection of the Insurer(s) to be relied upon to fulfil their promises under the insurance contract, the less likely it is that claims will result in tears.


Flying Legends comes to an end at Duxford

By David Harvey

It was announced today that the Flying Legends Airshow, a staple of Warbird enthusiasts for the past 25 years or more, will no longer be held at the famous Duxford Airfield. Nick Grey of the Fighter Collection, who organizes, runs and participates in the Flying Legends Airshow made the announcement on the Fighter Collection Website. This followed shortly after by a similar announcement by the Imperial War Museum (IWM) who own and run the Duxford Airfield.

There was an obvious outpouring of anger on social media with much of it directed at IWM, however IWM have said that they will be making future announcements regarding airshows at Duxford.

Duxford currently hold three airshows per annum. The May Airshow is a mix of new and old aircraft, Flying Legends held in July is dedicated to Warbirds of the First and Second World Wars whilst the September Battle of Britain Airshow is again a mix of new and old.

Flying Legends is famous for its closing Balboa of the participating aircraft which can number in excess of 30 aircraft flying in a formation over the airfield.

There has been no announcement from the Fighter Collection if the Flying Legends Airshow will take place at another venue however, they have committed to keeping their aircraft hangered at Duxford.

Flying Legends 2019

Safair – An airline during COVID-19 and South African lockdown

Safair – An airline during COVID-19 and South African lockdown

Source: FlySafair website

By now we are all aware of the devastating impact COVID-19 has on all our lives but ever wondered how this will impact an airline? Also, now that South Africa is on the brink of level 4 (instead of level 5) restrictions, how will the airlines start operations again?

Aviation Central approached one of the great success stories within the South African aviation, Safair or FlySafair for most, and asked them a few questions. A big thank you to Elmar Conradie, CEO at Safair Operations (Pty) Ltd and Kirby Gordon Executive Manager & CMO at Safair Operations (Pty) Ltd for taking the time and making effort to answer our questions.

Elmar Conradie – Source: FlySafair website Kirby Gordon – Source: FlySafair website

COVID-19 is having a huge impact on many industries, aviation being one of them. We know the entire FlySafair fleet is in hibernation but Safair is in fact still operating, few knowing of this, and earing money and helping others by flying cargo. Can you please tell us a bit more about this?

“Yes, our ACMI division (Aircraft. Crew. Maintenance. Insurance) is still in operation. We have five aircraft currently operating in different parts of Africa doing the Humanitarian Aid and Relief work that we usually do. That part of the business continues.”

Many do not know that Safair has L100-30’s. How many are there currently within the fleet, where do they mostly operate and what does the future hold for these ladies?

“Yes we have 5 in the fleet currently. Four are in operation with one in maintenance. These aircraft operate in various parts of Africa on long-term contracts for our humanitarian aid and relief clients. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the work these clients do, I can’t be more specific about their whereabouts upon the request of our clients. As it stands we see this work continuing for now – this business which is essential in its nature, has not been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Source: FlySafair website

When South Africa beats COVID-19, and we will, what would be the process for getting operational again? What steps will need to be taken to wake up the fleet from a practical and technical perspective? How long will this take and when do you foresee the first flight departing?

“Our aircraft have been placed into a 30-day storage program as per manufacturer instruction, and are parked at their various home bases at OR Tambo International, Cape Town International and King Shaka International. At the end of their 30 days they’ll have the necessary procedures run on them to either further their storage, or prep them for a more active state of rest during which they would need engines runs performed etc. The process doesn’t take too long, we imagine that we would be able to “wake” everything we’ll need for the first day of flying in about 1 working day.”

Will the general public see a full schedule on start up again?

“No, we will start off with a reduced schedule and increase as demand grows which we hope will be quickly.”

Follow up to last, if a reduced schedule is to be implemented how long will it take before the full schedule is implemented?

“We wish we knew to be honest. It’s all dependent on the market demand factors.”

What measures have been put into place to ensure the fleet and staff stay current in terms of laws and regulations? Any relaxations from SACAA side?

“No relaxations, no. We’ve had to ensure that we continue with the essentials during this period in that regard including an SACAA audit, which went smoothly.”

We see in the UK and other countries that cabin crew are joining with medical forces as they have basic first aid training. If there is a need for additional hands within the medical field, is this something Safair may also consider?

“Yes. We’ve reached out to see what benefit our crew can offer and while their first aid training is useful, they still fall into a “non-medical” volunteer category. Several of them have signed up with the various volunteer networks and will be called on if help is needed in their local areas.”

What steps were taken to ensure the fleet is safe in terms of sanitizing them before lock down? To prevent any bacteria etc from harbouring inside the aircraft?

“The manufacturer recommendations for the 30-day program include a number of sanitation and cleaning measures, but in addition we’ve secured some excellent anti-bacterial and anti-viral cleaning agents that are aviation approved. So cabins and decks were thoroughly cleaned and then treated with these compounds using an electrostatic spraying application.”

We do not hope we have another COVID-19 but in preparing for the future, with the measures implemented with COVID-19 which one of these will you consider making a permanent procedure going forward?

“We’ve developed a great new offer, which was in the pipeline anyway, but now has a new lease on life, in the form of a “block the middle seat” option. It was to be sold as a business class style upgrade which customers could purchase to ensure space and privacy during their journey, but we’ve developed the tech and are going to launch it at a reduced rate as a social distancing option for now.”

Seeing we are on the future: what are the FlySafair plans for the current fleet?

“We want to fly it! Before this we had a full domestic schedule which we were very excited to execute and we want to work back up to that.”

Will we maybe see a full service like business class on FlySafair?

“No, not a full service business class with different seating – but perhaps an augmentation on the “build-it-yourself” solution as described above.”

And any international plans?

“Not at this stage, no.”

Everyone has their favourite favourite and FlySafair is this favourite for many including us at Aviation Central. One thing is for sure… we all want to see airlines flying again and it is great knowing that airlines like Safair is indeed keeping an eye on the future and still want to bring the best to their clients, while looking at their employees as far as possible.

We cannot wait to see you again as you are vital to that dream weekend away, our holidays taking us to that wedding/event and more importantly to seeing our families and loved ones.

Blue skies to all Safair and other aviation industry related employees!


Northwest Regional SAC – Klerksdorp 2020

Northwest Regional Aerobatics Championship – Klerksdorp 2020

Photos By Bennie Henning

The Venue needed to be changed on 99 and yet the team pulled off and amazing event and well-organized event. Regional Aerobatics Championship was held at the PC Pelser Airport on 7 March 2020

The SAC Regional Contest director, Cliff Lotter, led the pilots briefing in the morning as start of the day proceedings. He explained the aerobatic boxes that was in use for the contests and gave a quick rundown on the emergency proceedings for the day.

Sportsman Class Barry Eeles son, Tristan Eeles was in dads 330SC. He flew in the Sportsman Class and is one young chap that has a bright future in Aerobatic flying. 21 Pilots competed. The flow of competition was well organized with Aircraft and Pilots starting up and holding while the current competitor is still flying.

Scoring was done by Natalie Stark and Judging was led by Contest Chief Judge John Gaillard.

Competing Aircraft list,  RV7,  RV-8, Yak-52, Yak-55,  Extra 330SC, Extra 300, Pitts Special, Giles 202. 

The SA National Aerobatics Championship which will be held at Tempe in Bloemfontein 16-20 June 2020 and a full Airshow 20th


Sportsman Overall

1. Tristan Eeles Extra 330SC 84.31%

2. Wally Goodrich RV 8 80.67%

3. Gregg Clegg Pitts Special 77.75%

Intermediate Overall

1. Charles Urban Extra 300 82.24%

2. Andrew Blackwood-Murray Extra 300 74.77%

3. Roger Deare Extra 300 72.97%

Advanced Overall

1. Pierre du Plooy Giles 202 78.38%

2. Kayle Wooll Extra 330SC 73.63%

3. Cliff Lotter Yak 55 72.90%

Unlimited Overall

1. Nigel Hopkins Extra 330SC 84.11%

2. Gary Glasson Pitts Special 81.63%

3. Barrie Eeles Extra 330SC 79.36%

Photos By Bennie Henning

SAPFA Rally Practical Training Camp – 22 Feb 2020

SAPFA Rally Practical Training Camp – Brakpan 22 February 2020 – by Rob Jonkers

After learning the theoretical side of Navigation plotting at the training camp held at Aerosud on the 18th of January, it was time to put into practice what was learned with a practical flight. The SAPFA national coach Jonty Esser put together a short route in the Brakpan Heidelberg area with 4 turnpoints to be flown by participating teams.

The weather however did not play ball at all, restricting participants to arrive by air, however many decided to drive in, to at least do some ground school. At the end there were 9 teams that participated. On hand from the SAPFA Protea members were Jonty Esser, Frank Eckard, Sandi Goddard and Rob Jonkers imparting their knowledge to the teams.

The theme of the morning was to gain knowledge on practical flying, how to accurately bingo each turn point in time, how to approach the start, this always being the most difficult part of any rally, firstly to find it, and then to get there at the start time. Then the dynamics of keeping on time on each leg, approaching the next turn point and identifying the photo being correct or incorrect. First up was Frank Eckard who explained all the required strategies of flying, explaining that you have to be in the right frame of mind to take part in this sport, extreme focus and concentration will get one to the winning post.

Frank Eckard – Strategies of Flying a Rally

Thereafter Jonty provided an outline to the planned flight route for the day – which could not be flown, but an explanation of how to set up the aircraft to fly the route, to get to the nominated 1000 ft altitude, set the flaps and power setting, then to adjust timing by changing the aircraft’s attitude to speed up or slow down, rather than utilize power changes as power changes disturb the fundamental speed set up.

Jonty Esser – How to set up your aircraft in flight

After Jonty, Rob showed a short video of a practical flight demonstrating what photos look like on the ground and the visual angles and distances to be able to recognize them, and from what altitude these would be best visible.

A practical out of the cockpit view of en-route photo recognition

After a short break, it was decided to carry out a real plotting exercise of the Rand Rally Challenge against the clock with a 30 minute deadline, essentially 2 minutes per plotting point. It gave everybody an incentive to attempt to beat the clock. With new teams this proved daunting, thus more focus was provided on techniques of using the tools and developing the skills to use them.

Clarissa & Kerry busy with their plot

Clarissa & Kerry busy with their plot

Milan, Caroline & Andy busy with their plots

Karyn & Leon happy they have aced their plot in the allotted time

The Track shown of Route 2 – an anti-clockwise route

Next Lowveld Airshow only in 2021


19 February 2020

Lowveld Air Show postponed to 2021

Dear Media Partner

On Wednesday, 12 February 2020, the Lowveld Air Show committee reached a decision to postpone the 2020 Lowveld Air Show during a special meeting that was held.

Since the 2017 air show, the committee has considered the option of only hosting an air show once every two years. We played with the idea, but continued hosting it each year due to public demand. “The 2019 air show was one of our biggest and most successful air shows ever hosted. The new approach of a shorter air show and other factors that contributed to it being such a great success, made this an incredibly hard decision to make,” Johan Heine, Chairperson of the Lowveld Air Show committee stated. “We understand most of our valued partners, each year, look forward to form part of this very popular Lowveld family event.

However, the economic downturn, financial pressure, and the significant escalation of air show costs, the wise decision was put into effect now, to only host an air show every two years, starting 2021,” Johan continued.

By hosting it bi-annually, it will allow all our partners the opportunity for long term budget planning and possibly bigger and more sponsorships which will enable us to always present an air show on the highest standards everyone has become accustomed to. Johan said they invite all interested corporates and business owners who would like to get involved in the second biggest event hosted in the Lowveld, to contact them, as planning is already underway for next year.

“We would like to make use of this opportunity to thank all our loyal supporters which include sponsors, participants, exhibitors, and most importantly the public who come to enjoy this massive family event every year. We truly value you.”

It will always stay our main priority to bring the world of aviation to the Lowveld community in conjunction with our main aviation partner, Kishugu. Their main purpose is to expose the public and our youth to the many careers in the aviation industry.

We are certainly committed and excited to get planning underway for a bigger and better Lowveld Air Show 2021.

See you next year!

For more information contact: Naranda Leeuwner

Marketing and Media Liaison 072 447 5968


Photos from the 2019 Airshow


SR-71 Blackbird once over South African Skies!

August 1977 – East and West Work together to stop South Africa’s Nuclear testing

In the mid-afternoon on Saturday, Aug. 6, the acting chief of the Soviet embassy, Vladillen M. Vasev, called at the White House with an urgent personal message from Leonid I. Brezhnev to Jimmy Carter. South Africa, according to Soviet intelligence, was secretly preparing to detonate an atomic explosion in its Kalahari Desert. Brezhnev asked for Carter’s help to stop it.

U.S. reconnaissance satellite with high-resolution cameras also was urgently programmed for low-orbit passes over the area in question. US intelligence confirmed the existence of the nuclear test site with an overflight of a Lockheed SR-71 spy plane.

The Flight operated from Diego Garcia Air base and is about 5000km from South Africa, supported by an Air to Air Refuelling tanker, this flight would have been done with no difficulty.

About Vastrap Testing / Bombing Range

Vastrap on Google Maps 27°50’05.0″S 21°37’50.0″E ( )
Vastrap (Stand firm) is a small military airfield situated in the Kalahari Desert north east of Upington inside a 700 square kilometre weapons test range of the same name[1] belonging to the South African National Defence Force. It was constructed to allow the SAAF to practice tactical bombing operations, and for aircraft to service the SADF’s defunct underground nuclear weapon test site

Atomic testing

The area was selected for nuclear weapons testing due to its remoteness, low population density, stable geological formations and lack of underground rivers.

Two underground shafts 385 metres and 216 metres in depth and 1 metre in diameter were drilled from 1975-1977.Neither was ever used to perform a detonation, although instrumented tests were performed. The shafts were sealed with sand and concrete under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency in July 1993.


The site was first detected by the Soviet spy satellite, Cosmos 922 when it photographed the area from 21–25 July 1977, and reported to the Americans on 6 August, who in turn confirmed its existence with an overflight of the Lockheed SR-71 spy plane. The US then applied pressure on the South Africans for it to be closed, France also insisted on closure, threatening cancellation of the Koeberg nuclear power station contract.

David Albright reported that South African officials believed that an attempt to re-use the site in the late 1980s was detected by Western or Soviet intelligence agencies, and that this discovery influenced the Tripartite Accord. In an effort to mask activities, a shed was built over one of the shafts, and the water that was pumped out in preparation for a test was hauled away.

About Diego Garcia Air base

Diego Garcia is an island of the British Indian Ocean Territory, an overseas territory of the United Kingdom. It is a militarised atoll just south of the equator in the central Indian Ocean, and the largest of 60 small islands comprising the Chagos Archipelago. It was first discovered by Europeans and named by the Portuguese, settled by the French in the 1790s and transferred to British rule after the Napoleonic Wars. It was one of the “Dependencies” of the British Colony of Mauritius until the Chagos Islands were detached for inclusion in the newly created British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) in 1965.

In 1966, the population of the island was 924. These people were employed as contract farm workers on coconut plantations owned by the Chagos-Agalega company. Although it was common for local plantation managers to allow pensioners and the disabled to remain in the islands and continue to receive housing and rations in exchange for light work, children after the age of 12 were required to work. In 1964, only 3 of a population of 963 were unemployed. In April 1967, the BIOT Administration bought out Chagos-Agalega for £600,000, thus becoming the sole property owner in the BIOT. The Crown immediately leased back the properties to Chagos-Agalega but the company terminated the lease at the end of 1967.

Between 1968 and 1973, the now unemployed farm workers were forcibly removed from Diego Garcia by the UK Government so a joint US/UK military base could be established on the island. Many were deported to Mauritius and the Seychelles, following which the United States built a large naval and military base, which has been in continuous operation since then. As of August 2018, Diego Garcia is the only inhabited island of the BIOT; the population is composed of military personnel and supporting contractors. It is one of two critical US bomber bases in the Asia Pacific region, along with Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Pacific Ocean.

The atoll is located 3,535 km (2,197 mi) east of Tanzania’s coast, 1,796 km (1,116 mi) south-southwest of the southern tip of India (at Kanyakumari), and 4,723 km (2,935 mi) west-northwest of the west coast of Australia (at Cape Range National Park, Western Australia). Diego Garcia lies at the southernmost tip of the Chagos-Laccadive Ridge, a vast underwater mountain range with peaks consisting of coral reefs, atolls, and islands comprising Lakshadweep, the Maldives, and the Chagos Archipelago. Local time is UTC+6 year-round (DST is not observed).

On 23 June 2017, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) voted in favour of referring the territorial dispute between Mauritius and the UK to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in order to clarify the legal status of the Chagos Islands archipelago in the Indian Ocean. The motion was approved by a majority vote with 94 voting for and 15 against.

In February 2019, the International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled that the United Kingdom must transfer the islands to Mauritius as they were not legally separated from the latter in 1965. The ruling is not legally binding.

In May 2019, the United Nations General Assembly affirmed the decision of the International Court of Justice and demanded that the United Kingdom withdraw its colonial administration from the Islands and cooperate with Mauritius to facilitate the resettlement of Mauritian nationals in the archipelago.

In a written statement the U.S. government said that neither the Americans or the British have any plans to discontinue use of the military base on Diego Garcia. The statement said in a footnote: “In 2016, there were discussions between the United Kingdom and the United States concerning the continuing importance of the joint base. Neither party gave notice to terminate and the agreement remains in force until 2036”.


The Pilot Insure Witbank Speed Navigation Rally

The Pilot Insure Witbank Speed Navigation Rally – 2 February 2020 by Rob Jonkers (photos by Willie Bodenstein, Rob Jonkers)

This first of the Pilot Insure Speed Rallies for 2020 has been held at Witbank, the 2nd for Season 2, successfully organized by SAPFA and hosted by the Witbank Aeronautical Association. Planning for this event began in November 2019 with a reconnaissance to Witbank to review the logistics for the weekend. The Witbank team went out of their way to make this a memorable event for the weekend, their members having got involved in many of the aspects of achieving a great competition.

With the first event of the season behind us held at Springs, the SAPFA team and competitors held a further debrief to review options on further improvements, most notably to look at the scoring of navigation accuracy which is now normalised to ensure slow or fast aircraft types have equal chance in scoring for navigation accuracy, also scores are counted for both Navigation & Handicap where before if you won in the handicap class in the first 3 places, the scores were excluded in the accuracy class.

Entries for Witbank were 34, with 4 GPS class competitors and 8 more in the Grand Prix part of the event. There were also two schools taking part, the Mach 1 school from Springs and first time entry from Rhino Park LST – Light Sport Aviation Training. The Grand Prix event is the 2nd event in this Season 2, and is proving very popular from the result of the 1st try out held in Springs.

The route for this weekend was planned at 146nm, had 10 turning points, and for added spectator value now included a crossover, this is where the course was anti-clockwise, to cross over the airfield, and then clockwise to return from the east. The cross-over was planned to have the first of the slower aircraft already passing over while a number of the faster aircraft were still waiting to take-off.

The route in the first portion was mostly to the north and west, at the starting point of some of the valleys and rivers meandering into the Loskop Dam, the second portion towards the scenic north-east towards the eastern shores of the Loskop dam, and then back around Middelburg and some not so scenic coal fields and flatter landscapes.

The weather on Friday started out real well, the forecast not predicting any rain, but there were plenty of thermals about. Flight testing was carried out all day with Mark Clulow and Sean Cronin, although with some strong thermals in the afternoon had to wait for this to die down before continuing.

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The team of Johan Sayers & Jack Coetzer preparing to mount their Harvard ZU-WSE

The Friday afternoon initial briefing started at 18h30, David le Roux being the new race Master, introduced Rob Jonkers who took to the stage and provided a briefing on what to expect for the next day in terms of the planned route, how many turnpoints, distance, departure and arrivals protocol, and also how the scoring system worked in terms of penalties as well as the expected weather conditions, which was predicted to be clear with a light and variable wind from the east swinging north east.

All the competitors were then treated to a briefing on Steroids with Race Master David le Roux introducing all the teams to come up to the stage with a fanfare of theme songs and handing out race stickers. thereafter everybody was treated to a lamb on the spit meal provided by the host club before retiring for the evening.

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The team of Pierre vd Merwe and Neville Ferreira plotting on their wing of the Sling ZU-FWY

Saturday morning dawned with perfect flying conditions, a clear day with virtually no wind, but as the morning wore on the wind started to pick up, and from the South East which favouring Rwy 22, except the planned runway to be used was 04, as the cross-over was at the threshold of 04.

The briefing started at 07h00 am and was concluded at around 8, where everybody dispersed first for a group photo and then to park their aircraft and prepare for the scrutineers and refuelers. The wind was remaining stuck in the south easterly direction and had increased in strength, with Rob fretting over whether to delay the start to a little later to allow the wind to swing more to the predicted north easterly direction, a quick phone call to Deon vd Mescht our weather guru, confirmed the wind would swing but ever so slowly. By 9h30 the wind started to die down a little, and it was decided to continue.

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Witbank Chairman Fife Delport with first time Navigator Marga Lombaard in their Sling ZU-STT

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Navigator James Braid in an unusual plotting position flying a Sling – ZU-JAR

Scrutineers Chareen, Lizelle, Karen, Ardyn and Alex were on hand to seal up all portable GPS capable devices, and also handing out papers at the allotted time, and also checking the fuel tanks were full. For this event we used a Grand Prix style flag to release the aircraft line up, with Christian du Plessis doing the honours, under starters orders given by the starter Mark Clulow.

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Husband and wife team of Eric & Antoinette Addison in the RV7 ZU-LAX

Each team then received their envelopes with their loggers at their 20 minutes prior take-off time, and then taxi to the starting line within 10 minutes of take-off time. 1st take-off was at 09h56 for the slowest aircraft and last take-off at 10h40, with planned arrival at 11h30.

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First Timers Kobus and Jacques Botha in their Piper 140 ZS – FHH

With all the competitors off towards the norhwest, the route had a mix of easy and challenging turnpoints, especially TP 1 and 6 which required a descent into the Loskop valley, and then some hard to spot turnpoints 7,8 and 9 in amongst the mielie and coal fields. The wind had also picked up in the interim starting to favour those already heading in the westerly direction. Just before 11h30 the first aircraft over the line was a Sling ZU-IHK. The landing sequence was fairly easy to do with everybody joining right hand downwind onto Rwy 22 with good spacing.

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The line-up of aircraft at the starting line

After all teams having returned and safe on the ground, the scoring team got to work to analyse the results, with the tracks for a number being quite accurate, although some had wobbles, only two got a bit lost.

Starter Christian du Plessis waving off the Sling ZU-STT

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In sequence take-off with 15 sec intervals of some close handicapped aircraft

Getting the results out on time proved to be a challenge, with changes in the scoring system there were some gremlins that had to be fixed, and that required extra time, and with potential late afternoon weather on the reef put some time pressure to complete the results, and eventually at 4 PM the results could be announced. The tracks for the routes flown was also shown, pretty much everybody except 2 competitors did not get lost, although the eastern turnpoints were missed by a few.

Race Master David le Roux and our main sponsor Franz Smit from Pilot Insure handed out the trophies, first up being the winners of the most accurately flown with father and son team Hendrik & Jandre Loots in their Sling ZU-IHK, in 2nd place another Sling ZU-JAR with David Ross & James Braid, and in 3rd place son and father team Quintin Kruger & Johan Whiteman in their Cherokee 235 ZS-FVV.

For the handicap results, a double win for Hendrik & Jandre Loots, in 2nd place Piet Meyer and Adrienne Visser in their Jabiru ZU-DUU and in 3rd place Michael Blackburn & Steve Briggs in their Sling ZU-IBM. For the GPS event the winner being local Witbank crew of Chris and Adriaan de Beer in their C182RG ZS-KUN. The club trophy was handed over by Jonty to chairman Fife Delport, with the winning school being the Mach 1 Training School who are becoming consistently better at improving their results at each event.

This weekend’s overall results has ZU-IHK in the lead followed by ZU-DUU and ZS-FVV. The overall season points standing has ZU-IHK in the lead followed by ZU-FVV and ZU-JAR.

Many thanks to the Witbank Aeronautical Association for hosting this fantastic event, supporting with ground marshals, logistics and great evening meals, the Pilot Insure team of Franz Smit David le Roux the Race Master at the registration desk together with the Warrick Wealth team, Nigel Musgrave as the Safety Officer, Dirk and Louna de Vos and Mark Clulow doing the scoring, Marc Robinson with his team from Century Avionics for Scrutineering, Chareen Shillaw, Lizelle Kruger handing out competition papers to the crews as well as Scrutineering with their team, Jonty & Lizelle for putting together an awesome Friday evening launch event. Thanks also extended to Santjie White of the ARCC who always watches over us..

Also thanks to our sponsors, Pilot Insure being our signature Speed Rally Brand Sponsor, Flightline Weekly for sponsoring the race numbers, team sponsors Excel E&I – Leon Bouttell and Martin Meyer, The Airplane Factory – David Ross and James Braid, Pilots Post – Phil Wakeley and Mary De Klerk, Fast Flame Laser Cutting – Hendrik & Jandre Loots, Beegle Micro Trackers – Quintin Kruger and Johan Whiteman, Prompt Roofing – Leon Joubert and Franz Smit.

Our next Speed Rally event will be in Bethlehem on the 22nd of March 2020.

1st placed Race 15’s accurate track

Nice perfect Track

Oops – Found Middelburg instead

SAPFA Rally Training Camp

SAPFA Rally Training Camp – Aerosud Premises 18 January 2020 –
by Rob Jonkers – Photos by Flippie van Emmenis

SAPFA held a very successful training event on Rally Navigation on Saturday 18th January as the first SAPFA event of the year. Building on the successful event held last year at the same time, we decided to hold another one, particularly that this year is the year where SAPFA hosts the World Rally Flying Championships in November in Stellenbosch. There were 30 participants for the day, including many of the current SAPFA Protea team members who were assisting the trainees and our media friends. The Aerosud canteen was again the venue of choice lending itself well to this size of training camp.

It is great to see the sport being supported so enthusiastically, and the willingness to learn these basic skills of map reading and planning. The Chairman of SAPFA opened the camp with a brief outline of the plans of SAPFA in terms of events for the year, that the Aero Club also holds its Centenary year resulting in a packed calendar for the year, and from that look at developing and exposing particularly the youth to recreational aviation.

The Participants – 30 in total

With that Mary de Klerk took charge and laid out the objectives of the day, by initially going through the theory of plotting, and then to practice on an actual plot. With this year of 2020 having a full event calendar, and the Nationals coming up in April in Stellenbosch, this training event would serve as an excellent platform to entice new members to the sport and to start training for the Internationals and obtain Protea Colours.

Mary first started off with having everybody introduce themselves, and what they each had as objectives for training, some were there as newbies interested in taking part in the sport, some having taken part previously indicated they needed some formal and expert training, and some others indicated they just wanted to delve more in depth than what a ppl course would give on the art of paper based navigation.

From there Mary outlined the theory on plotting procedures and described the tools of the trade. Then it was off to plotting an example course which had to be done from basic plotting principles of co-ordinates, bearings (which could be in either true or magnetic) and distances (either in nm of km). Each turning point then had to be found and identified and linked into legs, some of which could be arcs or follow map features.

The goal in getting to National level standard is to be able to plot in the aircraft with a papers time of around 30-40 minutes prior take-off, which means speed is of the essence in doing the plot, so that the navigator can assist with finding and identifying the ground photos.

The morning’s training ended off at around 10h30 am, and after a short break, everybody got organized on plotting the example route provided which was the 2019 Rand Airport Challenge, got the laminated transparent tool, which they had to cut out, and proceeded to plot each of the turn points making up the route up until Turn Point 4, and after lunch at around 12, continued to finish the plot to the Finish Point.

After the plot was done, Mary opened up Google Earth, and “flew” the route along the plot lines to show where the photos were, and what they would look like against the photo sheets that are provided. This then effectively ended the day’s training at around 2 PM.

Everybody left with some knowledge gained on plotting and techniques of planning & flying a rally, and it is hoped that many will come to the Rand Challenge on the 25th January and Nationals in April.

The Rally Plotting Class of 2019 – with Teacher Mary de Klerk

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