95th Anniversary

The Baragwanath 95th Anniversary Fly-in
Johannesburg Light Plane Club, Baragwanath Airfield, 1 June 2014.

On 1 June 2014, Baragwanath celebrated the 95th Anniversary of the original Baragwanath Aerodrome and the Johannesburg Light Plane Club.

The origins of this story are attributed to two World War One pilots, Allister Miller and Tommy Thompson, who formed the South African Aerial Transport Company in 1919 and graded a strip of dirt on the unused land above one of the Crown Mines, which they would use as an airfield. The piece of ground was in the vicinity of where we find Nasrec now, and back then, the area was called Baragwanath.

Subsequently, the Johannesburg Light Plane Club was formed thanks to a chance meeting at a once-famous Johannesburg landmark called Uncle Charlie’s. Uncle Charlie’s was a hotel run by a World War One pilot called Rod Douglas. Over drinks at the bar, Douglas met one Stan Halse, another World War One pilot. They got talking, and agreed on the idea of forming a flying club up on the reef. At the inaugural meeting of 1926, a significant gathering of aviation-bent individuals came together and formed the Johannesburg Light Plane Club.

So, on a clear winter’s day, a number of enthusiastic pilots, and aircraft lovers got together, in period dress, and celebrated what is considered to be one of the longest continually running flying clubs in the world. The day was spent watching aerobatics courtesy of the Sport Aerobatic Club of South Africa, ogling at the twelve models who were posing as 1930s pin-up girls amongst the aircraft, appreciating the classic cars that came along for the day, and of course, swapping stories about flying. The highlight for the day, however, was an art exhibition of Alan Hindle’s paintings which were displayed in the clubhouse. We even enjoyed a 95th Birthday cake, and the atmosphere was enhanced by the St Stithians Jazz band as well as vintage records that played throughout the day.

The event is something that is not replicated anywhere in South Africa, and the gathering of old and new aircraft to celebrate anything that is aviation related is something which we would like to continue as an annual event. It was well supported this year, and hopefully 2015 will see even more aircraft and aviation minded individuals who will come together to support grassroots aviation in this country.

Courtney Watson