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

Year-End and Christmas 2013

Year-End and Christmas Function
1 December 2013

As has been the trend for most of the events this year, the weather was not very kind to us on 1 December with a howling crosswind that thankfully became more of a breeze as the day progressed.

Our year end function was catered for by Pradeep, and he really pulled out all of the stops. We ate from a sumptuous buffet that included Karoo lamb, pumpkin, spinach, fresh rolls, salad and a home-made cheesecake that was absolutely decadent. A number of the JLPC members also pushed out their aircraft to be on show in front of the clubhouse, and I saw some of the pilots swapping rides with each other after lunch.

Before then, though, we (and more importantly the kids) were treated to an appearance by Santa Claus! He had asked if Baragwanath could be the venue for a practice skydive in preparation for his Christmas jumps down the chimneys of thousands of good little boys and girls. He used a Tiger Moth for this purpose (not quite the reindeer-drawn sleigh that he is used to), and even gave out a handful of presents to the kids who were present!

So, we all know now that Santa has proved his accuracy at skydiving, and hopefully he’ll be visiting each of us again on 25 December. To all of the JLPC members, have a wonderful Christmas and we will catch up in the New Year.

Courtney Watson

Photographs courtesy of skydiver Mike Rumble (aka Father Christmas)

Cape Town to Goodwood

Tracey Curtis-Taylor
4 November 2013

Tracey Curtis-Taylor following the route first flown by Mary Heath in 1928.

In 1928, Mary Heath – the first woman to hold a commercial flying licence in Britain – made front page news around the world as the first pilot, male or female, to fly a small, open-cockpit biplane from Cape Town to London’s Croydon Airport.

On 2 November 2013, to commemorate Lady Heath’s Flight and to highlight some of the historic “firsts” being set by women today all across the African continent, pilot Tracey Curtis-Taylor embarked on a journey to fly her own open-cockpit Boeing Stearman biplane from Cape Town to Goodwood.

Mary Heath in the cockpit of an Avro Avian.
Photograph: Museum of Science and Industry
Tracey Curtis-Taylor

Mary Heath: The Inspiration

Largely forgotten today, Mary Heath, born Sophie Catherine Theresa Mary Pierce-Evans on 10 November 1896, was for a few years at the end of the 1920s one of the most famous women in the world, whose life was a succession of pioneering firsts.

Having spent two years as a dispatch rider and an ambulance driver during the First World War, Heath pioneered women’s athletics in Britain (setting records in the javelin and the high jump in the process) and helped introduce women’s track and field to the Olympics.

Switching her attention to flying, she became the first woman in Britain to receive a commercial pilot’s licence; the first woman in the world to parachute from a plane and to become an airline pilot; and, in 1928, the first person, male or female, to fly solo from South Africa to the UK.

Her aircraft was a 1927 Avro 594 Avian III, c/n R3/AV/412, registered G-EBUG, and she began her journey in Cape Town on 5 January 1928 and arrived at Croydon on 17 May 1928.

“When we are very young, we look for adventure and long for it, but it is generally only when we are grown up that we are able to have it, and often then do not make use of our opportunities”

Mary Heath

Mary Heath, aged 31, and her Avro Avian at the end of her triumphant flight, Croydon Airport, 17 May 1928

Tracey Curtis-Taylor: The Pilot

On the 2nd of November 2013, to commemorate Lady Heath’s Solo Flight and to highlight some of the historic “firsts” being set by women today all across the African continent, pilot Tracey Curtis-Taylor embarked on a journey to fly her own open-cockpit Boeing Stearman biplane from Cape Town to Goodwood Aerodrome. Goodwood/Chichester Airport is approximately 90km South of London:
GPS 50.860036,-0.757935 (50°51’36.13″N 0°45’28.57″W)

Tracey Curtis-Taylor, born in 1962, and her Boeing Stearman “Spirit of Artemis”, registered N56200

Flying in an open cockpit, exposed to the elements, is not for the faint­ hearted, the flight representing a formidable physical and logistical challenge – in a plane designed in the 1930s, with a top speed of 95 mph, an operating ceiling of 10,000 feet and a range of only 450 miles.

But this sort of extreme flying is what Curtis-Taylor, one of the Shuttleworth Collection display pilots, has been doing all her life.

Tracey’s route follows Mary Heath’s. From South Africa to Zimbabwe, Zambia and Tanzania, then on through Kenya, Uganda and the Sudan to Egypt and along the coast through Libya and Tunisia before she turns for Sicily and home. In all she will cover approximately 7,000 miles in over six weeks.

Tracey, flying solo in her Boeing Stearman, registered N56200, began her flight in Cape Town on 2 November 2013. One of her stopovers was at Baragwanath Airfield, home of the Johannesburg Light Plane Club, on Monday 4 November. Mary Heath stopped over at the original Baragwanath Airfield in 1928, 85 years ago!

Tracey’s route follows closely that of Mary Heath’s, the English Aviatrix, who in 1928 was the first person to fly this routing. A few years later Imperial Airways used a similar route.

New Baragwanath Airfield GPS:
26°20’54.49″S 27°46’44.94″E (-26.348469, 27.779150)

Old Baragwanath Airfield:
GPS 26°15’22.86″S 27°58’14.51″E (-26.255915,27.970694)

The Aircraft: 1943 Boeing Stearman

“Spirit of Artemis”, a 1943 Boeing Model 75 Stearman (B75N1), cn 75-7813, registered N56200. The aircraft is powered by a Lycoming R-680-E3B nine cylinder air-cooled radial engine producing 300 hp.

Stopover at Baragwanath

Unfortunately Tracey Curtis-Taylor’s planned arrival at Baragwanath on Sunday 3 November did not materialise due to the departure from Cape Town being delayed a day as a result of unfavourable weather conditions.

So, on Monday 4 November, well-wishers began arriving at Baragwanath Airfield at around 14h00 for the expected 15h15 arrival of Tracey and her steed. A message over the radio announced an earlier than expected arrival and the Cessna 208B Grand Caravan, 5Y-MJA, with Camera Crew and Stearman Technical Crew on board touched down at 14h53. As the Cessna turned off the runway the Stearman gave the awaiting group two flypasts and gently touched down.

While Courtney Watson put chocks on the wheels, his father, Roy, welcomed Tracey to Baragwanath. Members of the Johannesburg Light Plane Club were introduced to Tracey and immediately began to chat about her experience so far. Tracey, with her delightful character, was most accommodating and, facing a barrage of questions, was only too pleased to share her story with the pilots and enthusiasts present.

A while later and a stroll over to the Watson’s beloved de Havilland DH.82A Tiger Moth, ZS-UKW, saw Courtney proudly showing Tracey the aircraft. On the walk up to the clubhouse Tracey encountered two 44-gallon drums with the wording Amelia Earhart on them, remnants of the filming of “Amelia” starring Hilary Swank and Richard Gere that took place in 2008 at Rand Airport. These drums are significant because the trip that Tracey is replicating was achieved in 1928 by Mary Heath in an Avro Avian, which was later sold to Amelia Earhart.

Once inside the clubhouse Tracey was shown the many interesting photographs and memorabilia from a bygone era of aviation. The Solo Mugs, the photographs of Mary Heath and her Avian as well as many other fascinating items which are on display.

Over refreshments Tracey was shown some interesting old strip maps detailing a 1941 route from Cape Town to Cairo. She settled down to continue the discussions about her adventure as well as being presented with a book, ‘Bush Pilots do it in Fours’ by Roy Watson. Lady Heath claimed to have read a novel while flying the length of the Nile, so Tracey is now armed with some reading material for her own flight over the river! Tracey was also given a specially prepared South African flag with the Johannesburg Light Plane Club emblem embroidered in the centre. The flag was signed by those present and handed to Tracey.

All too quickly, it seemed, Tracey had to depart for her night stop at Lanseria Airport. After cheerful goodbyes Tracey and her Boeing took to the air at 16h47 accompanied by Tiger Moth ZS-UKW and Cessna 140 ZU-ECP. After ten minutes Tracey waved goodbye and the Boeing set course for Lanseria and the Tiger and 140 returned to Baragwanath.

It was a most enjoyable afternoon spent with a wonderful aviatrix, one that will be remembered for many years to come.

After several delays along the way, due to poor weather, Tracey landed at Goodwood at 11h45 on Tuseday 31st December 2013.

Below is a selection of photographs, taken by John Austin-Williams, of the afternoon’s proceedings.

Further Reading

Cape Town to Goodwood Official website
Cape Town to Goodwood Facebook page
Mary Heath Wikipedia
Lady Icarus The Life of Irish Aviator Lady Mary Heath by Lindie Naughton. Published in 2004 by Ashfield Press, Dublin, 2004. ISBN 1901658384
The colourful life and times of Lady Mary Heath, Irish aviator, athlete and writer Blog by Lindie Naughton
Lady Heath’s Experiences From Flight magazine 16 February 1928
The Shuttleworth Collection
Artemis Investment Management Major sponsor
Nylon Films Producers of the documentary “A Woman In Africa” about Tracey’s solo flight. The film will be released in early 2014.
Goodwood Airport
Croydon Airport Wikipedia
3G Classic Aviation Restored Tracey’s Boeing Stearman

History of Mary Heath’s Avro 594 Avian III – Construction number (c/n) R3/AV/412

Avro 594 Avian III Regd G-EBUG [CofR 1485] 9.27 to AV Roe & Co Ltd. CofA 1245 issued 17.11.27. Regd [CofR 1510] 29.10.27 to Lady Heath. London W1 (based Manchester). Regn cld 29.6.28 as wfu. Regd [NC]7083 9.28 to Amelia Earhart. Regd [10.30] to Whittelsey Manufacturing Co, Bridgeport, CT.

Courtesy of Air-Britain

Piper Cub Day (Round 2)

Piper Cub Day (Round 2)
13 October 2013

What a great day of fun flying! Once the early morning winds backed off, the events became feasible, and we all had a blast.

Many thanks must go to all of the volunteers who helped during the course of the day and the pilots who flew in and displayed their aircraft on the day.

Courtney Watson

Visitors and locals included:

de HavillandDH.82A Tiger MothZS-UKW
PiperL-4 CubZU-PJN
PiperPA-11 Cub SpecialZS-VTT
PiperPA-18 Super CubZU-ASI
SkywoodSW-18 (Replica Piper L18C)ZU-EMX

The artwork on the advertising poster done by Kelly McAuley. The photographs are thanks to the photographers of Avcom.

Taildraggers to Nylstroom 2013

Taildraggers to Nylstroom
19-21 July 2013

In 2010 Stefan Coetzee from Kitplanes suggested a Taildragger Fly-in. A venue was sought and Nylstroom was chosen as the ideal venue. “We decided to have a practice run in November 2010. We didn’t believe we’d have more than 20 aircraft taking part and were pleasantly surprised with 60. The event was here to stay. One of the main reasons being that we have no air show and no flying restrictions. You are encouraged to enjoy flying. Take your friends for flips and get flips from friends. 2011 and 2012 had more than 100 aircraft on each occasion.”

Nylstroom Flying Club/Vliegklub Facebook page

Nylstroom Flying Club/Vliegklub / EAA Taildraggers Fly-in 19-21 July 2013 at Nylstroom Airfield (FANY) -24.685685,28.434802 (24°41’8.47″S 28°26’5.29″E)

Johannesburg Light Plane Club Fly-Away to the Nylstroom Taildraggers Fly-In, Saturday 20 to Sunday 21 July 2013.

A gaggle of Johannesburg Light Plane Club (JLPC) aircraft flew across to Nylstroom on a cold Saturday morning. Four aircraft departed for the flight north, the coldest being the pilot and passenger in the open Tiger Moth.

Skirting Krugersdorp and heading via Hartebeespoort Dam to Nylstroom, we flew in loose formation over a brown winter landscape that embodied a real South African beauty. At our destination, we contributed to the more that 140 aircraft that had flown in.

Suffice to say that the weekend was very well attended and the safety record for the event was untarnished. The two Super Cubs, a Sports Star, a Cessna 150, a Comanche, Tiger Moth and Sinus all took to the skies during various stages of the day.

After swapping war stories, a number of pilots pitched their tents to sleep under the wings of their aircraft, and after the bushveld kuier that was punctuated by more hangar flying.

Afterwards, we slept with the informal aviation estate (settlement)’s party music, township dogs and insomniac roosters as our night time soundtrack. Nevertheless, it was a restful slumber.

This sort of flying event is really what grassroots aviation is all about. It is a chance to meet new people, find out about new flying destinations, and pick up those pearls of wisdom that no flying school teaches. Many thanks must go to Richard Nicholson and his team for putting together another hugely successful event that built aviation camaraderie that is sometime in short supply.

JLPC aircraft that attended were:

ZS-GYVSinusRichard Bickel
ZS-IDB Cessna 150 John Reeder
ZS-IOU Piper Super CubFrank Persson
ZS-LHLPiper Super CubTim Kearton and Rob Mackinson
ZS-SMFBeechcraft BonanzaJanet Reeder and George Spencer
ZS-UKWTiger MothRoy and Courtney Watson
ZU-EIJSports StarPeter Skellern and Kelley McAuley

What follows is a collection of photographs thanks to the photographers of Avcom. The artwork on the advertising poster done by Kelly McAuley.

Great Gatsby Photo Shoot

Photo Shoot at Baragwanath
23 June 2013

Richard Webb of CameraStuff approached the Watsons in an attempt to host a photography workshop with a Great Gatsby Theme. He hoped to include a photo shoot with models, a vintage car and a Tiger Moth. What was put on at Baragwanath was so much more… The photographs speak for themselves.

The car is a 1930s Alfa Romeo Monza Replica, the model Tanya de Lange, and the de Havilland Tiger Moth is ZS-UKW, previously ZS-BSF, and one of the JLPC Club’s aircraft in the 1950s.

Piper Cub Day

Piper Cub Day at Baragwanath
2 June 2013

You know what they say: “If you want bad weather over a weekend, organise a flying event long in advance and it’s bound to happen.” Well, the Weather gods didn’t co-operate with us this past weekend, throwing winds that neared gale force across the runway at Baragwanath. Despite this, however, the Cub Day was a resounding success.

Members came in their droves, and enjoyed the camaraderie that the new clubhouse provides. While the wind blew outside, flying stories were swapped over a cup of coffee, bacon and egg roll, or a tub of home-made curry and rice.

A number of brave and intrepid pilots manned-up to the weather conditions and flew in, which resulted in a gaggle of Pipers and other old aircraft parked in the front of the clubhouse. The boys from the St Stithians Aviation Club were marshals for the event as well as helpers in the kitchen and for a number of the intended events.

Unfortunately, after Jason Beamish tested the conditions and tried to bust a few balloons, dropped the flour bombs and tested his skills at a spot landing, we decided that the conditions were not conducive to holding the competition and it was therefore cancelled. The hand-crafted trophies and awards have been locked in the clubhouse display cabinet and it was decided to postpone the competition for a future date.

Many thanks must go to all of the volunteers who helped during the course of the day including Mike Gill, Dave Gill, Gretchen Maruggi, Don Lucas, the St Stithians Boys College Aviation Club, Courtney Watson, Patrick Watson, Renier van Biljon, Kelly McAuley, Jo and Mark Munro for all of their efforts.

Many thanks also to the pilots who flew in and displayed their aircraft on the day.

Courtney Watson

Visitors and locals included the following:

de HavillandDH.82A Tiger MothZS-CDJ
de HavillandDH.82A Tiger MothZS-UKW
de HavillandDHC 1 ChipmunkZS-ULJ
de HavillandDHC 1 ChipmunkZU-DXO
PiperJ3 CubZS-AUY
PiperJ3 CubZS-AWJ
PiperJ5 CubN35297
PiperL-4 CubZU-PJN
PiperPA-11 Cub SpecialZS-VTT
PiperPA-18 Super CubZS-LHL
PiperPA-18 Super CubZS-PFZ
PiperPA-18 Super CubZU-ASI
PiperPA-24 ComancheZS-WBN

The artwork on the advertising poster done by Kelly McAuley. Pictures thanks to the photographers of Avcom and John Austin-Williams.

Mission: Easter

Mission Easter at Baragwanath
24 March 2013

By teaming up with an orphanage, the members of Johannesburg Light Plane Club (JLPC) gave something back to the community by asking the Easter Bunny to come to the airfield. Eggs were hidden and the twenty-odd children had a great time salvaging their treasures from in amongst the hangars and the aircraft. A number of aircraft were on display, including a Piper Super Cub, de havilland Tiger Moth and Cessna 140. The children were also given a brief introduction to what aviation entails, helped by an activity pack which was given out at the start of the day. It is hoped that some budding pilots will be the result of a very successful event.

Gauteng Aerobatics 2013

Gauteng Regional Aerobatic Competition at Baragwanath
16-17 February 2013

The weather had its part to play over the weekend, resulting in a smaller-than-anticipated list of entries for the Gauteng Regionals. Competition was fierce; however, with Nigel Hopkins winning the Unlimited Class in his MX2, Neville Ferreira winning the Advanced Category in his Yak 55 and Gary Glasson winning the Sportsman’s in his Pitts Falcon. Other entrants included  Johan Van Solms in a Pitts S2B, Glen Warden in an Extra 300, Barrie Eeles in his Sbach, Cliff Lotter in a Zlin 50 and Stan Oliver in his Extra 300.

What follows is a collection of photographs thanks to the photographers of Avcom. The artwork on the advertising poster done by Kelly McAuley.

Braai and Biplanes 2013

Braai and Biplanes at Baragwanath
27 January 2013

The themed Sunday encouraging the owners of biplanes to display their aircraft attracted a formidable guest of honour, the Antonov AN2, ZS-FOO, owned and operated by Heystek and Michelle Pretorius. Highlights for the day included a Tiger Moth Antonov formation flight and some aerobatics by a S1 Pitts Special in the Aerobatic Box. A morning of swapping flying stories while enjoying a boerie roll was had by all and hopefully this event will become a more regular occurrence in the future.

What follows is a collection of photographs thanks to the photographers of Avcom. The artwork on the advertising poster done by Kelly McAuley.