On the cold Friday morning of 27 July, flying enthusiasts gathered at the Secunda Airfield for the Aviation Junction Flying School’s Coastal Fly Away. Five aircraft and three helicopters took part in this adventure. They also took along three flight instructors to assist with navigation, radio communications and to explain the different airports’ procedures. Everyone gathered and greeted as the aircraft was fuelled up, lined up and the pilots were rearing to go. The goal of the Fly Away was to create camaraderie and build experience for inexperienced and experienced pilots. They would fly to Pietermaritzburg, Margate, East London, Port Elizabeth and Plettenberg Bay.
Suddenly there was a roar, the engines started up one after the other and lined up for take-off. With a strong north-westerly crosswind they set off into the clear blue sky en route to Margate with a fuel stop in Pietermaritzburg.
On the way to Pietermaritzburg the radio of one of the aircraft gave in! Fortunately, the pilots were able to communicate with the other aircraft through WhatsApp. As this was an emergency, the aircraft got greeted with a red carpet of fire trucks and other emergency vehicles. As they waited for another radio, they regrouped with a cup of coffee at the Airborne Café in the terminal. The pilots had to contend with challenging berg winds of up to 45 knots (85.3 km/h) to Margate. This did not dampen their spirits but rather added to their adventure.
The three helicopters were already in Margate waiting for the rest of the aircraft to arrive and were blissfully unaware of all the excitement.
After checking into the hotel, The Hill Billion in Oslo Beach, and finishing dinner they had a prizegiving. Everyone agreed that Mr. Kosie van der Merwe should receive the Yellow Cap Award for outstanding flying after being tested with a broken radio earlier that day.
On Saturday morning, 28 July, everyone got ready for the next leg of the adventure to East London. En route to East London they flew along the coast with its white beaches and were entertained by schools of dolphins, whales and sharks.
They enjoyed lunch in the terminal at East London airport before take-off to Plettenberg Bay for a night stop.
The evening was full of fun and laughter again as Mr Gregory Cinquin from France won the Yellow Cap Award. Mr Cinquin arrived at Plettenberg Bay without any complications and was exceptional on the radio during the day. There were also certificates and prizes awarded and even some of the passengers won prizes.
Sunday, 29 July, the pilots had to use their own discretion as the weather made it difficult to fly from Graaff-Reinet to Secunda. Two helicopters and one aircraft arrived safely in Secunda after approximately five hours of flying. The rest of the group decided to stay over in Port Elizabeth, East London and Hillcrest for another night. Rather safe than sorry they decided.
All the pilots and passengers had a marvellous weekend filled with enjoyment, excitement and adventure. They were exposed to extreme winds and challenging situations, but never stopped enjoying the flights or stopped challenging themselves. Mr Christoff Le Grange, the owner of Aviation Junction Flying School, said: “It was definitely an honour to see a big part of the pristine South African coastline from the sky.”
Aviation Junction Flying School is planning another Fly Away that might include Mozambique or Victoria Falls. So… watch this space and maybe you can join them for the next trip! – Ané Prinsloo