A Tribute to Frans Dely

On Sunday the 14th of August 2011, two P166 Albatross aircraft took off from Tzaneen Airfield after an airshow, routing for Rand Airport. Sadly they never arrived. On Tuesday morning at 08h05, the two wrecks of the Albatrosses were found to have impacted a mountain peak leaving no survivors. We in the aviation community lost alot of friends and loved ones that day. It’s a day that will go down as one of the darkest in South African aviation history.

One of the souls on board was my dear friend, associate and mentor, Frans Dely. I met Frans some years ago and always looked up to this world renowned aviation photographer that was clearly in a class of his own. Then one day, out of the blue, he approaches me at an airshow and asks me if I would like to start working alongside him. Well, it was every budding aviation photographers dream. I was already a fairly accomplished photographer but having the opportunity to work with Frans was just going to open a world to me that I could only have imagined.

We agreed that we would go and do the UK airshow circuit together in 2010. It was there that our business relationship became a friendship. We did everything together for 3 weeks as we shared hotel rooms, dinners, breakfasts and lunches. Frans introduced me to the who’s who of the industry from organizers to pilots, from the Red Arrows to The Breitling Wing Walkers. He taught me everyday about shutterspeeds, composition, emotion, his editing techniques and just how to get that magic shot at an airshow where everybody else is capturing the same thing.

Frans was born on the 26th of July 1956 to Erica and Frank. Frank was a pilot during the  war and continued to serve in the SAAF for many years afterwards.  This was clearly the source of Frans’ love for aircraft and something that would turn into a deep passion later in life. Frans had a zest for life, but was also a patient and caring man. Enthusiastic about all he tackled however apparently unimportant. Characteristics that he never lost. Even in very tough times, these would shine through. Far more important to him was when he woke up he could look forward to another day, a blessing that was there to enjoy whatever the challenge. Deeply loving and a family person at the core, Frans was an immense support to his late Mom, Erica, after the tragically early death of his dad, Frank. Equally a source of strength for sisters Erica, Rene and their daughters, respectively, Debbie and Charmaine, and Cammy. Of course, a wonderful Dad to Cara-Lee, who shows many signs of having inherited Frans’ passions – photography and aircraft.

At an early age there was clear evidence that here was someone with an above average skill in photography, something that became a passion and then the platform for a career. His military training was mostly spent in the Navy, where his photographic career had its roots, as a Naval photographer, a distance and more from where life would take him. Most of his early career was spent at the interface of industrial photography and marketing collaterals and handouts. He was a significant contributor to that wonderful publication “A day in the Life of South Africa”, both in respect of images as well as in its production.

But flying, aircraft and all that goes with these was clearly in his blood. He started attending local airshows and recording what he saw there. What he saw and captured photographically created some of the very best imagery of his generation, the best many said since the work of Herman Potgieter, ironically also killed some years before. It was from these events that he was soon accepted as part the SAAF family and a close friend of those who traveled the airshow circuit, locally and abroad. His stature as one of the best international aircraft photographers around – international recognition and awards, and commissions started flowing from SA (SAAF’s “Soaring with Eagles” to the Middle East). *

Our friendship was cemented and the talk of a new magazine was born. When we got back to Cape Town, we went to work on what would become AVPIX Magazine. Frans’ dream was to have a magazine that would inspire young photographers, amateurs and even some of the pros. Sadly only one issue was ever published as this great mans life was cut short way to soon.

Frans, my dear friend, may you rest in peace and I only hope and pray  that what you taught me will live on in my images. Till we meet again.
Justin de Reuck

*Source: Mike Groch

Frans and I at Flying Legends in July 2010 at Duxford near Cambridge in the UK. It was here that our friendship was cemented and where he taught me more than I ever dreamed I would come to know.
Frans Dely, how he will always be remembered, one of the greatest aviation photographers, I ever had the honour and privilege to know and work with.
The Avpix Magazine Crew after an air to air sortie with 35 Squadron in December 2010.


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  • Debbie - Thank you Justin for these very special words and further insight into what Frans meant to his friends and colleagues. Debbie (his niece)August 26, 2011 – 11:15ReplyCancel

  • MRS ANURADHA P REDDY - I am an India based aviation historian/photographer and share the sadness at the loss of Frans.Looking at his image on the i-net shows his sensitivity and am sure his quality of work is superb.Deepest condolences to the Dely family and International Aviation Photography Community of which I form a small part in India

    ANURADHA P REDDYSeptember 30, 2011 – 03:31ReplyCancel

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