The article below was published in African Pilot April 2010 edition:
Nestled north east of the Overberg and situated about halfway between George and Cape Town is the small town of Swellendam, population 13 600. Named after Governor Hendrik Swellengrebel in 1743 and next to Cape Town and Stellenbosch, Swellendam is the third oldest magisterial district in South Africa.
However, on the weekend of the 6th of March this sleepy little town was awakened by the sounds of everything from Rotax engines to the roar of the Aero L39’s Ivchenko AI-25TL turbofan.
The annual Swellendam Fly in and Airshow was once again hosted at FASX by the Swellengrebel Flying Club, situated 407 feet above sea level, just a mere 1.5km off of the N2 and inside the Bontebok National Park.
The morning of the 6th didn’t look promising, the cloud base was on the deck and driving up there that morning, I was wondering if this fly in was going to happen at all. On my arrival there, I was surprised to see a good number of aircraft already there, each with a little tent pitched next to it. These guys had flown in on Friday already and as I stepped out of my vehicle, I was greeted by the aroma of bacon, eggs and coffee, a great welcome for this hungry traveller who had left Cape Town at dawn to be there nice and early.
But by 09h00 the cloud was gone, the sun was shining and in true Swellendam style the temperatures started to rise. By 10h00 we were well into the thirties and true to aviators the world over, the aircraft started arriving from Cape Town, Mossel Bay, George, Grabouw, Worcester and all over the Western Cape.
After a short and sweet media briefing by ASSA Chairman, Rikus Erasmus, whom I personally would like to thank for his awesome attitude and willingness to accommodate the media and photographers. He went out of his way to make sure we got to get the best photo opportunities. After the pilots briefing in the main hanger, the program got underway. The pilots and their navigators who were to take part in the rally, hauled out their maps and started planning their route.
Air Traffic and Navigation Services had set up a mini tower there and two very able controllers from FACT, Johan le Grange and Alan Knibbs, became ground, tower and approach for the day. Runway 15 was the runway in use and ATNS pulled off a sterling job handling the arrivals, air rally departures and controlling the display box.
With Martin Lyons on the public address system, the public were kept well informed about the ins and outs of every one of those wonderful men and their flying machines.
As the temperatures soared into the high thirties spectators were treated to displays by Allan Fargus in the Aero L-39, ZU-KIM, Dick Henry in his Harvard (ZU-SAF) and Paul Roos in his Chipmunk (ZU-DHC) to name but a few. Air Mercy Services graced us with a beautiful flyby in the Pilatus PC12 flown by Marius le Grange and John Eccles of the Overberg Fire and Rescue showed their capabilities in the Squirrel with airlifts and bambi bucket drops.
Peter “Space” du Preez showed the crowds just what an RV7 can do and Albert Questiaux once again impressed everyone with his display in the Sanka helicopter.
Overall, Nico Delport, the event organiser and his team did a sterling job at making it an enjoyable day for enthusiast and aviator alike. The air rally was won by pilot Andre Visser and navigator Marcel Viljoen in their RANS 7, ZU-EDX.
GALLERY (Click to enlarge)