ZS-APY 75th Birthday Party

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by Chris Hicks Chapter 1502, photos by Steve McCurrach, AirServ

Aeronca Chief ZS-APY 75 years old
(A part of SA’s Aviation Heritage)

The longest registered aircraft in South Africa turned 75 on 16 May, and the occasion was celebrated with 50 guests in attendance at her home airfield, Grassroots at Cato Ridge, ZS-APY is a 1939 Aeronca Chief, two seater, high wing tail-dragger, owned by the Tyre Kickers Syndicate in which Chris Hicks (and his son Nigel) are the last remaining members.

APY was registered in South Africa on 16 May 1939 and was owned by Bill Reid.
There is an older Aeronca owned by EAAer John Illsley which was registered recently, but APY is the longest surviving continually registered and airworthy aircraft on the SA Aircraft Register.

An interesting historical snippet is that during WWII all private aircraft were commandeered by the SAAF. To avoid this fate befalling APY, the owner disassembled her and a second aircraft ZS-ARB and stored them in the roof of a factory in West Street Durban for the duration of the war. At the end of the war they were re-assembled and were used as the first private training aircraft at Stamford Hill Aerodrome.

In 1970 Don Daniels and Rob Murgatroyd of Benoni purchased APY for R700 and restored her. In 1974 APY was acquired by a syndicate in Pietermaritzburg known as the Taildraggers Association, headed up by Hugh Raw.

She was later damaged in two incidents - wing damage when she collided with an orange tree near Richmond and a more serious event whilst being started at Virginia by Don Ritson. Whilst swinging the prop she jumped her chocks and collided with a Cherokee owned by J Aitken.

The Tyre Kickers Syndicate took ownership in 1978 and Chris ‘bought in ‘ during 1982 when she moved to the 400 m long Grassroots strip and he has owned her for 32 years. Must be a a world record. APY has a stall speed of 40 mph and cruising speed of 75 mph. She is not known for her speed but is renowned for her longevity and colourful character.