ZS-CAT's First Convention

CONTACT's picture

The EAA Convention was moved to 08 August, at Wings Park, East London. That is a long flight for ZS-CAT, but I was excited and looking forward to the trip. The Wings Park team had prepared a detailed information pack with pictures of the airfield layout and approach instructions, along with details of camping facilities, shuttle services, meals, functions, etc. This was a really well organised event!

We were lucky to be invited, along with Chalkie Stobbart, by Andy, Margie and Lilly Lawrence, to stay in their newly decorated flat at their Kei Mouth holiday home. So with accommodation sorted, we did not have to worry about heavy tents and sleeping bags. Our mass and balance calculations showed that ZS-CAT was just below gross, as we needed full fuel for our trip. On Thursday morning, the fully laden little plane took off with ease from Krugersdorp, and we set the heading towards Pietermaritzburg. It took us 2 hours to reach Pietermaritzburg, even with a tail wind, where ZS-CAT, which has a cruising TAS of 100 knots, was doing a 130 knot groundspeed.

The airport was not busy, we were able to refuel, pay our landing fees and depart quickly. Off again and heading for Margate where we managed to also refuel, pay and leave promptly. We were now on the last leg of the journey to Morgan’s Bay, and we were flying against a headwind of 30 knots. After two and a half hours, and a very scenic flight, we eventually spotted Brown’s Landing. A pretty, well-kept grass runway, on high ground just outside Morgan’s Bay. Andy, Margie and Lilly were on the ground and Andy had his handheld radio. It was good to hear his voice, and we landed at 14h15. Before we shut down the engine, we noticed that Andy and Margie had a bottle of champagne, four glasses and had laid out a red carpet! It was a wonderful welcome after a long flight. The little Cessna had performed very well and we had enjoyed our flight.

It was then off on a short road trip to Kei Mouth for the night, in a rather tipsy state!

The next day was Friday, and after a fresh morning walk on the beach, we got ready for the final flight into Wings Park to join the convention. The original plan was for Margie to drive the car to the airfield, while Andy flew his RV6, and Pete and I were to arrive in ZS-CAT. The car would take an hour and a half, the planes about eighteen minutes. Pete offered to drive and let Margie fly with me. I became a bit concerned, as I am a low time pilot, did not know Wings Park, and Margie had only recently become less anxious about flying. “No problem,” said Andy, ‘Just follow me!’

Margie and I took off from Browns Landing before Andy, we circled over Kei Mouth before heading down the coast towards the Cintsa reporting point. Andy and Lilly were behind, and wanted to know our position. “12 nm NE of Cintsa.” Andy wanted more detail. “Margie, please look out the window and tell me where we are?” Margie put down her crocheting, and looked out the window. “We are over Bosbok Strand camp site,” she answered. “Margie, pilots will not know where that is, please look outside again,” I asked. “We are over Haga Haga,” she answered. “Are you sure?” After debating our location, we eventually arrived at Cintsa, and turned inland towards Wings Park airfield. On giving our position in the GF, a voice came over the radio assisting the traffic for Wings Park. They had arranged a special frequency, and advised us to join a right base for runway 09. Andy was now ahead of us, and we followed him in. At the time, we were the only two planes in the circuit.

The grass runway is wide and soft. We landed safely, without Margie dropping any stitches on her crocheting! On landing, the radio operator asked if we needed fuel, and we were advised to taxi left towards the fuel tanks. We stopped behind Andy in the queue, and were given the warmest welcome ever. While ZS-CAT was being pushed in line for me, Andy had two fuel attendants helping him, Steve Onions on the left wing filling with Mogas, and Patrick Hill on the right wing filling with Avgas. The service was unbelievable!

After ZS-CAT was filled, I went into the fuel hut to pay. I was assisted by a friendly chap, who filled in my invoice. He needed certain information. “What is your name?” “What is your address?” “What is your cell phone number?” Then “What is your waist measurement?” I had to stop him there, because I knew that, next, he was going to ask my age and other statistics.

I started up to taxi and James Wardle appeared on a four-wheeler with a big yellow ‘Follow-Me’ sign at the back, and he led me to my parking bay. Waiting for me was another gentleman, who helped me push ZS-CAT into her spot, and a little sign was nailed into the ground with the aircraft registration (as well as a little sketch of a kitty). This was my parking for the whole event. (I kept the sign for memory’s sake!) Eventually Pete arrived by car, and helped me tie down ZS-CAT with her ‘claw’. She was well secured.

Watching all the other visiting aircraft arrive on Friday was fascinating. Chalkie arrived in his Fairchild, and there was a big variety of planes on display. The catering was fantastic, and we purchased our food and drinks coupons and got stuck in. The next day was Saturday, and there was lots of hangar talk and swopping of ideas and experiences. The AGM followed, and in the evening a formal dinner and prize-giving was held. It was really well done, a good vibe, with foot-tapping music, and nobody went hungry.

Later that Saturday night, back in the Kei Mouth flat, I woke up in bed to the sound of heavy rainfall. The next morning, our day of departure, we heard that the Wings Park airfield had been closed due to flooding. At least the little Cessna was tied down good and proper. So we spent a wet and cold Sunday at Kei. On Monday morning, the weather was no better, and I now understand the pilots ‘favourite saying, “If you have time to spare, go by air!” Unfortunately I had no time to spare, and I flew back on Monday evening with Kulula, leaving Pete to fly ZS-CAT home alone, on Tuesday.

All safely back home, we looked back at the great time we had and simply cannot wait for the next adventure!