Chapter 973 Visits P-Prop

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- Jan de Beer, Chapter 973 Krugersdorp

What does EAA stand for? I can hear you all say that is what this is all about: Experimental Aircraft Association! (duh).

Being a microlight pilot and a proud member of EAA Chapter 973 for a few years now, I was wondering what is the main component of any motorised experimental aircraft. That’s easy, you say, either airframe, engine or propeller.

Which of these three are the most simple - engines are complicated and airframes differ a whole, lot so it must be the propeller. I mean, in its simplest form it’s a twisted piece of wood.

So we at Chapter 973 every now and then talked about propellers, ‘props’ or ‘prop’ for short.

So where do we go for expert advice on props? Nowhere better than at Peter de Necker’s wooden prop factory, somebody said.

And that, friend, is what this article is about, our visit to P-Prop or Piet Prop’s factory, as we all refer to it lovingly.

But hey, we are not only airplane fanatics, we are South Africans, so we got ourselves invited to a bring and braai and a tour of the factory.

On 12 September we arrived at Peter and Bets de Necker’s place and were welcomed with true traditional South African hospitality. While the de Neckers were unknown to most, some of the members knew Peter for the better part of 35 years, and very soon many a story of way back was dusted off and told with the gusto that only Peter can.

While the group got to know the de Necker family better, fires were lit and a festive atmosphere was infiltrating the most reserved members of the group, and very soon everybody was chatting away like old friends.

Then, while waiting for the coals in the fire to cool down, the group gathered and entered the factory.
Peter explained why wood is used.

In a world with countless combinations of plastics, fibres and composite materials, wood is the perfect, cheapest, most reliable complete composite material available in abundance, at a relatively cheap price. As a matter of interest, all metals accumulate stress and fibres may crystallise and crack, or after being put under stress for a period of time, retain the shape that it was forced to comply with. None of these affect wood! When wood bends, it returns to its original shape again and again, without sustaining fatigue, crack stress or hardening of materials.

Peter explaining the laminating process, glue used, pressure applied, etc.
Peter explaining the intricacies of what goes into the design and manufacture of the leading edge of the prop.
Peter cutting a small gift prop for each visitor.