As the Covid-19 lockdown lifted, a number of flying clubs seized the opportunity to get their members back in the air by organising fly-ins.
Members of the informal Zandspruit Flying Club in Hoedspruit managed to arrange a small but particularly noteworthy fly-in. Stars of the fly-in were the two Harvards from the well-known Balding Eagles collection in Hekpoort.
Of particular note was the first appearance of the Harvard called Popeye. This Harvard has benefitted from a twenty five year restoration – with parts sourced from around the world. Popeye joins its stablemate Mighty Mouse which was restored thirty years ago.
Both Popeye and Mighty Mouse have remarkably similar histories. They were part of a lend-lease exchange deal from America to the Luftwaffe in 1954. Then they were sold to Portugal and later shipped out with the Portuguese Air Force to Mozambique. After Mozambican independence, the new Frelimo government was unable to keep them airworthy and Popeye ended up on a plinth in Maputo – while Mighty Mouse was recovered and shipped back by train to South Africa by Brain Zeederberg, along with many other notable aircraft.
After an extremely thorough and lengthy restoration it was a thrill to see Popeye join Mighty Mouse in the air. They have both been repainted in their Luftwaffe squadron colours – and unlike ex SAAF Harvards, are noteworthy for their low total time of around just 3,000 hours.
Another notable feature of the Hoedspruit fly-in was the impromptu aerial application display by the fly-in’s host Johnnie Smith, who has joined the retired pilot influx to Hoedspruit, and has brought his beautifully restored and re-engined Cessna 188 Agwagon. Johnnie demonstrated a smoke run down the runway – which enables the pilot to judge the wind and thus spray with greater accuracy. He then sprayed with water to demonstrate his precision aerial application.