Lookout Beach, Plettenberg Bay, 1972.

Beacon Isle Hotel had just opened and the passengers of the aircraft stayed overnight at the Hotel. After their stay, the Beacon Isle Combi delivered them back to the beach with their luggage, loaded all aboard and then took off. (Derek Frielinghaus)

But the real story is much more.

Jim Davis tells us what really happened:

“I’m afraid the story isn’t quite right.

The pilot took off from the main airfield at Plettenberg Bay with all his passengers and luggage in really crappy whether. He then dropped down towards the beach and realised he was stuck as the cloud base was low.

He couldn’t get back to the airfield or continue to his destination of Bloemfontein, so he landed on the beach, and they all stayed the night at Beacon Isle Hotel.

The next day, I saw them loading up to take-off again once the weather cleared. I told the pilot that I was willing to drive his passengers and luggage up to the airfield and he could collect them there.
“No we haven’t got time for that and we are late as it is; besides I can’t spare the fuel because I haven’t got maps.” Was his shocking answer.

As he was posing for photos with his three passengers in front of the aircraft, I asked if he had walked along the proposed take-off part of the beach to check for soft patches. “No – I don’t have time for that crap.” He replied.


I was fairly pissed off by then, so I said to the passengers that the proposed take-off was both illegal and dangerous, and asked them if they would like me to take them up to the airfield. They all seemed keen but then he bullied them into staying with him.

I was so incensed by his story of no maps, a shortage of fuel and taking-off on the beach with all his passengers aboard and all that luggage, that I called the then DCA (Department of Civil Aviation), and they had his license in the shredder before he landed back in Bloemfontein.
I don’t like being the fun police, but I really don’t like watching a crash.
This type of thing makes me think how much trust passengers put in someone just because they hold a PPL.

Scary stuff and a long time ago.”


The aircraft

The Ryan (originally North American) Navion is a single-engine, unpressurized, retractable gear, four-seat aircraft originally designed and built by North American Aviation in the 1940s, the same company which produced the North American P-51 Mustang.

It was later built by Ryan Aeronautical Company

Production rights passed to the TUSCO Corporation, which flew a prototype of a revised version, the Navion Rangemaster G, on June 10, 1960 and set up the Navion Aircraft Company to build it. The Rangemaster G replaced the sliding canopy of the earlier Navions with a more conventional five seat cabin with access via car-type doors.

Production began in 1961, and by mid-1962 was reported to be at a rate of 20 per month.

Navion Aircraft Company went bankrupt, and the rights to the Navion were picked up by the Navion Aircraft Corporation, set up by members of the American Navion Society in mid-1965. (Wiki).

This particular aircraft is fitted with a 285hp Continental IO-520B engine and is actually a Navion H Rangemaster.

First Registered in South Africa as ZS-CAV

Now re-registered as ZU-FFU

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