In a sign of the neglect of municipal airports, the for the first time in 10 years, the popular Taildraggers fly-in has moved from Nylstroom Airfield, to Warmbaths / Bela Bela.

Sling High Wing Taildragger.

THE NYLSTROOM AIRFIELD has fallen victim to the pressures of an ever-expanding informal settlement. In 2020 Taildraggers fly-in organiser Richard Nicholson approached the Warmbaths Flying Club and requested that Taildraggers be moved to Warmbaths Airfield.

Arrival day on the Friday seemed a bit quieter than usual, although this may have been due to the bad weather early in the day. Fortunately, the weather cleared for the rest of the weekend. The visitors who decided to stay the night were more than happy to spend a few hours at the clubhouse catching up with friends over a few cold ones. The fires were lit early and as soon as they were ready the air was filled with the iconic South African smell of a braai.

Saturday morning started early with Jason Beamish and Richard Nicholson Jr. starting their aircraft for the customary dawn patrol. Any campers nursing a hangover were soon awakened when the aircraft started buzzing above the field. One of which was the EAA stalwart Karl Jensen, who, with his wife away, was camping under the wing of his stunning C170 for the first time in 25 years.

separate ‘real’ aircraft from ‘nosedraggers’

While the dawn patrol was enjoying the sunrise the first of the day’s arrivals made their appearance. The majority of the early arrivals were from the Kitplanes For Africa stable; during the day almost thirty KFA aircraft arrived, ranging from the Bush-baby to the Safari and larger Explorer.

Sling Aircraft was mildly coerced into bringing their new Sling High Wing Taildragger. The prototype had been in pieces on the preceding Monday but when they were told their aircraft was being used on the official logo for this year’s event the very capable team at Sling Aircraft burned midnight oil to fly it in on Saturday morning.

The sub-tropical sun was unrelenting with temperatures reaching into the high 30’s which kept most of the visitors under the shade tents and trees at the clubhouse. Despite the heat, Richard Nicholson Snr spent most of the day zipping around the airfield marshalling the 130 odd aircraft to their parking spots and trying to separate the ‘real’ aircraft from their tricycle gear ‘nosedraggers’.

Shortly before 11:00 a familiar rumble was heard in the distance; the Puma Energy Flying Lions were inbound. Scully Levin and his team managed to bring some relief to the airshow starved people with an immaculate four-ship display. The sound of these four Harvards will always elevate the enthusiasm levels up a few notches.

Nigel Musgrave, the safety officer and Piet Fourie from the CAA kept an eye on everything from the tower, accompanied by two ladies from ATNS. It must be noted that they did a sterling job of handling the hundreds of movements with not one incident.

At 3:30pm the sky came alive with the sound of Extras, Nigel Hopkins and Jason Beamish delivered yet another superb display of high impact formation aerobatics. Nigel flying in his Ecko Unltd sponsored Extra 330SC and Jason in his Absolute Aviation Extra 330LX have been flying together for many years and this showed in the precision of their display.

As the shadows lengthened many of the visiting aircraft began leaving. Ssadly the taildraggers tradition of sleeping over on Saturday night seems to have died with the Nylstroom airfield.

Hopefully, the full ‘Taildragger Gees’ will be rekindled by next year’s event, but for this year it was clear the world isn’t the same place it was before the pandemic.

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