Nylstroom Taildraggers (Almost)

Every year, The Nylstroom Airfield (FANY) plays host to a weekend of taildraggers. Folks fly their non nosewheel equipped aircraft in on the Friday or Saturday and stay over and (probably) have a few drinks in the evening and fly back on the Sunday morning. It is a celebration of all things Taildragger and aviation in general and I was keen to go see what it was all about. 

Unfortunately, life had other ideas and my plans to fly in for a visit on the Saturday did not come to fruition which left me looking at popping up on the Sunday – basically for no other reason than having an excuse to fly the aeroplane. The day’s schedule called for a family lunch which meant I was under a little bit of time pressure – but the best time of the day to fly is the early morning and it was only me so no need to accommodate any late sleepers.

Date Aircraft Route Flight Duration Total Hours
14 July 2019 ZU-IBM FASY – FANY(Nylstroom Aiport) – FASY 2.5 155.0

There is something really peaceful about being the first one at the airfield on a cold winter’s morning. Preflighting the plane in the dark (with a torch of course), pulling the plane out onto the frosty grass, breaking the silence with a Rotax 914 that started first time(!) and then lighting the taxiway for the short taxi down to the holding point. Baragwanath is not lit at all so I was going to have to wait a few minutes for it to be light enough to take off. That was the plan but a few delays along the way meant that I was lining up and opening the throttle as the sun began to peer over the horizon. 

The early morning air was clear and smooth (and cold) as I climbed over Soweto and set course for the Kyalami VFR corridor (again – twice in as many weeks..) Nobody else was on frequency so I monitored Grand Central, Lanseria and Wonderboom towers as we floated past. The routing is essentially directly north after Wonderboom parallel to the N1 highway which we have spent many an hour traveling on. It was great to be able to see the queues at the toll-gates and not be involved at all. 

Near Warmbaths / Bela-Bella

The landscape doesn’t offer too much to look at until you get to Nylstroom where the Waterberg mountains begin so I simply enjoyed the smooth air. 10nm out from Nylstroom I cancelled the flight following and reported inbound – at which point someone said on frequency “Hello Mike”. This caught me somewhat by surprise so I asked who it was and the answer came back, in a very pronounced South African bureaucratic accent, “This is Nylstroom Control!”

The beginnings of the Waterberg

Now Nylstroom is an uncontrolled airfield and as such the Unicom/CTAF frequency is 124.8 – the same as most uncontrolled airfields so someone was having a bit of a laugh – I’m still not sure who though. They knew who I was though. Weird. 

The circuit at Nylstroom will certainly get your attention if you don’t fly it tight. There is a large ridge to the north – the circuit side and the large number of paths passing from the main road across the runway to the informal settlement to the south – suggesting that pedestrians are a potential problem. In fact, on landing I was surprised to see a few guards wielding automatic rifles. I’m told that this is an airfield under threat from the informal settlement and that high security was required. It seems that this was to be the last year that Nylstroom Taildraggers was to be held at Nylstroom for this very reason. 

It appears that the majority of the aircraft that had been there on the Saturday had left but there were still a few interesting tailies around to have a look at.

ZS – PHU Piper PA-18 Cub
Boeing Stearman ZU-IES
Boeing Stearman ZU-IES
Cessna C195 Businessliner ZS-BFW
Cessna C195 Businessliner ZS-BFW

The two aircraft above must be the most desirable Taildraggers around – the 195 especially has been really well looked after.

Evans VP-1 Volksplane
Bearhawk LSA ZU-IKO
Van’s RV-7 ZU-EUF
Van’s RV-4 ZU-FRV

I really struggle to tell the difference between an RV-4 and an RV-8. This one? Definitely a -4.

Hey, this one looks familiar. There’s always ONE guy who brings a nosewheel to a Taildragger flyin..

Having fortified myself with a breakfast roll from the club it was time to set forth home again. Next year I’ll go on the Saturday to make the most of the festivities. The flight home was uneventful and mercifully smooth – I was expecting it to be quite bumpy. I even flew directly over the house but sadly the message from me to the kids wasn’t received so they didn’t see me – and I was not going to be that guy who circled over his house, lost control and crashed. That would be really embarrassing.

On departure from FANY
Cockpit selfies. Because why not?
Approaching Sandton CBD on the Kyalami VFR corridor, 7000ft

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