I really enjoy flying to new (to me) airfields. I’ve been wanting to go to Kitty Hawk since I got my aircraft. Kitty Hawk is located to the east of Pretoria – about 30min flying time from Baragwanath. It is a very active field with a large number of Vans RV’s based there.
The field has a little bit of a reputation as being ‘difficult’ in certain wind conditions. I’m always up for a challenge that fits within my personal limits and experience, so reputation aside, I felt it was worth the visit. I was able to muster up only one other plane from the JLPC crowd – Roger in his Turbo Arrow agreed to join me out of Rand airport for breakfast.
|Date||Aircraft||Route||Flight Duration||Total Hours|
|6 October 2019||ZU-IBM||FASY(Baragwanath) – FAKT (Kitty Hawk) – FASY||1.7||172.5|
The straight line routing from Bara to Kitty Hawk goes directly over some of the busiest and most restricted airspace on the African continent – OR Tambo international and the Waterkloof Airforce Base TMA (Class B)
Since I am not a huge fan of (a) being intercepted and (b) paying massive air navigation fees (the big stick by which OR Tambo international keeps GA aircraft out of its airspace), it was necessary to route around. There are two options for this – firstly to go south and east over Springs, or to go west and north using the Kyalami VFR and the Pinedene VFR routes.
I elected to go South and East while routing toward Kitty Hawk – which actually worked really well – visibility was good and the air smooth. I had some good views of the Springs and Brakpan/Benoni airfields and in the distance OR Tambo (Johannesburg) International.
Pretoria has a bustling general aviation scene with airfields all around the city. As I got closer to Kitty Hawk the Special Rules Frequency was getting busier. I was passed by Roger in the Arrow (this is becoming a bit of a feature of my flights). 10nm from Kitty Hawk we checked in on their frequency and I was able to get my first view of the strip.
It was surprising in that it was very much NOT in the open as I imagined, but surrounded by a few hills which were quite close in. Inspection of the windsock revealed a stiff breeze blowing right down runway 01, so at least we wouldn’t have to deal with a crosswind. The approach into 01 has a large hill under it, a hill on the side and the airfield itself is perched atop a hill, whose peak is at midfield. The visual picture on short finals is quite interesting to say the least. One almost has the feeling that you’re descending into the valley to climb again as you flare. The hill also means you cannot see the far end of the runway from about 100ft above.
Look, I’m probably over dramatising this but it’s an interesting field to land at – we made it down safely and the 20L of ballast in the baggage compartment helped to make it look a bit better to the large crowd watching. Apparently Kitty Hawk restaurant is a bit of a Mecca for the Sunday morning Harley breakfast riders… put it this way, there was a lot of leather on display.
I enjoy flying into busy fields – after we arrived someone pitched up in a Skyleader 600 (new type for me) and shortly thereafter we observed an RV-8 doing aerobatics nearby and they too landed and parked next to me.
While the restaurant was busy, the atmosphere is pleasant and the location right next to the runway means you have a good view of the action. The food was tasty and hot and the company good. An enjoyable breakfast, we’ll definitely make the pilgrimage north again.
For the trip back I decided to tick off another item on the to-do list and that is to fly the Pinedene VFR Route. The Pinedene route was created to enable traffic to fly between the eastern and western (and vice-versa) sides of the conglomeration of airspace that is Grand Central, Waterkloof AFB and OR Tambo, without having to go far north or far south. The route requires VMC conditions and is open to aircraft with functioning transponders.
The route is flown with reference to ground objects at 6000ft. They are well defined and are joined by (a lot of) power lines, so the rules of flying to the right of linear features apply to keep separation. The routing is entirely within the Waterkloof AFB Class B (TMA) airspace so it is necessary to contact their tower for permission before entering. The Waterkloof TMA begins about 5nm to the west of Kitty Hawk, so one needs to have one’s finger out when routing East to West.
I started up at Kitty Hawk and taxied to the end of the active (which was still 01). As I was doing my run ups, a Cirrus landed and promptly disappeared over the hump in the runway. Once I’d negotiated and established that they were indeed clear it was time to set sail. I really love the performance of IBM when lightly loaded – I was airborne before cresting the hump in the runway and was accelerating to Vy before I reached the clubhouse.
Climbing to 6000ft I reported exiting the circuit area and then started to try and get hold of Waterkloof tower. For reasons that are unclear, it was really difficult to raise them – as a result I needed to do an orbit before entering. Eventually they responded and cleared me into the TMA. Having been apprehensive about flying this route, I was relieved to find it was actually really easy.
The power lines are hard to miss, the brick factory at the start was easy to see, and fortunately I know what the SA Mint looks like from years of driving past it. It definitely helped to have the route entered in the EFiS and have it on SkyDemon as backup because I definitely didn’t see the railway station that defines the middle of the route. It didn’t matter though, I made it through easily and will definitely use the route again in preference to flying all the way around.
It’s funny how certain routes develop a mythical quality and an aura of difficulty that is shared from aviator to aviator – mostly from people who have never flown them, or those who aren’t confident enough in the aircraft to fly a heading and an altitude. I have heard of times when clearance into the TMA is impossible but that wouldn’t be a train smash – you can always go around…
The rest of the flight back to Baragwanath was uneventful – the usual sporty landing conditions prevailed but we’re getting used to that by now. Another airport on the list…….