It was close to the 1957 festive season and therefore things were seemingly very quiet at Wonderboom Airport, as traditionally everybody had migrated to the coastal resorts. Suddenly there was a request to fly the new owner of a late-model Piper Tripacer to Kitwe in Northern Rhodesia (as it was known then-to be renamed Zambia later).
Photo © FlugKerl2/commons.wikimedia.org.
ZS-CHX was painted in the traditional white with blue stripes, had a full instrument panel and a 'Sunair' 5-channel HF radio. That was the top specification at the time.
By arrangement with the new owner, I was allowed to fly CHX from Wonderboom to my then home-town, Vereeniging. This was to collect some suitable clothing and be slightly nearer to the intended departure airfield which was to be Baragwanath.
Baragwanath airfield /Johannesburg Light Plane Club Control Tower.
On the 20th December, I departed from Vereeniging at first light and was in time at Baragwanath airfield where the owner was. Pietersburg airport was the Airport of Departure and Customs and Immigration formalities were easily completed.
My routing from Pietersburg then was via Bulawayo /Kumalo Airport for the Southern Rhodesian Customs and Immigration formalities and the aircraft's Temporary Import Permit.
The next legs were from Bulawayo via Sinoia to Lusaka Airport in Northern Rhodesia. En-route communications were made using the HF radio, but without a VHF radio, one had to join the circuit overhead the airport and look for landing signals and a green Aldis-lamp light signifying 'clear-to-land'.
Early Ndola airport building.
Formalities at Lusaka and refuelling were duly completed and we departed for Ndola Airport. We encountered typical "guti" low-clouds which required really low-flying following the railway-line (hence the term IFR-I fly railways). Fortunately, the clouds lifted nearer to Ndola.
After refuelling we flew the short leg to Kitwe-Nkana airfield for the two night stops. The day's total flying hours amounted to 9.3! Even for a 20-year old, I found that quite tiring, especially as without an auto-pilot, it required hand-flying the entire route!
The return flight was commenced on 22nd December following the same route. The hours flown amounted to a whopping 10.2 hours! There was summer thunderstorm to skirt and of course there was the usual headwind! Again I was quite tired at day's end!
The valuable flying hours gained all counted towards my future Commercial Pilot's Licence.