A gathering of Gyrocopters at Bona Bona Lodge May 2023
By Willie Bodenstein
19 and 20 May 2023
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Today's Gyrocopters or Gyroplanes all have their origin in the 1923 design of Juan de la Cierva, a Spanish inventor and engineer.
Whereas a helicopter works by forcing the rotor blades through the air, drawing air from above, the autogyro rotor blade generates lift in the same way as a glider's wing, by changing the angle of the air as the air moves upward and backward relative to the rotor blade. The free-spinning blades turn by autorotation; the rotor blades are angled so that they not only give lift, but the angle of the blades causes the lift to accelerate the blades' rotation rate until the rotor turns at a stable speed with the drag force and the thrust force in balance.
In South Africa, SAGPA, the South African Gyro Pilots Association serves as the recognized voice of Gyrocopter Aviation through leadership, collaboration and unity in the promotion of safety in the sport of Gyrocopter Aviation in South Africa.
I've been honoured to, in 2021, spend a long weekend with this dedicated group of pilots at Gariep Airport at their annual North meets South gathering. This year this dedicated group got together at Bona Bona Lodge in the Northwest Province. Some arrived on the 18th, the majority on the Friday and some on Saturday.
Friday morning breakfast at the Jackals restaurant
Organiser Tommy Jordaan flew in from Zastron
They came from all over, from Empangeni in KZN, Swelledam in in the Cape, Zastron in the Freestate, Polokwane in Limpopo and off course from Gauteng. This year two new members who both will soon be flying their own Gyro's formed part of the group, a nicer bunch of people will be difficult to find.
Friday was the main arrival day. The weather was almost perfect although it was rather chilly with a somewhat unpleasant wind. However, all made it safely. Some took it slow, breakfasting or lunch at Parys, others came direct.
The facilities at Bona Bona is a first world class lodge with extremely friendly staff. Fuel is available and the runway in perfect condition. I believe that they will soon add a taxiway as well.
Friday night's wine tasting and Canapť's at the Jackals' restaurant was enjoyed by all.
Saturday was decidedly warmer and the wind had died down somewhat. Breakfast is available until ten by which time George Bosch did an extremely interesting talk on batteries, their care and uses. This was followed by the staff of Century Avionics who had spend the week at NAMPO informing those in hangar 02 about all the newest electronic gadgets available. Venessa Richardson, whose husband Graham is a Gyro Pilot, and who had on display her expertly made aircraft covers and windsocks concluded the mornings official program.
Some went for game drives, others for out flights, other relaxed and caught up with old friends or made new friends.
It was also time for Andre van Zyl to show why he is such a hit at air shows and such a good ambassador for the gyrocopter. All eyes turned skyward as he became one with his machine as he put it through its paces, eventually landing to spontaneous applause.
Dougie Inggs and Martin Burt shared their passion and flew numerous others as well as some of the lodge's staff and their children. I was again one of Dougie's passengers when he flew me for some air to ground photos. The gyrocopter is in my opinion with Dougie at the controls a superbly stable and manoeuvrable camera ship.
SAGPA Chairman Jaques Swiegers during the awards dinner
By then the sun was setting and we retired to our accommodation to get ready for the evenings supper and prize giving thar again took place at the restaurant complex.
No event can be a success without those that make it so by either sponsorship or sheer hard work and their efforts were acknowledged.
SAGPA's mission, according to their website, is to be dedicated to being the catalyst for the sport of Gyrocopter aviation and its growth in South Africa. In fulfilling this mission, they will value, support, and be constructively responsive to the needs of the Gyrocopter Piloting community through; Advocacy (to protect and promote an asset of interest); Safety, through Education and Training; Compliance and Sustainability through the establishment of standards; Innovation and by recognising their heritage.
In my humble opinion they have succeeded in all aspects.
DJA, Magni SA, BonaBona, Comet Aviation, Majestic Brokers, VODACOM, Century Avionics, Dewald, Liquor Runners Bloemfontein, Myburgh Trust, BKB, Nutrigrun, Virbac, Vleissentraal, Noord Kaap Versekering, Jody Agriculture, Pendriam Trust, OVK Kooperasie, L Shear, Champions Hardeware Zastron, Ronald Purrell, Georg Bosch, Ctec Charger, Eugene Meyer, Douggie Inggs, Graham and Vanessa Richardson, Willem Burger, Bobby Tait, Andre van Zyl & Martin Burt