EAA’ers to the Rescue! “The Durban Airlift”

By Neil Bowden, EAA Chapter 322 President, Johannesburg, South Africa, EAA 565560

Following the imprisonment of our former president, some regions of South Africa became embroiled in violence which led to looting, destruction of infrastructure, and closure of national highways, in particular the N3 route, the main highway between South Africa’s economic hub, Johannesburg, and Durban, Africa’s busiest seaport. Many inland areas were left without food and medical supplies and families were stranded in areas with no access to home. However, it was heartening to witness communities banding together to protect property and come to the assistance of their fellow citizens!

Mother and child rescued by EAA members in South Africa
A mother and child flown to safety by an EAA member

One such community was the Experimental Aircraft Association. Pilots and aircraft owners volunteered unselfishly to transport food supplies, medicine, and baby formula to affected regions and also to return stranded families and individuals to their homes. EAA’s efforts did not go unnoticed and many favorable articles appeared in the press. This article by Senior Reporter Graeme Hosken appeared in the Times Live, one of South Africa’s biggest media houses with excerpts below:

Angels take to skies in daring KZN rescue operation

SA’s biggest air mercy mission under way to lift tonnes of medical supplies, food and essential items to thousands trapped and cut off by marauding protesters

From across South Africa they descended on Durban in their numbers, in what is possibly the country’s biggest civilian air mercy mission.

For Experimental Aircraft Association member Don Kemp, who has volunteered his Cessna 182, he said he had joined the effort “as this is typical SA spirit.”

“If I can help then I want to. This is the way I can help communities and my fellow South Africans. It is just the right thing to do.”

Pilot Keaton Perkins, also of the association, said one had to step up and help where one could.

Keaton Perkins in South Africa
Another delivery on the way to Margate Airport, KZN. Pilot Keaton Perkins was one of our Young Eagles!

Preparing to airlift 250kg of supplies for a flight on Saturday to the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands and Virginia Airport in Durban North from Petite in Ekurhuleni, he said what he was doing was the easy part.

“We have the means and we can do it. We are among dozens of pilots from across SA who are doing the same thing.

“There are people who own planes, who have volunteered their aircraft and fuel and sponsored flights. Pilots, who have the means as they can fly, are just jumping in and doing the work that needs to be done.”

He said pilots from the association were airlifting supplies into various areas across KwaZulu-Natal and hauling people out.

“The supplies being flown will include baby formula, nappies, medicines, basic and essential food items.

Food supplies packed into a Sling 4

“Wherever there is an airport, airstrip or aerodrome pilots are flying from them as quickly as possible. It is all been highly coordinated.”

Many pilots flew up to 3 or 4 missions over the past few days, these flights each mainly over 600 nm round trip! The initiative was coordinated by the Commercial Aviation Association of South Africa and all aircraft were tracked under the watchful eye of Santjie White, an expert in aircraft search and rescue operations, making sure the operation was efficient and safe.

EAA Chapter 322 in Johannesburg, South Africa, would like to thank all members who participated in this initiative and proudly flew the EAA flag! The effective and quick response to an emergency by EAA, pilots, and aircraft owners highlight the importance of general aviation and its infrastructure and underscore the need to preserve our freedoms to fly all around the world.

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