Camaraderie in EAA South Africa

By Karl Jensen, EAA 554322

To set the scene, a few of our Johannesburg EAA Chapter 322 members decided to fly to a member’s airstrip for early morning coffee and a chin wag on Saturday morning. The weather was magnificent for flying and the air was silky smooth. I departed with two EAA friends in my 1955 Cessna 170B from my base at Fly Inn Estate, 9 miles to the east of Johannesburg’s main international airport. Fly Inn Estate lies within the Air Force Base Waterkloof military area — no problem as the ATC there is friendly and accommodating. Our destination was EAA Chapter 322 Vice President Sean Cronin’s isolated Silver Creek Airfield about 50 miles to the west. We cleared the military airspace and I tried to get clearance to pass through Lanseria International Airport’s quiet airspace but to no avail. I was vectored around the control zone and was on their frequency for about 10 minutes before changing to our area broadcast frequency for the nontowered Silver Creek. The airspace around Johannesburg is usually very busy and the 50-mile flight required about six frequency changes.

During takeoff, the shaft of my 170’s Scott tail wheel
head apparently failed and the entire tail wheel assembly and tail wheel
departed. As the assembly set course for another parish, the tail wheel was
already off the ground so there was no indication of the failure. A bystander
noticed the tail wheel bits lying on the runway after we were long gone. They
called the military tower to inform me but with all the frequency changes, the
entire area knew about the incident except myself. When we landed after a
lovely scenic flight, the expensive crunching sound of the tail wheel assembly
head on the paved runway felt not unlike a flat tail wheel. I stopped straight
ahead with little effort and asked my pal sitting next to me to check if the
tail wheel was flat. His answer was “There is no wheel!” Oh dear, we got out
and lifted the tail and wheeled the 170 off the runway.

A fellow member, Peter Lastrucci, EAA 380470, who had
arrived at Silver Creek ahead of us in his wife’s Cessna 152, and Sean Cronin,
EAA 1285114, arrived within minutes in his truck. We assessed the damage and
without asking, Peter went back to their 152 and quickly departed to his base
at Krugersdorp to fetch a replacement Alaska Bushwheel, which he had recently
purchased for his Piper Cruiser rebuild project. Within an hour he was back at
Silver Creek with the loan assembly. In the meantime, Sean had brought a
trestle and the remains of the broken Scott tail wheel head was removed as
Peter presented the replacement one. Within 15 minutes, my 170 was back in
business. I am no slouch, but these pro friends of mine would not allow me to even
soil my hands. As the job was nearing completion, another Cessna 170B landed
followed by an RV-7. This was Larry Beamish in his 170B and his son Jason, EAA 1210824,
in their RV. They had a toolbox and were going to remove their Cessna’s tail wheel,
fit it to my plane, and then fly to Fly Inn Estate in their RV to remove the
tail wheel from my plane once it was parked in my hangar. Larry and Jason had
heard the chatter with the world knowing my predicament. Not being able to
contact me, they spontaneously decided to come to the rescue from their field,
The Coves.

With my plane repaired, I taxied to the barista’s
hangar. While the very welcome coffee was cooling, I called the owner of Fly
Inn Estate, Gabi Venter, who told me of the discovery of the broken bits and of
the military ATC trying in vain to contact me. Two other EAA members at Fly Inn
who own a similar Cessna 170B had by then removed their plane’s tail wheel
assembly and were preflighting one of their other planes to fly to Silver Creek
with the necessary tools to rescue me. Wonderful initiative considering they
couldn’t even advise me as Silver Creek is in the Magaliesberg Mountains where
cellphone signal is intermittent.

Six days later, my new Alaska Bushwheel tail wheel
assembly arrived from Aircraft Spruce on the other side of the planet. I
removed Peter’s assembly and fitted the shiny new one with the help of another
EAA member, Eugene Couzyn, EAA 1142360, who insisted on doing the major work of
removing the tail wheel spring and refitting it after a thorough check and
replacing the rudder pedal links.

Is this not the essence of the amazing spirit within
our EAA?

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