When considering the attractions of an aeroplane that flies low and slow to enjoy the spectacular views available flying around the ‘fairest Cape in all the World’ I remind myself of the drawbacks of a slow plane.
A slow landing speed means it’s tricky to land in the brisk crosswinds we get in the Cape. As I watch the twitchy light sport planes being blown around on final approach over the trees at Morningstar, I’m glad I fly a clunky SUV of a Saratoga that I can just plonk down on the runway.
I reckon this is a useful analogy for general aviation (GA) in South Africa. Due to a combination of adverse circumstances, GA has become both increasingly lightweight and slow, and is being blown about by the storms from the broader socio-political economy. The Zuma era has blown people’s confidence and ability to go out and spend money to have fun. Pilots and wannabee pilots have been sitting on their hands – too nervous of the next attack by the institutional looters to spend money on fripperies like fun flying.
But the good news is that South Africa is not like the rest of Africa. Against all odds, the onslaught of state sponsored gangsters was defeated by the three institutions of the constitution, an independent and ethical judiciary, and a media free enough to expose the gangster government to a civil society still capable of being outraged.
As I write this, there seems to have been a weight removed from the shoulders of our collective consciousness. There’s a new lightness in our step and the signs of a new dawn are everywhere. Most hopefully, the general aviation industry is already showing signs of recovery.
This month’s supplement is on Lanseria Airport, and both Mike Gough’s Skyhawk Flight School and Absolute Aviation are reporting a welcome upturn in GA activity. The Rand has strengthened, particularly against the Dollar, making fuel and maintenance not quite as eye-wateringly expensive, there are an increasing number of local pilots wanting to learn to fly just for fun and an uptick in enquiries to buy new planes.
I wrote after the 2008 recession that aviation leads a depression and lags the recovery. This time we may not have to wait too long. The resources cycle appears to have bottomed – led by a return of investor confidence in mining as the investor unfriendly mining charter is rolled back. The demand for air charter to mines is increasing, as is the disposable income of mining magnates.
A case in point is Quinton van der Bergh who has made a quick billion in mining and is now growing his aviation interests by buying first a helicopter and then a Challenger 300, on which I was thrilled to be able to take a ride to St Helena Island. Similarly, there are strong signs of an economic recovery in sleepy George, as evidenced by a large new FBO. These profiles and much more are in this issue.