General Aviation, and in particular, the recreational aviation of the ‘weekend warriors’, has been under intense pressure in South Africa for the past ten years. The combination of a battered and apprehensive business environment, and unhelpful and often excessive regulation, has driven many recreational pilots to watching sport on TV and limiting their aviation involvement to twittering on the online forums.
It is therefore great news to see that the Cape Town Flying Club is one again up and …er… flying. It is one of the oldest flying clubs in South Africa, having started at Youngsfield Airfield in 1937. The club in its current form was opened by Sir Douglas Bader in 1980. Over the years there have been amalgamations with the UCT Flying Club, Good Hope Flying Club and the Cape Aero Club. But in 2015 things fell apart and the club became defunct.
The relaunched club has something for everyone and deserves to do well. It operates a very useful range of aircraft for training and hire and fly, including a spiffy Cirrus SR22. Multi engine training is available on a new Tecnam P2006T with full Garmin 1000, so it has the most modern aircraft. Most importantly, in this age of a huge shortage of flying instructors, the club has four Grade II instructors and five Grade III instructors. And it’s family friendly - they have a great children’s play area and an excellent coffee shop.
At the same time Aerosport Flight Training is making a big investment in Wintervogel Airfield. This is fantastic news as it confirms that GA is a growth industry with a breaking wave of demand for new pilots to feed the airlines. Increasingly I hear of pilots making it into the right seat of airliners in Europe or the far east – within as little as three years since starting their PPLs. These airline jobs are well paid; a starting salary of R1 million is possible. And most importantly, it gives a viable return on the investment to become an airline pilot. Even flight training in the UK – (which may cost 200,000 pounds) is feasible, as banks are increasingly prepared to finance this very expensive post-school education and training. For poor South Africans, the great news is that those who previously wouldn’t have been able to gain access to the exclusive club of airline pilots should soon be able to finance their dreams.
Unfortunately, our CAA embraced the EASA ATPL syllabus a little too enthusiastically, and so it seems that South Africa has become one of the most difficult places in the world to get an ATPL. But the weather here is still better, and the costs remain significantly cheaper than in Europe, and if we can get our act together in terms of a workable standard of theoretical exams, then there is every reason to believe that the flight training industry in South Africa should expect boom times.