Bonizwe Award Flight for EWT

Jul 10, 2011

MISSION  15 of  2011

Name of Mission: Bonizwe Award Flight for EWT      
Date of Mission: 10 July 2011  
Aircraft used: Comanche        
Pilot: Jeremy Woods     
Beneficiary: Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT)

Objective of the Flight

To recognise the achievements of the top three students within the Conservation Leadership Training course offered by the Endangered Wildlife Trust, by providing students with an aerial perspective of conservation issues

Pilot’s report                 By Jeremy Woods

Every year student game rangers, South Africa’s conservationists of the future, study and work hard to be recognised as one of the top three achievers in all aspects of their college training sponsored by the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT).

Accordingly, in 2011, for the second consecutive year, a Bateleurs pilot (also an EAA Young Eagles pilot), Jeremy Woods, met early on Sunday the 10th of July 2011 with Nzalama Chauke, Sipho Dlamini and Nompilo Ngcobo — the three top achievers in the final year of the three-year training course for Game Rangers and Conservationists, offered by the Endangered Wildlife Trust.

Well-informed conservationist organisations will already know that they are invited to request The Bateleurs to provide them with free “aviation services”, other than charters. The Bateleurs will gladly provide pilots and suitable aircraft for missions such as photographic surveys, animal search and location, game counting, pollution monitoring, poaching control, etc. These and many other varied types of missions is how The Bateleurs fulfil their goal of “Flying for the Environment”.

For this particular annual mission the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), as part of its own “Young Eagles” programme, provides The Bateleurs with “free aviation services” in the form of a pilot, plane and fuel. The normal purpose of the Young Eagles programme is to introduce young people to aviation by giving them their first experience of flying. The purpose of this flight is the same — but with a slight twist. On this mission young conservationists are shown how aerial surveys can be used in their future work. Hopefully, if the flight is an enjoyable one for the students, it is also is a reward given to the achievers for their efforts and their passion for the environment.

Once again this year, after getting the appropriate overfly permission from Mr & Mrs Oppenheimer a week prior to the flight, we departed Rand Airport at about 08h00, heading North East for the Ezemvelo Game Reserve and Telperion, situated North of Bronkhorstspruit and South of Loskop Dam. The game reserve provides accommodation and classrooms where students get six months of hands-on practical game-ranging experience during their three years at college. The idea of the flight is for students to see from the air the area they have come to know only at ground level, expecting that an aerial perspective will add to their understanding of how conservation can be assisted by aerial services.

Unlike last year’s mission, which was subject to low cloud and rain, this year we had bright sunshine although temperatures were cool. A smooth flight is best for people who’ve never experienced flight before. There was much excitement as is usual with these groups, and the two young ladies, Nzalama and Nompilo, decided that they would sit in the back together, while the slightly bolder Sipho could sit up front with the pilot.

The Comanche, although not suitable for many Bateleurs missions which require accurate survey or photography, is particularly suited to a first flight experience. We arrived overhead the game reserve 25 minutes after take-off, flying to the South first to remain clear of ORT airspace. GPS co-ordinates of the Ezemvelo boundaries had been obtained in the previous week, from Capt. Johnny Laing, the Oppenheimer’s personal helicopter pilot and manager of Aviation Services at Anglo American. We immediately started identifying points of interest that Nzalama, Nomilo and Sipho knew on the ground and could recognise now from above. We observed a lot of the reserve from heights between 300’ and 500’ AGL which would not have been possible without the good graces of Mr & Mrs Oppenheimer, who had granted special permission for this low altitude flight.

With new aviators on board one has to be careful to do shallow turns and not pull too many Gs. We did this to the best of our ability but nevertheless one of the passengers began to exhibit a bit of queasiness, so, after about an hour in the air, we headed for a nearby airfield, Kitty Hawk, and took a break on terra firma.  This proved to be just what the doctor ordered and gave us all the chance to have a bit of breakfast at the well-run Kitty Hawk Flying Club restaurant, while getting to know each other a little better.

The flight back was via the Pinedene route, back over the city which was almost as exciting for the students as the game reserve had been, as they tried to identify some of their usual haunts from the air. The animated chatter during the two hours of flight, and after landing, together with the expressions of gratitude from the three students (see their hand written reports attached) is sufficient proof for me that these Bonizwe flights must be continued, and preferably expanded, to include a greater number of potential conservationists in the future.

Beneficiary’s reports             By Nzalama Chauke, Sipho Dlamini and Nompilo Ngcobo

Report from Nzalama Chauke

Firstly, thanks to you Jeremy and The Bateleurs for an opportunity of a lifetime. Flying is everyone’s dream, especially for young students of today and I cannot stop raving about the wonderful day. And again, many thanks to the Endangered Wildlife Trust for making if happen for me and the other two students. I think this will be the best challenge for other students to work even harder so that they can experience what we have experienced.

When we met our pilot, on the day he gave us instructions and also asked about our own expectations. The flight gave me a new idea of so many things and an experience of how it feels to be on air for a day. I was a bit nervous but it wasn’t bad at all. It gave me an idea that there are certain types of aircraft that can be used for different things, i.e. when vegetation surveys, monitoring of animals, or game counts need to be done.

The aircraft that we used was not suitable for the above-mentioned because of the low wings on the sides so one could not see clearly for doing surveys or game counts.

I have been doing my projects at Telperion for quite a while now and this gave me a chance to view Telperion from the air, rather than seeing it on the ground everytime. I really had fun and thanks again to Jeremy for being the best pilot and for giving me a chance to know how it feels like to be a pilot for a second …I really enjoyed it. Keep on doing this good work, it is an inspiration to everyone, young or old.

Thank you for a wonderful day.

Report from Sipho Dlamini

Being in the air in a light aircraft is very different from when flying in a big plane. From taking off until the landing, one of the most interesting parts of the flight was how the pilot does his plane check before even starting the engines. Driving a car and flying a plane have similarities, though with flying the pilot has to communicate with air traffic control, and when driving the driver uses indicators to communicate with other road users.

I had an opportunity to notice the thick band of air pollution in the sky above the CBD of Johannesburg, and that when we flew in the direction of Bronkhorstspruit dam, the air started to clear. I also had a chance to see the top of a mine dump for the first time. Mr Woods (the pilot) landed at a small airport from Bronkhorstspruit and he gave us broader information on different planes and about flying planes. He also shared with us a few missions he had done for The Bateleurs.

The view from a light aircraft is amazing. The scenery was breathtaking. All the beauty you could see helped take my anxiety away.  I wish I could do it more often, more like a hobby.

It all would not have been possible without the EWT and The Bateleurs. Most of all Mr Woods was of great help in giving insights and answers to whichever questions I had, and making sure we were comfortable throughout the flight.

Report from Nompilo Ngcobo

The objective of this flight was to see the area where we had done all our camp exercises in a clear or better view.

The flight tour was flown by pilot Jeremy Woods, flying a four-seater light aircraft, including three students. The aircraft was filled with fuel at Rand airport and we took off at around 10h00. The flight lasted for an hour.

Since it was my first time being in an aircraft I was a bit nervous but Jeremy managed the trip well, since he told us everything there was to know about the aircraft. He told us also about the challenges that go with air travel, e.g. air sickness, and he provided bags for that.

During the flight we made one stop at an airport for some drinks, and we met a nice lady who was waiting for her partner who does test driving the aircraft.

This trip was both informative and fun. By informative I am referring to the area we passed on our way to Telperion Nature Reserve. Most of the streams or rivers were polluted. Also, uncontrolled burning was another common problem in these areas because there were no fire-breaks.

This shows that lots needs to be done, e.g. educating people about pollution and its dangers as well as living a healthy and hygienic life. Also, the importance of the environment/nature as a whole.

But the most important thing about the trip is that is was adventurous, fun, and the Reserve appeared clean, as we had done most of the cleaning work during our 2010 camp.

I believe the objective was met as a lot was observed regarding the environmental status along the route that was used throughout the whole trip.

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